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Feds to Start Scoring Transportation Potential of Housing Grant Applicants

2:06 PM PDT on May 24, 2010

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan said late
Friday that his agency will soon start gauging the "location efficiency"
of its grant applicants, determining each project's potential for
connecting residents to surrounding neighborhoods -- and mirroring the
recommendations of a
recent report
that found a correlation between homeowners'
foreclosure risk and their dependence on car ownership.

Secretary_Donovan_0.jpgHUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, right,
with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) at left and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at
center. (Photo: White
House Press

Donovan's announcement came during
an address
to the Congress for the New Urbanism's (CNU) annual
meeting in Atlanta. During his visit, the former New York City housing
commissioner also toured the BeltLine
, an ambitious local effort to convert former rail track into
new light rail and trails.

In his remarks to the CNU, Donovan depicted the integration of
"location efficiency" measures as a way to encourage housing developers
to pursue more mixed-use, denser construction.

"[I]t’s time that federal dollars stopped encouraging sprawl and
started lowering the barriers to the kind of sustainable development
our country needs and our communities want," Donovan said. "And with
$3.25 billion at stake in these competitions, that’s exactly what they
will start to do."

Evaluating the range of transport options available for prospective
residents of urban and suburban areas was among the central
recommendations of a
foreclosures report
released in January by the Natural Resources
Defense Council (NRDC). That study was aimed at mortgage lenders rather
than the government, but Democratic lawmakers last year began
pushing for
HUD to insure more mortgages based on the properties'
"location efficiency."

Donovan said that HUD would use the new LEED for Neighborhood
Development (LEED-ND)
system, created by the CNU, the NRDC, and the U.S. Green Buildings
Council, to measure the transportation potential of grant proposals. LEED
has become an increasingly popular method of tracking
the environmental sustainability of new buildings, although skepticism
the range of energy consumption of buildings with the LEED
imprimatur prompted some revisions to the format last year.

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