New White House actions on equitable community development

Building on its earlier series of executive orders on advancing racial equity and supporting underserved communities (EO 13985 and 14091), the Biden administration has announced a series of interagency actions and principles to strengthen equitable urban development. The proposed actions address federal infrastructure investment, land use, housing, and regional planning policies.

The south lawn of the White House includes a fountain ringed with red flowers
Flickr photo by Gage Skidmore

New ICIC actions

Formed in 2022, the Interagency Community Investment Committee (ICIC) is a coalition of agencies—Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, and the Small Business Administration—tasked with aligning federal investments to both support economic growth and reduce economic disparities in historically underserved communities. Specifically, ICIC coordinates complementary efforts to strengthen community financial institutions, scale small business growth and entrepreneurship, improve financial health and inclusion, and build community facilities and infrastructure.

ICIC’s newly announced actions look to better align federal investments and technical assistance to maximize community impact, strengthen support systems for small businesses and rural and disadvantaged communities, improve data collection and analysis of federal community investment flows, and expand the CDFI sector in disadvantaged communities. They set the stage both for continued expansion of ICIC membership as well as future actions that will seek to further engage the public sector in order to scale impact.

Actions of particular interest include:

  1. Improve the alignment of federal investments to strengthen community impact including, but not limited to, increasing the flexibility of State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds funds to better complement and avoid duplicating Community Development Block Grants, and developing implementation guidance for HUD’s recent “income and asset” rule under the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016. 
  2. Leverage the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Partners Network to collaborate between the Treasury Department, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service to share information on how more rural communities can leverage State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds for affordable housing development.
  3. Expand access in underserved and tribal communities to the joint Community Development Financial Institution assistance initiative between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, and encouraging private sector investors and Community Development Financial Institutions to better understand the metrics that could best support market development and secondary market access in the communities they serve.

Recommended actions for federal agencies on equitable urban development

A policy memorandum released simultaneously with the announcement of ICIC actions includes a series of recommended interagency actions alongside newly formulated principles to guide equitable development. The broad-based recommendations are intended to inform not only urban community and economic development but also programs related to housing, community facilities and amenities, transportation, climate adaptation and resilience, water and energy infrastructure, community finance and business development, and other community-facing investments.

Recommendations of particular interest include:

  1. Rental and homeownership opportunities, with a particular focus on preventing displacement, building wealth through homeownership, and ensuring community investments have broad-based benefits.
  2. Increased federal support for investments in institutions that deliver affordable lending to underserved communities and businesses, such as Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) and Community Development Financial Institutions. 
  3. Work to encourage the adoption of zoning and land use reforms to incentivize and lift exclusionary barriers to higher-density, mixed-income, and mixed-use development that results in construction of more housing units throughout a city and region, investment in civic infrastructure, and support for local businesses. 
  4. Actions geared towards prioritizing early and meaningful public engagement on projects with specific impacts in urban communities. 
  5. Lowering barriers for underserved communities to compete for federal grants through technical assistance, threshold changes, and new grant opportunities for early-stage planning and administrative capacity building.

Generalizable principles of equitable development

Finally, the interagency memorandum includes a newly-developed set of generalizable principles intended to guide equitable urban development for federal and other governmental agencies as well as the nonprofit and public sectors. Developed in concert with scholars and practitioners who have led efforts to advance equitable development, the six principles lay out a simple framework to be embedded in processes, policies, and programs that aim to meet the needs of all communities, with a particular focus on underserved communities and populations. 

In brief, the principles call for:

  1. Expanding access to resources for underserved communities
  2. Building community wealth
  3. Investing in a community’s existing strengths
  4. Empowering community voice and vision
  5. Responding to multiple areas of community need
  6. Measuring and expanding upon what works

The final word

The administration’s above actions and recommendations are largely in alignment with our mission, strategic plan, and new programmatic priorities. Many of their actions and recommendations directly support our advocacy efforts to encourage diverse, dense development near transit that create pathways to housing and enhance access to community resources. LOCUS will continue to follow actions like these and identify changes relevant to our work.