Senate Committee passes Livable Communities Act

August 30, 2010

arrow THE LIVABLE COMMUNITIES ACT (S. 1619) Creating Better And More Affordable Places To Live, Work And Raise Families. See the full text of the bill at


Sponsored by Sen Christopher Dodd [CT], The Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs ordered S.1619 to be reported with "an amendment in the nature of a substitute" favorably.

According to the official summary, the Act would stablish an Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities (OSHC) in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). An independent Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities would be established in the executive branch.

Further, it would require the OSHC Director to establish a program to make comprehensive planning grants and sustainability challenge grants to eligible entities (partnerships between a consortium of units of general local government and an eligible partner, which may be a metropolitan planning organization, a rural planning organization, a regional council, or a state).

Requires the use of a comprehensive planning grant to carry out a project to:

(1) coordinate land use, housing, transportation, and infrastructure planning processes across jurisdictions and agencies;

(2) identify potential regional partnerships for developing and implementing a comprehensive regional plan;

(3) conduct or update housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy, and environmental assessments to determine regional needs and promote sustainable development;

(4) develop or update a comprehensive regional plan or goals and strategies to implement an existing comprehensive regional plan; and

(5) implement local zoning and other code changes necessary to implement a comprehensive regional plan and promote sustainable development.

Requires the use of a sustainability challenge grant to:

(1) promote integrated transportation, housing, energy, and economic development activities carried out across policy and governmental jurisdictions;

(2) promote sustainable and location-efficient development; and

(3) implement projects identified in a comprehensive regional plan. Directs the OSHC Director to study and report to specified congressional committees on incentives for encouraging lenders to make, and homebuyers and homeowners to participate in, energy-efficient mortgages and location-efficient mortgages.

Some specific sections of the bill include:

Incentives To Plan For Livable Communities. The Comprehensive Planning Grant Program will help communities develop comprehensive regional plans that incorporate transportation, housing, community and economic development, and environmental needs. Grantees must demonstrate a commitment to integrated planning and sustainable development. The Act authorizes $400 million in competitive grant money over four years.

Funding to Implement Sustainable Development Projects. The Challenge Grant Program will enable communities to implement cross-cutting projects according to their comprehensive regional plans. With $3.75 billion authorized for competitive grants over three years, these projects will help communities create and preserve affordable housing; support transit-oriented development; improve public transportation; create pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfares; redevelop brownfields; and foster economic development.

Partnering with Local Communities. The legislation ensures that the federal government is a supportive partner for communities’ planning and sustainable development efforts, allowing regions that apply for Livable Communities grants to receive technical assistance and giving special assistance to smaller communities that may need additional help to get started.  As a resource for sustainability best practices and technical assistance, the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities will ensure that communities learn from each other’s successes.

Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities. By bringing together the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies, the Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities will coordinate federal sustainable development policies; coordinate federal sustainability research; coordinate with HUD to implement Livable Communities grants; identify barriers to sustainable development; and promote coordination of transportation, housing, community development, energy, and environmental policies.

Office of Sustainable Housing And Communities. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will establish the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities to coordinate federal policies that foster sustainable development and administer HUD’s sustainability initiatives; recommend and conduct research on sustainability; implement and oversee Livable Communities grant programs in coordination with the Interagency Council; and provide guidance, best practices and technical assistance to communities seeking to plan for a more sustainable future.

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