While it is largely recognized that there is a strong demand for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) housing in Boston, there is also growing demand in outlying communities that offer commuter rail and active bus systems. The high cost of housing in Boston is pushing households to seek less expensive locations, but many still want the benefits of living in an urban area, including access to public transit. There are numerous dynamics at play, including millenials interested in an urban environment rather than a suburban one; empty nesters downsizing; the expense of car ownership; and a preference for public transportation commutes with the opportunity to work from a personal device while traveling over long drives on traffic clogged roads. CEDAC is using its technical and financial assistance to support nonprofit development of this increasingly needed type of housing.
The MBTA defines Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as: “Mixed-use, higher density, pedestrian friendly development within ¼ to ½ mile, or a 5-7 minute walk from a transit station.” While it makes good planning sense to promote TOD housing, there is also a need to include plans for affordable housing near transit, known as Equitable Transit-Oriented Housing, or eTOD.
While the benefits of the State’s public transportation systems should be shared by all, several challenges of eTOD are highlighted in a recent MassINC report, The Promise and Potential of Transformative Transit-Oriented Development in Gateway Cities, as well as in The Transportation Dividend, a February 2018 Report by A Better City.
Planning for these types of transportation investments is critical to respond to the growing demand for housing near transit, but we must also insure that the need for eTOD housing is addressed. Recently, CEDAC has been excited to provide financial and technical assistance to several eTOD housing projects outside of Boston:
- The Neighborhood Developers (TND) is planning 571 Revere, an eTOD project which is a 10 minute walk to the MBTA station in Revere. The development site is two blocks from Waterfront Square, a high density luxury housing zone where over 744 units have recently been completed or permitted. While TND’s proposed rental units won’t offer water views, the project will offer 51 units of high quality mixed income housing affordable to households with incomes ranging from 30 percent to 120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), thereby providing some balance to the market rate housing being developed there. CEDAC has provided $220,715 in predevelopment financing to support this project.
- The North Shore Community Development Corporation is planning Harbor Village in downtown Gloucester at a site that is close to both commuter rail and bus service. Residents will be in easy walking distance of employment opportunities, shopping, City Hall, library, and the historic waterfront. Harbor Village will create 30 affordable rental units and 2,500 square feet of first floor commercial space. Supportive services will be provided by Action Inc., which has nearby offices. CEDAC has provided $1,234,099 in acquisition and predevelopment financing.
- The Coalition for a Better Acre (CBA), in partnership with Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNOC), is preparing to close on construction financing on the Gerson Building, which will create 44 units of affordable multifamily rental housing in downtown Haverhill. The project, which will remove a neighborhood eyesore, will lead to the new construction of a four-story multifamily building with ground floor commercial and community space. CBA plans to offer these units with a veterans’ preference, and VNOC, whose offices are only one block away, will provide supportive services to resident veterans. The property is within a quarter mile of the commuter rail station and is in easy walking distance of numerous shopping and employment opportunities. CEDAC provided $617,909 in predevelopment financing.
- Way Finders (formerly HAP Housing) recently celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Live 155 in downtown Northampton on April 26th. This project transformed the site of a distressed 58-unit Single Room Occupancy building into 70 beautiful mixed income studio and one-bedroom units. The project includes 47 affordable and 23 market rate units plus 2,500 square feet of ground floor retail space. Throughout the development process, Way Finders kept to their promise of avoiding displacement of existing residents. The TOD site is across the street from an Amtrak platform, offers access to bus service, and is adjacent to a bike path. CEDAC provided $2.6 million in acquisition and predevelopment financing.
As the demand for TOD housing in cities outside of Boston is likely to continue, it is important that housing and transportation policies are aligned to increase housing choices for all income groups. CEDAC is pleased to be working with our community development partners to create affordable housing options close to public transit, and we anticipate continuing to fund similar projects moving forward.