APTA | Passenger Transport
November 23, 2009

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HUD Sustainability Chief Discusses Better Communities
By JOHN R. BELL, APTA Program Manager-Communications

On Nov. 10, Shelley Poticha, senior advisor for sustainable housing and communities at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), shared the ways her agency aims to reform its programs and policies that affect transportation, by working with DOT.

HUD is “completely aware of the value of transit” in pursuing its mission, she told a packed room at the APTA offices in Washington as part of APTA’s “Transportation Tuesdays” speaker series.

Earlier this year, HUD partnered with DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency to explore ways the three agencies can collaborate to promote better livability in American communities.

Poticha noted that HUD hopes to see $150 million in grants for sustainable community development included in the 2010 budget appropriations bill and is currently working with other federal agencies and departments to develop a “place-based” budget proposal. The funds will be distributed through a competitive grant process, but HUD will work with DOT staff to select grantees, she noted.

She discussed ways that HUD would like to make aspects of its interactions with DOT more oriented toward sustainable land use and transit-oriented development. HUD is considering how transportation investments foster economic development and “how places that have been growing need one set of strategies and places that are declining ... need another.” For example, the agency recently changed rules that once made it impossible for HUD housing grants to be used to develop brownfields.

The future likely holds other changes, Poticha said: “I would like to see a proactive land acquisition strategy around transit corridors, so we can afford to build” new projects. HUD would also like to consider transportation expenses in determining affordability, along with direct housing expenses. She indicated HUD will work with DOT in reforming the New Starts process. Poticha and others at HUD would also like to use Community Development Block Grants to reward communities using funds to promote sustainable development. However, “our focus is on activities that we can do under current law,” she said.

Poticha noted the importance of communicating these reforms to stakeholders—particularly the economic benefits of transit-oriented, livable communities. “We’ve got to talk about what is happening around the country, because there is a lot of demand for this—and there is a lot of innovation,” she noted. “We have to talk about how these initiatives will help the economy.”

APTA President William Millar termed her comments a call to action for public transit. “Now it’s our challenge to support her and her colleagues to make it happen,” he said.

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