Demand for Housing Near Mass Transit on the Rise
Housing development centered on rail commuter lines will be growing in popularity in coming decades and represents an opportunity to address the housing needs of low- and moderate-income households, according to a report released last month by the Center for Neighborhood Technology.
“The renaissance of mass transit has coincided with a renaissance of communities and neighborhoods that are near transit stations,” the report says. “More and more residents want to not only use transit, they want to live near it as well.”
Researchers for the report,“Preserving and Promoting Diverse Transit-Oriented Neighborhoods,” project that 16 million households will want to live near transit in 2030, compared to the 6 million that already lived in these locations in 2000.
“To accommodate this demand, a substantial amount of housing will need to be constructed near transit,” the report says. “Affordable housing may not need to be created at each and every transit zone, but the amount of affordable housing opportunities near transit should be tracked at the transit zone, corridor and system-wide scales to ensure transit in each region is equally accessible to all income levels, given the affordable connectivity it provides to job opportunities.”
The report sites statistics from the American Public Transportation Association showing that riders in the U.S. took more than 9.7 billion trips on public transportation systems in 2005 and that public transportation use has increased 25% since 1995.
“There are 3,349 mass transit stations in the U.S. today,” the report says, “and regions from coast to coast are building or planning to build new rail systems or expand existing systems. More than 700 new stations are currently under development.”
Driving the growth in transit use and transit oriented development (TOD) are increasingly expensive transportation costs, convenience and growing auto-related congestion and air pollution.
The study finds that TOD can and does reduce transportation costs for households. “Few households are even aware that the amount they spend annually on car payments, insurance, gas, parking and car repairs is almost equal to their rent or mortgage payment,” it says. “Many people moving to distant suburbs for lower priced housing may not, in the end, save money or build as much wealth as expected because of the high transportation costs of living a long — and expensive — car-ride away from essential amenities like schools, grocery stores and jobs.”
Forty-five percent of workers in transit zones walk, bike or take transit to work, compared to just 14% of workers in regions with transit, according to the report, and three-fourths of households living near transit own one auto or less. For transit agencies, TOD neighborhoods that have greater racial and income diversity deliver more riders “because minority and lower-income workers take transit at the highest rates.”
A significant portion of future demand for housing near transit will come from low- to moderate-income households, the study says. “By 2030, more than one-half of the potential demand for housing near transit is likely to come from households that have incomes below the area median income, or approximately $50,000. Twenty percent of households with a potential demand for housing near transit will make less than $20,000 a year.”
The report also finds that neighborhoods near transit provide housing to a greater share of the region’s lower-income households, with the number of households earning less than $35,000 10% higher in transit zones than in the regions where those zones are located. “The transit infrastructure generally helps households of lower means get where they need to go, while keeping their transportation costs down.”
Only 35% of households in transit zones are home owners, compared to 61% for the larger transit regions.
“In regions where congestion and housing prices are high or on the rise, employers are now emerging as advocates for transit investment because many find that high costs for housing paired with difficult and expensive commutes get in the way of attracting talented workers at affordable wages,” the study says.
“Finally, given the likelihood of housing market swings, a diversified housing stock in any development helps moderate those swings and provides more stable investments for developers.”