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Coverage HUD Continues to Receive on the Nearly $100 Million in Regional Planning Grants Awarded to Support More Livable and Sustainable Communities Nationwide.

Cleveland Plain Dealer (Breckenridge, 10/15) Cleveland, Akron part of regional planning group that wins $4.25 million 'sustainable communities' grant. Regional planning focused on fortifying existing neighborhoods and linking people with jobs will be fueled by a $4.25 million federal grant. Twenty-one entities, including Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown, won a "sustainable communities" grant announced today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The effort "seeks to develop a comprehensive regional plan that can catalyze economic development and support a healthy lifestyle for all of us," said Howard Maier, head of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, a transportation planning group that was the lead applicant for the money.

The grants are an effort by President Obama's administration to encourage federal agencies, and the regions that receive their money, to create more vital, diverse and connected communities. Such communities attract skilled workers and the companies that want them, Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said in an interview at The Plain Dealer.

A major thrust will be planning that encourages people to live closer to where they work, thereby reducing transportation costs, relieving highway congestion and improving the environment, Donovan said. "The problem historically has been that more and more development has spread out in an uncoordinated way," Donovan said. "We haven't planned transportation investments so that they connect housing to jobs."

Salt Lake Tribune (Lyon, 10/15) Wasatch Front to benefit from $5 million planning grant. A coalition of public and nonprofit agencies has received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to plan for sustainable growth in the Wasatch Front. Federal officials announced the grant Friday, emphasizing that Salt Lake County and St. Paul, Minn., were the only two regions to receive the maximum $5 million.

"We wanted a community who could work with speed and agility and you are it," said HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims during a news conference on the plaza at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. The dollars will be spent on evaluating affordable housing needs, leading to the creation of a regional transportation and affordable housing plan. This will build on work already in progress by members of the consortium, which includes Envision Utah, the Wasatch Front Regional Council and many others.

By eventually reducing transportation costs for families, air quality and quality of life will improve, officials said. "Smart growth is not something we just talk about," said Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon. "No entity can do this alone."

Stamford Advocate (Kim, 10/17) City wins federal funding for study on East Side train station. The city is set to receive federal funds to pursue a feasibility study for building a new train station on the East Side. The money, the exact amount of which is yet to be determined, is part of a larger $3.5 million grant that was awarded Friday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to a consortium of nine cities, two counties and six regional planning organizations in the metropolitan region. The group, known as the New York-Connecticut Sustainable Communities Consortium, had initially applied for $5 million in funding from HUD's Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program.

A total of nearly $100 million will be available for regional planning initiatives related to affordable housing, economic development and transportation in areas surrounding commuter rail networks. Laure Aubuchon, the city's economic development director said that as a member of the consortium, Stamford had requested $225,000 for the feasibility study. However, it will be up to the Consortium on how to divide the funding. She added that there may also be opportunities to collaborate on similar studies being pursued by neighboring cities.

"I think it's the kind of collaboration that certainly HUD likes to see," she said about the overall grant. "We keep saying we have transit-oriented development and it's all along a spine called I-95. Wouldn't it be great if we all worked together?"

In conjunction with this announcement, Secretary Donovan also authored an op-ed in the Fresno Bee, announcing that a Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant had been awarded to California State University and the Fresno Foundation.

Fresno Bee (Donovan, 10/21) Planning regionally will help Fresno housing market rebound (http://www.fresnobee.com/2010/10/20/2125922/shaun-donovan-planning-regionally.html). It's a conversation every Fresno-area resident is familiar with. Even after the recent decline in home values, the cost of living in and around the city can still be prohibitively high. As a result, thousands of people have moved away from the city to find affordable housing, further from jobs, stores, parks and public transportation. Anyone sitting through a long morning commute to work realizes how frustrating this can be. And with the average American now spending more than 50 cents of every dollar on housing and transportation, there has never been a greater disconnect between where people live and where they work.

On Wednesday, HUD awarded $40 million in new Sustainable Community Challenge Grants to help support local planning designed to integrate affordable housing, good jobs, and public transportation. At the same time, DOT is awarding $28 million in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) II Planning Grants to implement localized plans that ultimately lead to projects that integrate transportation, housing and economic development.

Together, the joint HUD-DOT funding will support 62 local and regional partnerships seeking to create a more holistic and integrated approach to aligning affordable housing, job opportunities and transportation corridors. Secretary Donovan, Deputy Secretary Sims, and HUD's Regional Administrators made these grant announcements in cities nationwide.

CNN (Courson, 10/21) Agencies team up to make grants more effective. Two federal departments have teamed up to coordinate the awarding of development grants, in an effort to use taxpayer money more effectively for projects that connect housing with jobs and the means to get to them.

