Shaun Donovan on Federal Grant Criteria

Katherine Gregor's picture

It pays to attend the Congress - potentially in federal funds for your community. Our sizable contingent from Austin TX - where the bluebonnets and the condo towers bloom - definitely brought that message home from Atlanta.

At his Special Address on Friday morning, U.S. HUD Sec. Shaun Donovan talked about how CNU's urban planning philosophy and practices will help determine how millions, even billions, in federal funds are granted.

"The first way we’re embracing sustainability at HUD is by making the most significant federal investment in planning in a generation. With the $140 million in regional planning and community challenge grants that we will be issuing NOFAs for in the coming weeks, we hope to send a message to every community in the country that planning is important. With our $100 million Sustainability Planning Grant program, we want to encourage metropolitan and rural regions to plan for the integration of economic development, land use, and transportation investments."

Sec. Donovan was a dynamic speaker, and for the CNU faithful, it was exciting to hear straight from the horse's mouth how regions and cities can "get on board" with the feds as they strive to implement CNU principles. The personal connection - hearing it in person from a U.S. Secretary – makes a huge difference. Austin had a big group present to hear him, including developers, city staff from the planning and economic dev't and public works departments, and Council Member Chris Riley.

HUD's selection criteria for the upcoming Sustainable Communities Planning Grants - to be released with a NOFA soon - have been closely followed of late in Austin. For those of us also anticipating the upcoming Challenge, TIGER II, and other grants, it was exhilarating to hear Donovan break the news that LEED-ND criteria will be incorporated, as well as location efficiency.

"I’m proud to say that this office is led by one of your own, Shelley Poticha," said Donovan. "Shelley’s not on the outside anymore trying to influence government policy, but very much on the inside making that policy." Poticha had recently been a keynote speaker at the Envision Central Texas awards in Austin, where she urged the region to get its act together and go after a grant (see story in the Austin Chronicle).

National, regional, and local ideas and initiatives all connecting - it's an exciting time. Throughout CNU 18, attendees from Austin kept discussing the ideas presented by Donovan, and discussing how they can be applied at home. Our diverse group (including small-scale developers and Athena Medal recipient Sinclair Black) was able to form a mini-roundtable of perspectives. Over a bottle of pinot noir, a group discussed one specific corridor redevelopment project that's been stuck. When I look back at my notes from Donovan's talk, scribbled in the margins are ideas spurred by many connections between his national program and Austin initiatives.

This federal grant program will ensure that similar conversations keep happening in cities across the U.S. CNU 18 attendees can all bring home information and ideas, related to winning federal funds. All CNU members have an important role to play, now, as advocates helping their communities to understand the concepts of "location efficiency" and LEED-ND. Follow the money ...


Look for CNU 18 follow-up coverage @ the Austin Chronicle's blog

Katherine Gregor is posting there as well.


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