Today, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan addressed the National Association of Regional Councils and announced that HUD's fiscal year 2013 budget proposal includes $100 million to fund Regional Planning and Community Challenge Grants. The grants are part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which is an association between HUD, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joining the federal government with local partners in taking a pragmatic, regional approach to problem solving that supports local leadership, local resources, and local innovation.
"An American economy built to last needs strong local and regional economies that include a wide range of businesses and attract a diverse workforce," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "The Sustainable Community Grants are a blue print for regional and local governments to plan for their economic future, and in this budget we are seeking restoration of those funds from Congress."
The Sustainability Grants have been critical to the nation's economic recovery and over the last two years, HUD has awarded 152 grants, totaling $240 million that have in turn secured almost $253 million in private investment and commitments from local partners. The communities that have received these grants vary from rural communities in West Virginia and South Dakota to cities like Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Austin and Memphis; who through these grants have partnered with their local business community to create sustainable economic development plans.
"In Memphis, our Community Challenge Grant has helped the city revitalize the neighborhoods surrounding the airport, while working with local businesses to create an economic development and workforce development plan to help them meet their workforce needs. FedEx has created over 3,000 jobs, and the grant is poised to create another 1,500 by attracting companies like Electrolux, Mitsubishi, and Nucor Steel," added Donovan.
In his address, Secretary Donovan also unveiled the creation of a Sustainability Resource Center webpage (http://www.huduser.org/portal/sustainability/home.html), which will function as a one-stop resource that highlights projects and best-practices from sustainability projects around the nation. Categories in the Resource Center include: economic competiveness, housing and transportation choices, regional planning, green building and rural and tribal sustainability.
"The Sustainable Communities Resource Center provides information to communities who are interested in implementing these principles, providing an equal playing field for those who want to apply for the grants in 2013, and allowing them to compare their vision to that of other similar cities or regions," said Shelley Poticha, Director of HUD's Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities.
HUD's Community Challenge Grants aim to reform and reduce barriers to achieving affordable, economically vital and sustainable communities. The funds are awarded to communities, large and small, to address local challenges to integrating transportation and housing. Such efforts may include amending or updating local master plans, zoning codes, and building codes to support private sector investment in mixed-use development, affordable housing and the re-use of older buildings. Other local efforts may include retrofitting main streets to provide safer routes for children and seniors, or preserving affordable housing and local businesses near new transit stations.
The Regional Planning Grant program supports regional planning efforts that integrate housing, economic and workforce development, and infrastructure investments to consider how all of these factors work together to create more jobs and economic opportunities. The program will place a priority on partnerships, including the collaboration of regional employers, philanthropy, and traditionally underrepresented groups. Recognizing that areas are in different stages of sustainability planning, HUD has established two categories for the Regional Planning Grant program. The first supports communities that are beginning the conversation about how best to align their housing, transportation, environment, and other infrastructure investments. The second recognizes that some communities have already achieved significant momentum and are prepared to move toward completion and implementation of regional plans for sustainable development.
In FY 2012 Congress did not fund HUD's Sustainable Community Grants.
For more information about HUD's Office of Sustainable Housing Communities, please visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/sustainable_housing_communities.