With multiple versions of two years’ worth of federal budgets flying around, some details are still emerging about what’s in and what’s out. At the end of last week we heard that the FY2011 budget, which has been sent to the president for his signature, includes $100 million for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. According to HUD Sustainable Communities Director Shelley Poticha, the partnership was allocated $70 million for regional planning grants ($17.5 million is slated for regions with populations of less than 500,000) and $30 million for Community Challenge planning grants.
That’s still a significant reduction from the $150 million the partnership had last year, but in this time of shrinking budgets, it’s a lot more than some livability advocates feared. If the Sustainable Communities program had been killed in this budget, it would have been all the more difficult to revive it for inclusion in the upcoming reauthorization of the transportation bill.
The president wants to keep the partnership going, and indeed, within the administration and among reformers, the funding for the partnership is seen as a money-saver, consolidating duplicative agency programs, cutting through red tape, and using outcome-based metrics to identify and fund effective projects. Still, it’s an administration program labeled “livability” and was, therefore, extremely vulnerable to the GOP ax.
The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is the name for the coordination among DOT, EPA, and HUD to promote planning and infrastructure investment according to their six tenets of livability: transportation choices, affordable housing, economic competitiveness, support for existing communities, coordination of federal policies and investing in healthy communities. The two planning grant programs, which are funded and managed out of HUD, are a centerpiece of the entire partnership. The other main part of it, TIGER, is run through the DOT and also saw the bulk of its funding — the lion’s share of TIGER, if you will – preserved (perhaps somewhat surprisingly, in the current budget bill), suffering only a 12 percent cut.
Meanwhile, transit capital funding (the FTA’s New Starts program) was reduced by about a quarter, high-speed rail was zeroed out completely, Amtrak took about a 10 percent hit, and TIGGER (a greenhouse gas reduction program for transit) got cut from $75 million to $50 million.