Partnership for Sustainable Communities

Feb 7, 2012, 7:21 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Poticha Shelley Poticha, Director for HUD Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities

A key group that presented at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference last week, was the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Created in 2009, the Partnership is a collaborative initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the combined goal of helping communities across the U.S. improve access to affordable housing, increase transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment.

The Partnership works to coordinate federal housing, transportation, water, and other infrastructure investments to make neighborhoods more prosperous, allow people to live closer to jobs, save households time and money and reduce pollution.

"Sustainable communities are those that have access to jobs, quality schools, safe streets, environmental benefits—basically, communities that are built in ways that everyone can be included and have a better quality of life," said Shelley Poticha, who serves as HUD’s advisor to the Partnership and as Director for Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at the Department.

The partnership agencies incorporate six principles of livability into federal funding programs, policies, and future legislative proposals:

  • Provide more transportation choices
  • Promote equitable, affordable housing
  • Enhance economic competitiveness
  • Support existing communities
  • Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment
  • Value communities and neighborhoods

"We can’t afford to continue to plan and grow the way we have in the past. It’s too expensive," said Poticha. "We need to receive multiple benefits from every single investment we make. We need to put people at the center of this movement."

Recent accomplishments of the Partnership include:

Poticha says the collaboration among agencies brings greater strengths than any one agency alone. "When you’re a community trying to build, you’re not going to be able to achieve your goals by working with one part of the federal government. We need to align policies and strategies so we can work together. Working together allows us to leverage ideas and ideas for how each agency can best spend its funds in these areas," says Poticha. "It also allows us to see greater goals beyond the specific mission of our agency—in particular how this and other collaboration can work to definitively improve population health in the U.S."

Significantly, these efforts can go a long way toward improving health outcomes. "Community and public health goals can be supported through strategies that further sustainability such as expanding options for walking, bicycling and improving neighborhood safety," says Poticha, who adds that research has shown that community design can have an important impact on a variety of health factors including obesity rates, respiratory and cardio-vascular health.

Poticha says many of the grantees funded through HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative are developing local strategies to create more walkable communities. "To cite just one example," says Poticha, "the HUD FY2011 Community Challenge grant to the Parish of St. Charles, LA is being used to plan for the redevelopment of a local highway to improve safety and connectivity for drivers, transit users and walkers. The plan engages the community to re-envision the corridor as a destination to develop healthy, safe and walkable neighborhoods connected to each other."

>>Follow the rest of our coverage of the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.