Affordable Housing in Transit-Oriented Development:

Key Practices Could Enhance Recent Collaboration Efforts between DOT-FTA and HUD

GAO-09-871: Published: Sep 9, 2009. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 2009.

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The federal government has increasingly focused on linking affordable housing to transit-oriented developments--compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods located near transit--through the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) housing programs and the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) transit programs. GAO was asked to review (1) what is known about how transit-oriented developments affect the availability of affordable housing; (2) how local, state, and federal agencies have worked to ensure that affordable housing is available in transit-oriented developments; and (3) the extent to which HUD and FTA have worked together to ensure that transportation and affordable housing objectives are integrated in transit-oriented developments. To address these issues, GAO reviewed relevant literature, conducted site visits, and interviewed agency officials.

Characteristics of transit-oriented developments can increase nearby land and housing values, however determining transit-oriented development's effects on the availability of affordable housing in these developments are complicated by a lack of direct research and data. Specifically, the presence of transit stations, retail, and other desirable amenities such as schools and parks generally increases land and housing values nearby. However, the extent to which land and housing values increase--or in the rare case, decrease--near a transit station depends on a number of characteristics, some of which are commonly found in transit-oriented developments. According to transit and housing stakeholders GAO spoke with, higher land and housing values have the potential to limit the availability of affordable housing near transit, but other factors--such as transit routing decisions and local commitment to affordable housing--can also affect availability. Few local, state, and federal programs are targeted to assisting local housing and transit providers develop affordable housing in transit-oriented developments. The few targeted programs that exist primarily focus on financial incentives that state and local agencies provide to developers if affordable housing is included in residential developments in transit-oriented developments. However, GAO found that housing developers who develop affordable housing in transit-oriented developments generally rely on local and state programs and policies that have incentives for developing affordable housing in any location. HUD and FTA programs allow local and state agencies to promote affordable housing near transit, but rarely provide direct incentives to target affordable housing in transit-oriented developments. Since 2005, HUD and FTA, and more recently DOT, have collaborated on three interagency efforts to promote affordable housing in transit-oriented developments including (1) an interagency agreement, (2) a HUD-FTA action plan, and (3) a new DOT-HUD partnership. While these interagency efforts have produced numerous strategies, local housing and transit officials told GAO that these strategies had little impact, in part, because they have yet to be implemented. However, the agencies have not yet developed a comprehensive, integrated plan to implement all efforts, and without such a plan, the agencies risk losing momentum. GAO has previously identified key practices that could enhance and sustain collaboration among federal agencies; when compared to these practices, GAO found that HUD, FTA, and DOT have taken some actions consistent with some of these practices--such as defining a common outcome. However, weaknesses in agency housing data and analytical transportation planning methods will limit these agencies' ability to effectively monitor, evaluate, and report results--another key collaboration practice. GAO found that other collaboration practices, such as establishing compatible policies and procedures, could be taken to strengthen

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2009, GAO found that since 2005, HUD and FTA, and more recently DOT, had collaborated on three interagency efforts to promote affordable housing in transit-oriented developments including (1) an interagency agreement, (2) a HUD-FTA action plan, and (3) a new DOT-HUD partnership. While these interagency efforts had produced numerous strategies, local housing and transit officials told GAO that these strategies had little impact, in part, because they have yet to be implemented. However, the agencies had not yet developed a comprehensive, integrated plan to implement all efforts, and without such a plan, the agencies risk losing momentum. To strengthen formal collaboration efforts, GAO recommended that FTA develop and publish an implementation plan for interagency efforts to promote affordable housing in transit-oriented developments. In 2013, GAO confirmed that in response, FTA (and HUD), published a "Work Plan" for their interagency efforts, as part of the larger Partnership for Sustainable Communities effort, of which both FTA and HUD were authors. The Work Plan included a project schedule and outreach measures. As a result, FTA and HUD's collaborative efforts were strengthened. For instance, due to these actions, the agencies were able to develop coordinated outreach and public events, targeted interagency initiatives such as a series of roundtable discussions, and propose and award a series of grants to transit-oriented development projects.

    Recommendation: To strengthen formal collaboration efforts, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the appropriate program offices, to develop and publish an implementation plan for interagency efforts to promote affordable housing in transit-oriented developments, to include the HUD-FTA action plan and the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. This plan should include, but not be limited to, a project schedule, resource allocation, outreach measures, and a performance measurement strategy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Transit Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2009, GAO found that since 2005, HUD and FTA, and more recently DOT, had collaborated on three interagency efforts to promote affordable housing in transit-oriented developments including (1) an interagency agreement, (2) a HUD-FTA action plan, and (3) a new DOT-HUD partnership. While these interagency efforts had produced numerous strategies, local housing and transit officials told GAO that these strategies had little impact, in part, because they have yet to be implemented. However, the agencies had not yet developed a comprehensive, integrated plan to implement all efforts, and without such a plan, the agencies risk losing momentum. To strengthen formal collaboration efforts, GAO recommended that HUD develop and publish an implementation plan for interagency efforts to promote affordable housing in transit-oriented developments. In 2013 GAO confirmed that in response, HUD (and FTA) published a "Work Plan" for their interagency efforts, as part of the larger Partnership for Sustainable Communities effort, of which both HUD and FTA were authors. The Work Plan included a project schedule and outreach measures. As a result, HUD and FTA's collaborative efforts were strengthened. For instance, due to these actions, the agencies were able to develop coordinated outreach and public events, targeted interagency initiatives such as a series of roundtable discussions, and propose and award a series of grants to transit-oriented development projects.

