In 2009, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a joint-partnership that would improve access to affordable housing, offer citizens better low cost transportation options, and help protect the environment. For FY 2010, Congress has allocated $150 million for the Sustainable Communities Initiative. Of that total, approximately $100 million will be available for regional integrated planning initiatives through HUD's Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program. The first grants are to be announced in August 2010.
The program is guided by a number of "livability principles." These include a focus on providing more transportation choices (i.e., increased public transit funding); promoting equitable and affordable housing; enhancing economic competitiveness; supporting existing communities through strategies like transit-oriented mixed-use development; land recycling; coordinating and leveraging federal policies and investment; and valuing communities and neighborhoods.
The HUD/DOT/EPA partnership agreement lists seven items of focus:
- First, the partnership will enhance integrated planning and investment, and make planning grants available to metropolitan areas.
- Second, the partnership will seek to provide a vision for sustainable growth, thus protecting the environment.
- Third, the partnership will redefine housing affordability by taking into account other associated costs, such as transportation.
- Fourth, the partnership will seek to redevelop underutilized sites, particularly those with existing infrastructure and transportation systems.
- Fifth, the partnership will develop tools and metrics to evaluate the livability of communities, neighborhoods, and metropolitan areas.
- Sixth, the partnership will align HUD, DOT, and EPA programs.
- Finally, the partnership will undertake joint research, data collection, and outreach.
The EPA has long had an Office of Smart Growth, but HUD and DOT have taken a number of steps to expand their programs to carry out this work.
At HUD, the Department created an Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities to advance housing and communities that promote affordable, livable and sustainable living environments. The Office will provide technical and policy support for energy, green building, and integrated housing and transportation programs at HUD and around the nation. Additionally, the Office will manage the Department's key relationships with other federal agencies in this arena like the departments of Transportation and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has set up a Livable and Sustainable Communities webpage to highlight how FTA programs fit into the larger DOT Livability Initiative and the Sustainable Communities partnership.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides details of the program including links to all of the departments' press releases on its website.
- The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has started up an Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities in support of this joint agency effort.