Neighborhoods and Housing

cocoa-iconImproved Neighborhoods and Fair Housing Choices


Objective 1 – Increase affordable, location efficient, and fair housing choices
Objective 2 – Ensure neighborhood access to green spaces and walkability
Objective 3 – Improve existing neighborhood green assets and increase their use and benefit to the community
Objective 4 – Spur the (re)development of neighborhoods that are clean, attractive, and convenient to a wide range of community facilities


Regional Context
Housing and neighborhood conditions vary widely throughout the region, with a number of areas lacking affordable, quality housing and amenities. Past development practices and foreclosures have had
a negative impact on vulnerable and transitioning neighborhoods that were previously stable. Communities have experienced increases in vacant and abandoned housing and lower homeownership rates.

Despite the relatively low cost of housing in the region, a significant share of the population is cost-burdened, paying more than one-third of income for housing. This burden is compounded by the high cost of transportation in the region due to development patterns and can be particularly acute for Black and Hispanic residents of the region who are more likely to live in neighborhoods with higher poverty.

Housing typically accounts for the largest single expenditure for individuals and households; transportation is often the second or third. The impact of combined transportation and housing costs underscores the financial challenges facing low and middle income households in the region.

The cost of owning and operating a single vehicle averages close to $9,000 per year, or about $750 per month. Average apartment rental prices in the City of Memphis for a two bedroom apartment are estimated to be between $600 and $700 per month. Given per capita income for Memphis and much of the study area ranges between $18,000 and $24,000, many people could spend the majority of their entire incomes on housing and transportation alone.

Today, there is unequal access to both green infrastructure and areas of opportunity, such as employment centers, from many neighborhoods in the region. However, development of the Greenprint network presents potential for equal access to green infrastructure and ability to strengthen neighborhoods physically and economically by linking neighborhoods, community amenities, and job centers.


Proposed Outcomes
The achievement of the objectives outlined in this Strategic Direction is expected to result in the following outcomes:
• Reduced overall housing costs for households
• Neighborhoods with amenities serving residents, such as town and neighborhood centers, community facilities, goods and services, and green infrastructure
• Changed land use and zoning planning policies which promote affordable housing linked to strong neighborhood housing, infrastructure and opportunities
• New and improved amenities, such as parks and open spaces
• Improved property values and a stronger tax base
• Greater valuation and support of historic and culturally important places and resources
• Provision of regulations which allow for alternatives to low density development
• Reduced blight and vacancy in established residential neighborhoods
• Cleaner, safer and more attractive neighborhoods
• More robust policies which encourage the creation of walkable and bikeable neighborhood forms
• More redevelopment of vacant and underutilized sites in urbanized areas

Linking neighborhoods to green amenities has the potential to improve neighborhoods and quality of life throughout the region. Based on regional context and greatest needs identified for Improved Neighborhoods and Fair Housing Choices, the following objectives and actions present comprehensive strategies toward stabilizing neighborhood housing markets, reducing blight and vacancy, and improving fair housing choices, while activating new neighborhood and town centers.



Objective 1 – Increase affordable, location efficient, and fair housing choices

5.1.1 Identify regional barriers that prevent availability of affordable, location-efficient, and fair housing choices
5.1.2 Create, prioritize, and expand programs that overcome barriers to fair housing choices
5.1.3 Create or change policies and legislation to overcome affordable housing impediments across the region
5.1.4 Create design standards, incentives, and encourage density in support of mixed-use and mixed-income communities near green infrastructure
5.1.5 Increase the number of housing units that are accessible and visitable using appropriate design standards and codes
5.1.6 Develop policies, incentives, and programs that ensure a wide range of types, styles, and costs of housing near green infrastructure
5.1.7 Develop metrics and monitor progress of fair housing impacts for use in evaluating future green infrastructure and other investments

A regional approach to improving affordable, locationefficient, and fair housing is needed in order to create better housing options for all residents. Changes are needed in policy, incentives, and programs, as well as pattern of development. Because much of the population and employment of the region are spread across a large area, many residents face financial burdens associated with affordability of combined housing and transportation costs. This can sometimes be compounded by limited housing options due to fair housing impediments.

A Fair Housing Equity Assessment developed for the Greenprint identified seven primary barriers to fair  housing in the Mid-South region:

• Disinvestment in Minority and Low-Income Areas;
• Inadequate Public Transportation Choices;
• Predatory and Discriminatory Lending Practices;
• Lack of Knowledge of Fair Housing Rights and Responsibilities;
• Prevalence of Racially Prejudiced Attitudes and Patterns of Segregation;
• Limited Housing Options for People with Disabilities; and
• Insufficient Affordable Housing Options

To address barriers, a comprehensive range of solutions are recommended, from integrating data and research on opportunities and impacts of public funding decisions in environmental justice communities to forming a coalition of fair housing organizations to improve fair housing education and compliance in the region.

In many cases, existing organizational capacity can be tapped and enhanced to provide solutions to fair housing barriers, including expansion of Memphis Area Transit Authority to a regional transit authority or creating a cooperative of organizations that can serve as advocates for affordable housing. As an example of the latter, this cooperative could advocate for best practices of encouraging affordable housing and maintaining existing affordable housing stock in good repair. The organization could play a role in working with private owners to retain as many units of subsidized housing as possible as Low Income Housing Tax Credits and other contracts approach expiration.

Design standards and codes may also need revisions to improve fair housing choices. For example, code revisions that encourage greater accessibility or visitability in new and existing housing stock should be developed and adopted in order to expand housing choices for persons with disabilities or the aging.

See the full report for more information about the Fair Housing Equity Assessment.


