Robert C. Larson Awards 2018 Winner: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Los Angeles County is facing a severe housing shortage; the county needs more than half a million units just to accommodate its lowest-income renters. Further, an overall lack of housing supply across all income spectrums has driven up rents pushing lower income households to move further away from their jobs, compounding traffic congestion. With this in mind, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) has an interest in ensuring that public transportation users can afford to live near transit.

METRO’s affordable housing efforts were initiated in November 2013 after conducting a study examining the nexus between housing affordability and transit ridership. The study culminated with the launch of the Metro Affordable Transit Connected Housing Program (MATCH) in September 2017, which is a public-private lending partnership. MATCH preserves and expands the affordable housing stock near existing and proposed transit nodes in LA County. MATCH has an estimated loan capitalization of $75 million, leveraged with an $18 million combined investment from Metro, the California Community Foundation, the California Endowment and Weingart Foundation.

Additionally, the adoption of terms for a Joint Development Agreement takes advantage of Metro’s innovative discounted ground lease policy (<30% off the fair market value in support of affordable housing), and 35% of all housing built on Metro-owned land must be affordable to households at or below 60% AMI. Metro’s Joint Development program has supported the creation of 702 units of affordable housing, with 968 units in the pipeline. Metro’s investment of $9 million to kick-start the MATCH loan fund is an innovative anti-displacement effort targeted toward the preservation of naturally occurring affordable housing near transit stations. The MATCH program has already closed on its first 2 deals.

Further, Metro’s advocacy to get the Federal Transit Administration to codify affordable housing into the community benefits category will impact and catalyze affordable housing along transit corridors in other parts of the country. By clearly defining and adopting the nexus between affordable housing and public transit, Metro has paved the way for other transit agencies to acknowledge the critical link between transit use and housing affordability, and to adopt similar policies, including commitments to including affordable housing on land owned by transit agencies. Metro has also paved the way for transit agencies to partner more closely with housing and community development departments in addressing how transit integrates into broader community development goals.

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