For the third time in two weeks the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced a partnership with another federal program to attempt a new or more efficient approach to housing. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and HUD are undertaking a joint program to promote and fund planning where transportation, housing, and commercial development are coordinated to make more livable, sustainable communities.

The new initiative will combine the efforts of the two cabinet-level departments to award up to $75 million in funding for local planning activities.  $35 million will come from DOT's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II Planning Grants and $40 million from HUD's Sustainable Community Challenge Grant Investments. 

TIGER Planning Grants can be used to plan, prepare, or design surface transportation projects including highways, bridges, transit, railways, ports, or bicycle and pedestrian facilities. One determinant of projects selected for planning grants would be their ultimate eligibility for TIGER construction funding.  HUD's Sustainable Communities Funding is designed to target urban and community planning projects to achieve affordable and sustainable communities. Funds can be used for efforts such as amending or replacing local master plans, or zoning and building codes to promote mixed-use development, affordable housing and the re-use of older buildings for new purposes.  

The interdepartmental collaboration will provide a single point of entry to the funding process for projects that would fall under the two programs and thus avoid two separate grant application procedures that might be on different timelines and with different requirements.

The joint announcement from DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan outlined several types of activities that might benefit from the combined process.  Combined funds could provide support for:

  • Planning activities to support development of affordable housing near transportation by changing zoning ordinances or acquiring land.
  • Changes in local codes and ordinances to permit private sector development of housing located near transportation and retail services.
  • Planning related to the development of mixed-use or transit-oriented development with an affordable housing component.
  • Development of expanded public transportation options including transportation accessible to persons with disabilities and transportation that would link diverse residential areas to areas with employment and educational opportunities.

Planning the development of a freight corridor that would reduce conflicts with residential areas and with passenger and non-motorized traffic. In this example, DOT might fund the transportation planning activities along the corridor, and HUD might fund changes in the zoning code to support appropriate location of freight facilities and route the freight traffic around town centers, residential areas and schools.

The new initiative is an extension of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities announced by President Obama one year ago.  The Partnership is a collaboration among DOT, HUD, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is designed to remove traditional government "silos" between the agencies in order to more efficient provide transportation, land use, environmental, housing, and community development resources. The $75 million is part of $600 million available in TIGER Grant funds and $200 million from HUD's FY2010 budget for its Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities.

Preliminary applications for funding will be due 30 days after the funding notice is published in the Federal Register with full applications due on August 23.  Eligible applicants include state, local, and tribal governments, transit agencies, and port authorities.   

 "This joint effort by DOT and HUD is a giant step toward improved coordination at the state, federal and local levels and reinforces the Obama Administration's commitment to finding better ways to make government work for people," said Vice President Joe Biden. "Together, their investments will strengthen communities by connecting housing and transportation options, increasing economic opportunities, promoting environmental sustainability and improving their overall quality of life."
In the last two weeks, collaborative programs in housing have also been announced between HUD and the Veterans Administration and HUD and banking regulators administering the Community Redevelopment Act.