Objective 2 – Ensure neighborhood access to green spaces and walkability

5.2.1 Identify and prioritize the development of parks, trails, and green space in urban areas lacking access within 0.5 miles and rural areas lacking access within 1 mile
5.2.2 Develop incentives and regulations encouraging developers to incorporate
green space, open space conservation, or access to green space in development projects
5.2.3 Increase connectivity between subdivisions by enforcing existing regulations and encouraging construction of connections between existing subdivisions
5.2.4 Enhance accessibility by repairing existing sidewalks, installing new sidewalks where needed, and adding benches along sidewalk paths
5.2.5 Improve pedestrian comfort through traffic calming, well-designed streets, street furniture, and low impact development

Ensuring neighborhoods have access to parks and green space is important in promoting physical activity, recreation, and health. In addition, when parks and green spaces are designed as an integral part of a neighborhood, they also serve as community gathering places, leading to stronger sense of community, improved social connections, improved community safety, and greater community ownership of green space.

Housing that is integrated into a network of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure that connects to neighborhood destinations and the larger region allows for greater access and opportunity for recreation and utilitarian trips without a vehicle. With greater access and opportunity comes greater use, leading to positive health and community benefits.

However, many communities and residents of the region, especially those living in underserved areas, have inadequate access to parks and green space. Over time, reserving space for community parks became less of a priority than in past years. Further, most suburbanstyle community development of the last several decades devalued walkability, leaving many subdivisions disconnected from parks, green spaces, walkable areas, and other subdivisions.

ThSD5 Housing Limited Accesse map to the right illustrates areas throughout the region outside of a target distance of 0.5 mile to a park or green space in urban areas and one mile in rural areas. Areas in dark green represent parks and green spaces in the region.

To illustrate the challenges of reduced walkability and connection to parks, it is interesting to note many of the neighborhoods surrounding Shelby Farms Park, the largest park in the City of Memphis, are outside of a 0.5 mile walking distance due to the pattern of development common in the area. Correcting these patterns by improving connectivity, access, and pedestrian infrastructure as well as integrating public green space into new development can greatly improve community access to green space.


Objective 3 – Improve existing neighborhood green assets and increase their use and benefit to the community

5.3.1 Conduct an inventory of presence and use of green spaces, working with organizations at the neighborhood level
5.3.2 Investigate the potential of converting underutilized land (including publicly owned vacant property) to green space in areas that are currently not well-served
5.3.3 Improve neighborhood-level green assets by converting vacant properties into pocket parks
5.3.4 Measure success of green space improvement programs and determine if and how programs can be replicated in other neighborhoods

Addressing gaps in green space, particularly at the neighborhood level, is an important objective of the Greenprint. While the region exceeds national standards and peer regions in the amount of park acres per resident (over 25 acres per 1,000 residents), much of the park acreage in the region is in large, regional parks such as Meeman Shelby Forest State Park, Shelby Farms Park, or T.O. Fuller State Park.

Based on the level of service analysis developed for the Greenprint, it is recommended the Mid-South region provide at least four acres of large park land, three acres of community park land, and two acres of neighborhood or pocket park land per 1,000 residents. Currently, the region greatly exceeds the recommendation of four acres of large park land per 1,000 residents and meets the recommendation of three acres of community park land per 1,000 residents.pocket park gaps

The greatest challenge in providing accessible, equitable park space across the region is investing in greater access and availability of neighborhood and pocket park land. Currently, acres of neighborhood or pocket park land per 1,000 residents are well below the goal of two acres. The map to the right shows areas of neighborhood or pocket park deficiency, weighted by degree of access to nearby green space (in shades of red and orange).

In order to address this gap, solutions involving underutilized land in communities including publicly owned vacant property are essential. Activating underused or publicly-owned land should be tested as a pilot project, similar to the recommendations in Strategic Direction 1: An Interconnected Network of Parks, Greenways, and Open Spaces on boosting the use of underused, existing parks.

Communities and neighborhoods should work together with local parks departments and other public,
institutional landowners, such as school districts, to enter into joint use agreements to create greater access to neighborhood or pocket park land. Joint use of parks and schools is fairly common in older areas of the region. As an illustration of the impact this strategy could have in the region, areas in blue on the map above indicate public school properties. A number of these properties overlap with park gaps.


Objective 4 – Spur the (re)development of neighborhoods that are clean, attractive, and convenient to a wide range of community facilities

5.4.1 Establish guidance and design standards for development near green infrastructure investments
5.4.2 Encourage new or improved existing town and neighborhood centers near concentrations of green infrastructure investment
5.4.3 Develop strategies for redeveloping underutilized commercial and industrial property, including alternative green uses
5.4.4 Create a comprehensive and flexible package of incentives to assist infill development in targeted neighborhoods where there is vacant land and existing infrastructure

Investing in green infrastructure can have significant impact on surrounding communities. In Atlanta, over $1 billion in private investment has been made due to the 22-mile Atlanta BeltLine trail loop around the city. Across the country, property values have been found to generally rise 15-30% in communities with a greenway or trail within a half-mile. Redevelopment of housing and commercial development is one of the most important outcomes of implementing the Greenprint.

A number of areas throughout the region are designated on the Concept Map as areas of housing focus or
commercial revitalization focus. These areas were selected through review of land use plans and comments from the consortium or public.

Zoning and design standards for areas around proposed Greenprint investments should be drafted and incorporated into municipal codes to ensure development near green infrastructure investments features a mix of uses and walkable neighborhoods at levels of density appropriate for communities in the region. A comprehensive package of redevelopment incentives should be developed to catalyze development
in housing and commercial revitalization focus areas.

An example of a housing and commercial revitalization focus area is the Frayser community in Memphis. As an initiative of the Greenprint subplanning, the Frayser community and Community LIFT undertook an engagement and design process for the planning revitalization of an underutilized commercial node at Frayser Boulevard and Overton Crossing.