In the wake of the failure to pass the proposed Build Back Better legislation with its $300 billion in housing investments, the Joint Center for Housing Studies collaborated with the Urban Institute in fall 2022 to convene stakeholders and policymakers in Washington, DC to identify mechanisms to leverage transportation investments to further the preservation of, access to, and construction of affordable housing.
In a recent article appearing in the Harvard Joint Center’s Housing Perspectives, researchers Riordan Frost and Yonah Freemark, report on the highlights of the conference that focused on the opportunities afforded by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.
More investment in affordable housing near affordable public transportation is a key mechanism to reduce cost of living, and housing investments can help mitigate climate change if they’re coordinated with effective transportation investments that give people the ability to walk, bike, or take transit rather than drive.
With the help of over two dozen researchers, advocates, policymakers, and practitioners, we identified three promising interventions to link transportation investments in IIJA’s programs to housing:
- Technical assistance from the federal government to local stakeholders to assist with planning for integrated housing and transportation;
- Rigorous housing criteria in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) competitive transportation grants to ensure that applicants consider impacts on housing as part of new project design; and
- Baseline requirements from the DOT that transportation projects funded by formula grants do no harm to existing and future housing.
Further conclusions from the Conference:
- Though there was a substantial missed opportunity in excluding housing from IIJA, there remain important opportunities to link its historic transportation investments with housing. Transportation projects, from pedestrian improvements to new public transportation lines, should be leveraged to support access to affordable housing, particularly for low-income renters.
- They should be planned in association with new housing investments, land-use changes that encourage denser and more affordable housing, and policies designed to prevent displacement.
- All levels of government could benefit from integrating housing and transportation planning, which could in turn help improve the proposals submitted for competitive grants and even improve how formula-funded projects are carried out.
- Given the newly divided Congress, substantial new funding for housing akin to the type envisioned in Build Back Better seems even less likely to materialize in the short-term, which makes the opportunities presented by IIJA all the more valuable.