A step forward for smart growth: Senate advances Livable Communities Act

Downtown intersection, originally uploaded by Complete Streets.

Building local capacity to plan for growth and development in ways that cut traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect rural areas and green space, revitalize urban centers, and create more affordable homes just makes sense.

Today, the Senate moved forward a bill that would provide federal resources to help make that happen.

The Livable Communities Act, passed out of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee this morning, would establish a number of grant programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would give local decision makers in all kinds of towns and cities the resources they need to pursue the livable communities their residents want, including:

  • A Comprehensive Planning Grant Program that would fund planning activities aimed at integrating transportation, housing, economic development, and environmental issues;
  • A Challenge Grant Program that would fund the implementation of projects, programs, or policies identified in these integrated regional plans;
  • A Small and Rural Communities Grant Program that would set aside 15% of funds under both the grant programs above for small and rural communities; and
  • A Regeneration Planning Grant Demonstration Program that would provide funding for communities that have lost population and are coping with widespread housing abandonment to develop sustainable strategies for reclaiming vacant properties.

The Act would also put in place the office at HUD that would administer these programs, and coordinate the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities. (More information on this Partnership can be found through the Initiative for Sustainable Communities and States.)

The Livable Communities Act is now poised to move to the Senate floor, a victory that was only made possible by the letters, emails, and calls from residents, mayors, and organizations – from small towns in Montana to struggling cities in Ohio to growing regions in Oregon – made to their Senators in favor of the bill. Thanks to this outpouring of support, localities interested in pursuing smart growth goals are now one step closer to having a new arsenal of tools to do so.