“There are a lot of reasons why climbing out of poverty and to the middle class is hard. But, one of them is a lack of access to good paying jobs. Many people who are willing to work hard do not live near good jobs, and do not own a car,” said Mayor Slay. “Some of them spend as much time commuting to their job as doing the actual work itself. It is a real hardship.”
Housing is generally the biggest cost item in a family budget. Transportation is often second. By encouraging the preservation and construction of affordable housing near transit (light rail station, a frequent service bus line, or a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station, residents will save money on transportation and housing expenditures and increase their opportunities for upward advancement.
“Taking Metro instead of driving significantly lowers transportation costs, leaving more resources available for housing and other expenses. Transit provides choices and opens doors to increased opportunities in St. Louis,” said John Nations, President and CEO of Bi-State Development Agency (Metro).
Although the fund is focused on transit-oriented development(TOD), putting apartment complexes and office buildings close to train stations and other transit hubs, it’s not just limited to MetroLink stations. Any project within a half-mile of a light-rail stop or any of 35 “high-frequency” bus lines — defined by MetroLink as running at least once every 30 minutes — can qualify. However, projects funded by the AHTF must benefit persons with incomes at or below 80% of the area median income. The Trust Fund must use 40% of its funds to assist households with incomes at or below 20% of the area median income.
John Nations, chief executive of Metro, said he hoped this sort of funding could help spark more projects. Metro has been pushing TOD in recent years, hiring a director of economic development and developing an inventory of available land around MetroLink stations.
It has also been shown that transit acts as a catalyst for economic development. A recent survey by the National Council on Aging, United Healthcare and USA TODAY emphasized that point by revealing that transportation and affordable housing are the two top areas in which cities should invest more.
Trust Fund investments pay off. For every Trust Fund dollar invested in construction projects, the City has attracted 20 dollars in return. Since it launched in 2003, $21.6 million in Affordable Housing Trust Fund money has contributed to projects worth a total of $439.7 million.
“Besides helping families, building housing near transit will also make our City more sustainable. This funding strategy is an idea from our Sustainability Plan brought to reality. The more we can offer a lifestyle to people of all income levels, that are not dependent on a car, the stronger our city will be.” said Mayor Slay.
Affordable Housing Commission of the City of St. Louis
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