Report: Link between sprawl, transportation issues, housing affordability

Housing affordability is a critical challenge throughout Virginia—a challenge heightened by the recent recession and continuing economic turmoil, as well as problems with transportation and sprawl development, according to a report released today by Housing Virginia and the Southern Environmental Law Center. In addition to examining these problems, the organizations outline a range of practical, workable solutions and opportunities to build a better future for Virginia’s communities.

The report, Jobs, Transportation, and Affordable Housing: Connecting Home and Work, written by the director of SELC’s Land & Community Program, Trip Pollard, provides an overview of current challenges and highlights some of the demographic changes—such as an increasing and aging population—that will shape and complicate these challenges.

Recent estimates are that almost 30 percent of all homeowners and almost half of all renters in Virginia—a total of almost one million people—have housing costs above the level typically considered affordable. And moving farther out in search of affordable housing often leads to higher transportation costs that eat up any savings on housing. In contrast, households at or near the center of a region—particularly those near transit—tend to spend far less of their income on transportation.

“One result of the lack of integrated planning between housing, transportation and jobs is that far too many of our teachers, police officers and other essential employees can’t afford to live in the communities where they work. Improving these connections must be a top priority for decision makers and citizens across the Commonwealth.” Pollard says. “We have to provide housing and transportation choices for households of all income levels, sizes, and needs.”

“The current disconnect hurts housing affordability, access to jobs, businesses, taxpayers, our health, and our environment. It’s far too costly,” says Laura Lafayette, vice-chair of Housing Virginia and chief executive officer of the Richmond Association of Realtors.

Housing Virginia and SELC released the report at a public forum today in Roanoke on the issue of jobs, transportation, and housing, co-sponsored by the Roanoke Regional Housing Network. Upcoming forums are being planned for Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

“There are many ways to meet these challenges, including providing incentives for mixed-use, mixed-income development that is energy-efficient, walkable and served by transit,” Pollard says. The report offers a host of solutions, including:

Eliminate regulatory barriers to more compact development with a mix of residential and commercial uses, and housing with a mix of styles, sizes and prices;

Promote “infill” development, revitalize existing communities, and redevelop declining or abandoned commercial areas;

Land-use plans and incentives to guide new development to designated growth areas;

Incentives for green buildings that are healthier and more energy efficient;

Provide greater transportation options by reorienting state and local expenditures to advance alternatives to driving; and

Require or offer incentives for developers to include affordable housing in projects and provide funding for affordable housing.

The report is on the web at www.SouthernEnvironment.org (pdf) and www.housingvirginia.org.

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.


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