Monthly Archives: August 2011

Obama urges Congress to move quickly on transportation bill

Speaking from the White House Rose Garden today, President Barack Obama urged Congress to move quickly to pass legislation to fund transportation projects.

“Now is the time for Congress to extend the transportation bill, keep our workers on the job,” he said. “Now is the time to put our country before party and give certainty to the people who are trying to get by. There’s work to done. There are workers ready to do it. That’s why I expect Congress to act immediately.”

Smart Growth America President Geoff Anderson attended President Obama’s speech today and was encouraged by his push to fund transportation projects now.


Gov. Glendening to kickoff planning workshop in Ranson, WV

With help from grants from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, the City of Ranson, WV, will gather city officials, residents, business leaders and a team of international consultants for a weeklong workshop to help improve the town’s economic development, transit options and community livability through strategic community planning and infrastructure improvements.

Governor Parris Glendening, President of the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, will deliver the keynote address at the kickoff event for the weeklong planning workshop at 7 PM on Sept. 8, 2011 at Washington High School. Gov. Glendening will be joined by federal officials from DOT, EPA and HUD, and the meeting is open to the public.


Cleveland area land bank continues to innovate

Last year, we wrote about a first-of-its-kind agreement forged by the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Land Bank and Fannie Mae, the national mortgage lender that owns dozens of foreclosed properties in Ohio. The Cuyahoga County Land Bank, like other land banks across the country, is a quasi-governmental entity with the capacity to attain and manage vacant properties in the greater Cleveland area.

Through that partnership, Fannie Mae agreed to sell its most troubled foreclosed homes to the Land Bank for a nominal fee, and to help cover the costs of demolition for properties that were too far gone for the land bank to salvage.

Since that time, the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has formalized relationships with a handful of additional lenders. Bank of America and Wells Fargo both joined the group this summer, pledging to donate vacant and foreclosed homes to the Land Bank and to help pay demolition costs ranging from $3,500 to $7,500.


HUD launches development of a national Housing and Transportation Affordability Index

Crossposted from our coalition partner Center for Neighborhood Technology.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) just announced that it has awarded a two-year contract to Manhattan Strategies Group (MSG) and subcontractor Center for Neighborhood Technology to create a national housing and transportation affordability index.

“Affordability is much more than just paying the mortgage, it involves other costs like transportation, gas, and utilities,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a press release. “The availability of a national affordability index will provide consumers better information about the true costs of a home by accounting for that housing’s proximity to jobs, schools and other services. Our goal with the creation of this housing and transportation index is to provide American families with a tool that can help them save money and have a better understanding of their expenses and household budget.”

As a subcontractor, CNT will use its years of experience in creating the Housing + Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index (and Abogo®) to assist MSG and HUD in exploring how the agency can incorporate this sort of metric into its work.


Smart growth news – August 31

Stat of the Day: The Rise of the Renter
Advertising Age, August 29
One surprise from Census 2010 was the skewed distribution of household growth by age. Except for a small increase in millennial renters, virtually all of the 11 million unit household growth from 2000 to 2010 took place among baby boomer and older households. Towards the end of the decade leading up to the Census, millennials sharply slowed their rate of household formation. Adverse economic conditions meant that millions of them just remained living with their parents.

$1.4 Million Ranson-Charles Town Plan Making Major News
The State Journal (W.Va.), August 31, 2011
Federal grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation will pay for a seven-day series of intense workshops that begins Sept. 8 and will include a bevy of international experts. The end result, Brown said, will be a blueprint that makes Ranson and Charles Town thriving, green, livable communities for the coming century.

City plots plan for vacant properties
The Independent (Ohio), August 29, 2011
Plots of vacant land across the city likely will be turned over to adjacent property owners under the city’s proposed Vacant Land Re-Utilization Program.


Spotlight on Sustainability: Tampa, Florida

Q&A with Randy Goers, Urban Planning Coordinator for the City of Tampa, Florida, Land Development Coordination Division (HUD Community Challenge Grant Recipient) and Smart Growth America.

