HUD’s Washington DC headquarters. Photo by Flickr user matturick.
The first conference report of the FY 2012 appropriations process – which includes funding for both the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) – passed both the House and the Senate on Thursday.
The bill included funding to maintain the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at HUD, which will continue to coordinate federal policy with DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency. Together the three agencies compose the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. By coordinating policy, the Partnership helps make federal investments more effective and efficient.
However, the bill does not include funds for future rounds of Sustainable Communities Initiative grants. Providing grants to help local communities plan for future growth is one of the most beneficial activities of the Partnership agencies. Grant opportunities that have already been announced will still be available.
Many communities are interested in these practices, but some are simply unable to do so without help. In a story this week about Fort Collins, Colorado, which has not received a grant from the Partnership, the New York Times highlighted how difficult planning can be:
Even the mechanics of the planning process, using experts in transportation and economics paid by the city, posed a daunting hurdle, not to mention how to pay for the roads and redevelopment that planning usually promises.
:We could do an urban design plan, but we didn’t have the money to pay for any of it,” said [Fort Collins’] mayor, Karen Weitkunat. “It put a reality check on what we were here to do.”
With the help of volunteers and Colorado State University, Fort Collins has drafted an ambitious and comprehensive plan to direct growth and support its economy. The Partnership helps other communities do similar work.
This week’s bill also includes $500 million in funding for DOT’s TIGER grant program, which funds multi-modal transportation as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Read more about the legislation here.