A Sidewalk to Nowhere: White House Administration Highlights Priorities for Sustainable Community Grant Applicants

It’s not every day you hear the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy from the US Department of Transportation describe transportation as a “means to an end, not the end itself.” Today the White House Office of Urban Affairs hosted a video panel / live chat on Facebook, including leaders from the Sustainable Communities Partnership — which has made available the $700+ million in grants for sustainable community planning. The panel included Beth Osborne (DOT), Shelly Poticha (HUD), and Tim Torma (EPA) and much of the discussion focused around what the Partnership is looking for in grant applications from local government.

Beth Osborne laid out clearly that the “purpose of transportation is to support opportunity” and that while the history of the transportation program has focused on fixing problems by retrofitting roads, DOT is now looking to fund projects that: “do more than slap down a sidewalk because it doesn’t matter how far you walk down a sidewalk if there’s nothing to walk to.” Osborne characterized the types of projects the Sustainable Community Partnership wishes to fund through federal grant programs by the ability to answer if you can walk somewhere to get a pizza in your community.

I’ve included some highlights below to share with those local governments applying or considering applying for the HUD Community Challenge Grants, DOT TIGER II Discretionary Planning Grants, HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants, or EPA Climate Showcase Communities Grants.

Highlights include:

  • an emphasis on the Livability Principles;
  • creation of “Preferred Sustainability Status;”
  • investment priorities in existing rather than new communities;
  • updates to local zoning codes to facilitate private investments in development;
  • need for more technical resources such as those at www.epa.gov/smartgrowth; and
  • TIGER grants, DOT Strategic Plan, and Transportation Reauthorization to prioritize: livability, state of good repair, economic competitiveness, and safety for all users.

Grant proposals are due on July 26 and August 23 and applicant registration must be submitted by July 16.

Read more and view the Federal Grant Flow Chart and Matrix at the links below:

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