Study Examines Neighborhood Walkability and Quality of HUD-Assisted Housing

A study from Arizona State University, Affordable Housing and Walkable Neighborhoods: A National Urban Analysis, shows that 23 percent of all renter-occupied housing in the United States is located in neighborhoods with walkable access to services and amenities, including schools, parks, and grocery stores. It finds that HUD-assisted housing, such as Public Housing and Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) units, are more likely to be in walkable neighborhoods, but are also more likely to be in less desirable, low-quality walkable neighborhoods.

To conduct the study, the authors assessed the neighborhood environment of 5,797,058 HUD-assisted rental units in the 359 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas. They used data from HUD, Walk Score, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), GreatSchools, InfoUSA, CoreLogic, the 2010 U.S. Census, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Neighborhood walkability was measured by the presence of amenities (including stores, parks, schools, and entertainment) within 0.25 miles, intersection density, and block length.

The study also found 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 PBRA (30 percent) and low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) and Housing Choice Vouchers (both about 23 percent). However, the authors found that HUD-assisted housing was more likely to be in neighborhoods with higher crime rates, poor quality schools, lower home values, and segregation of minorities, which might offset the benefits of walkability.

The authors recommend that federal funding be used to support the development of affordable housing in walkable neighborhoods that do not have negative characteristics and steered away from neighborhoods without walkable access and other negative characteristics.