The Sustainability of Building Affordable Housing in Transit Oriented Developments (TODs)

This paper looks at the intersection of policies promoting affordable housing, transit-oriented developments (TODs), and the reduction of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in metropolitan areas. In particular, this paper focuses on the following questions:

  1. Does locating affordable units in TODs increase or decrease VMT and thus emissions?
  2. Is affordable housing in TODs still affordable in the long-term, i.e., beyond the expiration of the first minimum affordability period?
  3. Do the benefits of affordable housing near transit outweigh the frequently higher costs of development in TODs?
  4. What policy recommendations emerge from the analysis?

The research suggests that, although locating affordable housing in TODs may not provide developers with financial benefits, it does provide residents and their municipalities with multiple social benefits. First, the inclusion of affordable housing in TODs appears to reduce household VMT for low-income families who otherwise would live outside TODs. Second, it may slow down the pace of gentrification and displacement in communities where transit stops are established. Finally, it should improve access to employment and other opportunities for lower income households. With renewed focus on ways that housing and transportation policy intersect, and attention to the policy tools suggested here, TODs can be part of the way forward toward a more environmentally friendly and economically just future California. Although the research indicates that low-income residents in TODs will not reduce their driving as much as higher income residents, if both groups move to TODs from locations distant from transit, building TODs at higher densities can accommodate both low- and high-income residents and make substantial progress toward both VMT reduction and affordable housing goals.


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