In March and April of 2009, MPC and the Washington D.C.-based Center for Housing Policy held listening sessions in Atlanta and Minneapolis-St. Paul, to engage local stakeholders in conversation about obstacles and opportunities to coordinating housing, transportation and workforce policy.
While the Minneapolis session took place before the U.S. Secretaries of Housing and Transportation announced their interagency commitment to sustainable communities, both sessions were geared toward promoting and informing this kind of leadership at the national level, so as to bolster and encourage local efforts. Participants highlighted the benefits of coordinated planning and investments, including environmentally sustainable communities that have access to homes, jobs, transit, and amenities. Attendees also pointed out planning across jurisdictional borders facilitates public infrastructure investments that link housing opportunities with job centers, while at the same time reduce commute times and traffic. In contrast, it was noted, high infrastructure costs are driven by dispersed, sprawling housing. They agreed sensible policy coordination provides incentives to employers to locate in a particular region, which creates jobs and economic opportunity.
Attendees highlighted some model initiatives, including the Greenway corridor and Council of Mayors in the Twin Cities, and the Livable Communities Initiative and partnership between MARTA and the Atlanta Development Authority to encourage development around transit stations.
After a briefing on various employer efforts to promote "live near work" and "live near transit," including Employer-Assisted Housing, participants concurred that the involvement of the business community tends to fast-track local efforts. For instance, in the Twin Cities, local businesses played a key role in supporting a tax increase to fund transit. The Schwan Food Company and Mayo Clinic were very involved in supporting housing initiatives in Marshall and Rochester, Minn. In Atlanta, Emory University has been a leader on workforce housing and transit opportunities. Participants also acknowledged private sector leadership can encourage elected officials to make hard choices and work interjurisdictionally.
Discussions also explored opportunities for change at the federal level that could facilitate coordination at the local level. Participants agreed it would be helpful to have a vision and set of objectives for federal transportation investments, as well as a streamlined process with greater flexibility. Conversations touched on opportunities for incentives rewarding coordinated planning, and regulations, such as linking eligibility for funding to coordination or inclusion of mixed-income housing. One participant suggested tying transportation investments to climate change (reducing vehicle miles traveled) and healthcare (rating the health benefits of reduced emissions and increased walking). Participants also endorsed a “fix it first” approach, prioritizing maintenance and improvements over new infrastructure development.
Local partners concluded the days' discussions by inviting on going dialogue and partnership, with a special emphasis on both interagency discussions and the engagement of employers through EAH and other venues. Participants were encouraged to join the federal Transportation 4 America campaign, advocating for investment in a world-leading sustainable transportation system with national transportation objectives. This includes investing in infrastructure to support walking and biking, and repairing existing highways, bridges and transit.
The Minneapolis partners were Transit for Livable Communities, Urban Land Institute-Minnesota, Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers, and the Regional Council of Mayors.
Local partners in Atlanta were Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Livable Communities Coalition, and Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC).
More information about the Transportation 4 America campaign is available at www.t4america.org and contact information about engaging the business community through EAH is at http://www.reachillinois.org/contact.asp. MPC will continue to work in Illinois, Atlanta, Minneapolis and other strategic communities to engage employers in these local policy efforts.
MPC's write-up highlights key take-aways from the listening sessions, identifies policy advances already addressing these barriers, and point to upcoming opportunities to further improve housing-transportation coordination.
The Center for Housing Policy has published two policy briefs based on information from these sessions.