Affordable Housing: A Key Component of CRT

houses 3-03

27% of region’s existing affordable housing within a mile of rail corridor

  • TJCOG study finds rail project would help scores of people with modest means reach job centers.
  • f planned affordable housing units are built, the project would score the highest rating on the federal government’s scale on affordable housing for New Starts

A majority of residents in Wake, Durham and Johnston counties are spending more than half of their incomes on housing and transportation, according to a recent Triangle J Council of Governments study on affordable housing opportunities within the corridor of the Greater Triangle Commuter Rail Project.
The average household in Durham spends 57 percent of its income on housing and transportation. In Wake County, that percentage is 56 and in Johnston County it’s 53. Households that spend more than 45 percent of their income on housing, utility and transportation are considered cost-burdened under most guidelines.
Investing in a high-quality transit network close to affordable housing would help many of those Triangle households reach a better spending balance, according to the TJCOG study.

Fortunately, the Greater Triangle Commuter Rail Project, several connected bus rapid transit projects and an expansion of bus service within the network are in the works.

37% of Durham’s affordable housing in corridor

The commuter rail project, included in both Wake and Durham counties’ transit plans, would run at least 37 miles from West Durham to Garner or Clayton through major employment areas, connecting to world-class universities and employment areas and increasing job and educational opportunities for everyone in the Triangle.

The TJCOG study found that 27% of the region’s available Legally Binding Affordable Housing is within a mile of the rail corridor, while the corridor itself makes up only 4% of the region’s land area. LBAR units have legally binding agreements to keep the housing affordable for a set period of time, sometimes permanently.

In Durham, 37 percent of the county’s LBAR units are within a mile of the rail corridor. In Wake, it’s 25 percent and in Johnston 4 percent.

There also are many opportunities to build more affordable housing. There are plans for 2,000 new affordable homes in downtown Durham alone. The rail project would help scores of people with modest means reach job centers, the study found.

The Federal Transit Administration evaluates the relationship among transit, land use and housing affordability within transit corridors to decide which new transit investments to help pay for. Planners of the project are depending on the federal government’s criteria-driven New Starts program to pay 50 percent of the rail line’s cost.

Access to jobs, school, medical centers

A well-planned transit system offers access to medical, educational and job centers. The Greater Triangle Commuter Rail line would serve Duke University and Medical Center, downtown Durham, North Carolina Central University, Research Triangle Park, RTP, Morrisville, Cary, North Carolina State University and downtown Raleigh, among other areas.

The TJCOG analysis of affordable housing opportunities within the corridor is part of the final study phase before governing bodies decide whether to pursue the federal funds to build the project.

The most commonly used measure of housing affordability is “area median income” or AMI, the level of income where half of households earn more and half earn less. “Low income” is pegged at 80% of AMI and “moderate income” is typically defined as between 80% and 120% of AMI.

Here are highlights of what TJCOG found.

By the numbers

  • 6,177 The number of income-restricted housing units that serve households at 80% AMI or below along the commuter rail corridor
  • 3,321 The number of those units in Wake County
  • 2,758 The number in Durham County
  • 202 The number in Johnston County
  • 50 The percentage of those 6,000 housing units that have permanent affordability restrictions
  • 15 The percentage of those 6,000 housing units that will need intervention or investment to stay income-restricted past 2030.

TJCOG also looked at existing plans for more legally binding affordable housing units along the corridor. That information could help determine whether additional or relocated station areas would better serve low- and moderate-income households with access to transit. If these units were built and were included in efforts to secure federal funding for the project, the project would score the highest rating on the federal government’s affordable housing scale for New Starts Program projects.

 

In addition to legally binding affordable housing, there also is naturally occurring affordable housing or NOAH within the commuter rail corridor:

  • 22,044 The number of naturally occurring affordable housing units within the commuter rail corridor that serve households at 80% of the Average Median Income or below
  • 15,420 The number of those that are in Wake County
  • 5,648 The number in Durham County
  • 976 The number in Johnston County

Opportunity sites also were part of the TJCOG analysis. Opportunity sites are publicly owned parcels where affordable housing or stations could be built. Who owned the land and its total acreage were part of the criteria used to identify the parcels.

  • 159 The number of opportunity parcels in Wake County suitable for building affordable housing within a mile of the commuter rail corridor. Those parcels add up to 1,065 acres.
  • 79 The number of parcels with a total of 336 acres in Durham County
  • 16 The number of parcels with a total of 163 acres in Johnston County

The takeaways?

More than half of the households in Durham, Wake and Johnston counties are spending more than 45 percent of their total income on housing and transportation. A commuter rail project with affordable housing near stations would help many people of modest means.

Low- and moderate-income families tend to be more dependent on transit service so making sure there is room for them in station areas would increase ridership, making the commuter rail investment even more cost-effective. The Greater Triangle Commuter Rail Project includes existing areas of restricted and naturally occurring affordable housing, and our local governments have the opportunity to create even more.

If planned affordable housing units were built, the project would score the highest rating on the federal government’s scale on affordable housing for New Starts projects.

“Taking full advantage of opportunities near transit will not happen by accident,” TJCOG says in its report. “Our solutions must be intentional and strategic, so that over time, we can look back and know we have done what we could to increase the chances for success.”

Read the TJCOG report HERE.