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

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.


Also of Interest


Source link

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.


You may also like:


 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, Photo: DFinney

Source link

Pin It on Pinterest