Smart Growth America: What is the goal of this project?
Randy Goers: The objective of our project is to establish a vision for development in and around downtown, as well as to develop a plan for growth around a major transportation corridor. Like many communities that have grown significantly in recent years, we’ve been reacting to growth and approving it as it comes in. We’re pretty much built out, so new development will be along our corridors. Numerous agencies have to be a part of the approval process, which slows it down and adds costs. In some instances, the added time and costs can be substantial. Then there is also conflict when new development bumps against preexisting residential or historic neighborhoods.


In the wake of Irene, examining how smart growth can help protect communities from floods and other hazards

Can smart growth help communities avoid the catastrophic impacts of flooding? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brought together designers, land use planners, engineers and policy wonks at NOAA’s Silver Spring headquarters last week to examine this question, and to find commonalities and tensions between hazard mitigation techniques and smart growth principles.

“Hazard mitigation” is the technical term for a wide range of urban design, landscape, architectural, land use and engineering practices aimed at reducing exposure to threats like flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfire. This field of practice is closely related to climate change adaptation, or the process of planning ahead for eventualities such as extreme temperatures and sea-level rise.

The experts at last week’s meeting raised several questions about urban planning’s role in hazard mitigation. Should cities require the street level of new buildings to contain nothing more permanent than parking spaces? Can communities be persuaded to envision a post-disaster future by engaging in pre-disaster planning? Is it worth the effort to integrate local comprehensive plans, which are optional, and hazard mitigation plans, which are required?


“Transit Corridors for Sustainable Communities: Planning Transit to Connect the Dots” webinar materials and answers to your questions now available

Thank you to everyone who attended Smart Growth America’s Sustainable Communities Network webinar “Transit Corridors for Sustainable Communities: Planning Transit to Connect the Dots” earlier this week. This webinar was hosted by Smart Growth America, PolicyLink, Reconnecting America, and the National Housing Conference.

Listen in: Click here to view the archived webinar

Speaking on the webinar were Dena Belzer, President of Strategic Economics and partner in the Center for Transit-Oriented Development; Crista M. Gardner, Senior Planner at Portland Metro; and David Johnson AICP, Director of Planning, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. The webinar was moderated by Elizabeth Wampler, Program Associate at Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit-Oriented Development.


Smart growth news – August 30

As Detroit’s offices fill up, suburbs feel pain
The Detroit News, August 29, 2011
When MyInsuranceExpert.com announced last week it is moving its headquarters and 85 workers from Troy to one of the downtown Detroit office buildings bought by entrepreneur Dan Gilbert, the online life insurance brokerage firm joined a growing trend. And most of downtown Detroit’s gain is amounting to some pain for the suburban office market.

‘Land Bank’ Knocks Out Some Foreclosure Problems
NPR, August 30, 2011
Cities have been tearing down crumbling, vacant houses for decades. The money for municipal demolition bills usually comes out of city budgets, but in Cleveland the housing crisis has started to change that equation.

Regional planners to apply for $5 million Sustainable Communities grant
The Tennessean, August 29, 2011
The Metropolitan Planning Organization and other regional planning groups have given notice to the federal government that the coalition intends to apply for a $5 million Sustainable Communities grant.


Smart growth news – August 29

No Public Transit? No Job
Wired, August 29, 2011
“Folks have followed the affordable housing, followed the jobs, but if they lose a job or lose a little bit of income, or if the car breaks down and they can’t afford to fix it, they’re stuck,” said David Goldberg, communications director at Transportation For America, a public transportation advocacy group.

Transit Closing Doors
Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2011
The plan to shut down mass transit was designed to protect a transportation infrastructure that’s more than a century old in some places…”They’ve been upgrading the fan plants and the pump plants little by little,” said Pete Foley, an official with Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents many bus and subway workers. “They upgrade them when they get money, but they don’t get a lot of money.”

GOP House leader Eric Cantor doesn’t like Capital Bikeshare
TBD (D.C.), August 29
Of the three programs Cantor points to [to cut funding], one is bike-sharing programs. The other two options are to eliminate grants to worsted wool manufacturers or the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results program. Capital Bikeshare is less than a year old, but its expansion and success throughout the District has already inspired examples around the country. But what Cantor poses is an existential threat to its existence.