Talking Points of Regional Administrator Rick Garcia
Denver's Regional Council of Government (DRCOG) on Sustainability
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

[Photo: HUD Region VIII Administrator, Rick M. Garcia, discusses HUD Sustainable Grants and Principles at DRCOG Event]
HUD Region VIII Administrator, Rick M. Garcia, discusses HUD Sustainable Grants and Principles at DRCOG Event

Thank you for your kind introduction. It is a pleasure to meet with you again.

Thank you Jennifer for extending an invitation to speak briefly tonight about the recent activities and status of the Federal Partnership on Sustainable Communities.

As some of you know, I sat right in this board room for a number of years as the DRCOG representative from the City of Denver, during a time of great challenges for regional transportation funding. You will agree not much has changed with needs for regional transportation funding.

However, DRCOG has continued to be vital link to regional planning and promoting an important conversation about how to better plan for regional growth while considering more efficient use of these scarce financial resources.

Thank you for your service to that mission.

At the same time you have an awesome responsibility that goes beyond your local jurisdictions boundaries to think and act smart on regional public policy matters that will shape Metro-Denver's future---------a future that will require more transportation choices, more work force housing, and rationale to grow our economy and become more competitive in a world marketplace.

The Denver metro-region is part of the national cadre of metropolitan regions that contribute 75% of the GDP and represent two-thirds (2/3s) of where the U.S. population now resides.

The President has embarked on a national domestic policy agenda to "Out-Build, Out-Educate and Out-Innovate our global competitors.

We can only accomplish these ambitious goals by leveraging federal investments in transportation infrastructure, housing, energy and public health.

The largest 30 metropolitan regions in the nation must be part of the solutions and lead with thoughtful regional sustainable planning.

DRCOG can lead this planning and implementation because you are the linchpin entity that has the regional muscle to set a vision. You have successfully forged the "Mile High Compact"----a revered Metro Vision Planning Process, your TIP annual commitments to Fastracks funding and you have established a fair and balanced Urban Growth Boundary process.

The Denver metro-region is a powerful place because it connects cities, counties, mountain towns and our eastern plain communities into a region that:

  • contributes more than half of the state's Gross Domestic Product every year.
  • accounts for 54% of the state's employment and 51% of Colorado's population. Because of your large economic contributions and size, the region is the primary driver of Colorado's economic train.

Colorado depends on the Denver metro-region, because even though you rank 16th in the nation for your population, you rank 13th in the nation for your annual Metro Gross Domestic Product (or production of goods and services). That means the Denver area has a highly productive work-force relative to other large urban areas in the nation.

Approximately half of Colorado's growth is actually in population -- of people moving into the Denver metro-region.

If current trends continue and without a balanced land-use plan, the region's urbanized land area will nearly double in size by 2035.

All this translates to a population moving to a relatively small geographical area.

DRCOGs vision and planning policies for smart land use is critical to the future and highly important to where the workforce housing market is placed. Strategically, the housing must be near transportation options to ensure access to jobs, fresh foods grocery stores, medical care and other services. Otherwise, the region is promoting higher transportation and housing costs for the dominate households who will be the lower wage-earners in the approaching years.

I salute the DRCOG's Metro Vision 2035 plan that calls for 50% of New housing and NEW employment to be located in urban centers---this is exactly what our federal partners are working towards---sustainable affordable communities.

Your outcome will be vibrant urban centers that allow people of all ages, incomes and abilities to access a range of housing, employment and service opportunities.

So what are the Federal agencies doing to contribute to Sustainable Communities?

HUD has joined EPA, USDOT, USDA—rural development and DOE to collaborate and join forces to reduce overlapping regulations; The federal agencies developed the six HUD Sustainability Partnership Livability Principles --- (which we will distribute now).

One component of the federal partnership combined grant funding to enhance communities and the environment and ensures safe, healthy, energy-efficient housing is built near transportation hubs.

Through the joint work of these agencies, we have renewed our focus on sustainable, equitable, affordable housing near transportation that enhances economic competitiveness (creating a place where people want to live and work) and supports existing communities (that have been decaying for years because of failed past policies that did not consider the broader health concerns of communities and neighborhoods).

The Partnership has reaffirmed coordination of policies and are leveraging investments to increase the value of urbanized communities and neighborhoods.

