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Transportation and housing have significant, interrelated impacts on Oregonians’ quality of life. Transportation and housing comprise the two largest expenses for a typical household. Policy choices can impact environmental and physical health outcomes; mobility, economic, educational, and cultural opportunities; and the financial well-being of households.
Last year the Oregon State Legislature requested that ODOT examine policies and actions that could improve quality of life through increasing housing options with easy connections to transit. This aligns with our strategic goals to address equity, address climate change, improve access to public and active transportation, and address congestion.
While housing policy is not directly a part of ODOT’s mission, we are pursuing this Study due to the important connection between transportation and housing on the quality of life for all Oregonians, especially those traditionally underserved. The information we uncovered can help ODOT, other state agencies, public transportation providers, and regional, local, and tribal transportation and land use agencies better enable links between transit and housing of all types.
Click on the icons below to learn more about the research.
A housing primer was developed to provide a foundation for how housing markets function, how market failures arise, the roles of different market players, the housing development process, and typical funding considerations. It is intended to help ODOT, local transportation agencies, local governments, tribal nations, and community partners evaluate investments and policies as they consider the connections between transportation, land use, and housing.
Housing markets are subject to the laws of supply and demand, though they are greatly influenced by government interventions. The demand for housing reflects the number of households with preferences for a given housing type (e.g., detached single-family, apartment), location, and price. Housing type preferences are unique to individual households that balance tradeoffs related to costs, incomes, features (e.g., bedrooms and bathrooms), design, and neighborhood amenities. Demand can be affected by changes in the desirability of an area, population, or the incomes of people seeking housing.
Housing supply consists of all housing units that exist and new units that are built. The private sector produces most new housing, and the market is governed by economic fundamentals of supply and demand, which are influenced by government regulation. Housing development relies on inputs set by numerous interrelated markets and players. Each input to development functions in its own market with supply and demand factors constantly in flux.
Housing development is a multi-stage, multi-year process without a certain outcome. For development to occur, several factors must align.
The development of affordable (rent or income-restricted) housing has added complexity because the rents or purchase prices needed to be affordable to the intended tenants are below what it costs to develop. This “funding gap” requires public subsidy or free or low-cost funding which are typically provided via competitive annual funding programs from federal, state, or local agencies. This slows development and makes it more expensive (e.g., paying for lawyers and staff to complete applications for funding).
Markets fail when they inefficiently allocate resources. In the case of housing markets, available housing units (the supply) cannot be accessed by households that can afford them and prefer them (the demand). Historically, when housing markets fail, the populations affected the most have been people with lower incomes, people who are minoritized, or otherwise marginalized households. In addition, when markets fail they cannot fix themselves. Interventions to correct a market failure typically come from the government, philanthropy, or non-profit sectors. Markets can also fail when the collective willingness to pay (market demand) is insufficient to influence the production of enough units compared to the number of households living in a market.
Housing market dynamics are complex and fluid, with many factors out of policymakers’ control. Changes in demand and supply, movement in materials and labor markets that interact with each other and with development costs, and changes in housing preferences all affect the quantity, nature, and location of housing units demanded and supplied. Whether and where new units get built depend on physical constraints related to the land and regulations governing its use, and the costs of production.
Despite this complexity, coordinated government policy action and investment can strongly influence the nature and location of housing that is built. Special consideration should be given to how policy decisions and investments will help achieve (or hinder) public goals like housing affordability, avoiding displacement, economic mobility, and greenhouse gas reduction, to name a few.
Understanding how housing markets function and fail, who the key players are, how they make decisions, and how governments can intervene to improve outcomes will help strengthen links between transportation, transit investments, and housing markets and development feasibility. Collaboration between housing and transit stakeholders during the early planning/development stages could assist with making more strategic decisions and deploying investments to improve community outcomes in the availability and affordability of housing choice and transportation efficiency.
To learn more about these topics, see the handy Housing Market Primer.
The literature review explored the existing research on the relationship between locating transit-supportive housing near transit routes and stations and the related role of first mile/last mile transit connections. Fourteen prominent research studies were examined to determine the effectiveness of current methods being used to create transit-supportive housing in communities.
The literature review focused on the following areas:
The literature review identified the following key findings for consideration as state and local governments, agencies, tribes, and transit providers develop policies and strategies to help provide connections between transit and quality affordable housing, including:
To learn more about the Literature Review, click here.
A statewide policy review was performed to better understand the relationship between transit, housing, and land use policies and how these policies affect community quality of life. This review was completed in 2021 and therefore looked at state policies as of 2020 and 2021; a variety of changes have been made in policy since then, but this review still provides a foundation for considering their impact on transit and housing linkages. The following key takeaways from the policy review illustrate current transit and housing conditions in Oregon.
To learn more about the Statewide Policy review, click here.
Click on the icons below to learn more about the results.
Case studies include original research, discussions with key individuals, and data from existing written sources to provide a comprehensive overview of the successes and lessons learned from transit-supportive housing projects both within and outside of Oregon.
