Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

Affordable And Walkable Communities


Over at Cavan Wilk discusses the value of walkable communities for seniors who, for whatever reason, no longer drive. The case of his grandparents speaks volumes about today's options for seniors.

"Despite my mother envisioned a walkable urban town as the best environment, in the end, they couldn't find a retirement community in a town environment," Wilk writes.

And there's a real chance the situation will get worse for many Americans who have found affordable places to live in urban environments.

Earlier this year, Reconnecting America, AARP and the National Housing Trust studied the question of affordable housing in transit-connected communities. The results of that study were reported in "Preserving Affordability and Access in Livable Communities: Subsidized Housing Opportunities Near Transit and the 50+ Population."

The study found more than 250,000 federally-subsidized affordable apartments are located within one-half mile of public transit in the 20 metropolitan areas studied. Nearly 200,000 are within one-quarter mile.

"In the next five years as many as 160,000 renters in 20 metro areas could lose their affordable apartments near transit because the contracts on their privately-owned HUD-subsidized rental units are due to expire," Reconnecting America reported in September.

The "Preserving Affordability" report found that in well-planned environments such as downtown Minneapolis, residents of all ages, including those 80 and older, were able to enjoy the benefits of living in compact neighborhoods near amenities. The key, however, is that the location is safe, walkable and with access to services. Transit must not only be nearby, but also frequent, accessible, and takes residents where they need to go.

The report's policy recommendations included preservation of existing affordable housing; a more effective integration of housing, transportation and land-use planning; and increased investment in public transit services.

"it takes time to develop housing, establish public transit, and attract the services
necessary to create livable communities," the "Preserving Affordability" report concluded. "To be ready for the needs of a rapidly expanding older population, planners and policymakers must work now to ensure that both existing and emerging TOD communities benefit people of all ages."