Region Forward Blog

Trade offs between housing and transportation—Keys to ensuring the region’s future economic vitality

Nov 2, 2011
Region Forward

Lisa A. Sturtevant PhD is Assistant Research Professor at the George Mason University School of Public Policy in the Center for Regional Analysis and Stephen S. Fuller PhD is the Director of the Center for Regional Analysis

Over the next 20 years the Washington metropolitan area will add more than a million net new jobs. At the same time the region will need 1.8 million replacement workers to fill jobs vacated by retirees and others. Where will all these future workers live?

As of 2010 the Washington metropolitan area was more dependent on non-resident workers—workers coming in daily to work from places outside of the region—than any other metropolitan area in the country. Currently about 230000 of the Washington area’s workers commute into the region from places like Baltimore the Eastern Shore Richmond and West Virginia.

These workers take their income back to their homes in jurisdictions outside of the region. As a result the region loses more than $18 billion of its gross regional product (GRP) to places outside the metro area – places where that money is spent and taxed. If current commuting patterns continue the Washington area’s dependence on non-resident workers will account for a loss of $68 billion (in 2010 dollars) from the regional economy in 2030. The number of workers commuting into the region every day could increase to 700000. In addition hundreds of thousands of commuters will commute from the jurisdiction where they live to the jurisdiction where they work.

The Washington metro area now ranks number one in congestion delays according to the most recent report from the Texas Transportation Institute. The region clearly does not have the financial capacity or the land to build its way out of this looming transportation problem.

A principal source of the region’s transportation problems is the inadequate supply of housing within the region to house its workforce. If there is not a sufficient supply of housing in the region to house our future workers the consequences will be enormous—higher home prices and rents insufferable congestion on our roadways unsupportable demands on our transit systems and increased dependency on non-resident workers. Housing the workforce is key to the Washington region being able to sustain its economic vitality and achieve its economy growth potential.

The George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis generated employment-driven forecasts of housing need between 2010 and 2030. If each jurisdiction provided enough housing to accommodate all of its future workers the Washington metro area needs to add 731457 net new housing units between 2010 and 2030. Supplying this amount of housing will require the construction of about 36500 net new housing units each year regionwide an annual pace of construction never before seen in the region and below what local jurisdictions have accounted for in their comprehensive plans. This amount of housing—while substantial—is still only a share of the new housing that will be needed to accommodate both the 1.05 million net new workers and the 1.8 million replacement workers coming to the area.

The region’s future workforce will demand more multi-family and rental units and more moderately-priced housing—both owner and renter. The current housing stock is split at about 67% single-family and 33% multi-family. The region’s future workforce will need housing that is 40% single-family and 60% multi-family. There will need to be substantial changes in builders’ approaches to new home construction and local governments’ policies for guiding residential development in order to accommodate this needed growth.

These jobs-driven housing demand forecasts have several implications for local governments builders economic development professionals and employers in the region:

Local jurisdictions are planning for an insufficient amount of housing to accommodate future workers.

More housing is needed closer to jobs in existing and growing regional employment centers.

There is a need for more multi-family housing and smaller more affordable owner and renter homes in the region.

A lack of a sufficient supply of housing contributes to worsening traffic and quality of life and threatens our region’s economic vitality.

What is your perspective on the relationship among housing transportation and economic growth in the Washington DC metropolitan area? How can we provide a sufficient supply of housing—in the right places of the right types and with the right prices/rents—to support our region’s future economic growth?

Back to news

Related News

  • Aimee_Custis_Photography2

    Commercial construction slows in metropolitan Washington, COG Reports

    April 2, 2018

    The report looks at trends in location, type, and size of new commercial development – completed non-residential projects, including office, retail, industrial,...

  • News

    Celebrate spring by registering for Bike to Work Day 2018

    March 28, 2018

    A sure sign that spring is here, registration for Bike to Work Day (BTWD) 2018 is now open. This year’s event on Friday, May 18 in metropolitan Washington is...