CNT in the News

The Facts on Housing Affordability In the United States

Politifact | January 6, 2020

Democrats on the November debate stage in Atlanta turned the spotlight to an issue affecting millions of Americans when they were asked how they planned to make housing more affordable. "Where you put your head at night determines so many things about your life," billionaire Tom Steyer said during the Nov. 20 debate. "It determines where your kids go to school. It determines the air you breathe, where you shop, how long it takes you to get to work." 

Steyer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pledged to build millions of housing units across the country, criticizing local and municipal policies that have limited new construction. "Our housing problem in America is a problem on the supply side, and that means that the federal government stopped building new housing a long time ago, affordable housing," Warren said. "So I've got a plan for 3.2 million new housing units in America." The United States has a housing affordability problem. Home prices are rising faster than wages in roughly 80% of U.S. markets, according to ATTOM, a real estate and property data company. Almost two-thirds of renters nationwide say they couldn’t afford to buy a home if they wanted to.

High housing costs mean tradeoffs elsewhere

Housing affordability is a transportation issue, as well. "People often have to move further out to find affordable housing," Silverman said. "That can translate into higher transportation costs and commute times."

2015 Brookings Institution study found that between 2000 and 2012, the number of jobs within the typical commute for people in major metro areas fell by 7%.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology, a Chicago-based nonprofit focused on sustainable development, calculates an H+T Affordability Index that factors in the impact of transportation. It shows that there’s more to housing affordability than finding a roof to live under. 

For example, residents in Atlanta, a city known for its sprawl, spend on average 48% of their incomes on housing and transportation, according to the H+T Affordability Index. But people living in dense New York City only devote 39% of their incomes to housing and transportation.

Sale of Chatham Apartments Means Loss of Affordable Housing Downtown

Savannah Morning News | December 21, 2019

The Chatham Apartments has seen better days.

The 233-unit apartment building at 609 Abercorn St. obviously needs renovation. Just take a look at the north façade or the unused parking deck in the rear.

But for all its flaws, the 67-year-old building plays a vital role in the Historic District.

In our increasingly expensive and exclusive downtown, the building provides affordable housing to low-income residents, many of whom receive housing assistance.

Abercorn Apartments, LLC purchased the Chatham Apartments in October and began notifying residents that they have to move. The new owners are helping with the relocation process.

Major renovations could begin within a year, but so far the new owners have not detailed their plans.

Some of the current residents of the Chatham Apartments might find stable, affordable housing in good locations, but many will likely be living in places that are less convenient and more expensive.

Residents of the Chatham Apartments live on a bus line. They are just a few blocks from the downtown Kroger and just a block from Forsyth Park. It’s a great location for folks without cars.

Some residents will eventually relocate to homes with few amenities within walking distance.

I have written in this column before about the benefits of location efficiency as defined by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology. “For residents, living in location-efficient neighborhoods requires less time, money and greenhouse gas emissions to meet everyday travel needs,” says the CNT on their website. “Living in a connected community with access to jobs and transit can provide real savings, as transportation costs are typically a household’s second-highest expense after housing.”

If we had been working for the past decade or so on comprehensive housing policies, residential investors might be incentivized to ensure that some units remain affordable or might be required to contribute to an affordable housing fund.

Maybe we would even be requiring hotel developers to pay into an affordable housing fund.

As San Antonio Grows, Funding VIA Becomes More Critical

Rivard Report | December 9, 2019

A stronger economy. More choices about where we live, work and play. A better overall quality of life.

That’s the future that we all want for San Antonio and Bexar County. And we can have it, if we act now to adequately fund our underfunded public transportation network. Adding more mobility options is absolutely critical to ensuring that our region keeps moving forward, especially as 1 million more people will call our city home by 2040.

That’s why Mayor Ron Nirenberg and I have rallied behind the first part of the Connect San Antonio plan to dedicate an expiring one-eighth-cent sales tax to better fund VIA Metropolitan Transit and its VIA Reimagined plan. It’s an essential component to combating congestion and protecting our environment.


The status quo virtually guarantees that we’ll spend more wasted time stuck in traffic. We know from experience that as major corporations consider relocating or expanding to San Antonio, one of their primary considerations is the state of our transit system.

According to estimates from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, the average San Antonio household spends 23 percent of annual combined income on transportation expenses. That’s nearly as much as housing costs, which consume 25 percent of annual income. A robust transit system offers an option to significantly reduce transportation costs.

Once Again Chicago Leads the Way, Passing a Tax to Help get Uber and Lyft Under Control

Streetsblog Chicago | November 26, 2019

Back in 2017 Chicago was the first major U.S. city to pass a tax on ride-hail to fund transit infrastructure, paving the way for peer cities to follow suit. Today we pioneered another initiative to help mitigate the harmful effects of Uber and Lyft on urban transportation, with a new fee structure designed to convert more solo trips to shared ones and boost CTA ridership, which is also likely to set a precedent for other towns. The City Council passed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $11.65 billion budget, including the new ride-hail tax, by a 39 to 11 margin, with several aldermen referring to it as a sensible and progressive measure.

