March 26, 2010
World Urban Forum 2010: Live Update

Advancing Sustainable Urbanization

As the 5th World Urban Forum comes to a close, Deputy Secretary Ron Sims and Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero commended Brazil's efforts for the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA). During the June 2009 Americas Energy and Climate Symposium, the Government of Brazil offered to lead the ECPA which will focus on urban development in low-income areas.

Intended to promote sustainable urbanization across the America's, this initiative promotes green buildings, energy efficient housing, sustainable transport, and greenhouse gas reductions from solid waste. Efforts made today to build sustainable low-income housing could help to lower our carbon footprint for decades to come. Compromised of voluntary initiatives, the ECPA will focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner fossil fuels, infrastructure, and energy poverty. As part of the U.S. support for this initiative, the Department of State will develop a network of academics, fund policy dialogues with practitioners, launch technical and university exchanges, and develop best practices on urbanization.

Leaders will continue the conversation in Washington DC, when energy ministers from across the hemisphere meet at the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas in April.

March 25, 2010
World Urban Forum 2010: Live Update

Derek Douglas is Special Assistant to the President on Urban Policy

As Special Assistant to the President for Urban Policy and a member of the Urban Affairs team, I am honored to be part of the United States delegation to the fifth World Urban Forum. We've had a very productive few days of bi-lateral meetings and panel discussions, and even some spontaneous run-in conversations with premier urban thinkers from around the world. Our bi-lateral meetings with Mexico and Spain were particularly productive, and I am looking forward to opportunities to collaborate with them in the future. Indeed, the energy and excitement here is palpable. Many great minds are gathered in one place, over 18,000 people, to address the pressing issues facing cities worldwide.

With over half of the world population living in cities, the challenges facing countries like Brazil, India, and the United States are increasingly similar: addressing how to develop and maintain transportation infrastructure; building and preserving safe, affordable housing connected to public transit; reducing crime and improving access to fresh food so that cities offer safe, healthy neighborhoods for families and children; and implementing environmentally-sustainable solutions that create jobs while reducing our carbon footprint.

This forum gives us an opportunity to listen and learn from other countries, and to discuss our own programs and experiences in American cities. Adolfo Carrion, Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, spoke on "Bridging the Urban Divide: Equality in Housing and Urban Services and Taking Forward the Housing Agenda," and I spoke on "Reimagining Older Industrial Cities: Perspectives from the United States, Brazil, and Italy." No one wants to recreate the wheel. People are eager to learn what works and what doesn't. So it's encouraging to know that renowned urban thinkers from all over the world are so interested in this Administration's approach to urban development, especially the Sustainable Communities Initiative, a partnership between HUD, Transportation, and EPA.

The initiative coordinates federal policies, programs, and resources from these agencies and finally links transportation funding with land-use and the environmental impact associated with development. This fully assists cities, metros and rural areas to build more livable and sustainable communities – so that jobs and commerce are located near housing and recreation, so that folks could get around without cars if they so choose, so that our children have bike paths and parks nearby to run around and play with their friends, and so that we can walk our kids to school and buy groceries without pulling out of the driveway.

This forum offers us the opportunity to promote these growth principles internationally, so that our neighbors avoid sprawl and are able to develop in smart, sustainable ways. Ultimately, this is in the best interest of the United States, so we can have stable international partners with robust markets to trade with and visit.

Since I arrived, I've spoken to delegates from Brazil, China, Mexico, Spain, and Italy on this issue and I attended a Global Compact Cities Program on how to effectively incorporate sustainability into urban governance. These dialogues go hand in hand with the Sustainable Communities Initiative, and I plan to continue these conversations when I return to Washington.

The forum is off to a great start, and I'm looking forward to productive days ahead as we discuss new and old ideas on how to address these historic problems facing our cities.

March 23, 2010

Secretary Shaun Donovan

For the first time in the history of civilization, more than half of the world's population lives in cities. Here in America, this trend has been underway for more than two centuries -- as people have moved closer to cities in search of the opportunities and amenities -- from housing, to transportation, to jobs -- that metropolitan living offers.

Read Secretary Donovan's Op-Ed in the Huffington Post

March 17, 2010

Assistant Secretary Mercedes Márquez

For HUD, technical assistance is about capacity building. It is about helping cities, states and nonprofit grantees spend and manage funds in a way that maximizes results by spending money more efficiently and effectively.

The $6 billion Neighborhood Stabilization Program is targeted at communities that have suffered the most through the foreclosure crisis. We are assisting these communities by providing individual needs assessments and local clinics across the country to allow grantees to meet with experts and have their questions answered on the spot. We have also developed a website to share best practices, offer interactive tutorials, and present a library of sample legal documents that address many of the program’s eligible activities.

HUD is also changing the way we provide technical assistance with the help of the Transformation Initiative. We often see that grantees with difficulty in a particular topic area, such as financial management, tend to have challenges with that same topic throughout many of their programs. In the past, HUD has not addressed these types of needs in a comprehensive way because our technical assistance budget was tied to specific programs. The Transformation Initiative has allowed HUD to consolidate technical assistance funding in a way that allows us to address the needs our cities and states in a broad, cross-cutting manner. Program offices throughout HUD are now working together to develop and provide training for grantees across disciplines and program areas to better meet the needs of our grantees.

