New Study on Benefits of Transit Oriented Affordable Housing Development


New Study on Benefits of Transit Oriented Affordable Housing Development 

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Oakland, CA…The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and Resources for Community Development (RCD) have released a new study of the role of affordable housing in Transit Oriented Development (TOD) areas. Over the past decade, TOD has become an important strategy for providing affordable housing while also promoting smart growth. Through a survey of affordable housing residents, Transit Oriented Development and Affordable Housing: A Survey of Residents in Five East Bay Properties examines whether living in TOD areas can combine broader goals of improving housing affordability and providing other social and economic equity advantages, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from travel.

RCD Executive Director, Dan Sawislak, commented on the study’s value, stating, “With California’s mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly through reduction of Vehicle Miles Travelled, what residents of multi-family housing have to say is an important addition to the discussion. Their experience shows the value of combining affordable multi-family housing with accessibility to transit and services as a strategy that impacts both housing affordability in California and greenhouse gas reduction.”

The study was conducted over the course of six months, collecting responses from over 200 East Bay households at five affordable housing developments, two in TOD locations and three in less centralized places. Residents described how and when they use cars or public transit, where they go, how far they travel, and how they perceive the advantages of where they live. In addition, the study found a combination of travel alternatives, locations near a denser population of employers, and property and community assistance services can improve employment options for affordable housing residents.

Key Findings 

  • Travel patterns show residents in TOD sites use public transit more and drive less than their counterparts in locations farther from transit options.
  • The lowest income households, whether in TOD or non-TOD locations, drive less and take transit more frequently than households with somewhat higher incomes.
  • In the property that restricted parking spaces and charged a monthly parking fee, a smaller share of households owned and used cars.
  • Residents traveled the greatest distances to work, to places of worship, and for medical care.
  • The great majority of residents reported that access to jobs was the same or easier after moving to an RCD property.
  • Residents at suburban properties strategically located close to retail, parks and schools often chose to walk rather than drive to nearby activities.
  • On-site supportive resources enhanced the experience of residents by providing enrichment services for children, computer technology for job search and other uses, as well as other as-needed assistance such as financial counseling.

The report also describes potential implications for policy makers and housing advocates and recommends strategies for producing greater sustainable (reductions in GHGs) and equitable (deeper levels of affordability) outcomes.

Policy Implications 

  • Affordable TOD housing is an effective strategy for significant VMT reduction and reducing GHG emissions.
  • By locating housing near work, retail, schools and recreation, reductions in GHG emissions and VMT are possible in both urban and suburban locations, even outside of TOD locations. This strategy can improve environmental outcomes while meeting the needs of households distant from TOD sites who seek housing close to existing social networks and work opportunities.
  • Innovative programs such as free shuttle connections to bus and BART service can boost ridership by residents who are more distant from transit services, while programs to increase the cost of vehicle ownership in TOD locations can discourage car use.

These implications point toward ways in which state and local policies can have an even greater impact in addressing both housing affordability and environmental sustainability. See the full study here.

The San Francisco Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Association of Bay Area Governments Finance Authority provided support for this study.


Association of Bay Area Governments 

Founded in 1961, ABAG is the official regional planning agency for the 101 cities and towns, and nine counties of the Bay Area and is recognized as the first council of governments in California. 

Resources for Community Development 

Founded in 1984, RCD has built over 2,200 units of housing and serves over 4,000 low- and very-low income individuals and families in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano counties. RCD’s mission is to create and preserve affordable housing for those with the fewest options, to build community and enrich lives. For more information, visit