U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan recently announced the recipients of the 2011 sustainable communities grants. The goal of the grants, which totaled to nearly $96 million this year, is to help communities and regions across the country improve their economic competitiveness by connecting housing with jobs, schools and transportation. Twenty-seven communities and organizations will be receiving community challenge grants, and twenty-nine regional areas will be the recipients of regional planning grants.
“Our nation’s ability to compete in a global economy and create jobs is dependent upon how quickly and efficiently we can connect our workers and families to education and employment opportunities,” said Secretary Donovan. “This year we are especially proud that we had a particular focus on funding proposals that included more chambers of commerce, and economic development corporations, as core partners.”
The community challenge grants are awarded to fund developments in integrated transportation and housing, and to reduce barriers impeding affordable, sustainable development in communities. Funding efforts include; amending or updating local master plans, zoning codes, and building codes to support private sector investment in mixed-use development. Other use of the funds 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 grants are aimed at increasing jobs and economic opportunities through encouraging support for regional planning efforts that integrate housing, land-use, transportation and infrastructure development. The program prioritizes partnerships in the regional planning process, specifically in collaboration with arts of culture and philanthropic organizations.
HUD has established two categories of the regional planning grant to meet the needs of regions in various stages of sustainable development. The first is for communities just beginning to enter phases in sustainable development and focuses on how best to fund housing, transportation, environment and infrastructure investments. The second is for regions already on the path towards sustainability, and directs funding towards implementing and completing regional sustainable development projects.
“These grants will be leveraged with local funds, more than doubling the investment, and will help create new visions for how communities and regions plan housing, transportation, and workforce development, as well as the quality of life of their residents for generations to come,” said Secretary Donovan.
Donovan continued to say, “When more than half of the average working family’s income is devoted to housing and transportation costs alone, we know that we have a responsibility to fix that and to provide housing and transportation options that can improve their quality of life and economic stability.”