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BANKING COMMITTEE PASSES DODD’S LIVABLE COMMUNITIES ACT

Dodd’s legislation will help local communities plan for and create better, more affordable places to live, work, and raise families

August 3, 2010

WASHINGTON – Today the Senate Banking Committee passed Chairman Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) 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 bill will promote sustainable development and enable communities to cut traffic congestion; reduce greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption; protect farmland and green spaces; revitalize existing Main Streets and urban centers; spur economic development; and create more affordable housing.
 
 “The needs of our citizens are evolving, and the way we plan for the future must evolve as well. This legislation is a significant step in that evolution,” Dodd stated at today’s hearing.

“Workers across the nation are living farther away from their jobs and commuting longer distances. Our roadways are ever more crowded, and this strains our infrastructure. Farmland and open spaces are disappearing, and the impact on the environment from the large numbers of cars on the road is adding significantly to the problems of oil dependence and climate change.
 
“With our population expected to grow by over 150 million people between 2000 and 2050, it is clear that our current path is unsustainable.  The Livable Communities Act before us represents a comprehensive and flexible approach to the diverse issues facing communities.
 
“This legislation provides for planning and capital grants so that regions can coordinate transportation, housing, and community development policies to reduce traffic congestion, generate economic growth, create and preserve affordable housing, and meet environmental and energy goals.
 
“This bill is about helping our communities meet vital future needs, in a flexible, fiscally responsible and environmentally sustainable way, while also increasing transportation and housing choices for our citizens.”
 
 
Below is his statement as prepared for delivery and a summary of the bill:
 
“Thank you to everyone for being here today to mark-up the Livable Communities Act.
 
“I appreciate the input that many of you have provided to make this a better product, and one which will have a positive impact on the future of our nation.
 
“The needs of our citizens are evolving, and the way we plan for the future must evolve as well. This legislation is a significant step in that evolution.
 
“Over the past 50 years, poorly coordinated transportation, community development and housing policies led to growth away from urban areas and rural town centers.  Between 1980 and 2000, the growth of the largest 99 metro areas in the United States consumed 16 million acres of rural land—about an acre for every new household. 
 
“Over the past 25 years Americans have been driving further and further, with the miles piling up far eclipsing the growth in population, by three to one.  In part because of that explosion in driving, the cost of increased traffic congestion in the form of wasted time and fuel has grown fivefold over that same period.
 
“The bottom line is that workers across the nation are living farther away from their jobs and commuting longer distances. Our roadways are ever more crowded, and this strains our infrastructure. Farmland and open spaces are disappearing, and the impact on the environment from the large numbers of cars on the road is adding significantly to the problems of oil dependence and climate change.
 
“I have seen the impact of this traffic congestion in my home state of Connecticut.  There are few things that we can do to improve people’s daily lives more than to reduce the traffic congestion.  Congestion takes time away from families, hurts the productivity of businesses, pollutes the air, and reduces the economic competitiveness of a region. 
 
“Connecticut is looking at ways to grow smarter and looking to new investments in transit and high-speed rail to spur transit-oriented development and walkable communities.  This legislation will help Connecticut and other states and regions grow in ways that will not worsen traffic congestion or lead to continued loss of farmland and green space.
 
“With our population expected to grow by over 150 million people between 2000 and 2050, it is clear that our current path is unsustainable.  The Livable Communities Act before us represents a comprehensive and flexible approach to the diverse issues facing communities.
 
“This legislation provides for planning and capital grants so that regions can coordinate transportation, housing, and community development policies to reduce traffic congestion, generate economic growth, create and preserve affordable housing, and meet environmental and energy goals.
 
“These grants will encourage regions to think about how best to preserve rural areas and green spaces, link commuters with energy-efficient, affordable public transit, and develop our Main Streets, urban centers, and suburban communities into places that are accessible and vibrant. 
 
“This ‘location-efficient’ development model will also save money by maximizing the use of existing infrastructure—which helps to minimize the need to construct new roads, schools, and utility infrastructure.
 
“Not only will this save money for communities, but it will also help households save money. Communities with multiple transportation options will lessen the burden on the family car, and reduce the amount a family spends at the pump. Several new studies have also shown that homes in ‘location-efficient’ communities are less likely to be at risk of foreclosure due to lower transportation costs.
 
“This bill also recognizes that the demographics in our nation are shifting significantly.
 
“The share of the population over 65 will grow rapidly in coming decades. 
 
“An AARP survey showed that 71 percent of older Americans want to live within walking distance of transit. More walkable communities that offer access to shopping, medical services, and social amenities can help older Americans age in place, and preserve their independence—even while they curtail their driving.
 
“Other studies indicate similar trends among the younger generations and households without children.
 
