An analysis by CNT of the Chicago region’s affordable housing developments has found that some are not very affordable when transportation costs are considered. Typical transportation costs, the second largest expense in a household budget, ranged from $750 per month in many Chicago neighborhoods with affordable housing units to more than $1,000 in more distant suburbs. The report also found that suburban Cook County, which has comparatively low transportation costs, has fewer affordable housing units compared with the city of Chicago and the region’s collar counties. Read more »
Finally! The long overdue transportation reauthorization bill is at last going somewhere. Three years ago, CNT and our national partners, such as Transportation for America, began working with various users and operators of our transportation systems, business leaders, and political leaders to gather information about what worked and what did not work in the last national transportation legislation.
We shared what we learned with Members of Congress, who are responsible for the re-authorization and funding of the federal transportation legislation. The U.S. House of Representatives has released its transportation bill to the public. They listened to some of what we told them, but they failed to address some crucial needs. In particular, it looks like they forgot that this is supposed to be a transportation bill that serves all users of the transportation network—transit riders, cyclists, pedestrians, car sharers—and assures that they get where they are going safely. The bill as drafted fails to do that. Read more »
CHICAGO (February 1, 2012)—An analysis of the Chicago region’s affordable housing developments has found that some affordable housing is not very affordable when transportation costs are considered. Typical transportation costs, the second largest expense in a household budget, ranged from $750 per month in many Chicago neighborhoods with affordable housing units to more than $1,000 in more distant suburbs. The report also found that suburban Cook County, which has comparatively low transportation costs, has fewer affordable housing units compared with the city of Chicago and the region’s collar counties.
“By definition, families living in affordable housing are guaranteed that their housing costs will not exceed 30 percent of their income, but transportation costs can negate that affordability if housing agencies aren’t careful about location decisions,” said Kathryn Tholin, CEO of the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), which authored the report. “Illinois has made gains in siting affordable housing in communities that meet fair housing goals. Our report reveals that we could do better, by choosing locations that offer greater access to employment, better transportation connectivity, and improved access to amenities.”
CNT applied its Housing and Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index to 248 multifamily properties financed by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) from 2001 to 2008 in the Chicago region. IHDA oversees the state’s affordable housing production and issues the Qualified Allocation Plan that sets the criteria for determining what housing proposals receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The developments analyzed in this report served both low-income families and seniors. Transportation costs as a percentage of income were compared against a household making $41,344 per year, or 80 percent of regional Area Median Income. Key findings from the report include:
• Residents of IHDA-financed developments live in neighborhoods with slightly lower typical transportation costs than those of the typical regional household.
• Almost nine out of 10 (85 percent) of IHDA-financed units studied are within a half mile of a train station or a quarter mile of a bus route; however, the level of transit service for IHDA developments dropped by 24 percent over the study period.
• The typical annual transportation cost for households in neighborhoods with bus and rail transit was $3,000 lower than the cost in communities with no access to transit.
• Suburban Cook County is not contributing a proportional share of affordable housing. The city of Chicago accounts for 45 percent of the affordable housing units studied, and the collar counties account for nearly 40 percent. Suburban Cook County, however, contributed just 15 percent of affordable units, even though it contains nearly a third of the population and jobs in the region.
• Few affordable housing developments have been funded in high employment areas, despite IHDA’s commitment to connecting housing and jobs.
“IHDA is always looking for ways to identify the best locations to provide low income residents housing in communities that meet all of their needs,” said King Harris, a member of the Illinois Housing Task Force. “CNT’s new report highlights the importance of travel costs in picking sites for new affordable housing.”
CNT recommends that IHDA make several changes to its Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) in order to improve access to jobs, lower transportation costs, and enhance livability for its affordable housing residents. The recommendations include:
• Requiring applicants to report the average transportation costs for their development’s location in the QAP and rewarding proposals that have lower transportation costs with more points.
• Improving the Desirable Amenities scoring category by targeting fewer amenities and tightening the distance restrictions.
• Refining the Live Near Work scoring category by reporting the ratio of low wage jobs to low wage workers around a proposed development and awarding more points to locations that have more jobs per worker.
• Strengthening the transit-oriented development scoring category by awarding more overall points for proximity to transit, service frequency, and residential density.
“As a developer who makes transportation options a priority in the housing my team builds, I appreciate CNT shining the light on transportation costs that are a hidden burden that most people don’t consider,” said Hipolito “Paul” Roldan, president and CEO of Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, a nonprofit housing developer that has properties in the city of Chicago and six suburban communities. “I look forward to seeing how IHDA uses this information and working with the agency to provide even better affordable housing for Illinois residents in the future.”
Emily Robinson, Center for Neighborhood Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-269-4043
Founded in 1978, CNT is a Chicago-based think-and-do tank that works nationally to advance urban sustainability by researching, inventing and testing strategies that use resources more efficiently and equitably. Its programs focus on transportation, energy, water, community development, and climate. Visit www.cnt.org for more information.
The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) is a creative think-and-do tank that combines rigorous research with effective solutions. CNT works across disciplines and issues, including transportation and community development, energy, water, and climate change.