Currently Chicago has a flat total tax of $0.72 per Uber or Lyft  trip, whether it’s a blue-collar worker taking an Uber Pool ride home from their local ‘L’ station at 3 a.m., or a CEO taking a traffic-clogging private trip many miles downtown during the morning rush. Under the new system, the tax on a shared ride in the neighborhoods drops to $0.65, while the fee on a private one goes up to $1.25. Downtown shared trips during peak hours (weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.) will be taxed at $1.25, while private downtown peak-hour trips will be assigned a full $3 fee.

The new structure should encourage more people to take advantage of already-cheaper Uber Pool and Lyft Line rates instead of taking private trips by providing a $0.60 tax savings in the neighborhoods. It should also make many people think twice about using ride-hail downtown, where there are plentiful transit options. That should ease congestion, speed up bus service, boost CTA ridership, and help prevent service cuts and fare hikes due to ride-hail cannibalizing transit use. The new tax is projected to raise $40 million a year, with most of that going to plug Chicago’s $838 million budget hole, but $2 million earmarked for projects to improve bus service, such as dedicated lanes.

Needless to say, the ride-hail companies, particularly Uber, fought Lightfoot’s initiative tooth-and-nail. Their main strategy was to argue that the new fees would disproportionately impact poor and working people on the South and West sides, with Uber enlisting 35 Black ministers to bolster their claim that the tax would hurt African Americans. (Last spring all 35 clergy members helped the corporation make the same argument about the city’s deal with Lyft to expand the Divvy bike-share system citywide, part of a propaganda campaign that also involved Uber buying sympathetic news coverage in local Black media.) For example, Reverend William Hall claimed that the mayor’s plan would “balance the budget on the backs of low-income communities.”

However, numbers from a recent city of Chicago report on ride-hail data show that won’t be the case. As it stands, most trips hailed on the South and West sides are shared, non-downtown trips, which will be cheaper under the new structure, while 70 percent of rides requested downtown and on the more affluent North Side are private. Therefore, as you can see from the map by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, the vast amount of the new revenue will come from higher-income communities. Meanwhile, lower-income Chicagoans, who are more likely to depend on transit, particularly buses, will disproportionately benefit from the enhanced CTA service.

Provo is, On Average, The Nation's Worst Air Polluter

The Salt Lake Tribune | November 18, 2019

Provo, Utah is the worst polluting city in the United States, according to a new study, and Ogden is second on the list.

That’s according to the website, which compared the average household carbon footprint in the nation’s 200 largest metro areas and found households in the two Utah cities emitted an average of 10.55 and 10.16 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.

“Not surprisingly, we found that cities with larger carbon footprints tended to have more cars per household,” reads the report. “Households in Provo ... own an average of 2.1 cars and travel approximately 25,000 miles annually by car, while only 2% of commuters take public transit.”

MagnifyMoney analyzed 2017 data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology Housing and Transportation Index to produce the report. It defines carbon footprint as “the combined total annual amount of carbon dioxide produced to support the lives of each member of a household.”

Overall, the study found that “households in the West” spew “more carbon emissions that ones in urban, denser areas.” The city with the lowest average carbon footprint is New York — where 31 percent of commuters use public transit. The cars-per-household average in the Big Apple is 1.27 (40% fewer than Provo); the average distance traveled is 13,000 miles (48% less than Provo); the average metric tons of CO2 emissions is 5.38 (49% less than Provo).

Deconstructing Uber's Vaporware Counterproposal to Lori's Fair Ride-Hail Tax

Streetsblog Chicago | November 15, 2019

Last spring when Uber was trying to block the city of Chicago from signing a deal with Lyft for citywide expansion of the Divvy bike-share system, they floated a bogus counterproposal. Now the company is using the same strategy to try and kill Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan for a new fair ride-hail tax structure, which would reduce congestion and help improve CTA service.

The counterproposal is outlined in a blog post by Josh Gold, one of Uber’s top New York City PR flacks who recently came to Chicago to fight the city proposal, which the company views as an existential threat to its business model. Let’s go ahead and deconstruct the some of the dubious aspects of Gold’s post and plan.

“The City’s proposal… will likely have very limited impact on congestion.”

Lightfoot’s plan will mostly jack up the price of traffic-clogging private downtown trips during peak hours, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., raising the tax from the current flat rate of $0.72 to $3.00. According to a new city of Chicago study, half of all Chicago ride-hail trips start or end downtown, and a third both start and end there, with 29.817 trips taken during a typical evening rush. That $2.28 price hike will be a major incentive to switch to more sustainable modes, including Uber Pool and and Lyft Line, CTA, walking, and Divvy bike-share. That will go a long way towards reducing traffic jams. Moreover, the $2 million annually that the new fees are expected to raise for projects to speed up bus service will help shift more trips from cars to transit.

“[Lightfoot’s] proposal will hurt Chicagoans [on the South and West sides] who take trips far from congested downtown.”

Nope, since most rides hailed from the South and West sides are currently shared trips in the neighborhoods, most South and West side ride-hail users would get a 10 percent discount from the current $0.72 tax, saving them a little money.

And a map below by Elizabeth Irvin of the Center for Neighborhood Technology illustrates, the vast majority of the new revenue would come the wealthier parts of Chicago, downtown and on the North Side. Yes, the average price of a ride on the South or West side is projected to go up by a modest 25 to 50 cents when you average in the minority of rides that are private or downtown trips. “[But] the actual increase in fees is likely to be even less than what is shown here, as reduced fees incentivize more people to switch to shared rides,” Irvin writes.