Promoting Opportunity with Development

"ArlingtonTODimage3" by This image was altered by Thesmothete with additional graphical elements to indicate the location of transit stations and the extent of development around them. - Derivative of :Image:ArlingtonRb aerial.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -

Enterprise Community Partners have posted Promoting Opportunity Through Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (eTOD): Barriers to Success and Best Practices for Implementation. It opens,

Development patterns directly relate to a community’s strength. Individual families, the local economy, municipal governments and the environment all benefit when well-located housing, jobs and other necessary resources are connected by efficient transportation and infrastructure networks. Equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) is an important approach to facilitating these connections. This paper defines eTOD as compact, often mixed-use development with multi-modal access to jobs, neighborhood-serving stores and other amenities that also serves the needs of low- and moderate-income people. The preservation and creation of dedicated affordable housing is a primary approach to eTOD, which can ensure that high-opportunity neighborhoods are open to people from all walks of life. eTOD supports the achievement of multiple cross-sector goals, including regional economic growth, enhanced mobility and access, efficient municipal and transportation network operations, improved public health, and decreased cost of living.

Yet it is sometimes difficult for planning agencies, local governments, transit agencies, housing organizations, private developers, and other institutions that influence development to act in concert to overcome barriers to eTOD. Each stakeholder has a unique mission with disparate goals and compliance burdens and must comply with complex and sometimes contradictory rules and regulations. However, improving coordination between these sectors can shift a potentially adversarial relationship into a symbiotic partnership. As the public resources that support transportation and infrastructure networks and housing affordability remain threatened, such efficient coordination is an especially important goal. (5, references omitted)

eTOD has a lot going for it: it’s environmentally responsible, it’s socially responsible, it can promote nice development. It is a shame that it is so hard to pull off. It would be great if HUD could take the lead in promoting eTOD, perhaps in tandem with its recent fair housing initiatives.

Equitable Transit-Oriented Development

Forest Hills RR Station

Enterprise Community Partners has issued a white paper, Promoting Opportunity Through Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (eTOD): Making the Case. The Executive Summary opens,

Investments in transportation infrastructure can catalyze regional growth and improve mobility. Given limited public funds, public officials and transportation planners have increasingly recognized the benefit of coordinating transportation investments with land use, housing and economic development investments and policies. In particular, there has been a specific emphasis on facilitating transit-oriented development (TOD) – a growth model characterized by compact development, a mix of land uses, and multi-modal transportation connectivity. When properly planned, such development can support transit ridership and revenues, boost property values and enhance economic competitiveness.

While TOD can take many forms, for a variety of reasons there has been increased demand for transit-oriented neighborhoods with a critical mass of population, neighborhood-serving retail establishments, employment opportunities and/or economic activity. Some prefer these transit-oriented, amenity-rich neighborhoods based on lifestyle preferences. However, for others – particularly people with lower incomes or for whom driving is difficult or impossible – the accessibility that TOD offers is crucial to reaching jobs and life’s other necessities in an efficient and economical manner.

Unfortunately, a number of factors – most notably the prevalence of zoning codes that separate residential from commercial and retail uses – have limited the number of compact, mixed-use, multi-modal neighborhoods. To the extent that demand for housing in such neighborhoods – as a result of either choice and/or necessity – remains strong, scarcity of housing in these neighborhoods can increase property values. Significant price increases can lead to additional cost burdens, potential displacement and/or barriers to entry for low- and moderateincome households. If these households are displaced it can also reduce likely riders’ access to transit and limit employees’ and customers’ access to businesses.

One solution to these challenges is equitable TOD (eTOD), which is well-planned and implemented development near transit that accounts for the needs of low and moderate-income people, largely through the preservation and creation of affordable housing. eTOD can expand mobility options, lower commuting expenses and enhance access to employment, child care, schools, stores and critical services. This development model also conveys ancillary benefits to the broader community, the economy, the environment and the transportation system. (5-6)

This is all to the good, but the report does not struggle with a fundamental problem: local governments do not want to build housing for low- and moderate-income households because they tend to be a net drain on municipal budgets a opposed to the typical household living in a single-family home. Even local politicians who are sympathetic to eTOD will face many roadblocks from their constituents if they try to make it happen. Enterprise promises a second report that will address barriers to eTOD. Hopefully, it will address this issue head on.