Kaid Benfield Archive


It's official: HUD's exciting new sustainability program

Kaid Benfield

Posted February 5, 2010 at 7:22PM

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  conceptual rendering of HUD HOPE VI development in Louisville (by: Metro Housing Authority)

This has been in the works for a long time, and the announcement finally came yesterday at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Seattle.  From the press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a sustainability forum at Portland State University and a speech to the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Seattle, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced the launch of HUD’s new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities (OSHC). The office will be overseen by HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims who won national recognition for turning King County, Washington into a model for sustainable communities. OSHC is designed to help build stronger, more sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local innovation and building a clean energy economy. Funded by Congress for the first time in HUD’s 2010 Budget, OSHC is a key component of the Obama Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

"Through our new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, we will begin to tie the quality and location of housing to broader opportunities such as access to good jobs, quality schools, and safe streets," said Donovan. "By working with DOT, EPA and other federal agencies, and with Deputy Secretary Sims’ guidance, we will finally begin to meet the needs of today without compromising the futures of our children and grandchildren .”

HUD-assisted High Point neighborhood, Seattle (by: Mithun)Under the management of Director Shelley Poticha, OSHC will be the center-point for all of HUD’s sustainability efforts. The average household spends more than half of its budget on housing and transportation, which have become American families’ two single biggest expenses. With OSHC as lead, HUD will work to improve access to affordable housing and transportation options, saving money for American families while allowing them more time to spend at home and less time traveling.

The office will also invest in energy-efficient homes and buildings, in renewable energy, and in next-generation infrastructure to lay the foundation for the clean energy economy America needs to compete and create jobs in the 21st century. To meet that goal, OSHC will strengthen HUD’s Energy Efficient Mortgage product and other energy retrofit financing options—for both single family homes and multi-family rental housing--through a $50 million Energy Innovation Fund. HUD will also make available an Affordability Index that measures the costs of where a home is located in relation to jobs, schools and transportation.

Congress provided $150 million to HUD for a Sustainable Communities Initiative. Of that amount, $100 million is available for regional integrated planning initiatives through HUD’s Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program . . .

Whatever other disappointments there are in the current trainwreck of a political climate, HUD's new focus and the leadership of Secretary Donovan are not among them.  Shelley Poticha (by: National Housing Conference)As I've reported here before, this is a major step (if a modest one as far as dedicated dollars go) and one very fitting for an agency with "urban development" in its name.  Many of us in the field know either Ron, Shelley, or both well (Shelley was a co-founder of LEED for Neighborhood Development and a founding board member of Smart Growth America; we were also co-authors of this book), and our respect and support for them could not be greater.

The planning grants are especially welcome, given the immense importance of regional thinking to sustainability (see my comments on the subject in Monday's post).  The agency also announced that it is accepting feedback on the shape of the program, and has even constructed a wiki to assist the process.  Good for them and for us.