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Strategy of the Month: Case Studies for Transit Oriented Development

February 2010


Research has consistently shown that developing affordable housing and commercial real estate in close proximity to public transit can improve quality of life for many low- and moderate-income families by decreasing the two largest household expenses — housing and transportation. Known as transit-oriented development or TOD, this integrated approach to expand housing opportunities near transit is gaining popularity in response to changing demographics and lifestyle preferences in communities across the nation. A report prepared by Reconnecting America titled Case Studies for Transit Oriented Development credits TODs with offering a diversity of housing choices, a mix of commercial uses, and for providing "a convenient, affordable and active lifestyle" for residents, while promoting neighborhood reinvestment. With short descriptions and case study examples, the report summarizes 10 strategies being implemented by communities to encourage successful transit-oriented development. The report also highlights the benefits and applicability of each of the following tools:

  • A street car in Portland, Oregon.Expedite the planning process for TOD projects. Localities can adopt station area plans or transit overlay zones that allow by-right development of mixed uses.
  • Gather community input. Prior to adopting station area plans, localities can reduce delays associated with the approval process by providing appropriate channels for community feedback.
  • Reduce parking requirements. Excessive parking requirements add to development costs and limit housing densities in TODs. Localities can institute strategies — such as shared parking — to reduce developer costs, which can then be passed along in the form of price reductions to homebuyers.
  • Increase zoning flexibility. Cities can encourage greater flexibility by adopting mixed-use zoning and form-based codes to promote the viability of TODs, thus creating more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly communities.
  • Establish public-private partnerships. Effective public-private partnerships are committed to expanding opportunities for affordable housing near transit. For example, state and local governments have established housing trust funds primarily to preserve the existing stock of affordable housing. It is also critical to generate support from private entities that are committed to affordable housing development and are often able to provide the necessary capital to support TOD projects.

Although intended to guide TOD policy for the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area, this report may serve as a model guide for other communities looking to encourage transit-oriented development. To view the report in its entirety, please visit http://www.huduser.gov/portal/rbcrecord&DocId=1986.

We hope this information will assist communities as they continue to develop approaches for expanding housing opportunities near transit. If you have successfully implemented regulatory reform measures, would like to share resources, or require assistance in identifying additional policy tools, research, or strategies for our web-based Clearinghouse database, email us at rbcsubmit@huduser.gov, or call us at 1-800-245-2691 (option 4), or visit our website at www.regbarriers.org.

Feel free to forward this message to friends and colleagues with an interest in reducing housing costs by creating an environment that's favorable to affordable housing.