Transportation and Affordable Housing

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The traditional guidelines for housing in the United States advise that shelter should cost, at most, no more than 30% of the gross income of a given household. Even beyond the fact that this is an unattainable goal for many families and individuals (some of whom spend far more than half their income on housing); it is also incomplete as a measure for affordability. <br /> <br /> For instance, many young families move far away from the city center in order to obtain single family detached homes, and large yards for their children, which are oftentimes prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable in the city center. However, in many instances public transportation to these distant enclaves is scanty, unreliable or nonexistent. This means either extensive driving time and gasoline consumption &ndash; or never venturing into the city at all. Especially now, with escalating gasoline prices, these far flung suburban domiciles hardly seem affordable at all. <br /> <br /> Many low income families face the problem of lack of transportation access as well, because they cannot afford cars or sometimes even the price of bus or train fare. This precludes being able to obtain or hold down well-paid jobs, which are nearly always located far away from their decimated neighborhoods, frequently devoid of even basic amenities such as grocery stores or banks. The necessary solution in many instances is that apartments and houses meant to accommodate one family are instead home to two, three or more households, including children. <br /> <br /> Reliable transportation offsets higher housing costs to a certain extent because households can get by with one car or even none, saving substantial sums on gasoline, parking, insurance, maintenance, municipal registrations, etc. Close-in neighborhoods with reliable transportation are increasingly attractive to suburbanites &ndash; many of whom have decided that their way of life is unsustainable, either ecologically or financially. <br /> <br /> Reliable transportation also removes one hurdle standing between willing workers and jobs which can support a family &ndash; including safe, adequate housing. This can also substantially lessen the need for subsidized housing as well as other support services. <br /> <br /> Of course, providing reliable transportation alone will not eliminate the need for subsidized housing for the very poor. Nor does it absolve municipalities or developers from the necessity of providing reasonably priced housing for residents with moderate incomes. But transportation, or more specifically, access to reliable transportation, is an essential element of sustainable urban development, including affordable housing.</p>