US real estate

Fuel and Housing Costs Highlight Access to Public Transportation in Affordable Housing

Historically high housing and fuel prices have made access to public transport an increasingly important element in the development of much-needed affordable housing.

The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the United States was $1,295 in February, down from $1,100 a year ago, according to the website. Statistical. And transportation costs tend to be the second largest expense for the average household after housing costs.

From left to right: Yarrow Brown, Ryan Kilpatrick, Ryan VerWys

As home prices and rents in Grand Rapids rise steadily, buyers and renters are increasingly being pushed to the suburbs where housing tends to be cheaper but transportation costs are rising, Ryan VerWys said. , president and CEO of the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit. Downtown Christian Federation.

“These suburbs were not built around public transport. They were built when America was falling in love with the automobile,” VerWys said.

Meanwhile, drivers in communities without reliable public transit are paying the price more than ever this year at the gas pump. Fuel prices in the United States have broken records this year as demand increases and the war in Ukraine continues. Prices hit a record high on May 10 when the national average gasoline price was $4.36 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.

Low-income families who moved to the suburbs to find cheaper housing are now suffering a ‘triple whammy’ due to rising fuel prices, consumer goods inflation and rising house prices and rents, VerWys said.

In northern Michigan, transportation costs are among the highest in the state, said Yarrow Brown, executive director of Housing North.

The Traverse City-based housing nonprofit often references the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, which indicates the percentage of a household’s annual income spent on housing and transportation. transportation.

According to the Federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, rural households spent an average of 20% of their income on transportation in 2020. The Housing and Transportation Affordability Index shows that Traverse City residents spend an average of 24% of their transport income.

“We always want to make sure transit groups are involved in development conversations because too often developments are built that buses can’t pull into,” Brown said. “We have a culture that’s so car-centric, but as our population grows, that should be part of what we look at: trying to encourage people to use public transport more.”

When planning a project, the ICCF – which focuses on building subsidized and affordable housing – considers properties close to amenities such as schools, shops, hospitals and public transport, VerWys said. . Housing projects planned near these amenities are also prioritized by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority when providing funding for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.

MSHDA’s policy of prioritizing projects near public transit and amenities has influenced developers seeking to acquire sites for new affordable housing developments, said nonprofit executive director Ryan Kilpatrick. lucrative West Michigan Housing. Housing Next.

“Honestly, I think it’s made developers and property managers think more about how their residents move through the community,” Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick sees a continued need to link housing and transportation affordability instead of viewing the two issues in silos.

“Culturally, the fact that we drive everywhere is so ingrained that it’s hard to get policy makers to think about things from the perspective of someone who doesn’t drive everywhere,” Kilpatrick said.