Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan Announcing the Sustainability Partnership Grants
National Press Club, Washington, DC
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Thank you, Melody -- for that introduction and for your leadership. And let me thank my colleagues, Secretary LaHood and Administrator Jackson, for their partnership.
It’s great to get the gang back together.
Today, I’m proud to join my colleagues in announcing nearly $70 million in new competitive grants awarded jointly by HUD and the Department of Transportation to support more livable and sustainable communities across the country.
We all know that these have been tough times for our communities -- and that the problems facing our country result from nearly a decade of failed economic policies.
And we know that these policies were deepened by a housing bubble that forced families to move further and further away from where they worked to find an affordable home.
In this economic crisis, it’s these more remote areas that have often been hit the hardest. And as a result, the average American now spends 50 cents of every dollar they earn on housing and transportation costs.
That is why the Obama Administration launched this initiative, uniting the efforts of HUD, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency -- to boost economic development to ensure that all Americans can afford to live in communities with access to employment, schools and public transit options.
Last week, I was joined in Cleveland by EPA Assistant Administrator Stanislaus as we announced a bold step in our partnership. As he announced funding Administrator Jackson will discuss further in her remarks, HUD awarded nearly $100 million in planning grants to ensure regions across the country have more housing and transportation choices, more energy independence, and will be more economically competitive.
Because the hard work of implementing regional planning happens at the local level, the nearly $70 million in funding we are announcing this week is targeted to 62 communities.
Where DOT’s $28 million in "TIGER II" planning grants fund planning activities that relate directly to a future transportation capital investment, HUD’s $40 million Sustainable Communities Challenge Planning Grant program funds land-use related planning activities and green affordable housing strategies that will be linked to that investment.
And the EPA is playing a central role as we pursue infill development that recycles polluted land near transit, protect water resources and take green infrastructure to scale in communities across the country.
Best of all, for the first time in the history of federal grant competitions, these awards were jointly reviewed and selected by all three agencies -- HUD, DOT and EPA.
At a time when every dollar the Federal government invests in jumpstarting the economy is critical, President Obama’s plan ensures that our three agencies are coordinating efforts and targeting resources with precision.
For these funds, we were inundated with applications from 49 states, two territories and the District of Columbia -- which I’m proud to say was awarded $3 million to connect affordable housing investments in Historic Anacostia to job training in support of the neighborhood’s small business.
Indeed, communities across the country offered bold, unique proposals to plan and build sustainably based on their own local resources, landscape, culture and ingenuity.
For instance, in University City, Missouri building sustainably means using $315,000 in HUD and DOT funding to bring together partners from Washington University, a regional arts commission, a philanthropy, and an association of local landlords, entrepreneurs and residents to not only plan more energy-efficient housing that reduces costs for owners and residents alike -- but also to connect that housing to parks, local arts and economic development.
And with a Tiger II planning grant from the Department of Transportation, those investments will also be connected to more affordable transportation options -- from a trolley line, to a light rail, to creating a more walkable community in the Parkview Gardens neighborhood.
For the Spokane Tribe of Indians, planning and building sustainably means recognizing that the greenest, most sustainable properties are sometimes the ones that are already there.
And so, with the $1.5 million HUD is awarding, the tribe will plan mixed-income, mixed-use communities on the reservation that are energy-efficient and culturally-relevant, utilizing existing infrastructure. And to protect local wetlands, this funding will also help the reservation produce its first zoning code with input from tribal members.
For Flint, Michigan, which like many older industrial communities was experiencing population loss and disinvestment long before the economic crisis hit, sustainability is about being smaller, stronger and smarter.
The $1.5 million HUD is providing will make it possible for Flint to hire staff with the expertise needed to modernize its building codes and zoning laws and update its city master plan for the first time in a half century. And with a partnership that consists of local actors like Flint Community Schools and the Hurley Medical Center and "Third Sector" partners like LISC and the Center for Community Progress, not only will some of our most innovative affordable housing developers and civic institutions be at the table -- so will the full range of public voices that need to be heard.
Indeed, the diverse proposals we are funding show that we aren’t following the old Washington playbook of dictating how communities can invest their grants -- but instead encouraging creative, locally focused thinking from the bottom up.
Fixing our economy won’t happen overnight. After all, the disconnect between the places where people live and work results from decades of poor planning and misplaced priorities.
But by acting now, we can create good jobs today. We can ensure parents spend less time driving and more time with their children, that more families live in safe, stable communities near good schools and jobs, and that more businesses have access to the capital and talent they need to grow and prosper.
Above all, we can lay the foundation for sustainable economic prosperity for generations to come by helping communities that share problems start sharing solutions.
That’s exactly what these funds are doing -- and it’s why I’m proud to be part of the team that is helping make it possible.