U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan has announced that HUD will be investing an additional $67 million towards creating stronger, more sustainable communities that connect housing to jobs while fostering local innovation and building a clean energy economy through its Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program. HUD has provided advance notice that the second round of Regional Planning grants will soon be made available through a Notice of Funding Availability. The grants will be awarded competitively to multi-jurisdictional and multi-sector partnerships as well as regional consortia consisting of state and local governments, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), educational institutions, non-profit organizations and philanthropic organizations. This year’s funding was approved by Congress in HUD’s 2011 budget, as part of $100 million devoted to the agency's Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities. "I am pleased to continue HUD’s commitment toward supporting regional planning for sustainable communities by announcing that we will soon make $67 million in new funding to this important grant program,” said Donovan. “On the heels of the second anniversary of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities these grants will further the Obama Administration’s commitment to help communities nationwide improve access to affordable housing, increase transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment and people’s health.” This year’s Regional Planning Grant program will encourage grantees to support regional planning efforts that integrate housing, land-use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure developments in a manner that empowers regions to consider how all of these factors work together to bring economic competitiveness and revitalization to a community. The program will place a priority on partnerships, including the collaboration of arts and culture, philanthropy, and innovative ideas to the regional planning process. Recognizing that areas are in different stages of achieving sustainability, HUD will establish two funding categories for the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program. ►Category 1 Funds: Can be used to support the preparation of Regional Plans for sustainable development. ►Category 2 Funds: Can be used to support efforts to modify existing regional plans so that they are in accordance with the Partnership for Sustainable Communities’ six Livability Principles. Category 2 Funds also may be used to prepare more detailed execution plans for an adopted regional plan for sustainable development and limit predevelopment planning activities for catalytic projects. The grant program builds on the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an innovative interagency collaboration, launched by President Obama in June 2009, between the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and HUD to provide more sustainable housing and transportation choices for families and lay the foundation for a 21st century economy. Guided by six Livability Principles, the Partnership is designed to remove the traditional silos that exist between federal departments and strategically target the agencies' transportation, land use, environmental, housing and community development resources to provide communities the resources they need to build more livable, sustainable communities. Last week, the Partnership marked its second anniversary through www.sustainablecommunities.gov, which provides a one-stop shop for best practices, grant announcement and accomplishments of the Partnership. In 2010, HUD awarded $100 million in Regional Planning grants to 45 rural and metropolitan regions around the country, with $25 million dedicated to areas with populations less than 500,000. This year, HUD is renewing that commitment by allocating at least $25 million from the second round of grants for regions with populations less than 500,000. Currently, more than 75 million people live in regions supported through the first generation of Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants. Ultimately, this regional planning initiative will provide a blueprint for public and private investment decisions that will support a more sustainable future for a region. The size of grants awarded will be determined by the size of the applicants geographic area, whether a large metropolitan region or a smaller rural community. Grant applications, which will be reviewed not only by HUD, but by DOT and EPA and several other federal agencies, will be due later this summer.