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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

US Housing and Transportation Secretaries announce groundbreaking partnership for sustainable communities

Kaid Benfield

Posted March 19, 2009 in Living Sustainably, U.S. Law and Policy

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This is awesome.  Here is an excerpt from yesterday's joint press release:

"WASHINGTON - U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a new partnership to help American families gain better access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs. The average working American family spends nearly 60 percent of its budget on housing and transportation costs, making these two areas the largest expenses for American families. Donovan and LaHood want to seek ways to cut these costs by focusing their efforts on creating affordable, sustainable communities.

"The Secretaries discussed their plans for sustainable communitiesDOT Secretary Ray LaHood (by: USDOT) today at a U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing hearing titled, 'Livable Communities, Transit Oriented Development, and incorporating Green Building Practices into Federal Housing and Transportation.'

"'One of my highest priorities is to help promote more livable communities through sustainable surface transportation programs,'" said Secretary LaHood.

"'This partnership will help expand every American family's choices for affordable housing and transportation,'" said Secretary Donovan. 'HUD's central mission - ensuring that every American has access to decent, affordable housing - can be achieved only in context of the housing, transportation, and energy costs and choices that American families experience each day.'

"DOT and HUD have created a high-level interagency task force to better coordinate federal transportation and housing investments and identify strategies to give American families: 

  • "More choices for affordable housing near employment opportunities;
  • More transportation options, to lower transportation costs, shorten travel times, and improve the environment; and
  • Safe, livable, healthy communities." 

But wait, it gets better.  Here are some of the things the task force will be charged with:

  • Enhance integrated regional housing, transportation, and land use planning and investment.  HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan"The task force will set a goal to have every major metropolitan area in the country conduct integrated housing, transportation, and land use planning and investment in the next four years."
  • Develop federal housing affordability measures that include transportation costs and other costs that affect location choices.
  • Ensure that the costs of living in certain geographic areas are transparent- using an online tool that calculates the combined housing and transportation costs families face when choosing a new home.
  • Research, evaluate and recommend measures that indicate the livability of communities, neighborhoods and metropolitan areas.

Go here for HUD's announcement, here for DOT's, here for some additional remarks by Secretary LaHood on his blog, and here for the full text of Secretary Donovan's testimony.

This is huge.  I remember going to HUD in the late 1990s with Don Chen (then with the Surface Transportation Policy Project, now with the Ford Foundation) to talk to agency officials about problems associated with sprawl, particularly those hurting the agency's core constituency, and how they could help in solving them with smarter investments.  To say that there was zero interest on their part may actually overstate their interest.  In fact, they actively sought to rebut our points to defend the status quo.  How times have changed!   

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page. 

 

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Comments

Tad BaldwinMar 21 2009 02:14 PM

Great News! In addition to encouraging words, many local jurisdictions still resist higher density, transit lines, etc. so it will also be necessary to add positive financial incentives to inspire action.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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