I remember this turn of phrase from one of those classic cardboard motivational signs that adorned the classroom walls of my elementary school. Its clever inversion has stuck with me all these years. And it came to mind this past weekend as I was thinking about both the holiday being celebrated and the recently released Sustainable Communities Initiative grants from HUD.
What’s the connection? Well, as America hit its 234th birthday this past Sunday, I found myself thinking about what our country will look like on its 244th, or its 264th (when we’ll be in the midst of the year used as the focus of Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) forthcoming long-range comprehensive regional plan), or even the tercentennial in 2076. If we want to be the country and Chicago region that will equip us for a successful future in our challenging modern world, we are going to need better planning and coordination. The good news is that HUD has created the Sustainable Communities Initiative to improve regional planning efforts and increase state, regional and local capacity to incorporate livability and sustainability into these efforts.
In late June, two notable Notices of Funding Availability (NOFA) were released. One is for HUD’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program, which will support metropolitan and multijurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation and infrastructure investments. The aim is to foster regional plans across the country that will help build sustainable communities. The applicant must be an appropriate consortium of units of government and other agencies. Except in rural areas, the local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) -- in metro Chicago that's CMAP -- must be part of the consortium. This emphasis on the role of the MPO is a step in the right direction by HUD and hopefully such recognition of the importance of regional planning will continue and be strengthened through this program.
The second NOFA is for HUD’s Community Challenge Planning Grant Program, which focuses on individual jurisdictions and more localized planning efforts. Ideally, any activities and strategies applied for under this program would align with an existing regional plan or regional planning efforts. To that end, in the Chicago region, CMAP is taking steps to coordinate with local jurisdictions that intend to apply for these challenge grants. I believe that this type of coordination between MPOs and local jurisdictions will be key to the long-term success of these two exciting new grant programs.
The challenge grant NOFA was issued jointly with DOT’s TIGER II Planning Grants, marking the first time HUD and DOT have worked together on a joint grant program. This collaboration will allow better integration of housing and transportation efforts, and hopefully will be the first of many joint efforts under the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. These new programs and joint efforts give me reason for optimism as I ponder the future of our region and country.