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DODD STATEMENT: HEARING ON LIVABLE COMMUNITIES ACT

June 9, 2010

Dodd Hears from Local Experts on Community Development
Aimed at Creating Better Places to Live, Work, and Raise Families
WASHINGTON – Today Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) held a hearing with local officials to discuss his Livable Communities Act (S. 1619) to improve the coordination between our housing, community development, transportation, energy, and environmental policies to help create better places to live, work and raise families. 
 
The committee heard testimony from local officials from around the country including Lyle D. Wray, Executive Director of the Hartford Capitol Region Council of Governments; Jackie Nytes, Councilor of the City-County Council of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana; Joe McKinney, Executive Director of the Asheville North Caroline Land-of-Sky Regional Council; and Julia W. Gouge, President of the Carroll County, Maryland Board of County Commissioners.
 
 “Creating livable communities is about giving our cities and towns the tools to plan their future, giving people more transportation and housing choices, and encouraging sustainable development to ensure a better future for the country,” Dodd stated at today’s hearing. “If we are going to address some of the long-term problems facing our nation, we are going to have to break down our policy silos and approach these issues in a more coordinated fashion.”
 
“This legislation will provide resources for comprehensive planning. The design of our communities is often seen as primarily a local issue, but the enduring consequences of how we lay out our communities are national in scope. New studies show that ‘location-efficient’ homes are less likely to risk foreclosure. Less compact communities that force residents to rely solely on their cars increase the cost burden of transportation on households, and transportation is already the second largest expense for American households, ahead of food, clothing and healthcare.”
 
“The Livable Communities Act will also provide capital grants so that regions can compete to implement their plans. The grants can be tailored to meet the needs of diverse regions - one community can use the grants to redevelop brownfields in a post-industrial area, another region can use the funds to develop or preserve mixed income housing near transit, and another might create a walkable, pedestrian-friendly Main Street or town center.
 
“By creating these livable communities, cities and town can attract and retain young people, recruit new workers, put existing residents back to work, and accommodate the baby boomer generation as they enter retirement.”
 

Below is his statement as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you for joining us today as we gather local perspectives on the Livable Communities Act. 
 
“This legislation provides funding for regions to plan future growth in a coordinated way that reduces congestion, generates good-paying jobs, creates and preserves affordable housing, meets our environmental and energy goals, protects rural areas and green space, revitalizes our Main Streets and urban centers,  and makes our communities better places to live, work, and raise families. 
 
“Creating livable communities is about giving our cities and towns the tools to plan their future, giving people more transportation and housing choices, and encouraging sustainable development to ensure a better future for the country.
 
“If we are going to address some of the long-term problems facing our nation, we are going to have to break down our policy silos and approach these issues in a more coordinated fashion.
 
“For many years, federal housing and transportation policies incentivized development further and further away from existing communities and small town main streets.
 
“Today, as a result, we have worsening traffic congestion costing tens of billions in lost time and fuel, not to mention reduced productivity, lost time with families, and reduced quality of life.
 
“Traffic is the not the only problem.  Dispersed development patterns require billions of dollars in new infrastructure at the same time that existing infrastructure is deteriorating from lack of attention and funding.
 
“And over a million acres of open space and farmland are lost each year to development on our metropolitan and rural fringes.
 
“One can argue that this has been true for years, so why should we act now? 
 
“Our nation is facing a number of significant problems including a struggling economy, an explosion in home foreclosures, the looming threat of climate change, an increasingly worrisome dependence on foreign oil, deteriorating infrastructure, and, yes, worsening traffic congestion. 
 
“Future demographic trends make our current patterns unsustainable.  Our population is expected to grow by another 100 million people between now and 2050 and the first of the baby boomers are reaching retirement age, portending a huge demographic shift in the coming years.
 
“We must address these challenges in a coordinated way.  As Chairman of this Committee, I have sought to make this happen.
 
“Soon after he took office last year, I wrote to President Obama urging him to improve the coordination between our housing, community development, transportation, energy, and environmental policies. 
 
“Last March, the Banking Committee hosted a symposium titled, ‘Creating Livable Communities:  Housing and Transit Policy in the 21st Century.’  A dozen housing, transit, planning, and real estate experts from around the nation participated.
 
“And last June, this Committee held a hearing with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.  It was at this hearing that these three agencies announced their Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which recognizes the importance of working across traditional boundaries to create more cohesive, collaborative policy.
 
“In August, I, along with a number of members of this Committee, introduced the Livable Communities Act. 
 
“This legislation will provide resources for comprehensive planning. The design of our communities is often seen as primarily a local issue, but the enduring consequences of how we lay out our communities are national in scope. New studies show that “location-efficient” homes are less likely to risk foreclosure. Less compact communities that force residents to rely solely on their cars increase the cost burden of transportation on households, and transportation is already the second largest expense for American households, ahead of food, clothing and healthcare. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that families with access to good public transportation can save an average of $9,000 per year in transportation costs compared to households with no transit access. 
 
“The Livable Communities Act will also provide capital grants so that regions can compete to implement their plans. The grants can be tailored to meet the needs of diverse regions - one community can use the grants to redevelop brownfields in a post-industrial area, another region can use the funds to develop or preserve mixed income housing near transit, and another might create a walkable, pedestrian-friendly Main Street or town center.
 
“By creating these livable communities, cities and town can attract and retain young people, recruit new workers, put existing residents back to work, and accommodate the baby boomer generation as they enter retirement.
 
“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today, each of whom has experience in dealing with these issues at the local level and who also represent national organizations of local officials who deal with these challenges on a daily basis.”
 
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