Does location matter? Performance Analysis of the Affordable Housing Programs in Dallas Fort Worth Metropolis
Transportation costs are the second largest expenditure for a family, thus have a substantial influence on housing affordability. In an auto-oriented region like DFW, the situation is exacerbated for low income families to limited transportation options. This study seeks to evaluate the efficiency of major affordable housing programs for low income people in terms of transportation affordability. This study uses a rigorous methodology that involves a solid transportation cost modeling with disaggregated data available at property level for housing assistance programs in DFW. This study also seeks to bridge the divide between large scale accessibility analysis in previous studies and policy implementations at the local level by analyzing access to opportunities using various transportation modes at the census block scale. Thus, we identify disparities at a scale policy makers can intervene.
Transportation is more than a sheer convenience for Americans. Looking solely at housing costs is a misleading measure of affordability and a disservice to low-income families. A recent study by the PI, found that, households in 44% of all Multifamily Section 8 properties in the nation, spend on average more than 15 percent of their income on transportation costs, making these properties effectively unaffordable. According to this methodology, more than 73% of Section 8 Multifamily properties in Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) are unaffordable. Yet there is little understanding on the affordability and effectiveness of other rental assistance programs such as Public Housing, LIHTC and the Housing Choice Voucher Program. There is also little understanding about the long term effects of location on low income households in terms of providing accessibility to opportunities and, as a result, affecting the chance of upward mobility.
Our findings show that about 69% of the assisted units in DFW are unaffordable in terms of transportation costs. The majority of them are spending about 17% to 20% of their income on transportation. The most affordable program is Low Income Housing Tax Credit with 58% affordability rate and the least affordable program is the Continuum of Care with 9% affordability rate when accounting for transportation costs. We also found that almost all affordable units (regarding the transportation costs) are located in main economic hubs of the region such as Dallas and Fort Worth which have better access to jobs and public transit. In contrary, almost all housing properties in the areas between Dallas and Fort Worth are unaffordable. These are areas adjacent to the University of Texas at Arlington with a high number of transit dependent population and in Arlington, the biggest midsize city with no public transit. Our findings urge HUD to consider modifying these programs by incorporating the location-efficiency factors to ensure true affordability.
This report also is intended for policy makers, providing opportunity maps for affordable housing with access to particular services, including health, education, service, healthy food, and employment opportunities. These maps identify “Catalyst Areas,” which have adequate access to educational facilities, healthy food, health care facilities, and job opportunities and could be the target area for affordable housing and other investment decisions at the local level.
The findings of this study identify clear deficiencies in access in DFW, many of them present throughout the report. Most noticeable is the poor public transit service, and the low number of opportunities available to people who do not have access to a car, in most neighborhoods throughout the region.