Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spending bill supports transit, cuts funding for Partnership for Sustainable Communities

Last week, Congress passed a compromise-spending bill to fund the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and several other departments through the end of the current fiscal year in September 2012. The conference agreement between the two chambers preserves funding for transit and the innovative TIGER grants program, while zeroing out high-speed rail. The Federal Transit Administration is provided a total of $10.608 billion. Amtrak, with $466 million for operating and $952 million for capital, would be funded at a level lower than what the Senate requested but higher than the House-proposed amount. Read more about transportation funding at Transportation for America.

Unfortunately, the final package did not include funding for Partnership for Sustainable Communities grants at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is a joint venture between USDOT, HUD and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In an effort to combat the bureaucratic confusion that has long characterized federal urban policy, the Obama administration launched the Sustainable Communities Partnership in June 2009. The aim of the effort is to break down “silos” of decision-making, where government agencies pursue individual mandates without coordination, potentially undermining or even contradicting the priorities and regulations of one another.  The partnership, a collaborative effort among the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, aims to coordinate federal urban policy around six “Livability Principles,” including providing transportation choices, promoting affordable housing and supporting existing communities.

While no new grants will be awarded under this agreement, HUD's Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities will remain open. Negotiators in Congress notably refused to include House-proposed language that would have disallowed the three departments from working collaboratively. 

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