New report directs federal housing and transportation leaders to work together - Metropolitan Planning Council

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New report directs federal housing and transportation leaders to work together

MPC's policy agenda and the metropolitan region will clearly benefit if the Obama administration continues to advance such recommendations.

The 2008 presidential campaign elevated public consciousness about the many bridges and roads "to nowhere" that are supported by government dollars. A central objective for MPC and of the growing number of individuals utilizing public transit as their main mode of travel, is to ensure transportation investment indeed supports people's ability to go to important places such as work, the grocery store, local theater, or library. Such sensible commuting goals require, of course, that these kinds of appealing destinations are developed near transit stops and that a portion of the surrounding homes are truly affordable to the local workforce and others on limited, fixed incomes. In reality, however, many transit destinations with vibrant retail and recreational opportunities quickly become too pricey for modest-income households -- unless local governments plan for and insist on affordability requirements.

Responding to policy advocate and constituent concerns -- especially from people who cannot find affordable housing opportunities near public transit -- congressional leaders directed the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Transit Authority to collaborate on recommendations to support their agencies' ability to work together.

"Better Coordination of Transportation and Housing Programs to Promote Affordable Housing Near Transit ," which was released in August, is getting traction in Washington D.C. MPC's 2009 policy agenda, as well as the success of most of its current projects, will more likely be realized if Congress and the new Obama administration continue to move forward on these recommendations.

While the ideas in this document represent a common sense approach, they nonetheless suggest a major overhaul of "business as usual" in D.C. For example, the report suggests HUD and DOT should not only coordinate their own plans and investments, but also encourage localities receiving their dollars to do the same. If this had been the case 10 years ago, projects like Reconnecting Neighborhoods -- bringing transit and retail options to the new mixed-income communities created in Chicago as part of the Plan for Transformation -- would not have been needed (as the housing goals of the Plan would have been supported by these transportation linkages as well).Or, in high job growth suburban areas where housing is too expensive for the local workforce, there would be homes available for the growing number of employer-assisted housing programs.

Already, these HUD-DOT recommendations are resonating around the country, as a variety of local agencies draft their own 2009 work plans. Illinois ' Affordable Housing Task Force , for example, which is charged by the Comprehensive Housing and Planning Act to draft an annual Comprehensive Plan, reviewed this document at its December meeting. Responding to the report's suggestion that financial incentives should be made available to encourage the location of affordable housing near transit (through existing and new programs alike), representatives from the Ill. Dept. of Transportation and the Ill. Housing Development Authority joined business leaders and other advocates in a dynamic discussion about opportunities throughout the state to support and invest in good plans and good proposals.

To get more engaged in advancing these recommendations at the federal level, visit the Transportation for America Web site . Here in Illinois , please learn more about how you can support the implementation of Reconnecting Neighborhoods, become involved in employer-assisted housing, or otherwise garner support for good planning and housing development proposals by visiting MPC online at www.metroplanning.org, or contacting Robin Snyderman at 312.863.6017 or rsnyderman@metroplanning.org.

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For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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