Denver RTD Adopts Policy Statement on Affordable Housing

November 18, 2008 -- FRESC

Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) has approved its first policy statement in support of affordable housing as part of its Strategic Plan for Transit Oriented Development (TOD).

This victory comes following nearly a year of FRESC advocacy and dialogue with the RTD board and staff regarding affordable housing.The starting point of discussions was moving beyond the widely held belief that the transit agency should be concerned with “transit only” issues. FRESC and other housing advocates made the case that affordable housing is an appropriate complement to the agency’s core transit mission, because it ensures that transit services are accessible to those of all incomes, and because affordable housing builds transit ridership. FRESC submitted language regarding low- and moderate-income communities and affordable housing that was incorporated into the final policy statement.FRESC also testified before the Board on numerous occasions.In the end, the plan containing the new language on affordable housing passed the board 13-1.

As part of our work to incorporate affordable housing language into TRD’s TOD strategic plan, and our future work to see that the policy is put into action, FRESC conducted a national survey of transit agencies and their policies and practices related to affordable housing.This survey was conducted in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners.Survey results showed that a number of agencies have policy statements similar to Denver RTD’s newly enacted language.Survey results also showed that a number of agencies consistently include affordable housing in their joint development projects, most in the absence of a policy that requires them to do so.The national survey clearly made the case that transit agency support for affordable housing is in the mainstream.FRESC will distribute a formal write-up of the results later in the year, but is willing to share preliminary findings upon request.

Excerpts of Language adopted by Denver’s Regional Transportation District (September 16, 2008)

Goals and Strategies (Section 2.5 – Goal 2)

For the first time, RTD defined sustainable development as “Encouraging TOD that serves the full diversity of the community, including low and moderate income individuals.”

Affordable Housing Policy and Enforcement (section 3.1.2)

Local governments are responsible for the establishment of policy, regulations, and enforcement related to affordable and/or workforce housing issues. At the same time, RTD is committed to strongly encourage a diverse range of housing options, including affordable units, in close proximity to RTD transit service. With that goal in mind, RTD will work with local governments to understand the affordable housing needs of their communities, and will encourage transit oriented development and/or joint development that addresses affordable goals of local communities and the region, working within all applicable legal limitations and parameters.