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The mismatch between location of jobs and housing has a significant impact on the efficiency and quality of life within metropolitan areas. A well-planned region strives to be a “community of short distances.” A wide range of housing choices located close to employment centers could shorten commuting distances and substantially reduce government outlays for transportation facilities, reduce household transportation expenses, and increase feasibility of pedestrian movement. These needs are particularly important to families earning modest wages.
CURA, with support from The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia and the Richmond Association of Realtors, has analyzed the spatial pattern of lower-wage jobs and lower-cost housing within the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The analysis reveals how low-cost housing and modest-wage jobs in the Richmond region are not well-balanced. Few areas in which modest-wage jobs cluster have comparable levels of low-cost housing. The established suburban areas north, west, and south of Richmond’s urban center have a large number of retail and service jobs that pay modest wages, yet these areas provide few affordable-dwelling units for these wage earners.
The second part of this study addressed a major obstacle to the construction of new, affordable-housing units: fears. Many new, affordable dwelling units, by financial necessity, will be built at higher densities and smaller size to reduce cost. Homeowners in nearby neighborhoods often oppose construction of these units over fear of reduced property values, higher crime, and other factors. Six higher-density, 3 lower-cost housing projects were studied for their impact on the nearby middle-income neighborhoods. Documentation of home sale prices, assessment values, and crime rates before and after construction of the more affordable dwelling units did not reveal any notable long-term impact on crime rates, property values, or property sales.
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VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs Publications