Federal Policy Priorities

Decisions by Congress and the White House can have lasting impacts on our communities, and Smart Growth America advocates for better policies at the federal level to help us make neighborhoods great together. These are Smart Growth America’s current federal policy priorities:

1. Support stronger, more economically competitive communities.
Help regions cut costs, become more effective, and create more affordable places to live, work, and raise families by supporting funding and technical assistance to coordinate transportation, housing, and environmental needs.

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities between the U.S. Department o f Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in cooperation with several other agencies and the White House, is an unprecedented effort to coordinate programs across agencies to support local leaders who want to create communities that are more energy efficient, and provide better housing, transportation, and economic opportunities for all Americans.

  • EPA’s Smart Growth Program has successfully provided hundreds of towns and cities across the country with the cutting edge research and technical assistance they need to strengthen their competitiveness and grow sustainably. EPA Brownfields program helps communities clean up and transform blighted, polluted areas into vibrant places.
  • HUD’s Sustainability office supports sustainable regional planning efforts across the country.
  • U.S. DOT’s livability initiative helps to create more affordable transportation choices for Americans, improve the outcomes of transportation investments, and better link HUD’s affordable housing investments to transportation networks.

Current legislation that would support these goals:

2. Ensure a more accountable and safer transportation system
The federal Surface Transportation bill, which is scheduled for authorization this year, is an opportunity to create a transportation system that is more fiscally accountable and performance-based. Restructuring the program could better support transportation investments with multiple benefits: job creation, reduced oil consumption, more efficient ways to get around and better-maintained, safer roads, bridges, and public transportation systems.

Current legislation that supports these goals:

  • The Safe Streets Act (S.2004/H.R.2468), which requires state and regional transportation agencies to consider the needs of all users when building or rebuilding our roads, would create safer streets for children, people with disabilities, motorists, and others.

3. Improve programs that waste taxpayer dollars & encourage costly development

  • Make better use of current federal dollars to encourage private sector reinvestment in our communities through targeted tax and financing incentives to create more jobs locally and save taxpayers’ money.
  • Eliminate federal programs and policies that encourage wasteful spending and bankrupt our communities, and change other programs that could benefit our local economies. The federal government plays a massive role in subsidizing and enabling all kinds of development in our communities – both good and bad. With ballooning deficits, it is critical that we stop subsidizing wasteful spending that drives development away from our towns and hampers our economic viability.

4. Create Opportunity in Underserved Communities

  • Bring grocery stores to underserved, low-income communities across the country through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative Act, which would create financing opportunities for healthy retail food options through USDA.
  • Transform neighborhoods of extreme poverty and distressed housing into vibrant, economically viable communities through the Choice Neighborhoods initiative. Building on the success of HUD’s HOPE VI program, this initiative aims to create neighborhoods that are safer and provide the educational and economic opportunities people need to succeed, through investments in housing, high-performance schools, health and other services, and transportation.

5. Protect our water
Protecting water sources is one of the major tenets of smart growth development, and although many decisions about water quality, water infrastructure and flooding or drought are made by local jurisdictions, Congress and the federal government play a significant role, as well. Smart Growth America advocates for federal policies that protect water sources. Read more >>

6. Revitalize Communities
Vacant and abandoned properties contain enormous, untapped economic potential and recognizing these kinds of properties as valuable assets is a crucial part of reviving flagging economies. Congress and the federal government can play a critical role in incentivizing the private sector to invest in our communities and redevelop vacant and abandoned properties. Read more >>