Access to Affordable, Safe Housing

Access to Affordable, Safe Housing

The choice of where to live involves many factors: price; amenities, including available transportation services; character of the neighborhood; proximity to job opportunities; and access to essential services. This choice also impacts one’s health, as phrased in the question, “When it comes to disease and health, which is more powerful—ZIP code or genetic code?” 

In making a decision where to live, most people balance these factors. For example, those who wish to live in dense, urban areas, where multiple public transportation options are available (e.g., transit, bikeshare, ridehailing services, e-scooters), usually pay a higher price for their home. Those who wish to live surrounded by more green space and less density, can pay a lesser price for their home but end up paying more for transportation. CNT (formerly the Center for Neighborhood Technology developed its Housing and Transportation Calculator to help individual balance the sometimes competing interests between housing and transportation.

Urban dwellers are also more likely to be able to have access to newer transportation options, as these are designed to work best when offered in densely populated areas. Ridehailing, car sharing, bike sharing, electric scooters, and other new modes are rolled out first in urban areas, and often in areas where income levels are higher. Residents in lower income areas may not have the expendable funds to take advantage of these; residents in suburban and rural areas may find these services further and far between. In non-urban areas, any service that is priced by the mile and/or time will be more expensive as the distances to travel are greater.

Transportation and low-income housing

For other individuals, whose low levels of income significantly narrows their choice of housing, whether they live in urban, suburban, or rural areas. The decision of where to live may be simpler but only because there are fewer choices. The factors they may be prioritizing are price and safety. The cost of transportation may be secondary. 

There are examples where communities are addressing transportation options for those living in lower-income areas or subsidized housing.

  • At Lamar Station Crossing in Denver, low-income housing was specifically sited at a light rail station. 
  • Sustainable Housing for Ageless Generations (SHAG) residences, in Washington State, are all near shopping and public transit, and some have their own dedicated community transit vans for local transportation.
  • Neighbor Network of Northern Nevada (Reno) recently piloted its Ride on Time program  offering subsidized Lyft services to older adults and people with disabilities residing in public housing and followed the impact on their health outcomes.
  • Funding through the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency  ROSS) program can be used for coordinating services for public housing residents, including transportation services. 
  • Advocacy and research through nonprofit organizations such as Local Housing Solutions 
Photo of Lamar Station Crossing TOD in Denver, CO

Making public transit affordable for low-income residents

In addition to designing communities so all residents have access to public transportation services, there are efforts to ensure these services are affordable for those with lower levels of income. These transit systems, among many others, provide reduced fare and/or fare assistance programs to qualified residents:

Resource: , maintained by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy 

Resource: Affordable Housing and Transportation: How Two Sectors Join Forces to Support Low-Income Populations

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For further investigation . . .

Low-Income in Transit-Oriented Development Areas Database

This database contains a listing of policies and incentives local governments have taken across the country to promote the construction of affordable housing units near transit. 

Affordable Housing and Transportation: How Two Sectors Join Forces to Support Low-Income Populations

This resource shows how nonprofit and public housing groups are stepping up their efforts to help residents find and afford transportation options. This brief examines different strategies employed to support the travel needs of older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income families in connection with housing.

Jobs, Transportation, and Affordable Housing: Connecting Home and Work

This paper illustrates the difficulties rising home prices create in our communities. A lack of affordable housing has many impacts on economic opportunity and health. 

Challenges and Policy Options for Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing near Transit and in Other Location-Efficient Areas.

This report examines specific, actionable non-statutory changes that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development—and partner agencies—could adopt to better facilitate and encourage the development and preservation of affordable and workforce housing in location-efficient areas.

Additional Resources


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