Testifying for Livable Communities
Reconnecting America board member Andriana Abariotes and Bob Murphy, the Mayor of Lakewood, Co., testified Thursday before the House Committee on Financial Services in support of the Livable Communities Act.
The remarks of Abariotes, who is executive director of the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and Mayor Murphy were well received. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) was particularly interested in the work being done in the Twin Cities, and Mayor Murphy discussed the TOD planning study for the West Corridor. The mayor brought along some of the West Corridor TOD planning studies developed with assistance from Reconnecting America.
In prepared remarks, Abariotes told the committee, "I am here today to talk about the relationship between the provisions laid out in the Livable Communities Act and community development activities."
Abariotes focused on LISC's Building Sustainable Communities initiative, and in particular the work on the new Central Corridor light rail line in Minnesota, in which Reconnecting America has been engaged.
On the topic of the Livable Communities Act, Abariotes encouraged the representatives to increase the role of community-based non-profit organizations by ensuring that a broad range of stakeholders are involved and their participation begins in the earliest stages.
She also encouraged the members to retain provisions that seek to promote the integration of low-income and affordable housing planning in the act’s Comprehensive Regional Planning Grant and the Community Challenge Grant programs.
Abariotes also emphasized the plight of rural areas and encouraged the committee to keep the Senate's provision setting aside 15 percent of grant dollars for rural communities.
"The type of integration of housing, land-use, transportation, and environmental issues in planning and development efforts is critically important to the health of local and regional communities," Abariotes said. "However, without connecting those planning efforts to neighborhood-based planning and development activity already happening in neighborhoods, the benefits will not likely touch the moderate and low income residents and communities of color served by the community development industry. The Livable Communities Act moves us in this direction and LISC is grateful that this committee is considering this innovative piece of legislation."
Mayor Murphy pointed to the work on the new West Corridor light rail line in Colorado as an example of the unique opportunties for community building and job creation as well as its daunting challenges.
"Simply put, transit and the communities we design around the new stations have the potential to create equal access to opportunity for everyone: enhanced access to employment and educational opportunities; more housing choices; improved access to medical care and healthy food options; reduced transportation costs; better access to regional amenities," he said.