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Federal grants aim to help Michigan communities be more vibrant, sustainable

Smart, sustainable growth in Michigan was buoyed this fall with the receipt of $19 million in federal grants to improve community housing, jobs, transportation planning and infrastructure in five regions of Michigan.

The money was allocated under a new strategic initiative known as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a first-of-its-kind interagency collaboration launched by President Obama in June 2009.

Winners include the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) and its partners, who will receive $2.85 million under the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grant program. The project will develop a regional housing strategy, enhance Complete Streets connections and green infrastructure, and look at regional greenhouse gas emissions.

SEMCOG was one of 45 regions across the country to win part of $100 million to support efforts to plan more sustainable, economically vibrant regions.

Two primary goals of the federal initiative are to “integrate housing, transportation, water infrastructure, and land use planning and investment” and to “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.”

Other winners included:

  • The City of Flint with a $1.57 million Community Challenge grant to replace its existing city master plan with an integrated plan for sustainable development.
  • Grand Traverse County’s Community Challenge grant of $395,000. The project will create an affordable housing trust fund, plan improvements to the region’s existing network of roads and public transportation and provide better infrastructure for bikers and pedestrians.
  • Ann Arbor’s Bridges project with a grant of $13.9 million to help the city replace two bridges that connect residential and commercial areas with the University of Michigan, a high school and St. Joseph Hospital. The project completes a multi-modal transportation network by adding bike lanes and wider sidewalks.
  •  Oakland County with a $300,000 grant for the “Building Livability in Pontiac: Planning for Connectivity between the Downtown” project. This program uses an existing regional bike trail system and a refurbished multi-modal transit center to connect downtown Pontiac, immediate neighborhoods and surrounding communities. 
Guided by six livability principles, the grants under the new Partnership for Sustainable Communities indicate the federal government intends to better coordinate transportation, land use and environmental and housing development resources.

“President Obama has made clear that sustainable communities with affordable housing and access to a broad range of transportation options are vital to rebuilding the foundation for prosperity in this country,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement.

Six livability principles that are goals of the grants

1 Provide more transportation choices. Develop safe, reliable, and economical transportation choices to decrease transportation costs, reduce dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote public health.

2 Promote equitable, affordable housing. Expand location- and energy-efficient housing choices for people of all ages, incomes, races and ethnicities.

3 Enhance economic competitiveness. Improve economic competitiveness through reliable and timely access to employment centers, educational opportunities, services and other basic needs.

4 Support existing communities. Target federal funding toward existing communities—through strategies like transit oriented, mixed-use development and land recycling.

5 Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment. Align federal policies and funding to remove barriers to collaboration, leverage funding and increase the accountability and effectiveness of all levels of government.

6 Value communities and neighborhoods. Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities by investing in healthy, safe, and walkable neighborhoods—rural, urban or suburban.
-Bard Garmon, MEC
RELATED TOPICS: land use, Smart Growth
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