May 9, 2013

HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative Recognized by Harvard’s Kennedy School as a Top 25 Innovation In Government

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On May 1, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government recognized HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) as one of this year’s Top 25 programs in its Innovations in American Government Award competition.  This competition is the nation’s preeminent award devoted to recognizing and promoting excellence and creativity in the public sector.

HUD’s SCI was created to help build strong and resilient communities through a more integrated planning process that connects housing and transportation options to job centers. This planning will help the average American family alleviate their housing and transportation costs. By partnering with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, SCI is creating communities that are economically prosperous, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable, by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local innovation, and supporting energy-efficient and healthy affordable housing. In addition, SCI has been pioneering an approach to community and economic development that is helping regions increase their economic competitiveness.  This initiative is encouraging comprehensive regional planning to guide state, metropolitan, and local investments in job creation, transportation, and housing through Regional Planning Grants and Community Challenge Grants. The SCI grants awarded in 2010 and 2011 are projected to impact one third of the U.S. population.

One of the most innovative aspects of the Sustainable Communities Initiative is that it is not only impacting urban communities, but also rural communities.  More than 40 percent of HUD Sustainable Communities Grants have been awarded to smaller regions and rural places with less than 50,000 people. In some cases through the SCI planning process, rural and tribal communities will finally obtain a supermarket, a bank, and other necessities that we take for granted.

For example, in one of the nation’s youngest, most economically depressed regions, the Oglala Lakota nation is leveraging a Regional Planning Grant to catalyze an economic transformation of their community while holding true to their cultural values. Through the creation of the Thunder Valley CDC, the Oglala Lakota nation is managing a planning and revitalization effort that has leveraged the participation of multiple state and federal agencies. Currently, the planning process is setting the groundwork for a 34-acre sustainable planned development on the heart of the Pine Ridge Reservation that will provide homeownership opportunities, which have traditionally been lacking there. In addition, the Thunder Valley CDC is balance their community development and physical infrastructure work with a focus on enhancing programs for physical health (including healthy food and active living), mental health, and spiritual health efforts that bring healing to the Oglala Lakota people.

The hard work of the Thunder Valley CDC has been recognized by President Obama, who publicly saluted the CDC and its leadership for creating “a clean-energy community that will provide affordable housing for folks who need it and help more Lakota small businesses get off the ground.”

We are extremely proud to be recognized as a top government initiative!  We know this honor would not have been possible without the vision of President Obama, Secretary Donovan, DOT Secretary LaHood, and former EPA Administrator Jackson, and the hard work of our federal colleagues who work with us to help communities realize their vision for a more prosperous future.  However, this honor truly belongs to the 143 communities and the 150 million Americans in those communities who believe the future can be better than the past.  Our grantees are discovering that the partnerships created with private investors, philanthropic and community organizations, and local and regional governments are the catalysts that many of them needed to create long lasting change and economic sustainability for the future.

To read more about the Harvard recognition, see here.

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