The federal government is trying a new way to stop sprawl.
Four initiatives in Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico, and California have been selected to receive technical assistance through the relatively new Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which is a joint effort of HUD, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Launched last March, the interagency partnership was formed to promote sustainable land use, development, and climate change goals through coordinated housing and transportation planning and funding. Federal officials say the alliance will ultimately give Americans greater access to affordable housing and public transit options while mitigating the environmental impact of urban development.
Now that rhetoric is becoming reality. Each of the following programs, chosen from more than 100 applicants, is slated to receive $65,000 worth of contractor resources and technical assistance through EPA’s Smart Growth Implementation program. EPA will take the lead on this effort, which focuses largely on land use patterns, with HUD and DOT lending additional staff support and resources.
Louisville, Ky. Sustainability experts will work with local officials to retrofit and transform an existing suburban community into a vibrant center offering greater pedestrian, bicycling, and public transportation options.
Montgomery County, Md. Community benchmarking will be established to measure how land use changes for commercial and multi-family buildings influence energy consumption in this Washington, D.C., suburb. Data will be used to develop strategies for reaching local, state, and national climate change goals.
Las Cruces, N.M. Federal assistance will focus on ways to reinvigorate a struggling, low-income commercial corridor without causing gentrification and displacement of existing residents and businesses.
California. A statewide framework will be created to guide local California jurisdictions in determining which combination of greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies, smart growth practices, and sustainability policies are best for their communities.
“This year, for the first time ever, HUD and DOT will join EPA to coordinate transportation and housing issues with our environmental work,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said during a recent, three-city Sustainable Communities tour involving officials from all three agencies, as well as the White House Office on Urban Affairs. “Local governments and developers will have more of the support they need to build communities with affordable housing, low-cost transportation options, maximum environmental benefits, and minimal environmental impacts.”
EPA also has launched a new tool to help local governments figure out specific zoning code and land use ordinance fixes they can make to improve access to affordable housing, provide additional low-cost transportation options, preserve community character, and protect the local environment. This tool is available at http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/essential_fixes.htm.
Jenny Sullivan is a senior editor covering architecture, design, and community planning for BUILDER.