RISMEDIA, March 21, 2009-U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary Shaun Donovan and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) secretary Ray LaHood announced a new partnership to help American families gain better access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs.
While the average working American family spends nearly 60% of its budget on housing and transportation costs, these two areas account for the largest expenses for American families. Donovan and LaHood want to seek ways to cut these costs by focusing their efforts on creating affordable, sustainable communities.
The secretaries discussed their plans for sustainable communities at a U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing hearing titled, “Livable Communities, Transit Oriented Development, and incorporating Green Building Practices into Federal Housing and Transportation.”
“One of my highest priorities is to help promote more livable communities through sustainable surface transportation programs,” said LaHood.
“This partnership will help expand every American family’s choices for affordable housing and transportation,” said Donovan. “HUD’s central mission – ensuring that every American has access to decent, affordable housing – can be achieved only in context of the housing, transportation, and energy costs and choices that American families experience each day.”
DOT and HUD have created a high-level interagency task force to better coordinate federal transportation and housing investments and identify strategies to give American families:
More choices for affordable housing near employment opportunities; more transportation options, lower transportation costs, shorter travel times, an improved environment; and safe, livable, and healthy communities.
The HUD/DOT task force will:
Enhance integrated regional housing, transportation, and land use planning and investment. The task force will set a goal to have every major metropolitan area in the country conduct integrated housing, transportation, and land use planning and investment in the next four years. To facilitate integrated planning, HUD and DOT seek, through HUD’s proposed Sustainable Communities Initiative which it will administer in consultation with DOT, to make planning grants available to metropolitan areas, and create mechanisms to ensure those plans are carried through to localities.
DOT will encourage Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to conduct this integrated planning as a part of their next long-range transportation plan update and will provide technical assistance on scenario planning, a tool for assessing future growth alternatives that better coordinate land use, and transportation planning.
This effort will help metropolitan areas set a vision for growth and apply federal transportation, housing and other investments in an integrated approach to support that vision. HUD currently requires states, cities, and counties to prepare a five-year Consolidated Plan estimating housing status and needs.
Concurrently, DOT requires states and metropolitan areas to develop Long Range Transportation Plans and four-year Transportation Improvement Programs. Coordinating these federally mandated planning efforts, including planning cycles, processes and geographic coverage, will make more effective use of Federal housing and transportation dollars.
Redefine affordability and make it transparent. The task force will develop Federal housing affordability measures that include housing, and transportation costs and other costs that affect location choices. Although transportation costs now approach or exceed housing costs for many working families, Federal definitions of housing affordability don’t recognize the strain of soaring transportation costs on homeowners and renters who live in areas isolated from work opportunities and transportation choices. The task force will redefine affordability to reflect those interdependent costs. The task force will also continue to ensure that the costs of living in certain geographic areas are transparent- using an online tool that calculates the combined housing and transportation costs families face when choosing a new home.
Develop livability measures. The task force will research, evaluate and recommend measures that indicate the livability of communities, neighborhoods and metropolitan areas. These measures could be adopted in subsequent integrated planning efforts to benchmark existing conditions and identify progress toward achieving community visions. The task force will develop incentives to encourage communities to implement, use and publicize the measures.
Harmonize HUD and DOT programs. HUD and DOT will work together to identify opportunities to better coordinate their programs and encourage location efficiency in housing and transportation choices. HUD and DOT will also share information and review processes to facilitate better-informed decisions and coordinate investments.
Undertake joint research, data collection and outreach. HUD and DOT will engage in joint research, data collection, and outreach efforts with stakeholders to develop information platforms and analytic tools to track housing and transportation options and expenditures, establish standardized and efficient performance measures, and identify best practices. An interagency working group, led by DOT, is currently developing performance metrics, research and data needs to support an integrated regional planning framework.