Building Livable Communities for All Ages in Washington, D.C.


Affordable Housing development

New affordable housing development near Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station.

 

Many perceive Washington, DC as being a livable community. It has plenty of shops, interesting neighborhoods, fun destinations, lively streets, and transit options.

Yet is the nation’s capital truly livable? A livable community is livable for people of all ages. Shops should include stores with healthy food choices and pharmacies, while interesting neighborhoods mean housing for diverse household types. Fun destinations should feature not just costly options, but recreation centers, libraries, and parks.  Lively streets should be safe for pedestrians, bikes, and cars.

A look at the city’s livability status and efforts going forward highlight the kinds of successes and challenges for many cities across the country.

Top 10 Success

Fortunately, the nation’s capital does boast many positive livability features. Washington ranks in the top 10 livable large cities, according to AARP’s Livability Index: Great Neighborhoods for All Ages. The Index helps communities  determine how well they meet the needs of residents across their lifespan. Livability attributes benefiting older residents typically benefit younger ones as well.

The Index measures indicators across seven categories: health, environment (air and water quality), social and civic engagement; accessible and affordable housing; transportation; supportive services; and economic and educational opportunity. In our latest update, the District receives a livability score of 59 –higher than the average of 50, scoring best in engagement, transportation, and neighborhood.

Eyeing Livability 2.0

DC, like all communities no matter how successful, still has work to do. As the Index shows, the nation’s capital faces challenges in features related to the environment and to opportunity, and it also is working to meet the needs of its residents as they age. As a member of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, the District is making livability a top priority. The District’s age-friendly action plan, based on community assessment and input, addresses affordable housing, social isolation, and neighborhood safety. A recent progress report highlights achievements such as an intergenerational housing complex, an expansion of affordable units targeting very-low income residents, and a partnership to obtain transportation for older adult residents.

Yet success often brings challenges. Features that make cities more livable and attractive can push housing demand and prices higher. As a result, retaining and building affordable housing, especially in popular urban areas, become increasingly difficult. Sure enough, the Index shows Washington struggling with high housing-related costs and a lower-than-average rate of accessible homes for people with limited mobility. Washington is not alone in grappling with how to ensure that everyone has a place to live, for this is happening across the country.

The District is addressing its affordability and housing challenges through strategies such as low-income housing tax credits, inclusionary zoning, and funding for services for homeless families.  In 2016, the city committed $100 million to its Housing Production Trust Fund. The investment will fund 12 new developments including a project consisting of units specifically slated for older adults. Other new and renovated housing units add more affordable options. Many such units are close to public transportation, neighborhood amenities, and social services.  Additionally, the city helps older adults and people with disabilities renovate homes with features that make them safer. These policies all help residents to remain in their communities as prices rise.

A Vision Requiring Collaboration

Meanwhile, the work continues in many communities.  As DC shows, achieving greater livability for everyone requires a strong collaboration among residents, businesses, agencies, local organizations, and developers. Partners can provide key data, add their perspectives, and share expertise—ultimately resulting in effective and innovative solutions that improve communities and address challenges.

Neighborhood Amenities

Community services and amenities along Rhode Island Avenue and 12th St. NE.

 

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 Shannon Guzman is a policy research senior analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she works on housing, transportation and land-use issues. Shannon focuses on policies and programs that create livable communities for people of all ages. For more information about livable communities visit, www.aarp.org/livable. Photo: DFinney



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New state IRA program begins in Oregon

New state IRA program begins in Oregon


Oregon is about to take a small but important first step in solving the nation’s retirement security crisis. On July 1, 2017 the state launched a pilot program of “OregonSaves” and become first in the nation to begin a state-based IRA program.

OregonSaves is a completely voluntary, simple, and convenient way for workers to save their own money into their own accounts. It’s automatic. Employees don’t need to do anything to enroll. Savings are through payroll deductions, which will make it simple for businesses, just like deducting payroll taxes. All Oregon employees 18 or older without a retirement plan at work will be eligible to join the OregonSaves program if they don’t have an employer-based retirement program. Participation is voluntary.

According to David John with the AARP Public Policy Institute, about 55 million full and part-time workers don’t have access to a payroll deduction retirement savings plan even though workers are 15 times more likely to save when the can do so at work. More than 1 million workers in Oregon don’t have a retirement savings option at work.

A second pilot program will start in the fall along with open enrollment for employers for the program to start more broadly in Oregon in 2018.  California, Illinois, Oregon and Massachusetts are the only states that have enacted legislation establishing a program while other states are still considering legislation.

As Oregon prepares to make public policy history, Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read said,  “Those who are moving toward retirement have gotten a little bit closer, and every dollar that people aren’t saving is a dollar that’s likely to have to come from a future safety net budget,” Read said. “We’re trying to address the tsunami that’s headed toward us and make it easier for people to take control of their own financial future.”



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