Capitol Hill Housing touts early success combining affordable housing with affordable transit

Capitol Hill Housing and its Capitol Hill Ecodistrict initiative have announced encouraging early results from an innovative pilot program that makes transit passes available at a significantly reduced cost to the nonprofit’s affordable housing residents.

Since rolling out earlier this year, the CHH transit pass program is helping some residents save as much as $100 per month in transportation costs, a post on the program reports. This kind of savings is particularly important, CHH says, because “after housing, transportation is the second highest cost for most people” —

The Center for Neighborhood Technology estimates that households in the Puget Sound Region spend about 19 percent of their income on transportation.  Living in a central, walkable, transit-rich neighborhood like Capitol Hill can help households save a lot on transportation expenses by driving less or not even owning a car – one of the reasons that Capitol Hill Housing believes it is so important to provide affordable housing in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. However, for many low income people, the regular cost of using transit is still unaffordable.

We first reported on the initiative in May as the City Council voted on funding for the pilot program. Building off King County Metro’s existing ORCA Multifamily Passport program, which allows property owners and managers to purchase pre-loaded, monthly ORCA card transit passes to the residents of their buildings, the Capitol Hill Housing program utilizes City of Seattle funding to cover $38,000 of the cost of providing ORCA cards. Residents who wish to participate in CHH’s program pay 50% of the monthly cost, which varies between $10 and $17 depending on the building. “This compares with $117 per month for a standard individual pass or $55 per month for a standard individual low income fare or LIFT pass,” CHH’s announcement says.

Since its start earlier this summer, CHH says around half of the program’s passes have been purchased by its residents and that the program has been efficient to run:

  • Over 50% of passes sold.

  • 52% of participants previously had a card for which they paid 100% of the cost
  • The small administrative burden is small (less than 4 staff hours per month)
  • We have received anecdotal reports of over $100 in monthly savings by some participating households

While the 2016 funding was a one-time budgeting decision to launch the pilot, CHH said it is planning a full study of the program for 2017 and hopes to eventually expand the effort to all of Seattle’s affordable housing communities. “We hope that by continuing to work with King County Metro, the Seattle Department of Transportation, other affordable housing providers, our residents, and the community at large we can expand this program to eventually serve all affordable housing properties in the city,” the announcement reads.

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