"This isn't about big federal spending," said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. "These are relatively small investments that will spark better use of existing money." His agency, along with the Transportation Department, awarded nearly $68 million in "Sustainable Community Challenge Grants" for a wide variety of urban, suburban, and rural development proposals.

Donovan highlighted the awards at a Thursday news conference with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Donovan said the coordination among agencies is a better approach, "instead of Transportation putting money over here for a project, and [HUD is] putting money over there for housing," without any attention to reducing commuting time and the cost to get to where the jobs are. He said the goal is "to ensure that all Americans can afford to live in communities with access to employment, schools and public transportation options."

Washington Post (Wiggins, 10/20) $800,000 HUD grant to spur growth near 4 Pr. George's Metro stations. Prince George's County and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission will receive an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to stimulate growth around four Metro stations. Federal officials said "the goal is to attract new federal and spinoff tenants and mixed-income housing" to the stations.

Kwasi Holman, president and executive director of the Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation, said the county will conduct a study that will offer recommendations for incentives to builders for "intense office development" around the Southern Avenue, Naylor Road, Suitland and Branch Avenue Metro stations. "We're overjoyed about this in conjunction with the work of our congressional delegation to look seriously at Prince George's for a federal facility," Holman said.

Holman expects growth around the Metro stations to complement development at the former St. Elizabeths Hospital, located in the District between the Congress Heights and Anacostia Metro stations on the Green Line. The western part of the site is becoming the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security. D.C. officials want the eastern campus to offer a mix of offices, housing, shops and community facilities.

Jersey Journal (Arrue, 10/21) Jersey City is only New Jersey recipient of $2.3 million in federal grant money to fund planning for 7,000-unit development on 111-acre wasteland currently being cleaned of toxins (http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/jerseycity/index.ssf?/base/news-11/1287642380197790.xml&coll=3). A sprawling, contaminated industrial wasteland in the southeast section of Jersey City is another step closer to revitalization, officials said yesterday. National and local officials gathered at 824 Garfield Ave. to announce that Jersey City has been awarded a combined $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"'Sustainability' means tying the quality and location of housing and transportation to broader opportunities, like access to good jobs, quality schools, and safe streets," U.S. Housing and Urban Development Regional Administrator Adolfo Carrion, said.

In Jersey City, the grant will help fund Canal Crossing, a 111-acre redevelopment area that is bounded by NJ Turnpike Extension to the east, Garfield Avenue to the west, and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system to the north. The area is surrounded by a residential population of predominantly minority households with high unemployment and high poverty rates, according to a press release from the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency.

The Canal Crossing Project was chosen out of 225 applicants from around the country, Carrion said, adding that $2.3 million is "a significant share" of the $68 million that HUD and DOT are awarding to different projects nationally. The city is the sole recipient of the grant in the state.

St. Petersburg Times (Hooper, 10/22) Tampa wins $1.2 million federal grant to plan transit-oriented development. Tampa's plans to use high-speed rail as an impetus to transform the city received a $1.2 million boost from the federal government Thursday. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation jointly awarded a planning grant during a media conference at Union Station that included U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Melbourne, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio.

Dubbed the "Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant," the funds will be used to create a master plan for transit-oriented development in an area running north from a new high-speed rail station at the old Morgan Street Jail site along Nebraska Avenue.

"That high-speed rail station is going to be a true multimodal station of high-speed, light rail and buses," Iorio said. "It's going to be something that people talk about all over the state. When they come to the city of Tampa, they're going to say, 'Have you been to their transportation station downtown? Wow, they've got it all. "But in the city, we know how important it is to properly plan because we're not just building rail lines, we're building new communities."

BikePortland.org (Maus, 10/21) Equity, health, and bicycling: A conversation with HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims. An unprecedented partnership between federal agencies was on full display at a press conference this morning on the 23rd floor of the Portland Hilton. The occasion was the announcement of a $2 million federal grant for Washington County through the Obama Administration's TIGER II program. The grant will go toward a transportation and community planning project for the Aloha-Reedville community (between Hillsboro and Beaverton).

I'll share more about that project later today, but I want to share a conversation I had prior to the formal portion of the event with the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Ron Sims. "We now know it's very very costly to support expansion and distance and the smart thing to do is to have people in more intimate, functioning neighborhoods."

During the brief interview, Sims shared more about how this Washington County grant is a direct outcome of President Obama's interest in tying our investments in transportation with public health and livable community outcomes (and of course, I also asked him about bicycling's role in that equation).