Federal Government’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities Celebrates 5 Years of Progress

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities has covered a lot of ground since its inception, and it has big plans for the future.
Harriet Tregoning

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities — a  joint venture of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — has covered a lot of ground since its inception in 2009. All told, the partnership has awarded in excess of $4 billion and provided technical assistance to 1,000 communities spanning all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, according to its newly released report, “Five Years of Learning from Communities and Coordinating Federal Investments.” But it’s not all about the money.

The partnership was created to coordinate investments and align polices to support communities wishing to create more vibrant, healthy and sustainable neighborhoods. The team follows six guiding principles: Provide more transportation choices; promote equitable, affordable housing; increase economic competitiveness; support existing communities; leverage federal investment; and value communities and neighborhoods. It all boils down to expanding opportunities for American families.

“It’s less a big-dollar initiative and more of an initiative about collaboration and about getting multiple benefits out of every public dollar that’s expended,” Harriet Tregoning, director of HUD’s Office of Economic Resilience, told Commercial Property Executive. “We also had a great opportunity working in this project with philanthropy; sealing those partnerships with philanthropy, with special impact investors and others is a big part of our initiative going forward.”

The partnership’s list of achievements includes the funding of regional planning efforts in New York and New Jersey to assist with the recovery from Superstorm Sandy; funding to help the Thunder Valley Community Development Corp. on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota develop a regional plan; and grants to help the city of Memphis craft a master plan for the redevelopment of the area surrounding its airport. In its pursuits, the partnership has also relied on private and other public resources to enhance its investments.

And there’s a great deal more on tap for the next five years, including bolstering communities that have already benefited from the partnership so they may successfully implement the plans they’ve devised. Additionally, it will place a focus on areas where major issues, such as aging infrastructure and water infrastructure, have not been fully addressed. The entity is also eager to help communities address the impact of the changing climate. “There are many needs associated with that and how communities can act to make themselves more resilient, to potentially move critical infrastructure and housing out of harm’s way,” said Tregoning. “And how to cope with the day-to-day effects of a changing climate is another big area where we expect to collaborate over the next few years.”

Furthermore, some additional acronyms may be joining HUD, DOT and the EPA. “We’re also going to be expanding our partnerships,” Tregoning added. “We’ve been doing this all along, but we’re working ever more closely with an expanding set of federal agencies. The collaboration has been paying off for us and for the localities that we’re working with, so we really see the benefits of expanding.”