Linking Affordable Housing and Transit

Affordable housing near transit is a powerful solution to some of our biggest challenges.

Because transit is far less expensive than vehicle ownership, affordable housing near transit is an equity solution that saves families time and money.
Because lower income households drive less and are more likely to use transit than higher income households, it’s a climate solution.
Because making it easy to get around without a car leads to less driving, it’s a traffic solution.
Because less driving means cleaner air, it’s a public health and environmental justice solution.

That’s why TransForm has made affordable housing near transit a priority since our founding.

Partnering with transit agencies for more homes, less driving

After years of advocacy alongside East Bay Housing Organizations and other great partners, BART adopted a Transit-Oriented Development Policy that set a target of developing 20,000 units of housing on their land, with 7,000 affordable units, aligned their TDM guidelines with our GreenTRIP standards, and pledged no net loss of low-income households in station areas by 2040. Now we plan on working with BART to create plans that can bring this vision to life — starting with El Cerrito Plaza and Lake Merritt stations. We are also looking to other transit districts, such as Santa Clara’s VTA, to implement similar policies.

Yet as BART gears up for development, especially at ten urban stations with parking lots that could be used for more homes, it faces tremendous community concerns over parking overflow onto local streets as well as ensuring alternative access options for those currently driving to the stations. In some locations, such as Lake Merritt station in downtown Oakland, there is also great concern about potential displacement as new development increases local property values and rents.

Starting later this year, BART and TransForm will collaborate to create innovative station access strategies, heavily informed by community needs and input, for BART’s Lake Merritt and El Cerrito Plaza stations. This project will take BART’s TOD program to the next level, leveraging new and emerging mobility technology and on-site traffic reduction strategies to better serve BART neighborhoods and patrons, including disadvantaged communities, with low-parking development.

In order to build more affordable homes and reduce emissions and driving, BART must limit replacement parking as it develops its urban land. Thanks to an exploding palette of new shared mobility options, and growing support for great pedestrian and bike infrastructure, these station areas can become safer, more accessible, and more affordable. The initial proposal for Lake Merritt would have a high 44% of the homes be affordable, with lots of space for local community groups. The two renderings shown here give a sense of how smart, equitable development can make an area more vibrant.

Statewide Housing and TOD Policy

In the first half of 2018, SB 827 (Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill to allow much taller and denser housing near transit) dominated the conversation about housing policy in California, inspiring an intense debate and recommendations from TransForm that were incorporated before the bill died in committee.

Still, with the housing crisis worsening, more legislators and advocates will inevitably jump into the fray. TransForm is well positioned to help decision-makers and advocates structure policy that will be powerful, durable, and fair. Regionally and statewide, TransForm is advancing solutions that result in healthy, connected communities with more homes for people of all incomes, and less driving.


In 2018, Stuart Cohen was appointed on behalf of TransForm to the influential CASA Steering Committee. This is a Bay Area initiative bringing together leaders to build an actionable political consensus around increasing housing production at all levels of affordability, preserving existing affordable housing, and protecting vulnerable populations from displacement.

Read TranForm's Title VI policy here