Talking Points of Regional Administrator Rick Garcia
Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Conference
Thursday, March 3, 2011 Luncheon

[Photo 1: Regional Administrator Rick Garcia speaks to audience]
Regional Administrator Rick Garcia speaks to audience

Thank you for your kind introduction. I've always enjoyed coming to the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Conferences and it is a pleasure to meet with all of you again today.

Today is an overview of HUD actions supporting the partnership and sustainable housing. If you want to hear more details, feel free to join us in the morning, when I am also speaking in more detail of the progress using HUD grant funding. The discussion specifies progress by communities. So if you want to hear more about linkages to regional planning grants and other opportunities, please attend that session.

By the way, great work planning this session and the overall conference. The agenda's content is quite impressive. I salute the board and those who worked so diligently to organize the solid agenda.

I am pleased to be here this afternoon with my two colleagues - DOT's Terry Rosapep and EPA's Lynn Richardson. I've known Terry Rosapep for a long time as he worked with the City of Denver a number of years ago and Lynn Richardson, who I've just gotten to know this past year and a great contributor to our federal partnership on sustainable communities.

I'm going to speak about HUD's role in the federal partnership, including the challenges that we have overcome and the successes in 2010. That was our flagship year when the concept of bringing the three agencies together took form under the leadership of our three respective Cabinet members.

HUD's role in the Sustainable Communities Partnership was to stimulate more integrated planning to guide state, metropolitan and local investments in land use, transportation and housing, as well as, to challenge localities to undertake zoning and land use reforms to support more inclusive, sustainable communities---very much akin to goals of this particular organization.

HUD funded more than $100 million for Regional Planning Grants, $40 million in Community Challenge Grants and $10 million in HUD-DOT-EPA research efforts and grants. All that didn't come easily.

[Photo 2: Regional Administrator Rick Garcia and Terry Rosapep, from Department of Transportation (DOT), listen to speaker]
Regional Administrator Rick Garcia and Terry Rosapep, from Department of Transportation (DOT), listen to speaker

Before that, there was some pre-NOFA activity. HUD Secretary Donovan said he wanted to go out to the communities in this nation, the urban, metropolitan areas and ask elected officials, the stakeholders and other partners of HUD what we should be doing in our regional planning grant process. This had never been done before. I learned as an appointee, doing things for the first time in the federal government is not easy. HUD accomplished this goal with a six-city tour. Perhaps some of you attended the Denver meeting and provided comments and suggestions. Your information was taken to heart and actually put into the NOFA that was published last summer on the Regional Sustainable Planning Grants and Challenge Grants.

There was also a historic attempt that succeeded in putting together a joint HUD and DOT NOFA. That was a significant benchmark. As Lynn just alluded to, now the challenge is for EPA and HUD to work on the capacity-building grants that were always intended to follow the regional planning grant process.

In addition, over the course of the summer, HUD recruited and selected more than 80 employees who have passion and commitment to sustainable communities throughout the nation. They are not just employees who work in the Field Policy and Management arena that I supervise directly in the six-state region, but from the program areas. In fact, one of these individuals is here today, Shayne Brady who works in our Community Planning and Development program. These individuals are asked to take leadership roles on sustainable projects and work in the community, in addition to their regular duties. Now we have a cadre of more than 80 individuals in the nation who can help steer sustainable work forward in their local jurisdictions and regions.

Also impressive, is the fact that the relationships built by the Federal Partnership helped leverage several national foundations to come to the table and support our sustainable community efforts, either funding programs directly or supporting the capacity building needs in regions throughout the nation. This active collaboration of organizations, known as Living Cities, that includes members such as Ford, Rockefeller, Kellogg, and many other national foundations. We have been able to leverage our relationship to gain dollars for local communities beyond federal funding.

Let me talk about the competition associated with the Regional Planning Grants. More than 1,300 expressed interest from around the nation. We received 225 applications requesting $440 million dollars for the Regional Sustainable Planning Grants. We had a 20% success rating---meaning one in five of the applications were awarded funding.

The Challenge Planning Grants had more difficulty implementing the first-time process. The two federal agencies -HUD and DOT- took time and overcame barriers. We received more than 1,000 pre-applications and then 585 completed applications from all 50 states requesting $1.28 billion in demand for the program. The result was a 10.6 percent success rate.

Let me share with you this slide (attached) of the country that provides a representation of not only the HUD Community Challenge Grants, but also the joint DOT-HUD Grants, the DOT TIGER II Planning Grants, the FTA Livability and Alternative Analysis Grants and the EPA Sustainable Communities Technical Assistance and Brownfield Grants. This slide indicates where the three agencies invested $773 million around the country. The slide gives you a good snapshot of how important this funding has been in job generation, local public investment that leverages other private investment, as well as, job retention.

