Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Poticha: Optimistic despite Challenges

On Monday, Shelley Poticha, the Director for HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, gave the keynote address at NHC and the Center’s Partners in Innovation: Including Affordable and Workforce Housing within Transit-Oriented Development national symposium. Poticha’s remarks painted a clear picture of the difficulties to be expected in creating sustainable, equitable, transit-oriented communities.

Within HUD, a full appreciation of how the combined costs of housing and transportation can burden low- and moderate-income families has yet to be developed. There are also significant interagency hurdles to overcome when working with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to lack of collaborative history and organizational differences.

However, Poticha’s keynote gave several reasons to be optimistic about the positive changes that are already underway. In an exciting break with tradition, HUD asked for public comments as it developed the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program and thousands answered the call. The action signaled HUD’s new emphasis on designing programs which consider and respond to local community needs. One emerging theme from these letters was the importance of inclusion and equity in the development of transit-oriented communities.

HUD received applications for the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program from all 50 states, coming from not only the largest metro areas but from communities of all sizes. The overwhelming response to the program showed the enthusiasm for creating transit-oriented communities that include workforce housing was nationally recognized and desired.

Poticha concluded in saying one of HUD’s roles is to make sure that policies and programs are in place to capture the new found enthusiasm and make sure local efforts add up to positive national change moving forward. To keep the momentum, sustainability officers have been appointed in HUD's ten regions to work with regional staff at DOT, EPA, and the Department of Agriculture to ensure the goals of the federal inter agency partnership are advanced outside of Washington.

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