- By Erin Bourgault, CTLCV Summer Intern from Bates College. email@example.com
In August 2009, Senator Chris Dodd introduced the Livable Communities Act (S. 1619) to help communities across the country invest in smart planning for housing, land use, transportation and businesses.
The Livable Communities Act (LCA), co-sponsored by Congressman John Larson and Senator Lieberman, encourages local, regional, and federal sustainable development. According to Senator Dodd, “This legislation provides funding for regions to plan future growth in a coordinated way that reduces congestion, generates good-paying jobs, creates and preserves affordable housing, meets our environmental and energy goals, protects rural areas and green space, revitalizes our Main Streets and urban centers, and makes our communities better places to live, work, and raise families.”
The LCA will establish in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) an Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities (OSHC) to oversee the grant programs, and an independent Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities in the executive branch to coordinate federal sustainable development programs. The OSHC Director will research and report incentives for leaders to make, and homebuyers and homeowners to choose energy-efficient mortgages and location-efficient mortgages.
The competitive planning grants authorized by the LCA will carry out long-term projects to coordinate land use, housing, transportation, and infrastructure planning processes; identify and develop regional partnerships and regional plans, including local zoning and sustainable development; and carry out environmental, transportation, energy, housing, and infrastructure assessments. The LCA sustainability challenge grants will promote long-term development plans through investments in public transportation, affordable housing, transit-oriented development, Brownfield re-development, and complete streets.
With $400 million in grants for over four years, the LCA aims to advance “green” projects, such as the “One City, One Plan” and iQuilt proposals in Hartford and the 360 State Street project in New Haven. As transit-oriented development, 360 State Street is the first major downtown residential construction in at least 20 years, taking place at a long under-utilized site in New Haven’s central business district. Senator Dodd called 360 State a “living model for what can happen all across the state.” It includes offices, shops, 500 apartments, and a grocery store, as well as ZipCars, ports for charging electric cars, and thermostats reading watt-usage. A family living in 360 State will create only 19% of the carbon footprint that a suburban single family would have. The scheduled date for completion of 360 State is fall 2010.
In March 2010, Senator Dodd, Congressman Larson and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Ron Sims went to Hartford and New Haven to promote the integration of housing, transit, and smart land use to create more livable communities. Congressman Larson said, “As we work to rebuild our economy and put our neighbors back to work, we must also rebuild our communities, making them greener more sustainable and more livable for generations to come.”
New Haven and Hartford have begun to take on this goal; the rest of the state of Connecticut should follow.