As cities across the country build new transit systems, many are struggling to prevent rising rents in areas near stops from displacing lower-income residents. Jeffrey Lubell looks at a little noticed federal policy change that could help mitigate transit-oriented gentrification.
"The new federal policy is one that, for the first time, provides tangible financial incentives for local communities to preserve affordable housing near planned transit stations and ensure that any new development in these areas includes housing affordable to low- and moderate-income households."
"The new incentives come through changes to the criteria for awarding federal New Starts grants for new and expanded public transit lines to give extra points in the 'economic development' section of the competition to communities that adopt and implement housing policies to achieve these goals," he explains. "The new policy also creates incentives in the 'land use' section of the competition for communities to choose transit alignments that serve neighborhoods that include subsidized housing."
"It remains to be seen how this new policy plays out in practice," adds Lubell. "Will applicants for New Starts grants work collaboratively with local stakeholders to develop creative, effective and comprehensive strategies for housing inclusion? Or will they simply describe existing (and largely insufficient and disconnected) housing efforts in glowing terms and hope they get the full score? And will the reviewers scoring the applications be able to tell the difference?"