In a move to help individual communities and regions across the country improve their economic viability, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this morning announced the 2011 winners of HUD’s Sustainable Communities Grants. Twenty-seven communities and organizations received Community Challenge Grants while 29 regional areas were awarded Regional Planning Grants. The money will help communities move toward a more sustainable future by linking housing with good jobs, quality schools, and transportation, thus saving on infrastructure investment.

"Our nation’s ability to compete in a global economy and create jobs is dependent upon how quickly and efficiently we can connect our workers and families to education and employment opportunities," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "This year we are especially proud that we had a particular focus on funding proposals that included more chambers of commerce and economic development corporations as core partners." The grants, added Donovan, will be leveraged with local funds, more than doubling the investment and helping to create new ways that communities plan for housing, transportation, workforce development, and future quality of life.

"Today, when people are spending 52 cents out of every dollar on housing and transportation, these grants are making it more affordable to live," said Shelley Poticha, director of HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, at this morning’s press conference. "They’re changing the face of communities across the country." Poticha added that she was encouraged by the level of demand for the grants. "There’s interest from every state and every territory," she said, with one in every eight applicants receiving a grant. "We would have needed $500 million to fund all the proposals we received this year," she said.

Community Challenge Grants target local challenges like integrating transportation and housing. The monies could be used for updating local master plans, zoning codes, and building codes to support private sector investment in mixed-use development, as well as for affordable housing and adaptive reuse. Retrofitting main streets to provide safer routes for children and seniors, or preserving affordable housing and local businesses near new transit stations are other ways a Community Challenge Grant might be used.

Regional Planning Grants encourage planning that integrates housing, land-use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure in ways that ultimately create more jobs and economic opportunities. Priority is placed on partnerships vis-a-vis regional planning: the collaboration of arts and culture, philanthropy, and innovation. Two levels of Regional Planning Grants are awarded: one for communities in the beginning stages of planning sustainable development, and another for those who are ready for implementation.

Grant applicants are asked to look at data and assess their future demographic profile. "The U.S. is an aging population, and family sizes are changing," said Poticha, adding that, in awarding the grants, HUD is asking areas to "go the next step and figure out what these demographic changes mean for the kinds of housing needed for their particular area." This means "looking at what’s in the pipeline," said Potchia, "as well as current housing supply and how plans might be shifted to align with economic conditions and current demographic shifts."

A state-by-state list of grant winners and more information about the grants is available at