HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program will get more funds

Author:

Philip Langdon

New Urban Network

 

House and Senate negotiators have agreed to provide $120 million in the 2012 fiscal year for HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program—a big increase over the $65 million appropriated in the 2011 fiscal year.

The figure agreed to by the negotiators “is lower than the $250 million originally requested by President Obama in February,” the United Neighborhood Centers of America pointed out in a report on on its website. Negotiators agreed to the $120 million as part of a larger budget bill that funds several federal agencies for fiscal year 2012.

The bill averts a shutdown of the federal government.

Funding for the Promise Neighborhoods program remained unresolved.

As reported on New Urban Network Nov. 15, the negotiators have eliminated any money with which the Partnership for Sustainable Communities would make grants in FY2012. They did that by deciding that funding will be eliminated for the Sustainable Communities Initiative (the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s contribution to the interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities). The Partnership itself will continue despite the loss of money for grants.

Geoffrey Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America, said the Sustainable Communities Initiative “has helped reduce transportation costs for families and improve access to jobs by supporting communities with a variety of transportation options” and has removed “obstacles between the three agencies [HUD, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency], helping the federal government run better and more efficiently.”

Anderson noted that conferees from the House and Senate “expressed strong support for the Partnership’s work,” and he said he hopes the program will be provided with funds in the 2013 budget.

John Robert Smith, president and CEO of the transit and development advocacy group Reconnecting America, lamented elimination of funds for Sustainable Comunities grants. He issued a statement saying:

Over the past two years, I have traveled extensively to both large cities and small towns and rural areas and spoken to many mayors, local elected officials and community groups. One common theme I have heard over andover is that they are keen on applying for these grants to help the citizens of their communities realize their common goals for the future. Whether it be to develop a regional housingplan, connect urban centers around transit corridors or analyze potential infrastructure investments – these grants have been key in effective, educated, informed planning efforts. …

We were also disappointed that it appears as if the Congress may be relinquishing its support for development of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network, which was not funded in this bill.

Other elements of the “minibus” package put together by the conferees include the following provisions, which were in the Nov. 15 New Urban Network report:

“The conference agreement between the two chambers preserves funding for transit and the innovative TIGER grants program, while zeroing out high-speed rail,” says Sean Barry of the advocacy campaign Transportation for America.

• The negotiators have agreed that the TIGER program will get $500 million. That represents a 5.1 percent cut from current levels, but it is a significant improvement over the House proposal, which would have eliminated the program.”

“Every round of grant applications for TIGER has yielded far more interest from communities that USDOT has been able to accommodate, and the program rewards projects that meet local needs,” Barry said in a T4America press release. Streetsblog is reporting that the third round of TIGER applications outstrips the available grant amount by 27 to 1.” TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) is an Obama administration program that has been supplying grants for transportation infrastructure, including rail transit.

• The Federal Transit Administration will receive a total of $10.608 billion.

• The New Starts program, a key source of funds for transit projects, especially in large metropolitan areas, will receive $1.95 billion.

• New spending on high-speed rail, which has run into strong Republican opposition, will be eliminated.

• Amtrak will receive $466 million for operating expenses and $952 for capital projects. This is less than the Senate requested but much higher than the sum proposed by the House of Representatives.

• Traditional highway funding under the Federal Highway Administration will be $39.143 billion. That’s slightly less than current levels.

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