The Richmond (VA) region has experienced a shift in demographic trends since 2000. The region's urban center has attracted higher-income households, led largely by educated, white households. Simultaneously, the region's first- and second-ring suburbs have seen growth in poverty and cost-burdened households. These trends threaten existing affordable units, but they also present opportunities for affordable housing creation. As a result of reduced affordability, the families earning modest wages have been pushed further away from the regions employment centers. The mismatch between the location of jobs and housing has a significant impact on the efficiency and quality of life within the region.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 the feasibility of pedestrian movement. This section highlights some of CURA's ongoing works around these pressing issue.
The Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) recently redesigned the public transit bus network system in the City of Richmond and neighboring counties to improve service efficiency and accessibility to jobs in the region. CURA was interested in determining the accessibility of low-income communities to major job centers in Richmond City as well as in the surrounding counties of Henrico and Chesterfield. While recent changes to Richmond’s public bus network have improved the region’s access to retail, business and job centers, transit accessibility for the area’s low-income households remains the same or has decreased. The study focused on economically disadvantaged households within the original GRTC network to determine if any significant changes in accessibility occurred after the reroute while also maintaining GRTC’s goal of a high-connectivity route design. There has been networkwide accessibility improvements, as well as an increased connection to major job centers: about a 6 percent increase for jobs within a one-quarter mile of a transit stop, and an 11 percent increase for those within a half-mile. The results also show the number of residential units within a one-quarter mile of transit stops decreased by about 22 percent after the reroute; units within a half-mile decreased by 3 percent. About half of residential units in low-income neighborhoods are not served by transit stops with high connectivity. The study determines high connectivity by measuring variables such as frequency, average speed on the route, average distance to destination and the number of available routes that serve the stop.
This project provides the baseline information necessary to determine whether the region’s (and its job centers’ and neighborhoods’) jobs-affordable housing balance is improving. Using CURA’s Metro View data system, CURA established baseline measurements in two separate models—a Thiessen polygon-based model of job centers and a gravity-based model of distance from jobs and housing in each Census block group—that will allow us to track changes and progress toward providing housing at costs commensurate with wages throughout the region.
CURA also analyzed trends in property values, sales values, and crime rates where affordable housing has been developed. CURA’s Metro View data system is uniquely suited to this task because it is not limited to data published at the jurisdiction or census-tract level. Rather, it constructs neighborhoods, districts & employment centers from the parcel level upwards, following the true geographies of how we actually live & work – across jurisdictional lines.
CURA found spatial patterns of jobs and housing imbalance and access disparities throughout the region, but particularly within the central city and surrounding suburbs. CURA’s analysis of the impact areas surrounding six lower-priced housing developments indicates that the construction of those developments had no apparent negative impact on crime rates, average assessed home values, and average home sales values in surrounding neighborhoods.