Policy Implications: Latino Housing, Transportation, and Green Space

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This is part of the Salud America! The State of Latinos and Housing, Transportation, and Green Space: A Research Review »

Conclusions

Latinos need affordable housing options, access to reliable, relevantly routed public transportation, and connected, safe, and maintained green spaces for transportation and recreational use.

Many societal and economic factors are responsible for the inequitable distribution of funds to support these projects. For instance, it was beyond the scope of this review to fully discuss the historical legacy of disparities. However, with proper political will and community activism, change can be made to improve access to affordable housing, public transportation, and green spaces in all types of Latino communities.

A common theme across the research has been the need for community activism to ensure that development projects take the concerns and desires specific to Latino residents into consideration when implementing revitalization projects in Latino communities.

Rundown basketball court in low-income neighborhoodWhether in urban, suburban, or rural communities, Latinos are dependent upon public transportation and affordable housing. In urban areas, transit-oriented development would benefit Latino communities if structured in a way that expands affordable housing options and limits the risk of gentrification, so that Latinos in the community can maintain their social and cultural networks while gaining access to high-quality public transportation. Addition of green space and sustainable transport options such as greenways and bike paths would further improve connectivity of communities, increase recreational space for children and adults, and improve the physical and psychological well-being of all residents.

There is a dire need for more research into the needs of small town and rural Latino communities that are growing in the South and Midwest. These communities tend to be more segregated, isolated, and marginalized than urban Latino communities, and face unique housing, transport, and green space challenges. There is certainly a need for sidewalk maintenance and street connectivity to improve walkability in rural areas and small towns, and any improvement in public transportation access and coverage would benefit Latinos in these areas. Determining how to structure “public” transport from these isolated, rural Latino communities to places of employment as well as essential services and amenities is the new challenge that must be met with innovative, place-based solutions.

By employing the use of “cultural brokers” in wide networks of public-private partnerships, the voices of Latino residents can be heard and translated into action by developers that will take the Latino social and cultural context into consideration.

Incorporating central “plazas” in design plans, making neighborhoods connected with sidewalks for transportation and social interaction, and limiting vacant space are all neighborhood characteristics that are important to Latinos.

Policy Implications

Hispanic couple and baby in their new homeTo address housing needs in Latino communities:

  • Increase resources devoted to keeping renting families in their homes, such as: aid programs for renters who experience temporary loss of income; and publicly funded legal services for low-income families in housing court.
  • Increase the number of affordable housing initiatives using: municipal, state, and federal initiatives; and nontraditional partnerships that engage large local institutions as sponsors to address the social causes of health inequities (i.e., hospitals, universities, large local businesses investing in the community for long-term gain).

To address public transportation needs in Latino communities:

  • Increase the number of transport routes that are distributed where the highest proportion of low-income individuals reside.
  • Conduct community surveys to determine how to establish public transport routes to shorten commute times between the majority of residential neighborhoods and places of employment for low-income Latinos.
  • Determine true transport affordability for low-income Latinos by region and establish reasonable prices as a percent of monthly income.
  • Provide payment options that spread periodic lump-sum costs over time, and convert daily payments into monthly passes.
  • Increase public awareness of transportation cost assistance offered by both public agencies and nonprofit organizations (supply bilingual information in grocery stores, children’s schools, as well as television and mobile device ads, not just on transit vehicles).
  • Provide better support for the informal transportation networks that exist in Latino communities.

To address the need for affordable housing near public transportation:

  • Bottom-up, community-based activism has proven essential for incorporating the needs and desires of Latino residents in development projects within their communities; this includes ensuring that enough affordable housing is made available during transit-oriented development projects.
  • Organization strategies that are bilingual, multigenerational, and social-media based may be most effective at reaching a diverse Latino audience.
  • Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), development incentives, and housing trust funds must be established in partnership with local businesses, banks, and government entities to ease developer maintenance and expansion of affordable housing units.
  • Financial incentives for homeownership, and shared equity housing projects can provide existing residents asset building strategies in an improving neighborhood so they can gain financial benefit from neighborhood revitalization projects.

To mitigate the risk of displacement due to gentrification during Latino neighborhood revitalization projects:

  • Increase the stock of affordable housing near the revitalized transport hub.
  • Support culturally relevant Latino public spaces, such as plazas or central parks.
  • Invest in community-based public arts using local artists.
  • Get community activists to proactively guide the development process, ensuring that resident interests are met and that development occurs within the context of the neighborhood.

The elderly waiting for a public transportTo address the transportation needs of Latino families:

  • Construct affordable housing close to public transportation, ideally through transport-oriented development projects that limit displacement in Latino neighborhoods.
  • In all communities, strive to provide complete streets with walkable sidewalks, full shoulders, protected bike lanes, and interconnected networks to be used for transport and for social cohesion.
  • Ensure that public transport routes in all communities are accessible, sufficient, reliable, provide transport outside of regular work hours, and access locations where Latinos work– such as suburban office parks and industrial centers.
  • Increase access to non-street dependent forms of transport such as greenways and trails to alleviate the legal and language concerns of immigrant Latinos. These could be used as safe routes to school and as safe routes to work and/or public transport.
  • When developing sustainable transport programs (such as greenways and bike shares), solicit community feedback to gain resident support to limit fear of displacement and gentrification.

To increase Latino access to and use of green spaces:

  • Develop a central neighborhood park for social cohesion and community events.
  • Repurpose vacant lots into recreational spaces to promote positive behaviors and decrease crime.
  • Construct sidewalks throughout the community to promote access to all green spaces and to support after dinner walks and neighborhood cohesion.
  • Build greenways and trails as safe routes to schools and as safe routes to green spaces/public transport to increase physical activity in children and adults.

jovenes sanos youth engagement mobilization advocate californiaTo drive community organization and engagement:

  • Employ use of a “cultural broker,” a local resident who has access to community members, grassroots organizations, as well as official decision-makers and who can mediate agreements
  • Do a community survey, and go door-to-door to get a sense of community composition
  • Bring residents together with ongoing, regular meetings at churches, community centers, or prominent local businesses
  • Distribute flyers and hold trainings to educate the community on specific issues of interest such as tenant rights, distribution of affordable housing in the area, etc.

To best communicate with modern Latinos of all generations, policymakers, businesses, and organizations should use:

  • Bilingual messaging: not purely out of need, but to demonstrate cultural understanding. Avoid pure translations and instead focus on selection of imagery, strategic messaging, and cultural acuity in both English and Spanish.
  • Multigenerational targeting: deliver the same message in several ways, to reach viewers/consumers of each generation.
  • Social media messaging: develop a fully articulated social media engagement strategy applying the two previous tips, as well as: social media ads, online videos, and blogging to promote Latino-targeted brands and products including Latino-owned small businesses and banks with products beneficial to Latino consumers in the specific community served; Provide options for consumers who prefer all-virtual, non-traditional consumer experiences.

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