Thirty percent. That’s the traditional metric of housing affordability, which holds that housing should cost no more than 30% of a family’s income. By that measure, about 55% of U.S. neighborhoods would be considered “affordable” for the average household.
When you factor in the cost of transportation, however, the percentage of neighborhoods that the typical family can afford falls to 26%, according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit research group based in Chicago. Transportation is most household’s second-biggest expense, after housing.
The conundrum is that many lower-income families and individuals can’t afford to live in the more desirable areas served by good public transit. They are forced to choose neighborhoods whose housing they can afford, but which have limited transit service, or none at all. As a result, their housing costs may be 30% or less of total income, but the high cost of commuting to work makes their daily living costs unaffordable.
Transit-oriented developments help address this problem. TODs place housing at or near rail and bus service nodes and routes. This can, in many cases, enable lower-income residents to reduce the cost of their commute to work, making their total housing and transportation budget fall more in line with the traditional affordability metric.
Enterprise Community Loan Fund, an affiliate of the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners, recently closed three deals that will create 462 renovated or newly constructed apartments in neighborhoods served by Denver’s transit system:
- Crosswinds at Arista, a $1.8 million loan to acquire vacant land in Broomfield, with rapid bus routes to Denver and Boulder. Sponsoring developer Gorman & Company plans to develop 159 one-, two-, and three-bedroom affordable apartments.
- Bonsai Apartments, a $2 million loan to acquire a nursery in Sheridan, 10 miles south of Denver, where Medici Development will build 149 new affordable apartments.
- Johnson & Wales Family Housing, a $5 million loan to acquire two student housing buildings on the former Johnson & Wales University campus. Archway Community Investment plans to turn the dorms into 154 affordable rental units. Buses with frequent rush-hour headways go right to downtown Denver.
The deals were financed through the Denver Regional Transit-Oriented Development Fund. Since 2010, the fund, a partnership among state and local housing agencies, banks, philanthropic institutions, and community development financial institutions (like Enterprise Community Loan Fund), has invested $50 million to renovate or build more than 2,000 affordable homes in the seven-county metro area. (All properties must meet Enterprise Green Communities criteria for the affordable housing sector. ) As loans are repaid, the capital goes toward new acquisitions to increase the supply of affordable homes near transit.
Seems like a pretty good model for other metro areas to adopt, don’t you think?
Urban Planning | Mar 16, 2023
Three interconnected solutions for 'saving' urban centers
Gensler Co-CEO Andy Cohen explores how the global pandemic affected city life, and gives three solutions for revitalizing these urban centers.
Building Tech | Mar 14, 2023
Reaping the benefits of offsite construction, with ICC's Ryan Colker
Ryan Colker, VP of Innovation at the International Code Council, discusses how municipal regulations and inspections are keeping up with the expansion of off-site manufacturing for commercial construction. Colker speaks with BD+C's John Caulfield.
Multifamily Housing | Mar 14, 2023
Multifamily housing rent rates remain flat in February 2023
Multifamily housing asking rents remained the same for a second straight month in February 2023, at a national average rate of $1,702, according to the new National Multifamily Report from Yardi Matrix. As the economy continues to adjust in the post-pandemic period, year-over-year growth continued its ongoing decline.
Student Housing | Mar 13, 2023
University of Oklahoma, Missouri S&T add storm-safe spaces in student housing buildings for tornado protection
More universities are incorporating reinforced rooms in student housing designs to provide an extra layer of protection for students. Storm shelters have been included in recent KWK Architects-designed university projects in the Great Plains where there is a high incidence of tornadoes. Projects include Headington and Dunham Residential Colleges at the University of Oklahoma and the University Commons residential complex at Missouri S&T.
Mixed-Use | Mar 11, 2023
Austin mixed-use development will provide two million sf of office, retail, and residential space
In Austin, Texas, the seven-building East Riverside Gateway complex will provide a mixed-use community next to the city’s planned Blue Line light rail, which will connect the Austin Bergstrom International Airport with downtown Austin. Planned and designed by Steinberg Hart, the development will include over 2 million sf of office, retail, and residential space, as well as amenities, such as a large park, that are intended to draw tech workers and young families.
Multifamily Housing | Mar 7, 2023
Multifamily housing development in Chicago takes design inspiration from patchwork and quilting
HUB 32, a 65-unit multifamily housing development, will provide affordable housing and community amenities in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood. Brooks + Scarpa’s recently unveiled design takes inspiration from the American tradition of patchwork and quilting.
Adaptive Reuse | Mar 5, 2023
Pittsburgh offers funds for office-to-residential conversions
The City of Pittsburgh’s redevelopment agency is accepting applications for funding from developers on projects to convert office buildings into affordable housing. The city’s goals are to improve downtown vitality, make better use of underutilized and vacant commercial office space, and alleviate a housing shortage.
Student Housing | Mar 5, 2023
Calif. governor Gavin Newsom seeks to reform environmental law used to block student housing
California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to reform a landmark state environmental law that he says was weaponized by wealthy homeowners to block badly needed housing for students at the University of California, Berkeley.
Green Renovation | Mar 5, 2023
Dept. of Energy offers $22 million for energy efficiency and building electrification upgrades
The Buildings Upgrade Prize (Buildings UP) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy is offering more than $22 million in cash prizes and technical assistance to teams across America. Prize recipients will be selected based on their ideas to accelerate widespread, equitable energy efficiency and building electrification upgrades.
AEC Innovators | Mar 3, 2023
Meet BD+C's 2023 AEC Innovators
More than ever, AEC firms and their suppliers are wedding innovation with corporate responsibility. How they are addressing climate change usually gets the headlines. But as the following articles in our AEC Innovators package chronicle, companies are attempting to make an impact as well on the integrity of their supply chains, the reduction of construction waste, and answering calls for more affordable housing and homeless shelters. As often as not, these companies are partnering with municipalities and nonprofit interest groups to help guide their production.