Key Highlights

  • Developers now worrying that COVID pandemic may halt momentum for transit-oriented or live-leave developments as solution to severe housing shortages
  • Two focal points of urban residential developments have been denser housing and building along transit lines so residents can get to and from work more quickly and cheaply
  • Developments can be either no-frills to combat severe shortage of affordable housing or amenity rich to attract both residential and commercial tenants

Transit-oriented or live-leave development in/near large metro areas has been the flavor of the month for more than a decade. Why? The thought of denser, more affordable housing options along transit lines enable more people to consider becoming homeowners near where they work while alleviating commuting nightmares with walk-ability.

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Will a post-pandemic world still view transit-oriented developments as a panacea for affordability, homelessness, walk-able/multiuse neighborhoods?

Most housing experts indicated that the demand for live-leave development will still exist in some form. Dr. David J. Jackson, a professor emeritus in the department of environmental health sciences at the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles and former officer in the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the CDC, advises developers to “…not make any big development decisions right now.”

Jackson believes the economic fallout of the COVID pandemic will likely last five years or more. “You have to plan out 100 years for building residences and creating buildings that are resilient and confront a multitude of hazards: terrorism, earthquakes, fires, climate change energy shortages…” and public health.

John W. Hempelmann, a Seattle attorney and former chair of the Transit-Oriented Development Council of the Urban Land Institute, said that live-leave developments “…will be much, much more focused on public health.” More open spaces, broader sidewalks, slimmer roads and promenades may mitigate effects for future pandemics. Fifteen years ago, “…no one knew what Transit Oriented Development (TOD) meant…now it’s an extraordinarily popular concept.”

But 15 years ago, there was no COVID pandemic, no social distancing, no telecommuting. Bob Youngentob, chief executive of EYA, a TOD developer in the Washington DC area, said, “The forced interaction of sharing doors and elevators has caused some anxiety. Townhomes, where you come in and out of your door, and you know you are the only one touching your door handle, provides some comfort.”

Or, will the trend begun in the latter half of the 2010’s pre-pandemic of moving away from cities to suburbs and exurbs become even more pronounced now that we’ve all experienced pandemic living? Who is to say at this point in time…all that is certain today is uncertainty.

Thanks to the New York Times.

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