HUD Rebrands Its Sustainability Initiative around Economic Resilience

by Mariia Zimmerman


It’s a busy time for MZ Strategies, LLC and we’re pleased to be involved in a number of interesting projects in Minnesota, Kansas City, Denver and Washington, DC ranging on issues from TOD and MPO financing to regional economic competitiveness partnerships and strategies to creating new models for improving capacity building in rural and tribal communities.  Look for future blog postings to share some of the lessons learned from my work with project sponsors and research partners.

In the interim though, two important updates to share. First, the Obama administration finally released their FY2014 budget proposal on April 10, 2014. While many elements may be dead on arrival in the Halls of Congress (and most importantly the House appropriations committees), the budget is an important document to convey programs the Administration sees as priorities for sustaining economic recovery, for establishing the President’s legacy, and where they may be willing to compromise. And while the legislative branch controls the purse strings, it is the administration branch who decides policies and protocols for spending the money.  For information on the President's FY2104 Budget, visit the Office of Management and Budget website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Overview

One important shout-out to highlight that is near and dear to me is the treatment of HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. As former Deputy Director for this program, it was inspiring to see the amazing things that communities were doing with the planning grants awarded in FY2010 and FY2011. We were stunned by the incredible demand for both programs and were only able to fund 1 out 5 applications given funding limits. It was frustrating then to see the lack of bi-partisan support for a program designed to make government work more efficiently, help communities establish their own long-range plans and implementation priorities to coordinate housing, transportation, environmental needs and economic development.  In the FY2014 budget, HUD has rebranded this program and nestled it within the Community Planning and Development program. Look for the $75 million requested for Integrated Planning and Implementation Grants (IPIG for short, which may be my new favorite federal acronym given my youth spent on a hog farm in rural MN)

Grants will be focused on helping communities develop economic resiliency blueprint plans for creating jobs, diversifying their economies, and tying infrastructure and housing development to economic and workforce development goals.  The Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities has also been rebranded the Office of Economic Resilience, further underscoring the increased emphasis on job creation and strong economies as the driving force behind a sustainable community.

The second update worth spotlighting is a new resource by Transportation for America that provides an easy to follow Tracker of State Transportation Funding Proposals. Almost weekly another governor or state legislator is stepping forward with a proposal to revise or increase state funding to meet the growing backlog of infrastructure needs from bridge maintenance and repair to expanding light rail and streetcar lines to preserving transit service and addressing highway safety or congestion points. While the President’s FY2014 again calls for an increase in transportation funding, especially for rail, most federal transportation watchers see little reason for optimism. States are stepping forward to fill the gap in surprising and uneven ways. The  T4America tracker is a great tool to keep an eye on this trend.