Highlights from HUD-DOT-EPA Live Chat about Sustainable Communities
Rendering of Detroit's Woodward Transit System light rail, which won federal TIGER grant funding. The Livable Communities Initiative is encouraging reinvestment in aging industrial cities. Image via University of Detroit - Mercy.

Rendering of Detroit's Woodward Transit System light rail, which won federal TIGER grant funding. The Livable Communities Initiative is encouraging reinvestment in aging industrial cities. Image via University of Detroit - Mercy.

Yesterday, the White House Office of Urban Affairs hosted a live-streamed, hour-long Q&A session on the Obama administration’s Sustainable Communities Initiative, featuring:

The questions chosen for the discussion were all submitted and voted on at Planetizen readers. Here are some of the highlights:

EQUITY and AFFORDABLE TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT (TOD) HOUSING:

  • In recent years, transit-oriented development (TOD) housing has almost exclusively been available only for high-income families. One of HUD’s goals is to show that when low- and moderate-income people live near transit they’re 1) more likely to use the transit system and 2) reap the benefits from using the transit system.
  • Now, in their joint grant program with DOT (Community Challenge Grants), HUD is looking for zoning codes that permit income diversity in areas near transit.
  • Agencies’ joint effort to increase TOD housing should bring prices down and make accessible housing more affordable to low- and middle-income families.

COLLABORATION: U.S. EPA AND STATE DOTs

  • The U.S. EPA collaborated with California’s DOT to create the Smart Mobility 2010 framework to measure the greenhouse gas impacts of transport investments.
  • U.S. EPA also collaborated with Virginia’s DOT to change the state’s streets standards to make them more walkable and reduce congestion.

ANALYZING HIDDEN COSTS OF COMMUNITIES AND TRANSPORTATION DEVELOPMENT:

  • DOT is working on modifying its evaluation of transit projects to incorporate environmental impacts, economic impacts, health impacts, and so forth. Enhanced cost-benefit analyses in applications for TIGER grants — including how investments would save funds in other areas, for example, through avoided infrastructure costs — helped DOT learn about state-of-the-art cost benefit analyses and what data is or is not being collected.
  • One of the clear health benefits of this initiative is to fight obesity by getting people to walk and bike more.
  • DOT wants your feedback: They’ve published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking about DOT analyses in the Federal Register, and will be accepting comments from the public through August.

LIVABILITY PRINCIPLES APPLIED BEYOND SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES INITIATIVE:

  • HUD is incorporating principles of sustainability into all of its decisions about how to use discretionary funding.
  • Also, looking at how new HUD programs — for instance, Neighborhood Stabilization Program — can make neighborhoods more sustainable and accessible.
  • DOT is also making livability a priority.  Livability has been a priority in all of DOT’s work since Ray LaHood was sworn in as Secretary of Transportation, including TIGER grants, the strategic plan, and reauthorization proposal.
  • EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is also working on broadening the way the agency sees environmentalism and sustainability.

NEW NATIONAL STORMWATER RULE-MAKING

PREFERRED SUSTAINABILITY STATUS

  • HUD’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants Program works on a points system. Applicants who reach a certain points threshold, but not enough to receive a grant, will receive preferred sustainability status. This was developed to reward communities that are moving in the right direction but do not win funding, and the benefits of the status include:
  1. Access to the same training, education and networking as the communities that receive funding.
  2. Ability to keep application on file to reapply in the future.
  3. Incentives: HUD is working toward creating incentives in other HUD funds to recognize these communities in competitions.
  4. Feedback: HUD wants your feedback about how this Preferred Sustainability Status can  be useful.

ATTENTION TO DETERIORATING INDUSTRIAL COMMUNITIES

  • The partnership’s six principles include: (4) “Support existing communities. Target federal funding toward existing communities—through strategies like transit oriented, mixed-use development, and land recycling—to increase community revitalization and the efficiency of public works investments and safeguard rural landscapes.”
  • Also, DOT’s high-speed rail proposal provides great opportunities for aging manufacturing or auto industry communities, because there is a focus on producing all infrastructure locally, which will provide opportunities in these communities.
  • EPA’s Brownfields Program focuses on revitalizing such communities, specifically by assessing and cleaning up mildly-contaminated properties, and encouraging reinvestment.
  • President Obama issued an executive order on greening communities last year, which includes placing new government buildings in existing communities.

