What the Livability Index Shows About Housing

A new report highlights inequalities in accessibility and affordability.

2 minute read

February 22, 2021, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Wheelchair user on sidewalk

klimkin from Pixabay / Wheelchair user on sidewalk

Jennifer Molinsky and Whitney Airgood-Obrycki highlight important findings from a recent report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies and AARP's Public Policy Institute investigating the role of housing in creating livable neighborhoods. "AARP’s Livability Index is an online resource that provides livability scores for neighborhoods across the US by measuring seven key areas: housing, neighborhood features, transportation, environment, health, engagement, and opportunity."

The report shows that "the places with the highest overall livability scores offer the greatest array of housing options. As one moves up the livability spectrum, the share of multifamily units increases, as does the share of apartments in larger buildings." However, one important finding affirmed the fact that those with higher incomes have access to more livable neighborhoods, as median rents and housing costs are positively correlated with livability. "Improving housing affordability in the most livable communities is critical to ensuring these places are truly open to people of all incomes. While neighborhoods that score highest on the livability spectrum tend to have the most housing types, expanding access to these locations means expanding income-restricted options."

According to the report, older adults are more likely to face cost burdens, making it crucial for government programs to support aging in place and affordable, accessible housing for seniors. "Across all levels of livability, there is need for more accessible housing to meet the needs of the growing number of older adults with mobility difficulties."

Wednesday, February 10, 2021 in Harvard Center for Joint Housing Studies

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