Today, I was proud to announce that we are making $95 million available in Regional and Community Challenge grants to support local efforts to build more livable and sustainable communities that ensure that all Americans can afford to live in places with access to employment, schools and public transit options.
But that’s not all these efforts represent. They show that President Obama recognizes that in world where flexible workplaces win, where flexible minds win and where flexible economies win, communities need a flexible federal partner that’s responsive to local needs.
With this funding, we’re building on the $170 million in grants we awarded last fall with our partners from the Department of Transportation to offer a different kind of partnership to local communities. Rather than the “one-size-fits-all” rules and regulations that too often ignored the unique needs of every community and created barriers to growth, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities is helping drive innovation at the local level and leveraging the public, private, and philanthropic investment communities need to thrive.
And if last year was any guide, not only will the demand for these grants be high – they will also pack a powerful punch. Indeed, the $98 million we awarded in Regional Planning Grants last year are expected to leverage another $120 million in other investment. For example:
- In Austin, Texas, a $3.7 million Regional Planning grant is helping address unemployment and explosive population growth by linking its long-term regional transportation plan to 37 mixed-income communities near transit and job centers. This grant will help 3,000 small, family-run businesses expand or open a second location, provided that each of these businesses hires at least 1 new worker who has been unemployed for a year or more. This work is expected to create more than 7,000 permanent jobs and save the taxpayer $1.25 billion.
- In rural South Dakota, a grant of nearly $1 million is helping a consortium led by the Oglala Sioux Tribe develop a sustainable development plan that addresses the lack of local economic anchors in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. With this grant, local leaders can begin to use federal support to drive smart growth and gather critical information about community needs.
Through this work, and the funding we’re announcing today, we’re doing more than helping communities plan for their futures – we’re helping build stronger the regional economies we need to ensure the futures of our children are never again determined by the zip codes they grow up in.
That’s the new way of doing business that these grants and the work of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities represent. It’s the kind of partner the Obama Administration is committed to being to communities all across the country as we work to unleash opportunity for everyone and ensure our recovery is as robust as possible. And it’s the work I’ve been so proud to be a part of these last two years.
You can read more about the Administration’s sustainability efforts at www.sustainablecommunities.gov.