Denise Hamet Explores How Connecting Affordable Housing and Transportation Drives Economic Development
The second largest annual expense that households pay for, first being housing, is transportation. With such expensive essentials, there are many economic and community benefits when affordable housing and transportation are connected. Unfortunately, cities with populations at or below 250,000 struggle with different challenges larger cities might not face when implementing this helpful link. Why?
Denise Hamet, a community development sector leader with 25 years of experience, discusses different case studies revealing the advantages that grouping affordable housing and transportation has on the development of the economy, below.
Why Should Cities Implement this Connection?
Not everyone can own or afford a car. To be more accurate, 18 percent of households who earn $35,000 do not own a car. Affordable housing developers often have to choose a location on the outskirts of a city to build their developments due to inner city expenses. Land that is closer to job facilities, amenities, and bus or rail transits are often significantly higher in price due to location preference.
“For people with low-income who are already struggling, limited transportation options make it harder to be successful at a career and meet daily life needs, let alone participate and stimulate a city’s economy,” said Denise Hamet. Individuals with a lack of transportation also have decreased access to jobs, parks, plazas, campuses, and essential services and goods.
HUD recently released a case study of five different cities attempting to increase transportation accessibility to low-income communities. These cities include Gonzales, California; Traverse City, Michigan; Lake Worth, Florida; Portland, Maine; and Lakewood, Colorado. Through this study, these cities bring to light what challenges smaller cities might face and what solutions worked in their favor.
Small City Challenges
Providing available transportation to affordable housing communities in a smaller city can be challenging due to limited resources and staff. The city of Portland coordinates with local transit agencies. Partnering with private or public organizations or local, state, and regional agencies can be suitable for smaller towns to make up for limited resources. These partnerships can also be beneficial for any project funding revolving around the implementation process.
Also, transportation options, land use, and location for transportation accessibility are other hurdles smaller cities need to jump. Meeting transportation needs in Gonzales resulted in a financially supported and regulated vanpooling program. Vanpooling has helped with access to employment tremendously.
Larger cities, such as Philadelphia, are creating communities committed to affordability and sustainability. Paseo Verde in North Philadelphia connects its low-income community to a nearby train station and the city’s largest higher education institution, Temple University. Promoting transit-development areas similar to Paseo Verde can inspire significant growth rates to areas that connect affordable housing and transportation. Paseo Verde is an excellent example of transport designed for people, and not merely following the traditional design of transportation for cars, which typically ignores its impact on other surroundings.
Other cities like Columbus, Ohio, are growing at rapid rates and need to evaluate their transportation systems to assist with affordable housing. Columbus’ current transportation is limited to bus-only, which stumps their economic incline and limits low-income individuals to job opportunities. The city and its transit agencies are exploring expanding public transportation options with innovative ideas such as free bus passes and autonomous shuttles launching parallel to an affordable housing trust fund and zoning changes.
Service coordinators in Ohio are also supporting the implementation of low-income transportation systems. A recent American Association of Service Coordinators webinar discusses a service coordinator in Ohio who regularly conducts on-site residential meetings between residents and regional transit authority representatives. During these meetings, residents discuss the routes and schedules of transportation systems, which helps to coordinate inclusive transportation.
An employer can be more influential in economic development by providing transportation to their employees. A problem many rural manufacturing companies come across is a shortage of employees for skilled and unskilled positions. Unskilled positions can take up to 60 days to fill, while skilled jobs in many cases take months. With this ongoing issue, the result could be two million unfilled skilled positions by 2025. Companies such as Wigwam Mills plan to deploy buses in the fall to provide transportation for those who commute from Milwaukee or Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“Many different entities, from century-old companies such as Wigwam Mills to cities like Columbus, Ohio, are working together and taking necessary actions connect housing and transportation. This will help communities thrive, as well as the economy,” said Denise Hamet.