A Conversation with Julián Castro About Housing, Placemaking, Livability and More

A Conversation with Julián Castro About Housing, Placemaking, Livability and More


Hosted in Dallas, the 2017 AARP Livable Communities National Conference was an opportunity for elected officials, planning professionals, local leaders and community advocates from throughout the nation to share ideas, best practices and solutions for making towns, cities and communities more livable for people of all ages.

The following video begins with a teaser about a winning project from the 2017 AARP Community Challenge. The discussion with Julián Castro was moderated by Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer. 

A Conversation About Housing, Placemaking, Livability and More

  • Julián Castro, former Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, former Mayor, City of San Antonio, Texas


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Independence Found in Downsizing to a Transit Rich Neighborhood

Independence Found in Downsizing to a Transit Rich Neighborhood


Independent-minded Karlyn Huffman is considered a “super-user” of public transportation. Photo courtesy Silva Markham Partners

Seventy-eight year-old Yale Station Apartments resident Karlyn Huffman describes herself as outgoing and independent.

“My friends and neighbors will tell you I am a bulldog when it comes to getting out of the house every day,” she says. Huffman has health issues, and gave up her car seven years ago but nothing holds her back. “I go everywhere.”

Huffman’s independence is aided by her choice of residence in one of Denver’s newest affordable senior housing developments located in the transit- and amenity-rich neighborhood of University Hills, adjacent to a light rail station. Huffman uses both the train and bus to get to her job as a cook in the home of a prominent Denver family, to the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, and to the art museum. She even makes the necessary transfers so that she can shop in Boulder.

Denver is just one of many cities in the United States that has embraced transit-oriented development. In a paper released this week, the AARP Public Policy Institute documents more than 100 examples of state, regional, and local support for development that takes advantage of the public’s investment in high frequency rail and bus service. Huffman’s experience offers a glimpse into how such projects enhance lives.

The Benefits of Transit-rich Neighborhoods

Many of Yale Station Apartment’s residents are frequent transit users, taking at least one trip every two weeks, as defined by the property manager. By that measure, Huffman could be considered a super-user of transit, taking at least three bus trips every weekday.

While she makes trips by public transportation, she does enjoy rides with friends and neighbors. She and her girlfriends enjoy dinner at Chili’s and then catch a movie, with several theatres nearby to choose from. Their neighborhood also offers a free fitness center next door, a YMCA with a pool, and several grocery stores.

Huffman’s location also has allowed her to stay in her longtime community. Yale Station Apartments are just two miles from her previous home of 20 years. “Downsizing after living in a big home was a culture shock,” Huffman acknowledges, “but you have to do what you have to do.” Nevertheless, she describes her home of five years in highly positive terms. “I most love [Yale Station Apartments] for the transportation,” she says.

A Policy Key to Affordability

Transit-oriented development is often a victim of its own success. Transit-rich neighborhoods become vibrant and sought after by buyers and renters of all ages, pushing up housing costs. The challenge now is to ensure that housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income households, including older adults, be part of these new neighborhoods.

Huffman would not have been able to afford this sought-after neighborhood were it not for the reduced rent.  Yale Station Apartments offer 50 units to residents age 55 and older who have incomes of between 30 and 60 percent of the Denver region’s median income.

To make the numbers work, the developer applied to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority for federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). “Yale Station could not have come together without the support of the LIHTC,” says Carl Koebel, vice president of developer Koelbel and Company. “It’s a powerful tool to create affordable housing.”

According to Koelbel, the wait list at Yale and University Stations includes 30-40 names. Vacancy rates are less than 1 percent.

Denver isn’t the only city where developers are building affordable housing that is conveniently located near transportation amenities. Atlanta facilitates this through strong policy and funding commitments. In 2005, the Atlanta City Council legislatively mandated a goal of building 5,600 units of affordable housing over 25 years within close proximity to its Atlanta BeltLine—a 22-mile loop of multi-use trails, a modern streetcar line, and parks. Reynoldstown Senior Residences is a new independent-living, affordable senior housing facility along the corridor. The development was funded in part by a $1.5 million BeltLine Affordable Housing Trust Fund grant, and is a result of a partnership between Mercy Housing, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the City of Atlanta, Invest Atlanta, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Two residents share their experience in this video produced by the Atlanta Beltline, Inc.

