Tag: Reports

New report calls for examination of federal real estate spending

Federal financing of and spending on real estate impacts millions of Americans on every street, in every neighborhood, town and rural community in the country. From loan guarantees to commercial tax credits, these programs help those most in need pay their rent, help families purchase their first home, and provide financing for commercial development. The federal government impacts where and how homes and even whole neighborhoods are built in the United States.

Federal Involvement in Real Estate: A call for examination surveys this spending, which encompasses approximately $450 billion each year. Through a combination of direct spending and commitments, this funding supports loans and loan guarantees, grants, and tax credits.

This spending has an enormous impact on the U.S. real estate market. Though usually viewed as a “free” market, the U.S. real estate sector is heavily influenced by direct and indirect government intervention. Taken as a whole, these expenditures and investments impact where real estate is developed and what kind of product is built.

Even a cursory analysis reveals this impact is uneven. For example, small multifamily buildings are less likely to receive financing, despite the fact that most renters in the United States live in these smaller buildings. Viewed as whole, federal funds are not targeted to those most in need, are not targeted to strengthen existing communities and are not targeted to places where people have economic opportunities.

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Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative release a new tool for state transportation officials

Faced with revenue shortfalls and shrinking budgets, state transportation officials can employ a wide range of innovative transportation reforms to improve service while making the most of limited funding, according to a new policy and practice report from Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative.

The Innovative DOT: A handbook of policy and practice surveys best practices nationally and takes stock of the ways in which state Departments of Transportation can provide taxpayers and travelers with a better return on their investments and better accessibility to destinations.

“Fundamentally, it’s about looking at all the ways to solve a problem so you can pick the one that provides the most benefits for the least cost—which is essential with budgets so tight,” says Geoffrey Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “Transportation is not an end in and of itself — rather, it’s a path to our nation’s economic prosperity and to a better quality of life for all Americans. Adopting this mindset changes the focus from delivering projects to delivering outcomes.”

The Innovative DOT is broken into eight focus areas, but a number of common themes run through the report. Increasing collaboration between state agencies and local partners, breaking down government silos, “right-sizing” transportation projects, investing in multi-modal solutions and streamlining processes are some of the primary ways state DOTs are extracting more value from limited funds.

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Smart Growth America and TDOT: Mapping out Tennessee’s transportation future

Photo courtesy of Flickr user jimmywayne.

On August 21, Smart Growth America and the Tennessee Department of Transportation released Removing Barriers to Smarter Transportation Investments, a detailed policy analysis of Tennessee’s transportation infrastructure and projects.

Tennessee’s leaders are already looking to the document for guidance. “We now have a road map to a better transportation program that will promote job growth, stronger communities and a cleaner environment while using tax dollars more wisely,” Trip Pollard and Anne Davis, both of the Southern Environmental Law Center, wrote in an op-ed in The Tennesseean.

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Smart growth news – June 13, 2011

Fix it first
Twin Cities Daily Planet, June 9, 2011
A new report shows that our state is spending nearly half of its highway capital on expanding roads and less than the national average on keeping them in good shape. And the national average is pretty discouraging, too. According to the report by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, only four states and the District of Columbia are doing enough to keep good roads good and make bad roads better. Minnesota isn’t among them. The state Department of Transportation has quibbled with some of the study’s Minnesota-specific findings, but its own projections show a near-tripling of highway miles in poor condition over the next two decades.

Repair Priorities
Hawaii Reporter, June 10, 2011
Anybody that’s owned a house knows that keeping up with the maintenance is critical. Patching a small hole in the roof now is a heck of a lot less expensive than ignoring it and having to replace the entire rotten roof down the road. Unsurprisingly, the same applies to our nation’s infrastructure, and specifically the road network that we rely on to get where we are going and move the goods to get our economy humming.

Are the Millennials Driving Downtown Corporate Relocations?
The New Republic, June 9, 2011
In spite of the U.S. Census data for the past decade showing continued job de-centralization, there is now much anecdotal evidence for the just the opposite. The Chicago Crain’s Business Journal reports that companies such as Allstate, Motorola, AT&T, GE Capital, and even Sears are re-considering their fringe suburban locations, generally in stand alone campuses, and may head back to downtown Chicago.

Virginia: Alexandria presents alternative to waterfront plan as protests continue
Washington Post, June 11, 2011
About 200 Alexandria residents marched through Old Town on Saturday and converged on City Hall to protest a $51 million plan to bring hotels and other new development to the city’s waterfront. Opponents of the proposed project, who have organized as Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan, said they want the City Council to consider designs that include more parks, a focus on arts and Alexandria’s history, and have no hotels.

Minnesota: Two St. Croix River bridge plans follow far different approaches
Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 12, 2011
In an era of tight government budgets, it’s wasteful to build a bridge that doesn’t serve multiple purposes, said William Schroeer, of St. Paul, who is policy and research director for Smart Growth America, a nonprofit group that advocates sound economic development strategy. “In this era of $4- and $5-a-gallon gas, to spend money on a bridge that only cars can use — that doesn’t make sense,” he said.