The following highlights some of the key lessons learned from the Oregon case studies:
The non-Oregon case studies represent a diverse group of geographic areas ranging from dense urban areas to small cities and sparsely populated rural counties. They include projects - developments, policies, pilot programs - ranging from transit-oriented development and transit route realignments to greater accessibility through strategic stop placement. From these case studies, there are five key findings that can be applied to ODOT, local, regional, and tribal agencies, and transit providers as they implement transit improvements to urban corridors, plan new development in suburban areas, or improve accessibility in rural areas.
A survey of Oregon stakeholders and practitioners navigating housing and transportation development projects was conducted to identify opportunities, challenges, and tools for better coordination between transit services and housing. The survey included a series of closed and open-ended questions designed to identify barriers and potential solutions to co-locating housing and transit.
Of the more than 600 surveys distributed, 218 responses were received indicating a response rate of around 33 percent. The respondents were comprised of the following organizations and areas served.
Survey respondents indicated some successes with current collaboration efforts between transit and housing stakeholders, such as city or county planners, the general public, state government, and transit providers, followed closely by housing developers and economic development agencies. Some of these collaboration efforts have included co-location activities, such as transportation system planning, land use planning, development review, and the siting of housing developments and transit stops. In addition to these co-location activities, another frequent collaboration effort includes shared funding and partnership opportunities.
Respondents noted differences in providing transit-supportive housing in urban vs. rural areas. Comments on this topic included:
Respondents indicated that some of the barriers to developing transit-supportive housing in urban areas include limited land use/availability and safety/accessibility concerns for pedestrians and bicyclists. Respondents in rural areas suggested that transit-supportive housing barriers include long distances to transit stops and infrequency of transit service. Stakeholders from both urban and rural areas also cited funding barriers.
When asked for solutions to transit-supportive housing in urban and rural areas, respondents suggested improving access to transit through enhancing pedestrian and bicycle access, as well as implementing transit-oriented development. Additionally, urban areas recommended parking minimums and restrictions, and rural areas recommended expanding transit service in these areas. About three-quarters of respondents indicated they do not currently offer incentives for transit-supportive housing. Of those that do offer incentives, land use incentives were most popular, followed by grant/funding and housing value incentives.
There are a variety of available opportunities to improve access to transit and housing for people in urban and rural areas, based on the responses provided. To start with, planning and its many implementation tools, including land use, zoning, and transit-oriented development, along with involving transit early in the housing development process could go a long way in establishing improved access. One respondent commented:
Other suggested opportunities include improving the frequency and/or effectiveness of transit service in areas with higher housing density, increasing mixed-use development, adding more transit stops, and making transit routes more efficient to serve its residents in these areas. One respondent suggested:
Another popular response was to improve walking and bicycling access to bus stops.
Respondents indicated they would need various types of assistance to be able to develop property they currently own into housing. Respondents indicated they needed the most assistance with funding or subsidies. Other types of assistance needed include incentives, partnerships with developers and/or someone that could spearhead a particular effort, transit-oriented development, supportive zoning, higher density and/or multi-unit housing, affordable housing, and co-locating with jobs/workforce.
The survey asked about use of tools such as those in the Department of Land Conservation and Development’s new guidance to help jurisdictions comply with new state laws focusing on housing. They include instructions for developing Housing Production Strategies and a list of tools, policies, and actions in seven categories.
About half of the respondents indicated they do not currently use any of the housing strategies or tools. Of those respondents that use the strategies and tools, the most popular are Category A: Zoning and Code Changes, Category B: Reducing Regulatory Impediments, and Category F: Land, Acquisition, Lease, and Partnerships. Respondents also indicated future interest in using Category C: Financial Incentives and Category D: Financial Resources as these tools would most enable them to support or develop affordable housing. When asked the type of support they would need to be able to use the housing strategies and tools, respondents indicated that additional funding, political support, good partnerships, and staffing would be needed.
Three overall themes emerged from the Transit and Housing Survey:
To learn more about the Transit and Housing Survey, click here.
The study can help guide public investment and lead to denser developments along bus, streetcar, and/or rail lines. It can help implement national and statewide emissions initiatives, such as the Climate-Friendly and Equitable Communities Program, to help meet climate change targets. Most importantly, this project provides recommendations and strategies to help make Oregon a better, more affordable place to live.
In the toolkit, transit providers, state agencies, and local, regional, and tribal agencies and their leaders and decision makers can explore various tools, actions, and strategies identified throughout the study. The toolkit will show them along with attributes such as level of effort, what kind of agency likely has authority to implement, etc.
The final report collects and summarizes the lessons of all the mini-studies that built this Oregon Transit and Housing Study.
This study consisted of a series of smaller studies as described throughout this online open house, that lead up to the final report and toolkit. These interim reports have in-depth information for public agency staff and stakeholders to consider. See all these products listed below on the project website.
Thank you for taking time to explore these study results, and thank you also to all who contributed to this study. Please feel free to share the products with others who may be interested.