The U.S. government through the Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) recently released information regarding its new $100 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program, an effort by the government to encourage the creation of sustainable communities by building homes near jobs, encouraging local innovation and helping create a clean and green energy source.
This is a competitive grant that will be awarded across multiple jurisdictions and sectors, as well as regional groupings among state and local governments, educational institutions, non-profit groups, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and philanthropic associations. These grants first became available in 2010, when Congress approved a $200 million addition to the HUD’s budget for the agency’s newest section, the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities. The entire text of the funding announcement can be found online at HUD’s sustainability website.
The current Administration firmly believes that America’s ability to compete effectively in the 21st century global economy will heavily depend on the success of its metro areas, which include not just the cities and their suburbs, but the more rural areas that surround and support its metropolitan areas. HUD is proud to take the lead in President Obama’s plans to help create a more sustainable future for metropolitan regions with the release of the $100 million Sustainable Regional Planning Grant, which provides cities with an excellent opportunity to integrate land use, transportation and economic development into one sustainable package.
The Sustainable Communities Partnership is a key piece of President Obama’s urban agenda and his plan to tear down the outdated views of metropolitan regions and provide a federal program that is better equipped to handle each communities unique requirements. The goal is to create urban areas that are not just economically strong, but also environmentally sustainable and welcoming to people of all backgrounds.
The grants will help regional planners find a way to integrate land use, housing needs, workforce development, infrastructure investing, transportation and of course, economic development while addressing such difficult issues as economic competition and revitalizing older areas; energy conservation and climate issues; public health and environmental safety; and finally, opportunities for minorities, social equity and inclusiveness. This program heavily emphasizes the need for partnerships, especially in areas where you may not typically expect to find certain groups working on a regional development plan, such as arts and culture or philanthropy, as a way to bring fresh voices into the planning process.
Grants from this program will help support the creation and implementation of long-range regional plans that demonstrate successful integration of the various elements, including such factors as:
- Regional infrastructure priorities such as affordable housing, land use zoning and planning, transportation systems, open spaces, water maintenance, economic development plans, energy providers and environmental conservation;
- Clearly established performance goals and methods for measuring success or failure;
- Detailed plans, policies and strategies that each participant in the program must implement over a period of time to ensure that goals are met;
- Institute a serious effort to bring residents and other interested parties into the development and implementation process to ensure a plan that represents the vision of all.
This program is a continuation of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities that President Obama began in 2009 as a joint operation among the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and promote better housing and transportation options that would pave the way for a modern economy. The guiding force behind these programs are the Livability Principles, which are designed to tear down many of the walls that have often existed between federal agencies and local governments, and instead encourage these groups to develop a strategic plan that encompasses transportation, environmental conditions, land use, housing and community development to help create a stronger and more sustainable community.