    Recommendation: To strengthen formal collaboration efforts, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the appropriate program offices, to develop and publish an implementation plan for interagency efforts to promote affordable housing in transit-oriented developments, to include the HUD-FTA action plan and the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. This plan should include, but not be limited to, a project schedule, resource allocation, outreach measures, and a performance measurement strategy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: On November 30, 2009, we received a response from HUD stating that actions were planned or underway to address this and the other recommendation in this report. As of June 2011, we have received no response from DOT. However, we are following up with DOT on the actions it has taken and will follow up with HUD about the status of the actions it planned.

    Recommendation: To strengthen formal collaboration efforts, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the appropriate program offices, to develop a plan to ensure that data collected on the various programs of the agencies related to affordable housing and transit are sufficient to measure the agencies' performance toward goals and outcomes established in the HUD-FTA action plan and the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: On November 30, 2009, we received a response from HUD stating that actions were planned or underway to address this and the other recommendation in this report. As of June 2011, we have received no response from DOT. However, we are following up with DOT on the actions it has taken and will follow up with HUD about the status of the actions it planned.

    Recommendation: To strengthen formal collaboration efforts, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the appropriate program offices, to develop a plan to ensure that data collected on the various programs of the agencies related to affordable housing and transit are sufficient to measure the agencies' performance toward goals and outcomes established in the HUD-FTA action plan and the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Transit Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2009, GAO found that key practices for enhancing and sustaining collaboration could be used to help the agencies implement the HUD-FTA action plan and the recently announced Partnership for Sustainable Communities. GAO had reported before that federal agencies often face a range of barriers when they attempt to collaborate with other agencies, including missions that are not mutually reinforcing, concerns about protecting jurisdictions over missions and controls over resources, and incompatible procedures, processes, data, and computer systems. In an October 2005 report, GAO identified eight key practices federal agencies can undertake to overcome these barriers and enhance and sustain their collaborative efforts. While the specific ways in which agencies implement these practices may differ in light of the specific collaboration challenges each agency faces, GAO had previously recommended that federal agencies adopt a formal approach to encourage further collaboration. To strengthen formal collaboration efforts, GAO recommended that HUD adopt a formal approach to encourage further collaboration in promoting affordable housing in transit-oriented developments. In 2013, GAO confirms that HUD (and FTA) had embarked on "unprecedented" collaboration amongst themselves and other agencies working on promoting housing in transit-oriented developments. Each year since 2009, the agencies have prepared an annual set of priority activities for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, integrated funds for competitive grant awards, reviewed grant applications jointly, created a formal leadership structure and held regular meetings on agency officials working on transit-oriented development, issued analysis of key issues jointly, prepared joint congressional testimony, and aligned their budget requests. As a result, HUD and FTA have strengthened their collaborative approach and provided a unified message to stakeholders in the transit-oriented development field. For instance, the shared Sustainable Communities web site has allowed citizens to observe all the agencies' joint collaborative efforts in one place and helped the agencies speak with one voice.

    Recommendation: To strengthen formal collaboration efforts, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the appropriate program offices, to adopt a formal approach to encourage further collaboration in promoting affordable housing in transit-oriented developments. Such an approach could include establishing and implementing a written agreement to include defining and articulating a common outcome; establishing mutually reinforcing or joint strategies; identifying and addressing needs by leveraging resources; agreeing on agency roles and responsibilities; establishing compatible policies, procedures, and other means to operate across agency boundaries; reinforcing agency accountability for collaborative efforts through agency plans and reports; and reinforcing individual accountability for collaborative efforts through performance management systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2009, GAO found that key practices for enhancing and sustaining collaboration could be used to help the agencies implement the FTA-HUD action plan and the recently announced Partnership for Sustainable Communities. GAO had reported before that federal agencies often face a range of barriers when they attempt to collaborate with other agencies, including missions that are not mutually reinforcing, concerns about protecting jurisdictions over missions and controls over resources, and incompatible procedures, processes, data, and computer systems. In an October 2005 report, GAO identified eight key practices federal agencies can undertake to overcome these barriers and enhance and sustain their collaborative efforts. While the specific ways in which agencies implement these practices may differ in light of the specific collaboration challenges each agency faces, GAO had previously recommended that federal agencies adopt a formal approach to encourage further collaboration. To strengthen formal collaboration efforts, GAO recommended that FTA adopt a formal approach to encourage further collaboration in promoting affordable housing in transit-oriented developments. In 2013, GAO confirmed that FTA (and HUD) had embarked on "unprecedented" collaboration amongst themselves and other agencies working on promoting housing in transit-oriented developments. Each year since 2009, the agencies have prepared an annual set of priority activities for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, integrated funds for competitive grant awards, reviewed grant applications jointly, created a formal leadership structure and held regular meetings on agency officials working on transit-oriented development, issued analysis of key issues jointly, prepared joint congressional testimony, and aligned their budget requests. As a result, FTA and HUD have strengthened their collaborative approach and provided a unified message to stakeholders in the transit-oriented development field. For instance, the shared Sustainable Communities web site has allowed citizens to observe all the agencies' joint collaborative efforts in one place and helped the agencies speak with one voice.

    Recommendation: To strengthen formal collaboration efforts, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct the appropriate program offices, to adopt a formal approach to encourage further collaboration in promoting affordable housing in transit-oriented developments. Such an approach could include establishing and implementing a written agreement to include defining and articulating a common outcome; establishing mutually reinforcing or joint strategies; identifying and addressing needs by leveraging resources; agreeing on agency roles and responsibilities; establishing compatible policies, procedures, and other means to operate across agency boundaries; reinforcing agency accountability for collaborative efforts through agency plans and reports; and reinforcing individual accountability for collaborative efforts through performance management systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Transit Administration

 

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