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Denver 16th Street Mall is a TOD Dream

Hardly a day goes by without a story about the housing downturn appearing on the front page of the newspaper. Dramatic changes in the housing market over the last two years have reinforced the importance of affordable homes – homeownership and rental units- for families of all incomes. But it isn’t enough to consider whether a home is affordable or not; it is critical to consider where homes are located too.

According to A Heavy Load: The Combined Housing and Transportation Burdens of Working Families, a study of 28 metropolitan areas by the Center for Housing Policy, housing, transportation and utility costs together account for some 57 percent of the income of families earning between $20,000 and $50,000 in 2000, with transportation accounting for slightly more than half of these costs. Households that spend less on housing often offset those savings by spending more on transportation, and vice-versa, such that the overall percentage of income spent on the combined costs of place remains relatively constant. As the rapid increase in gas prices in 2008 showed, families located far from jobs, schools, and other amenities experienced dramatic increases in household transportation costs, highlighting their vulnerability to fluctuating energy costs and the potential for their combined cost burden to be much greater.

Many local, regional and state entities have initiated efforts to coordinate policies across housing and transportation agencies to support transit-oriented development (TOD) in an effort improve housing affordability and also reduce traffic congestion and overall greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, ensuring that TOD provides housing opportunities for households with a range of incomes is very complex. After all, in many places with a mix of land-uses that are well-served by transit, land values tend to be very expensive, making it difficult to preserve and expand affordable housing where it is needed most.

To assist policymakers and practitioners tackle challenges and share successes associated with affordable TOD, the Center for Housing Policy launched the Transit-Oriented Development discussion group on the Forum. The Forum is a place to pose questions, exchange ideas, and learn from the experience and expertise of others. There are currently ten different discussion groups on the forum about affordable housing issues ranging from rental housing preservation to neighborhood stabilization.

Within the new Transit-Oriented Development discussion group, you can ask questions and respond to others’ posts about affordable housing and TOD. Most recently, the group featured three discussion threads dedicated to the Partners in Innovation events in Denver held on September 27-28. Including Affordable and Workforce Housing within Transit-Oriented Development, was a day-long national symposium on September 27, which examined the challenges and opportunities for developing and sustaining Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) that included housing opportunities affordable to families with low- and moderate-incomes. Preserving Affordable Rental Housing Near Transit, a policy forum held on September 28, was designed to examine the connection between preserving affordable rental housing near transit.

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