New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez has taken up where former Senator Chris Dodd left off. Last week, Menendez offered a fresh version of Dodd’s Livable Communities Act. The bill would formally authorize the HUD Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities and its Regional Planning and Community Challenge grant programs, restoring funding for those programs to 2010 levels.
Sen. Bob Menendez is hoping to bring funding for livable communities back to 2010 levels. Photo courtesy of Sen. Menendez's office.
The office works to “coordinate federal housing and transportation investments with local land use decisions in order to reduce transportation costs for families, improve housing affordability, save energy, and increase access to housing and employment opportunities.”
The bill would also create a loan program for transit oriented development projects.
In comparison with the 2009 version, the total dollar amount of the five-year bill is smaller — $880 million compared to almost $2 billion. Last time around, the country was already in the throes of economic crisis, but Congress hadn’t changed hands yet and ushered in a new generation of deficit hawks. So Menendez kept this bill a little more modest, holding spending at 2010 levels (before the livability programs got hammered with cuts earlier this year.)
In hopes of winning over some of those deficit hawks, the bill starts off with the assertion that strategic community planning could save nearly $122 billion in infrastructure costs over the net 25 years.
The $880 million is mostly for Regional Planning Grants ($600 million) with $180 million for Challenge Grants and $100 million for TOD loans, which haven’t existed up until now. Fifteen percent of funds are destined for rural areas.