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Moving Forward: Linking Transportation Equity to Affordable Housing

Transportation Equity and Affordable Housing



As we observe Pierce County Affordable Housing Week, it's crucial to explore how affordable housing and transportation are deeply interconnected, each significantly impacting community development, accessibility, and economic opportunity. In Pierce County, housing affordability challenges often force families into areas with sparse transportation options, creating a dual burden. Together, high housing and transportation costs can devour up to 50% of a household’s income, with low-income families feeling the most strain. This Affordable Housing Week, we emphasize the importance of integrating affordable housing initiatives with transit-oriented development to build sustainable, equitable communities where everyone can thrive.


The Challenge in Pierce County


Residents of Pierce County face significant transportation challenges tied directly to housing affordability. Households in auto-dependent neighborhoods spend about 25% of their income on transportation, compared to just 9% for those in more connected areas. Furthermore, the average commute time in the county is about 31 minutes one way, adding up to over an hour per day — a substantial time burden that can affect health and quality of life.


Financial strains are exacerbated as payday loans and car title loans siphon billions annually from those with an average income of around $25,000, often due to the necessity of owning a vehicle in poorly connected areas. Additionally, only about two-thirds of Black households in the U.S. own vehicles compared to 86% of white households, highlighting a racial disparity in vehicle access that reflects broader inequalities in transportation access.


Data Highlights


  • Economic Impact: For the poorest 10% of households, a disproportionate amount of income (22.6%) goes towards vehicle costs, compared to wealthier households.

  • Public Transportation Access: In rural communities, 40% of residents lack any public transportation options, stressing the need for broader coverage.

  • Late-Shift Workers: Over 790,000 late-shift workers, primarily low-income and people of color, face limited public transportation options, doubling their commute times compared to those with cars.

  • Safety Concerns: In poorer neighborhoods, pedestrian death rates are 80% higher than the U.S. average, underscoring the risks of inadequate pedestrian infrastructure.


Strategic Solutions


To address these challenges, we must prioritize the development of mixed-income housing near transit hubs and implement affordable housing requirements in transit-oriented developments. Expanding public transportation options can also significantly reduce transportation costs for low-income households, improve access to employment, and contribute to healthier, more active lifestyles.


Advocate for equitable transit-oriented development policies. Support investments in affordable housing near transit hubs to ensure that economic and transportation opportunities are accessible to all. Engage with local initiatives and planning efforts to prioritize affordable housing in the transportation dialogue.


Our partners, including Pierce Transit, Downtown on the Go!, and Sound Transit, are critical in advancing these initiatives. Together, we are working towards a more connected and equitable Pierce County.


The intersection of affordable housing and transportation is a pivotal focus for creating equitable, sustainable communities in Pierce County. By reducing transportation expenses and improving access to essential services, we can enhance the quality of life for all residents. Join us in promoting and advocating for integrated solutions during this Affordable Housing Week and beyond.


Join Us:


To learn more about how you can get involved, visit the Affordable Housing Consortium and Affordable Housing Week’s official pages and partner with local organizations making a difference. Together, we can ensure that affordable housing is a reality for all, not just a privilege for some.


Learn how transportation and affordable housing intersect in Pierce County by clicking the flyer below.



A special thanks to US Bank for being the title sponsor of Pierce County Affordable Housing Week 2024. Your support is invaluable to our community.



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