It’s hard to believe that more than four years have gone by since the creation of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. In 2009, President Obama gave HUD, DOT and EPA the directive to work together to create strong, sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering economic development, and helping to build a clean energy economy. The goals and mission established by President Obama are becoming a reality, and today hundreds of representatives from HUD’s 143 Sustainable Communities grantee communities have gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss their best practices, exchange ideas, and learn from each other’s experiences so that they may build stronger local and regional partnerships.
The convening, organized by HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities (OSHC), also marked the completion of the master plans for many of the 2010 HUD Sustainable Community Grantees. These plans serve as community road maps to guide growth and development for years to come and were shaped by the input and long range visions of many regional partners and stakeholders, including local governments, chambers of commerce, transportation agencies, and of course the residents of those communities. The on-going development of our grantee master plans has already obtained the input of more than 50,000 residents and stakeholders over the course of more than 2,000 public meetings all over the country, from rural to urban communities.
Many of the already completed master plans have received awards and have been critically acclaimed; for example, the American Planning Association has given awards for outstanding planning and excellence and leadership awards to the Hull Street Corridor Revitalization Plan in Richmond, VA; the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning; and to Burlington, VT’s, Plan BTV: Downtown and Waterfront, among many others.
But the real work and success of these grantees should not be measured by awards or recognitions, it should be measured by the implementation of their plans and by the positive outcomes they will ultimately bring to those communities, including jobs. Rightfully, many of the grantee master plans have prioritized the creation of new jobs for local residents through the revitalization of decaying commercial corridors and commercial reinvestment strategies that could support the addition of nearly 3 million jobs in these communities.
For example the integrated housing, transportation and economic development strategy employed by Memphis, TN, is stimulating private investments in the vicinity of the Memphis International Airport. It is estimated that this has already led to the attraction and retention of nearly 3,000 logistics and manufacturing jobs in the area. In Austin, TX, with a $3.7 million grant from HUD, the city is linking its long-term regional transportation plan to 37 mixed-income activity and housing centers with close proximity to transit and job hubs. Austin estimates that once implemented its urban rail plan will help create an estimated 58,000 new jobs– shaping a more prosperous future for the region. And, the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City has identified six corridors to serve as demonstration projects for “Creating Sustainable Places” – that are vibrant, green, and connected. Estimates are that this project can create up to 110,000 jobs by 2040.
As President Obama has stated in the past, we must ensure that every person in this country has access to a good job, to a good education, to decent housing, and the work that these grantees are doing will do exactly that, and will have a lasting impact in local and regional economies for future generations.
Congratulations to all the grantees that have finished their master plans, and we look forward to seeing the completed plans of more grantees in the near future.