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Smart thinking. (Enterprise)

Everybody knows that everybody wants to live around metro stops—and as living car-free becomes a more viable option in cities, living close to mass transit is an increasingly valuable commodity. How can we keep that housing available for low-income people? Inclusionary Zoning, as we discussed last week, is certainly part of the equation. The District also has its (sadly diminished) housing production trust fund, low income housing tax credits, and various pots of federal money. But a new report out from Enterprise Green Communities has some other suggestions as well. Here are a few of the interesting ones:

  • Transferable development rights: It’s like cap-and-trade, for density: In Seattle, regulations allow affordable housing owners to sell their unused density to commercial developers, who may then build larger buildings than would otherwise be allowed. That way, affordable housing owners can at least benefit from the space they’re allowed to use, but aren’t.
  • Early warning systems: The earlier a tenant knows about potential changes in their housing situation, the better their chances of doing something about it. Denver requires owners of HUD-subsidized housing to issue notices a full year before they opt out of any subsidy program.
  • One-time infusions to dedicated funds: Denver also has a $15 million fund just to acquire land around new transit routes before it appreciates, and Seattle passed a $145 million levy to replenish their housing trust fund. Before a light rail went into Seattle’s Rainier Valley, the city also secured $50 million in Community Development Block Grant funding to invest in neighborhood businesses and affordable housing.