In the Washington region, apartments near train stops and bus routes bring in more tax money for cities and counties than apartments farther away from the same resources. That’s according to a new report that shows that cities and counties have a lot to gain from building apartments near public transportation.
The report, released by the Urban Land Institute, looked at 10,000 apartments across the Baltimore-Washington DC region (including Fairfax, Montgomery, and Anne Arundel counties) to see whether units near transit bring in more revenue and put less demand on public services than apartments farther away from these amenities.
The findings bring good news for people who would like to see more apartments built near train stations and along bus corridors—and also for local governments looking to improve their bottom line.
Thanks to things like real estate taxes, property taxes, permits, and fees, apartments near transit brought in between $1.13 and $2.20 per year in government revenue for every $1 spent on public services for residents. If these apartments had been farther away from transportation, the study found, they would have generated less revenue—between $0.77 and $1.35 for every $1 spent.
Housing near transit tends to put less stress on schools
The study found that the type of people living in apartments near public transit have a lot to do with how much revenue these units generate. For instance, fewer families with school-age children live in apartments located near public transportation. This means that the residents in these apartments put less demand on public schools—and that translates into savings.
Opponents of higher-density developments in DC and the greater Washington area have often used concern over burdens on local public schools to justify their opposition. But this study’s findings might give them one less thing to worry about.
Can we make transit-oriented development for everyone?
However, there’s still more to be understood when it comes to the benefits of transit-oriented development as a whole. Three of the apartment buildings the study looked at had a median age range of 31 to 40 years (though the fourth in Fairfax County had a younger median age range of 26 to 30 years). It also finds that the median household income per unit in these developments was substantially higher than similar developments located farther from transit.
This raises a few concerns: Are apartments near transit only affordable for older residents or professionals without kids? Or do older residents simply prefer to live closer to non-car transportation? And if a certain number of apartments in buildings located near transit are set aside for affordable housing, will this affect the money generated for cities and counties?
Housing affordability is a notoriously difficult problem to address, especially for families. DC has tried to address this by giving developers incentives to build more three-bedroom apartments in an area of Navy Yard. If this incentive was available in other parts of the city, it might help keep housing diverse in other neighborhoods.
If larger, family-friendly units are mixed in with smaller units in transit-oriented developments, perhaps the savings generated by the latter would offset the higher costs imposed on amenities like public schools.