Friday, October 29, 2010

New Grant Awards Integrate Transportation and Affordable Housing

On October 20, 2010, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that more than 70 innovative transportation projects would be funded under the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) II grants. This $600 million program was to fund innovative surface transportation projects that could improve communities’ quality of life while advancing broader transportation goals. According to Department Secretary Ray Lahood, the funded projects will help to strengthen the economy, create jobs, and provide safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation choices. Roughly 29% of TIGER II money goes to road projects, 26% for transit, 20% for rail projects, 16% for ports, four percent for bicycle and pedestrian projects, and five percent for planning projects. More than 140 million is being used for projects in rural areas.

Up to 35 million of the TIGER II grants were to go towards planning grants that would prepare or design surface transportation projects that would be eligible for funding under the TIGER II Discretionary Grant program. Importantly, these grants were awarded in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Challenge Planning Grants that are to support local planning activities that integrate transportation, housing, and economic development. In evaluating and awarding these grants together, DOT and HUD took an important step in recognition of the integrated relationship between transportation and access to affordable, quality. The agencies hoped a joint NOFA would better align transportation, housing, economic development, and land use planning and improve linkages between DOT and HUD’s programs. Almost 700 applicants sought up to $35 million in TIGER II planning grants and up to $40 million in HUD Community Challenge Grants. The two departments evaluated planning grant applications with assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, awarding $68 million in grants to communities across the country.

The Community Challenge grants compliment the 45 Sustainable Communities Regional Grants also recently announced by HUD and build upon the Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an interagency collaboration launched by President Obama in June 2009 between the DOT, HUD, and EPA. The Partnership is designed to remove the traditional federal government silos that exist between departments and target the agencies’ transportation, land use, environmental, housing and community development resources strategically to provide communities the resources they need to build more livable, sustainable communities. The three agencies have made a commitment to coordinate activities, integrate funding requirements, and adopt a common set of performance metrics for use by grantees.

In the Partnership, each agency has defined roles:
 HUD will take the lead in funding, evaluating, and supporting integrated regional planning for sustainable development, and will invest in sustainable housing and community development efforts.
 DOT will focus on building the capacity of transportation agencies to integrate their planning and investments into broader plans and actions that promote sustainable development, and investing in transportation infrastructure that directly supports sustainable development and livable communities.
 EPA will provide technical assistance to communities and States to help them implement sustainable community strategies, and develop environmental sustainability metrics and practices.

The partnership is guided by six Livability Principles. Communities that are interested in taking advantage of new federal funding opportunities to integrate transportation, housing, and environmental sustainability should consider how their plans align with these principles.

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