Coordinating housing and transit plans in Salt Lake City

Bringing together housing policies and transportation plans is a lot like making sure the right hand knows what the left is doing. It helps make the most of public investments and means separate agencies can work together toward shared goals.

It’s a concept that planners in Salt Lake City, Utah have embraced. The city is currently developing a Regional Housing Plan, which will integrate housing recommendations with regional transportation plans and identify locations to concentrate financial and educational efforts.

To help with the plan, Salt Lake City received a $5 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grant from the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2010. The grant is part of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities – a collaboration between HUD, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation – which is working to coordinate plans like Salt Lake City’s at the federal level.

The grant is being used to develop a regional planning tool that makes it possible for communities to compare different scenarios for development projects. The tool helps the community and developers see the economic and environmental impact that different development choices will have on the community.

“Now that Salt Lake City has received the HUD Sustainable Communities grant that coordination of housing and transportation is really taking off,” said Kathy Olson, transit oriented developer at the Utah Transit Authority. Olson was speaking about how to integrate transportation, land use, and housing planning at the annual Rail~volution conference in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. Sarah Kline, Policy Director of Reconnecting America, Smart Growth America’s coalition partner and co-chair of the Transportation for America campaign, moderated the panel of local leaders and planning experts. Kline was joined by Olson as well as Jane Lim Yap of Kittleson & Associates and Rebecca Cohen, Senior Research Director at the Center for Housing Policy.

In her discussion of the different tools available for communities to integrate housing and transportation, Cohen, a national housing policy expert, had a grim reminder for the gathered audience: the Partnership for Sustainable Communities is under attack in Congress. The House of Representatives voted to eliminate funding for the program, and though the Senate voted to maintain funding at near-current levels, the appropriations process is still ongoing.

On a national scale, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities is helping urban, suburban, and rural communities — like Salt Lake City and hundreds of others — to obtain their goals of inter-agency coordination in order to plan and implement sustainable and economically thriving communities.

Voice your support for the Partnership: click here to send a letter to your Representatives.

Photo: vxla/Flickr