SUPPORTING WALKABLE COMMUNITIES and NEW ZONING CODES

  • TIGER II grants include a pool of funds for communities to do more detailed land-use planning, and also to prepare and adopt codes that would allow sustainable and livable communities to happen as of right, without additional permission for each project. Often, local zoning codes actually prohibit desirable development, i.e. mixed-use, higher density, local services, local public spaces. Local zoning codes are one of the key barriers. This set of funding that can be used specifically to develop new zoning codes.
  • For folks interested in local codes:  EPA has a Smart Growth Implementation Assistance Program. If zoning codes are hindering sustainable development, a community tells EPA about the problem and EPA brings a team to the community. Now, all three agencies — EPA, HUD, and DOT — are participating in this program.
  • At EPA.gov/smartgrowth, you can find  Top 10 changes you can make to urban/suburban codes.

AIR QUALITY STANDARDS/ EVALUATION DISCOURAGING CAR USE:

  • Better planned, more walkable and bikeable communities will discourage car use. And competitive grant programs encourage communities to change their land use rules. In this way, this partnership affects the air quality planning process.

INSTITUTIONALIZING LIVABILITY

  • To the extent possible, agencies are working to institutionalize livability. And support for this livability initiative is strong at the local level. So optimistically, the initiative will continue beyond this administration.
  • In addition, this initiative has changed the way these agencies work together: they are collaborating in unprecedented ways. This relationship will carry over into future administrations.
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  • http://twitter.com/UrbanLandInst UrbanLandInst

    Highlights from HUD-DOT-EPA Live Chat about Sustainable Communities: http://bit.ly/b0dpdJ (via @TheCityFix) #HUD #DOT #EPA #housing

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Pingback: Learning Livability Locally: New PBS Series Imagines Future of American Communities | TheCityFix.com

  • Pingback: Learning Livability Locally: New PBS Series Imagines Future of American Communities | thecityfix.com

  • http://twitter.com/RWJFCommission RWJFCommission

    And another useful piece from @TheCityFix: Highlights from HUD-DOT-EPA Live Chat about Sustainable Communities http://bit.ly/cbwPUe

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/karenmathu karenmathu

    summary from @TheCityFix here: http://tinyurl.com/2wmfnnt RT @transpr high-level must watch! http://tinyurl.com/2wgcavr

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Pingback: Minimum Knowledge about Minimum Parking Requirements | TheCityFix.com

  • Pingback: Minimum Knowledge about Minimum Parking Requirements | thecityfix.com

  • http://twitter.com/heddahfeddah heddahfeddah

    The City Fix has highlight coverage of HUD, DOT, EPA hourlong live chat today http://shar.es/mP4Ks

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/AtlanticEnviron AtlanticEnviron

    Highlights from EPA-HUD-DOT Live Chat on the White House’s Sustainable Communities Initiative http://bit.ly/9k70tb

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Curious

    Does anyone know if it is possible to track the applicants and recipients of this grant and the projects they are creating with the grant money? If so, how?
    Thank you!

  • MinNY

    "Driving through the narrow, pedestrian-heavy intersection of Spring and Crosby streets, Larry Rispanti had his first encounter with the “two married warrior cyclists” who were about to cut short his evening commute to Jackson Heights. He had just tapped his horn to nudge some tourists away from the box, when the cyclists surrounded his Jeep Commander and rode alongside it. Screaming expletives, the male cyclist rapped at the driver-side window and pulled at the door handle. With the female cyclist tapping on the passenger side, Rispanti’s girlfriend got “really scared.”"

    Well, clearly, since there’s no bike lane there, the city should install one, so that the cars and bikes know where each other will be at the intersections.

    This comment was originally posted on Streetsblog

  • http://twitter.com/yolandavanveen yolandavanveen
  • http://twitter.com/1000oregon 1000oregon

    Great wrap-up!! http://bit.ly/9JKyy6 http://fb.me/C1t7Gkra

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/1000oregon 1000oregon
  • http://twitter.com/UrbanPolicy UrbanPolicy

    Summary @TheCityFix yesterday’s HUD-DOT-EPA Sustainable Communities chat: http://bit.ly/cbwPUe #urbanplanning #cplan #cities via @urbandata

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Pingback: Walking and Biking Key to Reversing U.S. Childhood Obesity Epidemic | TheCityFix.com

  • Pingback: Walking and Biking Key to Reversing U.S. Childhood Obesity Epidemic | thecityfix.com

  • http://www.uppergreenside.org/ Glenn

    From the Susan Dominus piece:“When presented with an option, people change their routine and they get healthier,” he said. That’s in a nutshell the main case against the auto-centric culture in most of America. Rinse & repeat.

