Poster Paper: Understanding the Jobs-Affordable Housing Balance in Metropolitan Areas with Specific Focus on Richmond Region

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Thomas E Jacobson, I-Shian Suen, Michael R MacKenzie and Fabrizio Fasulo, Virginia Commonwealth University

The spatial relationship between workplace and home offers an understanding of the commuting patterns within a region and a window into the day-to-day lived experiences of its population. The proximity of jobs to one’s home dictates not only how far a person must walk, bike, or drive each day; for many families, it determines whether employment is even available. Transportation costs can limit the distance a person may commute, particularly for more modest-wage jobs.

In a larger economic region, the jobs-housing relationship should be relatively balanced. A self-contained region in which people live and work, such as a metropolitan statistical area, presents an ideal scale for measuring the jobs-housing balance differences among subareas. Subareas of a region may have imbalances. Higher-cost suburban neighborhoods may not provide sufficient affordable housing to meet the needs of modest-wage workers at nearby service-oriented jobs, or neighborhoods with higher concentrations of affordable housing may not be proximate to modest-wage jobs. An imbalance of modest-wage jobs and affordable housing presents a challenge to workers, but it also presents an opportunity for community planners.

A well-planned region strives to be a “community of short distances.” A wide range of housing choices located close to employment centers could shorten commuting distances and substantially reduce government outlays for transportation facilities, reduce household transportation expenses, and increase feasibility of pedestrian movement. These needs are particularly important to families earning modest wages.

This study analyzes the spatial pattern of lower-wage jobs and lower-cost housing within the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The analysis reveals how low-cost housing and modest-wage jobs in the Richmond region are not well-balanced. Few areas in which modest-wage jobs cluster have comparable levels of low-cost housing. The established suburban areas have a large number of retail and service jobs that pay modest wages, yet these areas provide few affordable-dwelling units for these wage earners.

This study provides a geographic analysis of the location of, and relationship between, the region’s affordable housing and modest-wage jobs. The methodology developed for this paper could be used to evaluate jobs and housing imbalance within any metropolitan area in the country.

The paper provides two models through which the spatial relationship between jobs and housing units may be interpreted, and through those models it identifies areas in which a lack of balance or equity in access should be addressed. The first approach utilizes job-center districts created using Thiessen polygons (all points within each polygon are closer to the center of that polygon than any other district, establishing a region of influence for each job center). The second approach uses a gravity model in which each Census block group is scored based on its access—as a measure of quantity and distance—to modest-wage job centers and affordable-housing units. Those accessibility scores allow for a comparison of the magnitude of difference between access to jobs and housing an each area.