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Repair Priorities raises concerns about state road spending

Smart Growth America’s most recent report, Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and repair roads, was released last week in partnership with Taxpayers for Common Sense. Since then, questions about why states invested over half of repair and expansion funds in new roads between 2004 and 2008 have led to concerns about spending priorities and the financial liabilities states are creating by continuing to expand roads at the cost of repair.

Report: Deferred road repair poses financial liability [American City & County, 6/6/11]

Some states’ habit of spending on new road construction rather than on regular repair have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and costs to repair those roads are rising faster than states can address them… “Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads,” examines road conditions and spending priorities nationwide and recommends changes at both the state and federal levels that the organization says can reduce future liabilities, benefit taxpayers and create a better transportation system.

Could Focusing on Repairs Please Everyone? [National Journal, 6/6/11]

It’s more cost effective to focus on the repairs, even though they may not win mayoral or city council elections…Is there a grand bargain to be struck here? Could a focus–mandated from Congress–on repair and maintenance, instead of new construction, reduce the cost of a surface-transportation bill such that the legislating process could begin in earnest?

Geoff Anderson: Preservation and repair are critical components of reauthorization of our surface transportation bill, and should serve as the foundation of any new bill…As highways deteriorate they become exponentially more expensive to repair. The fiscally responsible approach is to preserve more of our highways in good condition, and to make the needed repairs early—when it costs taxpayers significantly less.


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Smart growth news – June 9, 2011

Report: Deferred road repair poses financial liability
American City and County, June 6, 2011
Some states’ habit of spending on new road construction rather than on regular repair have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and costs to repair those roads are rising faster than states can address them, according to a new report from Washington-based Smart Growth America (SGA) and Taxpayers for Common Sense. The report, “Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads,” examines road conditions and spending priorities nationwide and recommends changes at both the state and federal levels that the organization says can reduce future liabilities, benefit taxpayers and create a better transportation system.

U.S. Road Expansion Costing Taxpayers
The City Fix blog, June 8, 2011
A smaller initial investment in renewed priorities of road maintenance actively reduces the scale of future costs, found a new report by Smart Growth America. “Rehabilitating a road that has deteriorated is substantially more expensive than keeping that road in good condition,” the report says.

Scrimping on highway repairs leaves states in a bind
GovPro.com, June 8, 2011
Some states’ habit of spending on new road construction rather than on regular repair have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and costs to repair those roads are rising faster than states can address them, according to a new report from Washington-based Smart Growth America (SGA) and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Metro Detroit’s bus system fight may risk millions
Detroit Free Press, June 8, 2011
Metro Detroit has its most realistic chance in a generation of creating a rail and bus transit system that could transform how the region commutes and launch economic redevelopment from downtown to the suburbs. But if Detroit and tri-county leaders can’t agree on combining city and suburban bus systems — an ambition that has eluded the region for decades — they risk forfeiting millions in federal money.

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Smart growth news – June 8, 2011

Could Focusing on Repairs Please Everyone?
National Journal, June 6, 2011
Smart Growth America partnered with Taxpayers for Common Sense on the recent report “Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads” to point out that our nation’s highway infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. As highways deteriorate they become exponentially more expensive to repair. The fiscally responsible approach is to preserve more of our highways in good condition, and to make the needed repairs early—when it costs taxpayers significantly less. The same approach is called for in managing other assets – our bridges, our transit systems, and our bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Phineas Baxandall: It’s pretty basic arithmetic. If states didn’t divert 57 percent of highway money to build new lane miles, they could double spending on repair and maintenance without raising an additional dime of new taxes, tolls or federal bailouts. America’s roads are in disrepair largely because of the wrong priorities. A recent example is Wisconsin, where Governor Walker ran TV commercials touting how he would invest in repairing the states roads and bridges. But his transportation budget last month instead cuts funds for local road repair while committing the state to four new highway expansions that could cost more than $2 billion.

Freedom From Oil: Policy Solutions Released by the Congressional Livable Communities Task Force
Sustainable Business News, June 7, 2011
The Congressional Livable Communities Task Force, chaired by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and consisting of all Democrats, released recommendations which will wean the US off oil, while creating much more livable communities…Its policy recommendations [include]: Authorize the Office of Sustainable Communities at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and provide funding to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities so the agencies can continue to provide technical assistance, planning, and capital support to communities.

Regretting Move, Bank May Return to Manhattan
New York Times, June 8, 2011
UBS is having buyer’s remorse. It turns out that a suburban location has become a liability in recruiting the best and brightest young bankers, who want to live in Manhattan or Brooklyn, not in Stamford, Conn., which is about 35 miles northeast of Midtown.

Georgia: Fierce opposition in Fayette to transportation tax
Atlanta Constitution-Journal (Ga.), June 8, 2011
The county’s green landscape — offering a feeling of seclusion — has helped make Fayette the birthplace of opposition to paying an extra penny in sales tax for transportation improvements both in and out of the county. The 10-county region will vote in 2012 on whether to tax itself for such projects.

