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Regional and state leaders recognize the first round of Sustainable Communities Initiative funding is only the beginning

With little notice and even less wrangling, in March, regional Chicagoland leaders -- in coordination with the state --  responded in a unified voice to a request for comments issued by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on its new Sustainable Communities Initiative.  In the months before and after this joint effort, this solidarity has gone far beyond the crafting of a public statement to also include the creation of new programs, policies and opportunities.

Many of the voices reflected in these efforts include municipal leaders pursuing interjurisictional solutions, as well as the full range of agencies supporting their trailblazing.

By way of background, to gather input on how the new Sustainable Communities Initiative “should be structured in order to have the most meaningful impact on sustainable regional planning,” HUD’s request underscored:

a)     a “top priority of President Barack Obama is to build economically competitive, healthy, opportunity-rich communities,” and

b)     the primary goal of the Initiative  “is to support multi-jurisdictional regional planning efforts that integrate housing, economic development, and transportation decision-making in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of economic growth, social equity, and environmental impact simultaneously.”

Informing and reacting to the Obama administration’s commitment to these issues, many of the entities responding jointly to the HUD request for comments have already been coordinating through such partnerships as the Federal Investment Reform Initiative,  Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative, and Regional ARRA Coordinating Council.

In 2010 alone,  there’s been additional progress fostering sustainable and competitive regions.  Here’s a sampling of recent activity:

While the first round of dollars budgeted through HUD for SCI was $150 million in both 2010 and 2011, Sec. Shaun Donovan has stated that the priorities of this Initiative – to enable “multi-jurisdictional partnerships to put in place the policies, codes, tools and critical capital investments to achieve sustainable development patterns” are reflected in HUD’s entire budget. And beyond HUD, in 2011, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation is also creating an Office of Livable Communities, with a $527 million budget “to improve local and state project planning and development capabilities…”

To learn more about the national direction and local innovation, it’s not too late to register for MPC’s April 27 Roundtable with HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative Director Shelley Poticha and local leaders.

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