For example, we chose to match our sustainability rhetoric with resources: Last fall HUD awarded two categories of grants that were extremely competitive.

HUD awarded $140 million in grants to support local and regional sustainable communities' initiatives in over 100 communities.

Demand for our two new Sustainable Communities grant programs was phenomenal. (225 regions applied for the Regional Planning grant program.)

-Rick---place map on the overhead projector...

Seventy-eight million Americans live in the 45 regions that won these competitions -- but still we were only able to fund a quarter of the applications we received.

For our Community Challenge grant program, which we administered jointly with the Department of Transportation, the funds awarded by HUD and DOT will leverage more than $50 million in additional local, state and private funding.

These grants represent the most significant federal investment in sustainable planning in generations.

The Federal Partnership on Sustainable Communities' goals are aligned with DRCOG's and other MPOs' goals to accomplish:

to reduce water and fossil fuel consumption along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, single occupant vehicle mode share and VMT over the next 20 years. Frankly, many of the Regional Sustainable Grant Awardees are not as far along in regional collaboration and sustainable planning as DRCOG.

Other MPOs located in San Joaquin Valley of CA, Central Wisconsin, Houston-Galveston area and South Florida need more federal support to launch their planning processes towards a regional plan/vision that can begin transforming their regional areas to better plan:

  • reducing water consumption;
  • altering housing development patterns; and
  • change the physical landscape of these regions that need to become less auto-dependent.

The results are: Parents will spend less time driving and more time with their children.

More families will live in safe, stable communities near good schools and jobs. More kids in these regional communities will be healthy and fit. And more businesses will have access to the capital and talent they need to grow and prosper.

Indeed, regions that embrace sustainable communities will have a built-in competitive edge in attracting jobs and private investment.

Will HUD have future funding to continue Sustainability planning and implementation grants? Secretary Donovan just unveiled the 2012 budget proposal on Monday. He made difficult decisions, including reductions to programs that, absent the fiscal situation, he would not cut.

80 percent of our proposed FY 2012 budget will be used for renewing homeless and rental assistance, and providing capital needs funding for HUD's public housing stock.

The need for homeless and rental assistance is growing as a result of the recession.

While the national median family income last year was over $60,000, the average adjusted income of a family receiving rental assistance was $10,200.

These families are among the folks hardest hit by the recession. They need to be protected - and in the President's budget, HUD has made a commitment do so.

Looking forward, Yes we remain committed to funding more competitive sustainable communities' grants with a $150M budget request in 2012. The current fiscal year budget also supports this grant funding, but. . . . ?

The $150 million we've requested for additional Sustainable Communities grants will help regions implement plan and innovate as they jumpstart their economies, attract private investment and become more globally competitive.

Federal Partnership on Sustainable Communities has been successful in coordinating these grant objectives, aligning sustainable goals and outcomes, surfacing and reducing regulatory barriers for builders and developers to meet market demands. The Partnership does not have a line item; it is just part of making government work better for you!

Additionally, DRCOG has received a PSS designation from HUD as an applicant that did not receive a 2010 grant award. This provides access to TA support in coming months to prepare for the next grant competition.

And the PSS also provides its consortium members which includes DRCOG additional and automatic application points in any future HUD "place-based" competitive grant processes: this will include the Rural Innovation Fund, Choice Neighborhoods and Brownfields Economic Development Initiative programs to list just a few.

The DRCOG region is poised to continue to lead on regional transportation policies, now on location efficiency that helps site workforce housing and sustainability planning.

Strong, effective regionalism and leadership is the power that will Out-build; Out-educate and Out-innovate other world urban regions we now compete with globally!

The President, the Secretary and I are committed to providing localities with the tools they need to make the strategic investments that ensure the economic future of this country - and Regional Sustainable Planning support is one of them.

In conclusion, I applaud you for your leadership for your vision and planning to effectively promote the economic vitality of the Denver Metro-region.

Again, the DRCOG region is the engine that will drive the future—and ultimately Colorado. Your exemplary vision will determine the rate of the economic recovery in the metro region and impact the entire state of Colorado; Keep up your good work!

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you tonight. I'll be glad to take your questions.

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Content Archived: October 28, 2016