Here are more impressive results of the Regional Sustainable Grants:

  • 45 regions received grants;
  • 10 of the 25 regions are the largest metropolitan areas;
  • 80 million U.S. residents live in the jurisdictions that were awarded Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants;
  • 13 regions represented small communities and rural places;
  • Six were consortia led by a nonprofit organization-a few of you are in the audience today;
  • Three regions were driven by tribal leadership;
  • More than $120 million were co-invested by partners leveraging federal investments; and
  • 29 regions achieved Preferred Sustainability Status.

Let's talk about the impressive results for the Challenge Grants:

  • 42 communities received Challenge or Combination Grants (and DOT awarded an additional 19 DOT TIGER II Planning Grants);
  • Of those, 10 Challenge grants were awarded to small communities and rural places;
  • 27 grantees will recommend zoning or building code changes as part of receiving the awards; and
  • $48 million will be co-invested from partners leveraging the HUD-DOT federal investment.

Now, let's talk about the Preferred Sustainability Status that was designated in the original NOFA. The program was designed so that organizations, who did not receive funding, will receive the Preferred Sustainability Status designation. That means when consortium members or that applicant applies for future HUD "Place-based" competitive grant processes------ including the Rural Innovation Fund, Choice Neighborhoods and Brownfields Economic Development Initiative----- they will receive automatically additional application points in HUD's other competitive grant programs.

In addition, the potential applicants will become candidates for capacity building needs to support their planning activities to become more competitive for future available federal grants.This map (attached) of the Preferred Sustainability Status gives you a snapshot where future funding may be awarded in the future.

Let's talk about the Federal Partnership---the three entities working together to combine our efforts in the grant application process. We involved all subject-matter-experts from HUD, EPA and DOT staff ---not just from DC, but employees like Shayne Brady and her counterparts, the Sustainability Officers-in the evaluation process. I participated by phone. This was truly an unprecedented practice when we jointly reviewed thousands of applications for the Sustainable Communities planning grants and the Challenge TIGER II Grants. The joint ratings made it possible to efficiently and effectively award the grants last year. I'm happy to report that ALL HUD grants have now signed cooperative agreements in record time----several weeks before the proposed due date.

In addition DOT and HUD found common ground to revise and re-formulate cooperative agreements-that instrument that some in local government use to dread. Now, state, city, county, tribal and non-profit organizations can use the updated forms. DOT and HUD worked together to resolve the duplication and to help grantees save their time so they can submit the same form for both agencies. That doesn't sound like a big accomplishment, but in the federal government this is a major step.

The Federal partnership proactively overcame barriers together through constant communications, not just at the national level, but also regionally. We use national and regional websites and web tools to collaborate and resolve problems.

Some people say that having the three federal agencies working together is difficult. In fact, it has been described it is like asking consenting adults to perform an unnatural act. In many ways, we have overcome that notion and are making government working better. For example, I assisted our Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities by providing Region VIII staff time and expertise to connect with all HUD sustainability officers. They meet routinely and collaborate on projects across HUD nationwide----not just the six sustainable officers in my office, but they are talking with counterparts across the country.

We've initiated a pilot project on a newly developed website that shows step-by-step planning documents, data collection, implementation lists and progress reports by and for our grantees, consultants and partners. I hope that you and your affiliated organizations will have access to a similar website on your projects in the future.

The Federal partnership of HUD, EPA and DOT has now expanded to include representation from USDA-Rural Development, Health and Human Services and Department of Energy to collaborate and join forces to reduce overlapping regulations.

How have we reduced regulatory barriers in the past few years as a result of the partnership?

First, the Brownfields Policy has been changed. We have revised a policy easing the path for developing FHA-insured multifamily housing on brownfield sites. It is now easier to reuse these sites-which frankly, are often well-suited for multifamily developments and makes housing more affordable.

Secondly, we've reduced contracting conflicts. HUD Section III, the federal law that governs our requirements to ensure that HUD funding impacts low-to-moderate income individuals, has been reviewed. DOT--on a case-by-case basis---has adopted HUD contracting requirements so Federal Highway Administration projects allow local hiring.

Now you may be asking, what about the future? Will HUD have future funding to continue Sustainability planning and implementation grants? Secretary Donovan just unveiled the 2012 budget and you can easily read the details at

HUD remains committed to funding more competitive sustainable communities' grants with a $150M budget request in 2012. 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.

The current fiscal year 2011 budget also supports this grant funding, but as you may be aware, we are on a continuing resolution. There are no signs that the sustainable funding efforts will be curtailed.

President Obama, the Secretary Donovan and I are committed to providing localities with the tools you 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, we applaud your efforts to work on Sustainable Housing and Communities and encourage you to keep up the great work - members of the Rocky Mountain Land Institute.

I believe Regional Sustainable Planning is here to stay. Thank you.

# # # # #

Content Archived: October 28, 2016