How Public Transit and Affordable Housing Can Work Hand in Hand


“Up on Housing Project Hill… It’s either fortune or fame… You must pick one or the other… Though neither of them are to be what they claim….” ~ Folk singer, Bob Dylan (b. 1941)
What if, in an ideal world people did not have to choose between affordable housing and relative isolation? What if, in these challenging economic times, the working poor could afford to live near the heart of the city, feel its pulse, and still have access to work and school? Well the Federal Transit Administration is (FTA) is seeking to address these and more “what ifs” in an upcoming proposed policy change.
In the proposal released this past January, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will now take into consideration a jurisdiction’s plans and policies for preserving subsidized affordable housing near transit when making decisions about allocating funding for transit development. Over the last several years, NHT joined the National Housing Conference and other partners in urging federal agencies to coordinate transit investments and affordable housing policy. In a collaborative housing and transportation working group, the National Housing Conference (NHC) worked to develop comments on the advanced notice and jointly submitted comments with Enterprise Community Partners and Habitat for Humanity International. NHC also provided comments on an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking recommending that funding incentives be provided for agencies who are committed to preserving affordable rental housing near transit. In a report co-authored by AARP, the National Housing Trust, and Reconnecting America results show that more than 250,000 privately-owned, federally subsidized apartments exist within walking distance to quality transit in 20 metro areas.
Through its New Starts / Small Starts programs, the FTA will fund new transit lines and major extensions of existing lines. This includes subway, commuter rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, etc. The proposed rule reflects input on an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in June 2010 asking for feedback on how to improve the aforementioned initiatives. According to NHC member Ethan Handleman, “This represents a major shift in federal policy that if ultimately adopted and implemented appropriately could have a major lasting impact in ensuring that families of all incomes can afford to live near newly developed transit stations.”
While many states and localities are beginning to take steps to support the preservation of affordable housing near transit, we believe more action is needed to ensure that low-income households aren’t left out of the move toward transit-oriented development.
If you would like more information, the FTA is seeking public comment on this proposed policy change prior to March 26th. The proposed rule can be found here:


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