Statement of the Honorable Ray LaHood Secretary of Transportation Before The Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs U.S. Senate Hearing on Greener Communities, Greater Opportunities: New Ideas for Sustainable Development and Economic Growth June 16, 2009
Chairman Dodd and Members of the Committee:
"Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Department of Transportation's (DOT) activities in support of livable communities, comprehensive planning and sustainable development.
The President has made livable communities a key aspect of his agenda and the Vice President has also highlighted it in his Middle Class initiative. How a community is designed - including the layout of the roads, transit systems and walkways - has a huge impact on its residents. Transportation and housing are the two largest expenses for the average American household. Reducing the need for motor vehicle trips and providing access to transportation choices can address this cost and lower the average household expenditure on transportation, freeing up money for housing, education, and savings.
The Surface Transportation Authorization provides us with an opportunity to incorporate these important priorities into the nation's transportation policy. My Department looks forward to working with members of Congress to make livable communities a centerpiece of the new authorization. I'll discuss that in greater detail later. I would like to first discuss the efforts we are undertaking in advance of reauthorization to foster livable communities.
First, I am pleased to announce that Administrator Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency has joined the Sustainable Communities Partnership between Secretary Donovan of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and me to help American families gain better access to affordable housing, more transportation options and healthier communities. This partnership will ensure that these housing and transportation goals are achieved while also better protecting the environment, promoting equitable development, and helping to address the challenges of climate change."
Secretary LaHood's Official Blog.
The Six Principles of Livability
Each agency brings particular expertise to the partnership that can help institute real improvements in American communities. The agencies have developed the following principles that will direct the collective efforts for implementing this program:
- Provide more transportation choices.
- Promote equitable, affordable housing.
- Enhance economic competitiveness.
- Support existing communities.
- Coordinate policies and leverage investment.
- Value communities and neighborhoods.
The HUD/DOT/EPA partnership will:
- Enhance integrated planning and investment. The partnership will seek to integrate housing, transportation, water infrastructure, and land use planning and investment. HUD, EPA, and DOT propose to make planning grants available to metropolitan areas and create mechanisms to ensure those plans are carried through to localities.
- Provide a vision for sustainable growth. This effort will help communities set a vision for sustainable growth and apply federal transportation, water infrastructure, housing, and other investments in an integrated approach that reduces the nation's dependence on foreign oil, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, protects America's air and water, and improves quality of life. Coordinating planning efforts in housing, transportation, air quality, and water-including planning cycles, processes, and geographic coverage-will make more effective use of federal housing and transportation dollars.
- Redefine housing affordability and make it transparent. The partnership will develop federal housing affordability measures that include housing and transportation costs and other expenses that are affected by location choices. Although transportation costs now approach or exceed housing costs for many working families, federal definitions of housing affordability do not recognize the strain of soaring transportation costs on homeowners and renters who live in areas isolated from work opportunities and transportation choices. The partnership will redefine affordability to reflect those costs, improve the consideration of the cost of utilities, and provide consumers with enhanced information to help them make housing decisions.
- Redevelop underutilized sites. The partnership will work to achieve critical environmental justice goals and other environmental goals by targeting development to locations that already have infrastructure and offer transportation choices. Environmental justice is a particular concern in areas where disinvestment and past industrial use caused pollution and a legacy of contaminated or abandoned sites. This partnership will help return such sites to productive use.
- Develop livability measures and tools. The partnership will research, evaluate, and recommend measures that indicate the livability of communities, neighborhoods, and metropolitan areas. These measures could be adopted in subsequent integrated planning efforts to benchmark existing conditions, measure progress toward achieving community visions, and increase accountability. HUD, DOT, and EPA will help communities attain livability goals by developing and providing analytical tools to evaluate progress, as well as state and local technical assistance programs to remove barriers to coordinated housing, transportation, and environmental protection investments. The partnership will develop incentives to encourage communities to implement, use, and publicize the measures.
- Align HUD, DOT, and EPA programs. HUD, DOT, and EPA will work to assure that their programs maximize the benefits of their combined investments in our communities for livability, affordability, environmental excellence, and the promotion of green jobs of the future. HUD and DOT will work together to identify opportunities to better coordinate their programs and encourage location efficiency in housing and transportation choices. HUD, DOT, and EPA will also share information and review processes to facilitate better-informed decisions and coordinate investments.
- Undertake joint research, data collection, and outreach. HUD, DOT, and EPA will engage in joint research, data collection, and outreach efforts with stakeholders to develop information platforms and analytic tools to track housing and transportation options and expenditures, establish standardized and efficient performance measures, and identify best practices.