How Federal Agencies Are Investing in Sustainability, Resilience, and Equity


“From day one, the Biden administration has identified racial equity and the climate crisis as immediate priorities,” said moderator Lawrence D. Frank, professor of urban studies and planning at the University of California in California. San Diego and President of Urban Design 4 Health Inc. “These issues are linked and often overlap.”

Frank’s remarks came as he presented the panel “Promoting Climate Resilience and Equity Through Community Development and Infrastructure” on day two of the ULI 2022 Spring Meeting in San Diego, with representatives from four federal agencies describing the funding opportunities offered by their agencies.

Frank’s recent work includes creating new equity-based walking measures for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The ability to walk does not work well for someone who is disadvantaged because it comes with more air pollution and noise and less green space or other amenities and benefits enjoyed by more affluent people. .” He described a number of tools he is developing to help analyze the links between health and equity impacts of transportation investments and land-use planning options.

Eric Byous, Brownfields Project Manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pacific Southwest Region, described how the EPA Brownfields Program supports community development, including including identifying redevelopment sites, community outreach and visioning, cleanup planning, purchasing environmental insurance, and identifying potential funding sources. “A dollar spent on our program over time has been shown to bring in $20 from other sources for the community, so we want public/private partnerships, we want our funding to inspire other investments.” He noted that the bipartisan Infrastructure Act has significantly increased funding for the program: “$1.5 billion has come into our program over the next five years. This represents an annual increase of four to seven times for the program. »

Seema Thomas, Deputy Director of Section 108 for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, described how the Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program can be used to build resilience and equity into community development projects. and infrastructure. “For approximately every dollar of Section 108 funding, communities were able to leverage almost $5 in additional funds,” Thomas said. “It uses the Community Chassis [Development] Block Grants Program – annual grants provided to states, cities and counties to help develop viable urban communities, housing and decent living environments, and economic opportunity for low- and middle-income people.

Frances Sakaguchi, Economic Development Integrator for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), spoke about the EDA’s grant programs, which aim to help create jobs and attract private and economic capacity building. Equity is the main priority of the projects in which EDA invests, followed by environmentally sustainable development. “We’re a small agency,” she said, “but we’re a very flexible agency, in that we can support economic development in a variety of ways across multiple sectors. We don’t have the largest funds that other agencies have, but there is a lot we can do by helping and working with other agencies to have more impact on these communities.

The Build America Bureau is the finance arm of the US Department of Transportation, said Robert Hanifin, transportation planner for that department. “We have the TIFIA [Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act] and RRIF [Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing] programs, with a lending capacity of $100 billion, and there is a rush to lend that money.

Transportation infrastructure is often not well integrated into the community, Hanifin said, either physically or in terms of the ways communities use spaces socially, but that is changing. “We’re seeing some communities in our pipeline getting really creative about combining traditional transportation projects with other types of economic development projects,” he said.

RON NYREN is a freelance writer specializing in architecture, urban planning, and real estate based in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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