Young, white, highly educated workers disproportionately live near Metro subway stops, driving up property values and making it more difficult to build affordable housing with rail access, according to a report by the Census Bureau.
The report shows that 56 percent of whites in the District of Columbia live within a half-mile of a Metro stop — the criterion used to measure whether a person’s residence is close enough to a rail stop to deem it accessible. About 24 percent of blacks and 12 percent of Hispanics have the same access, researcher Brian McKenzie said in the report.
High earners in the District increasingly are populating neighborhoods with Metro access, and the number of lower-income workers in those neighborhoods is declining.
In the District, the percentage of workers earning $25,000 to $49,999 a year who lived near Metro stops declined from nearly 30 percent in 2006 to 22 percent in 2013. At the same time, the percentage of workers earning at least $100,000 a year living near rail stops jumped 5 percentage points, from 18 percent to 23 percent.
Higher earnings mean a person has a greater chance of being able to live near a Metro stop, according to the report.
The report noted that a growing body of research suggests rail stations influence the property values around them, pricing out people who can’t afford the rising cost of living.
One study referenced in the report said barriers such as the high cost of land near rail stops “present considerable challenges to developing and maintaining affordable housing within transit-rich neighborhoods.”
Low-income workers who would save in transportation costs by living close to Metro stops can’t find enough savings to offset the high cost of housing, according to the report’s research.
The report stops short of explicitly stating that access to rail transportation affects a person’s socio-economic standing, but it offers other research that implies that conclusion.
“Social science research has included transportation among the set of factors with potential influence on socio-economic outcomes or reflect differences in access to opportunity,” the paper said.
Local leaders agreed that affordable housing near Metro stations should be a priority.
Easily accessible modes of transit are factors in what jobs people can get, and those who can’t afford housing near Metro stations have limited opportunities, said D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman, at-large independent, adding that if people don’t have jobs, they can’t afford rent.
Mayor Muriel Bowser hasn’t ignored the issue, said spokesman Michael Czin.
“Affordable housing has been at the forefront of the mayor’s agenda,” Mr. Czin said. “We’re acutely aware of the demand for affordable units in Metro-accessible locations.”
Mr. Czin referenced the $100 million in the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund meant to preserve and expand affordable housing units.
He said the mayor is working to increase the number of affordable units in buildings owned by the District. He pointed to the city-owned 965 Florida Ave. NW property, which is less than a half-mile from the Shaw Metro station, as a good example.
“Earlier this year, the Bowser administration pulled back the prior administration’s deal and renegotiated it to include more affordable housing units,” Mr. Czin said. “The project now has 361 residential units, of which 106 are affordable housing.”