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Guest Blogger Sasha Forbes: Creating Equitable Communities through Mixed-Income Transit-Oriented Development

National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy is gearing up for our National Symposium and Policy Forum in Denver, CO September 27-28. The goal of the symposium is to examine the challenges and opportunities for developing and sustaining Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) that includes housing opportunities affordable to working families and families with low- and moderate-incomes. The policy forum will bring together federal, state, and local officials, industry leaders, and advocates for a critical dialogue on the connection between rental housing preservation and transit. In our continued effort to strengthen the dialogue and messaging of housing in the industry, we will be posting several guest blog posts from our respective partners and participants taking part in the symposium and/or policy forum.

Sasha Forbes Of Reconnecting America

Equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) promotes healthy and inclusive communities, however creating such communities is not an easy task. In reality, perhaps a utopian and preferred reality, equitable and sustainable TOD should be the standard and not the after-thought that it often becomes. Promoting communities that provide economic, social and environmental opportunities for all residents, regardless of income should be integrated in the entire TOD discussion. Yet, often the financial reality of the economic and commercial benefits of development near transit wins. Higher end housing wins. Luxury condos win.
Jobs geared toward higher paid professionals win. But they don’t have to.

Though the topic can be daunting, tools do exist to help communities promote equitable TOD. One such tool is the Mixed-Income Transit-Oriented Development (MITOD) Action Guide developed by the Center for Transit-Oriented Development. The online Action Guide at is designed to help local jurisdictions, planners and other stakeholders develop strategies to encourage mixed-income transit-oriented development (TOD) around planned transit stations.

The tool walks users through a multi-step analysis in order to identify mixed-income housing strategies that help practitioners think about the most appropriate and effective planning tools in any neighborhood — depending on the local market, the housing stock, and an inventory of existing development activity.

While MITOD isn’t a silver bullet, it helps to promote equitable TOD by providing housing for a mix of incomes, making it possible for people of all incomes to live in neighborhoods near well-funded schools, good city services, greater access to a wider variety of jobs and opportunities. Neighborhoods with a mix of both affordable and market-rate housing can provide many benefits, such as improved opportunities for low and moderate-income families and stretching limited resources available to address affordable housing shortages. Mixed-income housing also provides housing that is accessible to seniors and transit-dependent populations, helping them accomplish daily activities and maintain independent lives.

There are many factors to consider when developing equitable TOD; and the MITOD Action Guide helps to keep equity at the forefront.

Originally launched in March, the re-launched MITOD Action Guide features a number of improvements:

• Updated case studies, providing more detail to mixed-income TOD tools
• Updated resources on MITOD strategies nationwide,
• Added interactive features that invite users to suggest relevant mixed-
   income TOD stories and other resources

The biggest addition is the MITOD News section, which features timely information gathered daily from various news sources about mixed-income TOD and affordable housing. The news page also includes upcoming events related to MITOD and will showcase research on subjects related to mixed-income TOD.

The MITOD Action Guide will be presented in the Partners in Innovation: Including Affordable and Workforce Housing within Transit-Oriented Development National Symposium in Denver, CO on Monday, September 27, 2010. The presentation will include a demo of the Action Guide following a discussion of the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index.

The MITOD Action Guide was developed with joint funding from the Federal Transit Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sasha Forbes is a Policy Associate for Reconnecting America.  Reconnecting America is a national non-profit organization that is working to integrate transportation systems and the communities they serve, with the goal of generating lasting public and private returns, improving economic and environmental efficiency, and giving consumers more housing and mobility choices.

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