Moving Forward explores housing trends, policy solutions for the future
June 29, 2011
WASHINGTON—The Center for Housing Policy begins a new column this month by Executive Director Jeffrey Lubell. The monthly column, Moving Forward, offers perspectives on the government role in housing and on broader housing market trends likely to shape future housing policy. The column will publish to the National Housing Conference’s Open House Blog, where the first installment is available now.
In Moving Forward’s first issue, “Transportation policy is housing policy,” Lubell describes how a modest and largely cost-free change in the allocation process for federal New Starts funding for major public transit projects could have a major impact in expanding affordable housing opportunities for families of all incomes near planned stations.
“Imagine if before construction began on the transit line,” Lubell writes, “a proactive housing strategy were developed to ensure that families of all incomes could afford to live within walking distance of the stations expected to experience residential development.”
The column goes on to offer ways to achieve this goal and links to examples of successful implementation of these methods in areas with planned transit lines, including banking undeveloped land, giving density bonuses to developers that agree to include affordable housing within their developments, attaching deeper subsidies to a portion of new housing units and setting up a tax-increment financing district with an affordable housing set-aside.
“Such a strategy is much more cost-effective if put in place early, before land prices rise,” Lubell explains, but the political will to develop an affordable housing strategy generally comes too late. By revising the competition for federal New Starts funds to create incentives for communities to develop effective housing strategies before they construct new transit lines or stations, Lubell argues, the federal government could greatly improve housing outcomes without increasing federal spending.
As Lubell observes, this approach could also save localities money by encouraging them to act earlier to address their housing challenges, when land prices are still low.