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Cityscape: Volume 17 Number 2 | Article 1


Affordable, Accessible, Efficient Communities

Volume 17, Number 2

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Affordable Housing and Walkable Neighborhoods: A National Urban Analysis

Julia Koschinsky
Emily Talen
Arizona State University


Demand for housing in walkable neighborhoods has been increasing rapidly in recent years, as has evidence of the benefits of walkable urban form and walking. These neighborhoods nevertheless remain in short supply, especially for low-income residents. Furthermore, crime, poor market strength, or racial segregation potentially compromise accessibility in lower income neighborhoods. We assess the nationwide supply of urban neighborhoods with walkable access and the extent to which U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-assisted voucher and project housing enables tenants to live in these neighborhoods. For assisted tenants with walkable access, we analyze whether or not this access is compromised. We aggregated more than 20 million address-level records (2010 to 2012) to the neighborhood level from about a dozen sources to characterize walkable access (using Walk Score), HUD-assisted housing, potential compromising factors, and other neighborhood characteristics. More detailed data were also collected for Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Phoenix, and Seattle. We use descriptive methods and logistic regressions to analyze patterns across metropolitan statistical areas, in regions, and between cities and suburbs. We find that only 14 percent of all neighborhoods and 13 percent of all housing units in U.S. metropolitan areas have good walkable access. Public housing has the most walkable access (37 percent), followed by project-based rental assistance (PBRA; 30 percent) and low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) and housing choice vouchers (both about 23 percent). Accessibility is disproportionately compromised for all tenants (9 percentage points more for public housing and 2 to 3 percentage points more for vouchers, LIHTC, and PBRA) but especially so for public housing tenants in urban areas. For a disproportionate number of other tenants in public housing and PBRA (4 percentage points more than all rental units), accessibility is not compromised, especially in denser cores of suburban areas. Locating public housing and PBRA units in walkable suburbs is one of the mechanisms that work to provide both accessibility and affordability. In areas with more HUD-assisted housing, the quality of amenities and urban form is poorer and safety is worse than in other accessible neighborhoods, which is not captured by quantitative measures of walkable access. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings.

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