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In Focus

December 2009 - Coordinated Housing and Transportation Policies

In the Toolbox

This issue of In Focus highlights different approaches to coordinating housing, transportation and land-use policies. Typically, housing practitioners and policymakers measure affordability by comparing a family's income to its housing and utilities costs. A more complete measure of the cost of place, however, would also include a family's spending on transportation, which is directly affected by the location of housing relative to public transit, employment centers and retail amenities.

Development and land-use decisions that increase the availability of affordable housing near public transit and job centers can reduce the combined cost burden of housing and transportation, helping to improve overall affordability. Such policies also benefit the environment by reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled — the number of miles that families drive each day – leading to lower energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality.

Coordinated approaches to link housing, transportation, and land-use policies are featured in's new Minnesota Housing Policy Tool Box, developed in partnership with ULI Minnesota and the Regional Council of Mayors. This regionally-specific toolbox builds on the national version of's Toolbox to provide a set of resources and case study examples specific to the Twin Cities region. The Minnesota Tool Box offers access to information on more than 30 policy tools that can help to expand the supply of homes for working families in the Twin Cities, including a section on supporting development of connected, livable communities designed to reduce reliance on personal vehicles and lower the combined cost of housing and transportation. The "Excelsior and Grand" development in St. Louis Park, MN (pictured above) is just one project profiled in the Tool Box. Built along an existing community corridor, this mixed-use redevelopment project includes 338 mixed-income residential units, plus retail outlets, an amphitheater with a transit stop, and pedestrian and bicycle connections to a nearby community park. Explore the Minnesota Housing Policy Tool Box.

Learn More about Strategies to Coordinate Housing and Transportation Policies

"Out Loud" Podcast

This month's Out Loud podcast features the audio recording from's November 19th Live at the Forum event, presented by speakers at the Center for Housing Policy, the Urban Land Institute, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. They discussed the newly released report, Bay Area Burden: Examining the Costs and Impacts of Housing and Transportation on Bay Area Residents, Their Neighborhoods, and the Environment, which provides a comprehensive analysis of the "cost of place" throughout the San Francisco Bay Area region by examining families' combined expenditures for housing and transportation.

Live at the Forum events highlight the latest reports, programs or policy developments related to affordable housing policy in a two-part format. First, guest speakers participate in a conference call in which they provide an overview of new research or innovative policies. Following the conference call, listeners can log-in to the Forum to pose questions about the audio presentation and get real-time answers from the guest speakers.

Listen to the Live at the Forum Event on Beltway Burdens!

Solutions in Action

While environmentally beneficial, transit-oriented developments are often expensive to build, leading to rents and home prices that are unaffordable to low- and moderate-income families. The City of San Leandro, California has taken several steps to expand and preserve affordable housing options near the downtown BART station as part of a mixed-use, mixed-income transit-oriented development (TOD) plan. First, the city has prioritized the downtown BART station area for affordable housing investments and used state funds to develop affordable homes in that area, including a senior affordable housing project. Additionally, the city will use dollars earned through the payment of in-lieu fees by developers within the Downtown TOD zone under its inclusionary zoning ordinance to subsidize affordable housing adjacent to the BART rail station. Lastly, the city lowered parking ratios for the entire TOD zone to reduce the costs of new affordable housing development.

Learn More about about San Leandro's Station Area Plan

New Report New Report on Housing Near Transit for Older Adults

AARP recently released a report titled Preserving Affordability and Access in Livable Communities: Subsidized Housing Opportunities near Transit and the 50+ Population. This report examines the availability of federally subsidized apartments for older adults in 20 metropolitan areas and their proximity to transit. A significant number of the affordable homes identified within the study areas are located within a quarter-mile of public transit, which is essential for older adults to effectively retain their independence and to access amenities and services without an automobile. Yet, the subsidies that keep more than two-thirds of the apartment units affordable are slated to expire within the next five years, jeopardizing the ongoing affordability of these transit-accessible units. This report provides recommendations for policy makers to preserve and expand affordable housing and transportation options for older adults. Click here to view the report and listen to the authors provide an overview of the report findings during a previous Live at the Forum event.

Read the Report

Share Your Story

Are specific strategies being adopting to preserve affordable housing near transit in your community? What resources are available to learn more about rental housing preservation and the combined costs of housing and transportation? Join the discussion group, Rental Housing Preservation, on the Forum to add your own questions and share your experiences with fellow housing practitioners across the country.

The Forum features interactive discussion groups organized around key policy areas,
Rental Housing Preservation, Shared Equity Homeownership, Inclusionary Zoning, Foreclosure Prevention, Neighborhood Stabilization, and Affordable Housing, and is a place to pose questions, exchange ideas, and learn from the experience and expertise of others.

Visit the Forum to Share Your Story!


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Featured Gallery Entry:
Villas on Sixth, Austin, TX

Photo courtesy of City of Austin/Neighborhood Housing and Community Development


September 2009 - In Focus: Shared Equity Homeownership and Asset Building
July 2009 -
In Focus: Post-Conference Edition
April 2009 - In Focus: Learning Conference
March 2009- In Focus: Neighborhood Stabilization
December 2008- In Focus: Neighborhood Stabilization
November 2008-- In Focus: Neighborhood Stabilization
October 2008-- In Focus: Transit-Oriented Development
September 2008-- In Focus: Inclusionary Zoning
August 2008 -- In Focus: Rental Housing Preservation
July 2008-- In Focus: Shared Equity Homeownership
June 2008 -- In Focus: Green Affordable Housing -- This issue of In Focus kicked off a series of Six Housing Policies for a World of High Energy Costs
May 2008 -- In Focus: Foreclosure Prevention
April 2008 -- In Focus: Employer-Assisted Housing
February 2008
-- was launched in January 2008 as part of Housing Solutions Week. Click here to view materials from the week.