March 12, 2010

Assistant Secretary John Trasviña

By the middle of this century, the majority of the world’s population will live in cities and metropolitan areas, making it more important than ever that we begin to develop urban policy in a way that takes into account the interdependent nature of urban communities.

President Obama’s urban agenda promotes cross-cutting plans to revitalize urban areas, considering housing, transportation, energy, labor, education, and criminal justice policy as a system rather than independent of each other.

This comprehensive approach is central to improving the quality of life for individuals and families through the creation of inclusive, sustainable communities.

Cities, both in the United States and across the world, have served as historic gateways for immigrants and persons who often don’t speak the dominant language of their new home. By embracing diversity, nations can create thriving communities where every resident has access to the same educational and economic opportunities.

HUD’s panel at the UN World Urban Forum, to be led by the National League of Cities and its president, Mayor Ron Loveridge of Riverside, California, will explore best practices of communities and how HUD policies, both in fair housing enforcement and supporting and funding sustainable development, can promote greater immigrant integration.

If the nations of the world work collaboratively to promote inclusion and equality, we have the opportunity to lift the standard of living for billions of families across the globe.


March 5, 2010
World Urban Forum 2010: "Our Urban Future"

Adolfo Carrion, White House Director of Urban Affairs

At the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, General Motors unveiled “The Futurama” exhibit, a captivating model that displayed a vision for the not-so-distant “future” of 1960. Visitors to the exhibit, most of whom did not own cars, were left in awe of the “ideal city of tomorrow,” imagining themselves riding in a vehicle amidst breathtaking skyscrapers on concrete multi-lane highways, speeding toward a previously untouchable countryside with a sense of personal freedom.

The exhibit proved prescient, perhaps inspirational, but with many unforeseen and adverse effects on the American city. Today, our cities are faced with overdevelopment that has simultaneously damaged our environment, isolated low-income communities in the urban core, and maintained an unsustainable economic model.

Government has a responsibility to make smart investments and encourage smart planning. We can no longer continue developing our cities and metros with 20th century plans. We need to fundamentally change the pattern of urban development to reflect the way people live – a 21st century vision based on new realities, both in America and around the world.

By mid-century, 70% of the world’s population, approximately 6.4 billion people, will live in cities and metros. There will also be 27 megacities with populations greater than 10 million, and that doesn’t just include Tokyo, New York, London, and Paris; it also includes Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Seoul, Buenos Aires, and Lagos.

President Obama understands the importance of rising to these challenges today, because tomorrow will be too late. He understands that urban and metropolitan areas are the engines of our national and global economy, and will be the foundation of a more sustainable future. That’s why on February 19, 2009, the President took a bold step toward realizing a new vision by signing an Executive Order that created the White House Office of Urban Affairs.

Our new urban agenda will focus on making regions and urban areas more economically competitive, environmentally sustainable, and expand opportunity for everyone. And our new approach will no longer look at urban problems in isolation. Instead, it will coordinate federal investments to address the reality at the local level, encouraging local leaders to develop comprehensive strategies to build strong regional economies, responsible and sustainable infrastructure, and opportunity-rich communities that bridge the social and economic divide.

I am thrilled to join the senior United States delegation to UN-HABITAT’s Fifth World Urban Forum because for President Obama, the Forum is about innovation, sharing ideas, listening to best practices, and building consensus on how, as global partners, we can most sustainably and inclusively plan our future.

March 4, 2010

Secretary Shaun Donovan

The United States has a commitment to strengthening the global economy by contributing to a robust sustainability agenda, embracing a greener future, and solidifying working relationships with our partners around the global community. Upon entering the White House, President Obama immediately put forth an effort to establish an international agenda that addresses the challenges of rapid urbanization and its economic impact on communities.

To demonstrate restored U.S. leadership and collaboration on urban, housing and sustainability issues on the world stage, the administration has made it a priority to develop a strong presence at events such as UN World Habitat Day 2009 and the upcoming World Urban Forum V (WUF), being held March 22-26, 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. HUD hosted UN World Habitat Day 2009 on behalf of the Obama Administration and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan will serve as the head of the U.S. Delegation for WUF. The Delegation consists of representatives from HUD, the State Department, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the White House Office of Urban Affairs.

The first World Urban Forum, established by the United Nations, was held in Nairobi in 2002 and is now considered the world’s premiere international conference on urban issues. The forum’s primary focus has been on a common challenge faced by the world today: rapid urbanization, the need for safe and secure housing, and environmentally-friendly, sustainable urban growth and development.

The World Urban Forum is a biennial conference that draws 10,000 to 15,000 participants, ranging from government officials to students. This event provides opportunities for formal and informal discussion on urban issues. This year’s theme is “The Right to the City: Bridging the Urban Divide.