Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

Talking About Livable Communities

The Livable Communities Act's passage out of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee merits a moment of celebration.

Big cities and small want to protect open space, revitalize Main Streets and urban centers and improve quality of life. But the challenges are often regional in scope, transcending jurisdictional boundaries. Communities often lack the technical resources and capacity to develop regional, integrated solutions.

The Livable Communities Act would provide communities with the resources necesary to plan for and create healthier, more affordable places to live, work, and raise families.

Critical to livable cities is taking advantage of the opportunities that transit-oriented development can provide. Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit-Oriented Development have been in the forefront of efforts to ensure that federal transportation funds are leveraged to achieve national economic development, energy security, social equity and environmental goals.

In May, the Center for Transit-Oriented Development (CTOD), Transportation for America (T4America), the National Housing Conference (NHC), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors hosted a Transit-Oriented Development Financing Forum. Out of that came a recommendation for a credit facility that has been incorporated into the act as passed out of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on Aug. 3.

"These credit enhancements are tools, such as direct loans and loan guarantees, that encourage partnerships between the public and private sector, and leverage non-federal funds to help promote livable communities and enhance the efficiency of transit service," explained Reconnecting America CEO John Robert Smith,  James Corless, director of Transortation for America, and Chris Leinberger, president of LOCUS, in a letter endorsing the amendment to the act.

The Livable Communities Act wold provide grants for comprehensive planning to communities looking to integrate transportation, housing, economic development and environmental issues. It would set aside $3.75 billion over three years for competitive grants to fund implementation of projects identified in these integrated regional plans.

The act would authorize the Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities to bring together the departments of Housing and Urban Development and Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with other federal agencies, to coordinate federal efforts to support development that provides long-term economic and environmental benefits.

And it would create an Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities within the Department of Housing and Urban Development to foster sustainable development, lead sustainability initiatives and provide technical assistance to communities seeking to plan for a more sustainable future.

Passage of the act would establish a framework for key elements of the next surface transportation reauthorization, such as increasing transportation options and giving communities they tools they need to plan successfully.