Policy Brief #1: Where Housing and Transportation Intersect

We will be releasing a series of policy briefs that highlight the overlap between multimodal transportation and other important issues for the metro. This is the first installment of that series.

Housing is not truly affordable if residents must drive everywhere to access jobs, education, and other services. Many households in Kansas City spend as much or more on transportation than on housing. Like housing, disparities in access to transportation disproportionately burden historically disinvested communities of color, low wealth, and the disabled. To address this important intersection, a new approach is needed. We believe that approach should be informed by the following points:

  1. Transportation and land use must be central to affordable housing investments;
  2. Dense, mixed-use, and walkable neighborhoods with frequent transit service and a variety of housing types and price points should be the goal of all future development in the city; and
  3. The city’s policies and investments in economic development, infrastructure, and location of public services should support and reinforce its affordable housing and transportation goals.

Like many communities across the country, affordable housing has emerged as a serious challenge for many in Kansas City. But the challenge for affordable housing reaches far beyond the walls, doors, windows, and roofs of someone’s home. It encompasses access to the opportunity and resources that allow for a good quality of life.

How Transportation Intersects with It

How housing and transportation interact sparks a broader discussion about land use, cost of living, health, and the environment.

Initially, while housing tends to make up the largest share of overall annual household costs, transportation often constitutes a close second. This is because affording a decent standard of living means being able to live with accessibility to more than housing. Affordable accessibility means being able to not only live in a place where rent takes less than 30% of your monthly income, but also living close enough to other resources that a car isn’t a necessity. In Kansas City, that translates to a mere 1% of neighborhoods that are located near jobs and services with a variety of transportation options. (1)

Additionally, when we build neighborhoods without space for travel by any form other than a car, we foster the sort of inactivity that has serious health consequences. One study found that each additional hour in a car was associated with a 6% increase in the likelihood of obesity, while walking an additional kilometer is associated with a 4.8% reduction in the likelihood of obesity. (2) Studies also suggested that walkable neighborhoods can help to maintain good mental health. A 2015 study conducted in Kansas City concluded that neighborhoods with greater connectivity “were associated with maintained cognitive function among older adults without cognitive impairment.”(3)

For the environment, housing options that require a car translate to larger individual carbon footprints, which contributes directly to our rapidly changing climate. The transportation sector constitutes the largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. (4) To address this, one of the main considerations they recommend is reducing travel demand through a combination of fostering development of lower-emission transportation choices (i.e. transit, sidewalks, and bike paths) and mixed use zoning, bringing residences close to resources and reducing the need to drive a car.

Quick Facts

  • Nearly 28% of homeowners and almost half of renters in the city are housing cost burdened. (5)
  • In addition to housing costs rising 52% from 2003 to 2010, average household transportation costs rose by 33%. (6)
  • One study found that 43% of people with safe places to walk within 10 minutes of home met recommended activity levels; among those without safe places to walk, just 27% met the recommendation.
  • Transportation constituted 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, according to the EPA.

BikeWalkKC Mission and Position

The mission of BikeWalkKC is “to redefine our streets as places for people to build a culture of active living.” In order for people to be able to live healthy, active lives, they need access to safe affordable housing as well as reliable, multimodal transportation. To that end, we believe that Kansas City should strive to build dense, mixed-income, asset-rich developments with walkability, bikeability, and transit reliability in mind.

How BikeWalkKC Supports Affordable Housing

  • We’ve spoken in the past in support of legislation meant to address affordable housing, including Ordinance 180723, which lowers parking requirements for multi-family residential developments;
  • We included the need to implement the City’s Transit Oriented Development policy in our policy platform because proximity to public transit is an important tool in helping to lower the costs for households.
  • We’ve partnered with housing advocates and homeless service organizations like Hope Faith Ministries to provide transportation options to their service population, including the Bike Share for All program.
  • Most recently, we advocated for the adoption of the Tenants Bill of Rights pushed for by KC Tenants.


BikeWalkKC is working to highlight the intersection of transportation and housing, by not only bringing attention to broader trends around cost of living, but also by working with partners and policymakers to advocate for changes to improve the lives of residents throughout Kansas City.

Did you know? BikeWalkKC’s advocacy efforts are member-supported! You can lend your voice to our work by becoming a member today. And get the latest on bicycle- and pedestrian-related happenings when you subscribe to our newsletter!


(1) “H+T Fact Sheet – Municipality: Kansas City, MO”, Center for Neighborhood Technology, last accessed June 26, 2019
(2) “Obesity relationships with community design, physical activity, and time spent in cars.”, Frank et. al., American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2004
(3) “Neighborhood Integration and Connectivity Predict Cognitive Performance and Decline”, Watts et. al., Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine, 2015
(4) “Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions”, Environmental Protection Agency, last accessed July 10, 2019
(5) “Addressing Housing Cost Burden in KCMO”, Ruanda McFerren, Office of the City Manager for KCMO, 2018
(6) “Creating Connected Communities: A Guidebook for Improving Transportation Connections for Low- and Moderate-Income Households in Small and Mid-Sized Cities”, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, April 2014

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