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TOD 201: Mixed-Income Housing Near Transit: Increasing Affordability With Location Efficiency

TOD 201 booklet explores theory and best practices for including mixed-income housing in conjunction with transit-oriented development

Why This BOOk?

The Importance of Locating Mixed-Income Housing Near Transit

There is a growing consensus that communities that provide housing for a mix of incomes produce better economic, social and environmental outcomes for all residents. Mixedincome housing – whether provided within a single project or a neighborhood – makes it possible for people of all incomes to live in safe neighborhoods near well-funded schools and good city services, with greater access to a wider variety of jobs and opportunities. Providing housing for a mix of incomes also allows families to continue living in the same community, even as children grow up and look for their own apartments or homes, and parents grow older and want to down-size their living arrangements.

The socio-economic diversity that mixed-income housing provides for also enhances community stability and sustainability, and ensures that low-income households are not isolated in concentrations of poverty. Just as important, we are beginning to understand that the mixing and mingling of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences promotes innovation by increasing the opportunities for people to share and combine ideas from different perspectives and traditions. Mixedincome housing also helps stretch the limited resources available to address the affordable housing shortage. The inclusion of market-rate units can reduce the subsidies required to build the affordable units, and help ensure there will be high-quality design and construction.

These are just some of the reasons that housing policy in the U.S. has increasingly focused on mixed-income housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOPE VI program devoted $4.5 billion over 10 years to demolish and redevelop distressed public housing projects as mixed-income developments, helping to demonstrate its viability and benefits (www.hud.gov/offices/pih/programs/ph/hope6). But while providing for a mix of incomes in communities in general is good, providing for a mix of incomes in walkable neighborhoods near transit is even better – for all of the reasons shown in the illustration to the right: Most importantly, in addition to the savings realized because housing is affordably priced, families living near transit can also own fewer cars – or no cars – and drive them less, which means significant savings on transportation costs.

However, we must act now to ensure that the housing built in these locations provides for a mix of incomes or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will be lost. Changing demographics and concern about traffic has boosted demand for housing near transit and the supply is not keeping up with the increased demand. Because of this, and because developing in these locations is more time-consuming, difficult and expensive, most new housing is being built for the high end of the market, and many of the low-income residents who already live in these locations are being forced out. The first half of this book makes the case for the importance of locating mixed-income housing near transit in order to increase affordability, and explain why the increased demand for housing in walkable neighborhoods near transit is making this so difficult. The second half discusses some of the strategies that are proving successful in addressing this problem and ensuring that housing near transit is affordable for all Americans.