Changing Federal Policy on Housing, Transportation and Environment: One Step Forward, One Step Back

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It’s good to see our federal government recognizing that housing, transportation and economic development are inextricably linked. What should have been obvious to every administration since, oh Grover Cleveland, is now coming to fruition. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd has introduced legislation that would encourage sustainable development in its many facets. Great, right? Sure. But the same day Dodd announced the aforementioned initiative, he bent to populist opinion and released this statement on Cash for Clunkers: “Consumers and car dealerships alike have benefited from this successful initiative,” said Dodd. “In Connecticut alone, nearly $9 million in vouchers have been requested. The program is working far better than anyone anticipated and now we will be able to continue to help families and consumers, boost the economy, and take the most polluting vehicles off the road.”

If you haven’t been following, Cash for Clunkers has been popular (not surprising) but has come under increasing criticism from anti-spending conservatives and environmentalists alike.

Statement on Initiative to coordinate federal housing, transportation and environmental policies, from Senator Dodd’s website:

Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) today introduced legislation to help towns and regions across the country plan and implement development projects that integrate their community’s needs for transportation, housing, land use, and economic development.

By encouraging sustainable development at the local, regional, and federal level, the Livable Communities Act will help communities cut traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption, protect green spaces, create more affordable housing, and revitalize existing Main Streets and urban centers. Dodd’s legislation is cosponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Dan Akaka (D-HI).

“As our communities grow, people are commuting longer distances on more crowded roadways,” said Dodd. “Those are precious hours they could be spending with their families, and precious dollars wasted on gas. We must change the way we plan for the future of our communities and tackle these challenges with a coordinated strategy.”

The Livable Communities Act will:

  • Create competitive planning grants that towns and regions can use to create comprehensive long-term plans that integrate transportation, housing, land use, and economic development.
  • Create challenge grants that towns and regions can use to implement these long-term plans through investments in public transportation, affordable housing, complete streets, transit-oriented development, and brownfield redevelopment.
  • Establish a federal Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to administer and oversee the Livable Communities grant programs;
  • Establish a federal Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities that will include representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies to coordinate federal sustainable development policies.

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