Message from Victor Dover and John Norquist: HUD Sustainability Program at risk

We want to alert you to an impending threat to some relatively small but important programs that are on the chopping block in DC. Yesterday morning NY Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman warned about cuts to programs that can build a stronger future for America.

There may be no better example than the attack on Sustainability planning grant programs. These grants fund planning that can save energy and increase productivity in communities across America.

The House Appropriations Committee’s 2011-12 budget proposal completely eliminates the HUD, USDOT and EPA Sustainability programs. The new GOP majority also plans to try to rescind dollars already awarded by the Sustainability and TIGER grant programs. The Senate (which retains a Democratic majority) and President Barack Obama would have to agree to the cuts, but the Sustainability programs are at great risk as other appropriations with organized interest groups supporting them also face reductions. The highway lobby and the housing industry, for example, will be aggressively defending what they see as their interests.

The challenge is two-fold for CNU members:

  1. Be sure recent sustainability grants are used for good urban projects, and
  2.  Save the Sustainability program in the future.

Just take a look at the sustainable communities challenge grants issued in 2010 by the HUD Sustainable team:

 FY2010 Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grantees 

FY2010 Community Challenge/TIGER II Grantees


CNU members, this is your chance to make a difference in your community.

First, call or email your congressperson and senator regardless of political party and tell them to save the Sustainability grants.

This is an opportunity for you to influence and improve planning in our communities, and to advance HUD’s efforts to create more efficient and valuable urban places.

Second, redouble your efforts to get involved with planning in your region. At the end of January, Shelley Poticha spoke at the Seaside Institute, urging new urbanists and smart growth advocates to get involved. She said communities across America want and need design and planning advice. “I just issued 40 mil of grants to change the codes of this country. Get off your butts and write them,” she said, imploring CNU designers to help local, regional governments get the planning and coding right.

A lot of the stimulus transportation money ended up in bad road expansion projects in part because the environmental and transit movements didn’t push hard enough for better outcomes. The same thing could happen with the Sustainability grants if we don’t get involved with implementation. Look at the list and see if grants are issued in your area and get involved if you can. This is both and opportunity and a duty to help make this program successful.

Saving the Sustainability programs will be difficult. CNU is also working hard on other issues that effect design and planning such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s bias against mixed use development. We are also working with our allies at the Institute of Transportation Engineers to change Federal and state road standards to allow urban street types in urban contexts. CNU needs your help. Get involved today!


Victor Dover and John Norquist

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