In Denver and elsewhere across the country, housing affordability is a vexing challenge and transit-oriented development is often a victim of its own success. These neighborhoods become sought after by buyers and renters of all ages, pushing up housing costs. The challenge now is to ensure that housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income households, including older adults, be part of these new neighborhoods.

Stay Informed: Sign up for the AARP Livable Communities Newsletter and visit AARP.org/livable

Ablynott 50x50out the author: Jana Lynott is a senior strategic policy adviser with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she manages the AARP transportation research agenda. As a land use and transportation planner, she brings practical expertise to the research field.

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Threats to Infrastructure Funding Could Undermine Successful Local Development Efforts

Threats to Infrastructure Funding Could Undermine Successful Local Development Efforts


Well-designed, transit-rich neighborhoods provide many benefits to residents of all ages, as I document in, “Independence Found in Downsizing to a Transit Rich Neighborhood.” These neighborhoods also provide dividends to the larger community, generating higher property values, rents, and revenue than real estate located further away from high quality public transportation services. Cities as diverse as Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Denver, Detroit, and Washington, DC have all strengthened their regional economies through investment in transit-oriented development (TOD).  And because their residents walk and bike more, TOD residents reap some health benefits as well.

More than 80 real estate development projects have been completed or are in progress within 1/2 mile of Atlanta’s Beltline corridor. Photo by Jana Lynott

Transit-oriented development pays for itself and then some. One study  discovered that TOD development in the Washington, DC and Baltimore regions generated between $1.13 in tax and $2.20 in non-tax revenues for every dollar spent on public services, such as schools, parks, and general government administration. Another study of five cities found that during the Great Recession, residential property values performed 42 percent better on average if they were located near public transportation with high-frequency service. Neighborhoods with high-frequency public transportation provide access to up to five times as many jobs per square mile as compared to other areas in a given region. Residents also enjoy lower household transportation costs as many are able to give up one or more cars due to the abundant ways to get around the community.

Given the myriad benefits, this type of development should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, however, future development of transit-oriented neighborhoods to meet high consumer demand is in question, as the very infrastructure programs that enable cities to build the underlying transit and other infrastructure that knits these neighborhoods together is under threat.

Two key federal infrastructure programs have been instrumental in getting TOD built. They are the:

  • Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts and Small Starts Capital Investment grants; and,
  • USDOT’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.


Both of these programs have been targeted in the President’s FY2018 Budget for elimination.

The popular TIGER and New Starts/Small Starts grant programs respect local communities’ ability to set their own transportation priorities. They are two of the few ways that local communities can secure funds directly from the federal government for priority transportation projects. These federal dollars, in combination with an even greater share of public investment from states and localities, leverage billions of dollars in private sector investment in our communities.

The 2017 federal budget ends September 30. As Congress decides the fate of infrastructure funding in 2018, it will be essential that local officials, real estate developers, employers, and city planners have a seat at the table to inform this discussion. We have learned a tremendous amount from their collective experience over the past 20 years and can now quantify the extensive benefits of investing in a closely linked land use and transportation infrastructure strategy. Road investment is important but just one piece of the puzzle. The economic strength of our urban areas requires strong investment in public transportation.

Most communities cannot raise enough revenue to build the supporting infrastructure on their own. They need the federal government as a partner in revitalizing local and regional economies, of which the future of the nation depends. The payback will come in many ways.

Stay Informed: Sign up for the AARP Livable Communities Newsletter and check out our Livability Index AARP.org/livabilityindex

Ablynott 50x50out the author: Jana Lynott is a senior strategic policy adviser with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she manages the AARP transportation research agenda. As a land use and transportation planner, she brings practical expertise to the research field.

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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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AARP Opposes the 2018 White House Proposed Budget

AARP Opposes the 2018 White House Proposed Budget


In a statement today following the release of the White House proposed budget, AARP Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond opposed cuts that would harm American families:

“AARP opposes the budget proposed today because it explicitly harms the very people we are counting on the President to protect. Today’s budget proposes to cut Social Security benefits, as well as funding for critical health, hunger, housing, and transportation assistance to low and middle income seniors. This budget sends a powerful message to older Americans and their families that their health and financial security is at risk.”

“We do want to acknowledge the Administration’s paid leave proposal. Although it must be improved so that it addresses the workplace needs of all family caregivers, we hope that it leads to a national conversation about ways to support family caregivers in the workplace.”

 

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. To learn more, visit AARP online.



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