Monday, February 13, 2017

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #3: Supporting Affordable and Diverse Neighborhoods

This is the third in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at

Outcome: Metro supports economically stable and culturally diverse neighborhoods by promoting integrated transportation and land-use policy.

What success looks like:

  • Metro tracks housing affordability near transit projects and works with local jurisdictions to adopt policies ensuring that the median family can afford the median cost of housing.
  • Metro supports value-capture near transit to invest in affordable housing and related infrastructure.
  • Metro adopts anti-displacement policies to protect long-term residents and business-owners from involuntary relocation.

Transportation policy has a direct effect on land-use — with targeted and effective transportation investments, we can strengthen our neighborhoods with better housing, better access to jobs, and safe and walkable communities for all. Look at any major city… a city’s growth largely depends on having effective and reliable transportation hubs, be they rail depots, highway systems, bikeway networks, or in some cases, ports.

Some context: in the past, real estate developers built privately funded trolley networks to increase the connection to suburban housing tracts (along some of the same rights-of-way where Metro is now building its new lines). Federally-subsidized freeway construction further accelerated suburban sprawl while bulldozing urban neighborhoods and displacing many of their inhabitants. In the current era, transit access is one of several factors driving up urban land values.

The Los Angeles Housing Crisis

The Los Angeles region has not built enough housing in the past several decades to accommodate its growing population, leading to higher home prices and rents throughout Southern California.* At the same time, demand for urban living has concentrated development activity in locations with good transit access and less organized anti-growth constituencies.**

The combination of all these factors — plus a dose of real estate speculation and a sophisticated gentrification machine*** — have led to dramatic rent increases in previously affordable neighborhoods that are predominantly displacing low-income residents of color.

Metro’s Role Supporting Our Neighborhoods

While improving transit is just one factor in the housing crisis affecting low-income communities of color, Metro is uniquely situated to mitigate these issues.

At the regional level, Metro can:

  • Promote housing affordability by supporting policies that will increase new housing, particularly near transit.
  • Support efforts to link transportation and other funding to local jurisdictions’ willingness to accommodate their share of population growth.
  • Integrate local land use policies into its own prioritization of transportation improvements.

Metro can also act locally to promote housing affordability near its projects and work with local jurisdictions to protect longtime residents against displacement. As a landowner, Metro has already increased its commitment to affordable housing through its joint development program. Metro can build on its efforts to support small businesses during construction and grow its revolving loan fund for affordable housing projects. Metro can also support new Enhanced Infrastructure Finance Districts in order to capture the value created by its projects and direct this new revenue into community needs like affordable housing.

The other role that Metro can play is to help understand the issue through better data collection and reporting. Not too many stakeholders are systematically tracking housing affordability and displacement near transit, so in many respects, policymakers are not as well-informed to the nature and scale of the housing-transportation problem. We encourage Metro to set clear objectives for housing affordability near transit in the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) update and, more importantly, actually measure what is happening in communities.

Last Thoughts

Housing policy is extraordinarily complex with a constantly changing toolbox, and we don’t want to pretend that there are easy answers.

Many of our partners have worked on different facets of this issue for decades. We look forward to working with them to build on what’s working and to innovate where policies have fallen short. Metro has extraordinary reach and resources that — in partnership with local jurisdictions — can be leveraged toward solving the housing crisis.


*Curbed Los Angeles. March 18, 2015. How Much Does Los Angeles Have to Build to Get Out of its Housing Crisis?

** Curbed Los Angeles. May 3, 2016. Millennials Push LA Population Over 4 Million For the First Time Ever.

*** York and Fig.

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