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Smart growth news, June 6, 2011

Could Focusing on Repairs Please Everyone?
National Journal, June 6, 2011
Smart Growth America may have provided one clue that could inch the committee down the yellow brick road. A report released last week found that between 2004 and 2008, states spent 43 percent of total road construction and preservation funds on the repair of existing roads, while the remaining 57 percent of funds went to new construction.

Report Lists How Much $ Each State Would Need To Maintain Roads
SRTC (Spokane Washington MPO) Transportation Blog, June 3, 2011
We’ve been talking for years about how decades of underinvestment in regular maintenance have left the nation’s roads in poor condition, and the cost of repairing them is rising faster than we can address it. But just how bad is the situation? A report released this week by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense examines road conditions and spending priorities in all 50 states.

Study: State Spends Too Much On New Roads, Not Enough on Maintenance
PubliCola, June 1, 2011
According to a new study from Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, US states, including Washington, spend far more on new road construction than they do on maintaining the roads they have—a situation Transportation Choices Coalition calls a “financial time bomb” as states build hundreds of miles of roads and highways they can’t afford to keep in safe working condition.

The Virtues of Investing in Transportation
New York Times Economix blog, June 3, 2011
In a time of budget austerity, the allocation of scarce federal dollars for infrastructure must be guided by cost-benefit analysis — rather than by earmarks and formula-based grants, as is currently the case. That’s why the Obama administration is calling for the use of performance criteria and “race to the top” competition among state and local governments to allocate federal spending among competing projects.

Jersey City Establishes ‘Complete Streets’ Policy
The Jersey City Independent, June 3, 2011
Jersey City paved the way for a more egalitarian use of the city’s transportation infrastructure by establishing a Complete Streets policy at the last City Council meeting, by a unanimous 9 to 0 vote. The policy, which calls for “roadways that enable safe and convenient access for all users,” represents the planning community’s rethinking of what — and whom — a road should be designed for.

According to Jay Corbalis, a policy analyst at New Jersey Future, a nonprofit organization that promotes smart growth, a Complete Streets policy is the “philosophy that when you build a road, you build it for all users.” He says Jersey City is a huge addition to the handful of municipalities that have embraced the policy.

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Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads

Decades of underinvestment in regular repair have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and the cost of repairing these roads is rising faster than many states can address them. These liabilities are outlined in a new report by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, released today, which examines road conditions and spending priorities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report recommends changes at both the state and federal level that can reduce future liabilities, benefit taxpayers and create a better transportation system.

Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads found that between 2004 and 2008 states spent 43 percent of total road construction and preservation funds on repair of existing roads, while the remaining 57 percent of funds went to new construction. That means 57 percent of these funds was spent on only 1 percent of the nation’s roads, while only 43 percent was dedicated to preserving the 99 percent of the system that already existed. As a result of these spending decisions, road conditions in many states are getting worse and costs for taxpayers are going up.

“Federal taxpayers have an enormous stake in seeing that our roads are kept in good condition,” said Erich W. Zimmermann of Taxpayers for Common Sense at a briefing earlier today. “Billions of precious tax dollars were spent to build our highway system, and neglecting repair squanders that investment. Keeping our roads in good condition reduces taxpayers’ future liabilities.”

“Spending too little on repair and allowing roads to fall apart exposes states and the federal government to huge financial liabilities,” said Roger Millar of Smart Growth America. “Our findings show that in order to bring their roads into good condition and maintain them that way, states would collectively have to spend $43 billion every year for the next 20 years – more than they currently spend on all repair, preservation and new capacity combined. As this figure illustrates, state have drifted too far from regular preservation and repair and in so doing have created a deficit that is going to take decades to reverse.”

The high cost of poor conditions
According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every $1 spent to keep a road in good condition avoids $6-14 needed later to rebuild the same road once it has deteriorated significantly. Investing too little on road repair increases these future liabilities, and with every dollar spent on new construction many states add to a system they are already failing to keep in good condition.

State and federal leaders can do more to see that highway funds are spent in ways that benefits driver and taxpayers. More information about the high cost of delaying road repair, how states invest their transportation dollars and what leaders can do to address these concerns is available in the full report.

Click here to read the full report, state-specific data and view the interactive map.

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New profiles provide a closer look at state transportation investments

A new report out today from Smart Growth America analyzes how all 50 states invested their flexible transportation funds from 2009’s American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The report examines what projects each state used its funds for, and whether those projects created as many jobs as possible.

Transportation projects create jobs in the short term but can also create the foundation for a stronger economy in the long term – particularly if those projects repair existing roadways or create public transportation options. As Newsweek’s David A. Graham explains:

It’s not enough just to inject money into infrastructure, because not all transportation funding is created equal—or at least, it doesn’t create jobs at an equal rate. As any infrastructure policy wonk can tell you, money spent on fixing up existing systems or building mass transit delivers more jobs, and faster, than building new highways.

Smart Growth America’s new report found that many states didn’t invest their funds this way and in doing so missed a significant opportunity to create more jobs. As a companion to that report, Smart Growth America has released state-specific recommendations for states looking for ways to improve their transportation investments.

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