Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

HUD, DOT To Promote Affordable, Sustainable Communities

Partnership follows recommendations of Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit-Oriented Development

The secretaries of the US Department of Transportation and HUD have announced their intent to focus efforts on promoting the construction of housing near public transit in order to create more affordable and sustainable communities. Reconnecting America has long encouraged the US DOT and HUD to integrate transportation and land use planning in order to create true affordability and sustainability, based on research showing the impact of transportation on both the cost of living and greenhouse gas emissions.

The US DOT and HUD jointly funded a study by Reconnecting America's Center for Transit-Oriented Development (CTOD) in 2007 that showed that cost of living was dependent not just on the cost of housing but on the costs of housing and transportation combined. Called "Realizing the Potential: Expanding Housing Opportunities Near Transit," the study found that while families who live in auto-dependent neighborhoods spend an average of 25 percent of their household budgets on transportation, families who live near transit spend just 9 percent.

The US DOT has also funded a brand new CTOD study that shows that households living near transit produce 43 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than those living in the region at large, and that households in central business districts produce the least emissions of all. Neighborhoods in Chicago's CBD, for example, produce 78 percent less greenhouse gas emissions per household, the study found.

On March 18 DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a new inter-agency partnership to provide Americans with more affordable housing and transportation choices with the goal of shortening travel times, increasing affordability, and making communities more livable and sustainable. To help achieve this goal an interagency task force was created that will provide planning grants to metro areas, develop an index that measures both transportation and housing costs into one measure of affordability, to better coordinate their programs, and to undertake joint research, data collection and outreach.

"One of my highest priorities is to help promote more livable communities through sustainable surface transportation programs," said Secretary LaHood. Added Secretary Donovan, "This partnership will help expand every American family's choices for affordable housing and transportation."

Reconnecting America CEO Shelley Poticha commended the two federal agencies for their initiative to work together. She noted that rising housing and transportation costs are straining household budgets across the country and have contributed significantly to the foreclosure crisis that has hit the suburbs hardest. "Living near public transit and using it regularly can result in a significant savings for all families," she said. "This savings can be critical for low-income households that need to make every dollar count."

The index of housing and transportation costs being proposed by the US DOT and HUD is like the affordability index developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, one of the three partners in the Center for TOD. Researchers have long known that affordability is not just about the cost of housing but also the cost of transportation, and the affordability index combines both into one measure. An interactive online version of the affordability index was made available in 2008 to provide a comparison of the combined housing and transportation affordability, at the census tract level, for the 50 largest metropolitan areas. The index is available at htaindex.cnt.org.

Reconnecting America is a national nonprofit organization that is working to integrate transportation systems and the communities they serve, with the goal of generating lasting public and private returns, improving economic and environmental efficiency, and giving consumers more housing and mobility choices. The Center for Transit Oriented Development is a partnership of Reconnecting America, the national nonprofit Center for Neighborhood Technology, and Strategic Economics, an urban and regional economics consulting and research firm. Reconnecting America is based in Oakland, California.