“According to one recent annual study on real estate market trends, these changing  attitudes represent a  “fundamental shift” in the way Americans think about where to live and how their communities impact their quality of life.
 
“This bill is about helping our communities meet vital future needs, in a flexible, fiscally responsible and environmentally sustainable way, while also increasing transportation and housing choices for our citizens.
 
“There is great demand for the kind of integrated planning and ‘location-efficient” investments that the Livable Communities Act makes possible.  This is demonstrated by the fact that hundreds of communities from all 50 states have submitted expressions of interest in applying for HUD’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program, which is closely modeled on the planning program authorized in this legislation.
 
“And look at some of the well over 200 organizations that have endorsed this legislation:  The National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties,  the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Development Organizations, and the National Association of Regional Councils, to name a few.  These organizations represent urban, suburban, and rural elected and appointed officials from all across the country.  They are looking to plan for a sustainable future, where economic growth and quality of life continues to rise for all Americans.
 
“They know that the Livable Communities Act will help their communities plan for a better future and, like them, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”
 

 
THE LIVABLE COMMUNITIES ACT (S. 1619)
Creating Better And More Affordable Places To Live, Work And Raise Families
 
 
Senator Dodd’s Livable Communities Act will help local urban, suburban, and rural communities plan for and create better and more affordable places to live, work, and raise families.  With sustainable development, our communities will cut traffic congestion; reduce greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption; protect farmland and green spaces; revitalize existing Main Streets and urban centers; spur economic development; and create more affordable housing.
 
HELPING COMMUNITIES CREATE MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURES FOR OUR FAMILIES AND BUSINESSES
 
Planning for More Livable Communities.  The Comprehensive Planning Grant Program will foster livable communities by helping communities develop comprehensive regional plans that incorporate transportation, long-term affordable and accessible housing, community and economic development, and environmental needs. Selection criteria and eligible activities are flexible to allow all sizes and types of communities - rural, suburban, and urban - to plan for a more sustainable future.  The Act authorizes $475 million in competitive grant funds over four years.  Local demand for this assistance is great:  hundreds of communities from across the country have already expressed interest in applying for similar comprehensive planning funds appropriated for FY10.
 
Implementing Sustainable Development Projects.  The Challenge Grant Program will enable communities to implement cross-cutting projects according to their comprehensive regional plans. With $2.2 billion authorized for competitive grants over three years, these projects will help communities create and preserve affordable housing; support transit-oriented development; improve public transportation; create pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfares; redevelop brownfields; and foster economic development.  Communities that aren’t ready to undertake a regional comprehensive plan can apply for more targeted grants to update local land use, zoning, and building codes to promote sustainable development or improve building code enforcement to increase energy efficiency and disaster resilience.
 
EMPOWERING COMMUNITIES AND REDUCING FEDERAL BUREAUCRACY
 
Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities. The bill establishes an Interagency Council on Sustainable Development to bring together the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies to identify federal barriers to sustainable development at the local level.  The Council will coordinate federal sustainable development policies and research agendas and promote coordination of transportation, housing, community development, energy, and environmental programs to eliminate paperwork and bureaucratic delays for state and local partners implementing complex projects involving multiple federal agencies.
 
Office of Sustainable Housing And Communities. The bill establishes an Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities within HUD to administer the Department’s sustainability initiatives; implement and oversee Livable Communities grant programs in coordination with the Interagency Council; and provide guidance, best practices, and technical assistance to ensure that communities of all sizes learn from each other’s successes.

 
 
Support for the Livable Communities Act
 
Over 200 local and national organizations have endorsed the Livable Communities Act, including:
 
 
AARP
America 2050
American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging
American Bus Association
American City Planning Directors’ Council
American Institute of Architects
American Planning Association
American Public Health Association
American Public Transportation Association
American Public Works Association
Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations
Children’s Defense Fund
Community Transportation Association of America
Easter Seals
Habitat for Humanity International
Housing Assistance Council
International City/County Management Association
Jewish Federations of North America
League of American Bicyclists
League of Conservation Voters
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors
National Affordable Housing Trust
National Association for County Community and Economic Development
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
National Association of City Transportation Officials
National Association of Counties
National Association of County and City Health Officials
National Association of Development Organizations
National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials
National Association of Realtors
National Association of Regional Councils
National Community Development Association
National Council on Aging
National Housing Conference
National Housing Trust
National League of Cities
National Vacant Properties Campaign
Paralyzed Veterans of America
Partnership for the Public’s Health
PolicyLink
Rails to Trails Conservancy
Reconnecting America
Safe Routes to School National Partnership
Sierra Club
Smart Growth America
Transportation for America
Trust for America’s Health
U.S. Conference of Mayors
U.S. Green Building Council

 
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