    This comment was originally posted on Streetsblog

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  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/David_K David_K

    Matt Harvey builds his case against bike lanes via anectode in the most half-baked manner. First we get the story of Larry Rispanti, who was viciously attacked by a pair of violent (unnamed) cycling zealots, who happen to be married. "Fists flew," says Harvey. Huh? Where was this reported? I can’t find news about it anywhere. Is there a police record of the incident? Or did Harvey just make it up, or talk to someone who made up the incident?

    Then he quotes the owner of a deli along the Second Ave bike path. The deli owner vows that the bike lane isn’t even used ("I only see about 12 [cyclists] go by during my 12-hour shift.”) — proving what a waste it is for the city to have implemented them in the first place. Again, this is lazy journalism. Harvey could easily visit Second Ave at just about any time of the day and count more than 12 cyclists in a five or ten minute stretch of time.

    This comment was originally posted on Streetsblog

  • JK

    The irony is that the parking garage industry has the most to gain from true parking reform. You only have to look at pre-war, pre-minimum parking requirement, New York City to see why. Take the Upper West Side. There, the vast majority of cars are garaged in private garages for a monthly fee. This is exactly what transportation advocates want: parking costs unbundled (separated) from housing costs. Sadly, this is the exact opposite of what City Planning is doing by demanding more parking built into the cost of new housing.

    This comment was originally posted on Streetsblog

  • ddartley

    Hmm, the world would be safer if all these people got themselves killed:
    http://www.1010wins.com/Poll–More-NJ-Drivers-Are-Texting-Behind-the-Wheel/7720761

    This comment was originally posted on Streetsblog

  • ddartley

    The Harvey piece: I believe two things that counter this "building more bike lanes = more dangerous streets because they invite more cyclists" theme, which has been said at least a few times in the papers before this stuff in the Post.

    I’m not the biggest fan of the sophisticated new bike lanes (generally, they’ve slowed me down a bit (even though I’m no "warrior")), but having ridden in them a lot, I always notice that they GREATLY reduce the potential for bike/ped conflict. One reason is that bikes and peds can now see each other much better than in the old bike lanes and on streets without them.

    Also, even though I don’t love them, they are almost the first safe bike infrastructure ever on the city’s internal streets. I think that now that there is finally safe infrastructure, you’re going to see a lot less of the behavior by cyclists that non-cyclists carp about.

    This comment was originally posted on Streetsblog

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/markwalker Mark Walker

    Loved the subhead in the Matt Harvey piece: "No matter how many lanes we build, they make New York City more dangerous." He was talking about bike lanes, but there’s car infrastructure in a nutshell.

    This comment was originally posted on Streetsblog

  • Larry Littlefield

    “In the ’80s we did several focus groups and we tried to find out what made them drive. And a very common theme is that they felt they were smarter than the people down in the tube. They’re the Brahmins. They deserve it.”

    The mindset of a generation, which applies to just about every other aspect of public policy as well. Sheldon Silver’s people. George Pataki’s people. They deserve everything.

    They should redo the study, and stratify it by age and whether someone just happened to be born here or made a decision to live here.

    "Given the paucity of street parking, the expense of garage parking, the traffic, the insurance costs and the toll to vehicle and psyche, New York car owners who aren’t motivated by true need must be motivated by some very strong force of will."

    For everyone else, it’s force of habit. They’ve simply never tried living otherwise, or actually thought about how they live and why. They just do as their peers do. Just as bicycle commuting didn’t seem doable to me, until I actually did it.

    This comment was originally posted on Streetsblog

  • Josh Martin

    Fabulous summary!! Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/jlangem jlangem

    Highlights from HUD-DOT-EPA Live Chat about Sustainable Communities http://shar.es/mSqYL

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/smsyellowpages smsyellowpages

    Highlights from HUD-DOT-EPA Live Chat about Sustainable …: Yesterday, the White House Office of … http://bit.ly/9h18V1 – Keep Watching!

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/smsyellowpages smsyellowpages

    Highlights from HUD-DOT-EPA Live Chat about Sustainable … http://bit.ly/9h18V1 – Keep Watching!

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://wiggling.wordpress.com/ david k

    Thanks for the summary. Another good post.

  • http://twitter.com/arae08 arae08

    Didn’t catch the conversation? Highlights from HUD-DOT-EPA Live Chat about Sustainable Communities http://shar.es/mTZPH

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  • http://twitter.com/urbandata urbandata

    Excellent summary @TheCityFix of yesterday’s HUD-DOT-EPA Sustainable Communities chat: http://bit.ly/cbwPUe #urbanpolicy #cplan #livability

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/TheCityFix TheCityFix

    Highlights from HUD-DOT-EPA Live Chat about Sustainable Communities http://bit.ly/cbwPUe

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter