Massachusetts announces a “common vision” for housing, transportation, and the environment

Boston skyline

In fiscally challenging times, states can achieve more when their agencies work together toward common goals. Massachusetts is doing exactly that.

Yesterday at the Multi-Family Housing Summit in Boston, three members of Governor Deval Patrick’s Cabinet announced their common vision for growth in Massachusetts. The vision highlights the housing, transportation, and environment agencies’ strong commitment to plan ahead for future growth and the Commonwealth’s Sustainable Development Principles. The goals are to:

  • Build 10,000 multi-family homes a year through 2020, particularly near transit, city/town centers and employment centers;
  • Shift the way we travel, by tripling the share of travel by bicycling, transit and walking; and
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from the 1990 levels by 2020.

“We will achieve [the vision] only if we work together,” Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey said during the Multi-Family Housing Summit where the announcement was made. Understanding the key connections between housing, economic development, transportation, environmental protection, and land use, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki, whose agency hosted the Summit, said, “This [vision] is a pledge that we will think about each others agencies throughout our work.”

The 10,000 multi-family housing production goal was announced in November 2012 by Gov. Patrick as an outcome of the Governors’ Institute on Community Design workshop, which was held that summer.

In addition to the partnership, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development announced the formation of the Multi-Family Housing Advisory Committee to build broader support for multi-family housing and provide a structured forum for assessing and recommending new policies. The Advisory Committee will consist of 28 members, representing municipal and regional officials, members of the business and development community and non-profit and advocacy organizations, and will be staffed by state and quasi-public agencies. The formation of the Committee was also a recommendation made by the Governors’ Institute.

Similar stakeholder groups attended yesterday’s Multi-Family Housing Summit to discuss tangible strategies in achieving the 10,000 multi-family housing production goal. Bill Fulton, Director of the Governors’ Institute, presented on the recommendations that GICD provided in 2012 and facilitated the discussion.

The Governors’ Institute’s technical assistance is made possible and guided by the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnerships promotes better coordination between housing, transportation, and other infrastructure investments to create more prosperous and vibrant communities.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick introduces new workforce housing initiatives, adopts GICD recommendations

In July 2012, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design met with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his Administration to identify policies and tools to meet the State’s housing needs. Last week, Governor Patrick announced an ambitious housing policy initiative that builds on those strategies.

Speaking before an audience of almost 1,000 people at a statewide housing and community development conference in Worcester, MA on November 13, 2012, Governor Patrick announced a new statewide housing production goal of 10,000 multifamily units in the Commonwealth each year, and a new policy initiative called “Compact Neighborhoods.”

“To meet the needs of our workforce we need more housing for moderate- and middle-income families,” Governor Patrick said at the event. “We need more multi-family homes, rental apartments, and starter homes and we need these homes near jobs, near transit, and near city and town centers.”

“By 2020 across the state, we should see 80,000 new multi-family units. We can do this. In fact, we have to do this.”
– Governor Deval Patrick

The goal to build 10,000 new multifamily units each year, a first-of-its-kind housing production goal, is ambitious. But Governor Patrick and his Administration are determined to achieve this goal. By producing more housing that is affordable to moderate- and middle-income households—or “workforce housing”—that is reasonably dense and located near transit stations, employment and downtown centers, the Patrick Administration’s efforts will help build and retain a young and innovative workforce within the Commonwealth and strengthen the State’s economic competitiveness.

In addition to the housing production goal, Governor Patrick announced a new policy initiative called the Compact Neighborhoods program. The program provides additional incentives that encourage municipalities to identify as-of-right zoning districts (Compact Neighborhoods) and develop affordable and reasonably dense housing for working families near transit and town centers. Municipalities with Compact Neighborhoods can receive priority consideration for other state discretionary funding, including the MassWorks Infrastructure Program. Other funding programs will be considered this year to include a similar preference. The Compact Neighborhoods program complements Chapter 40R, the Commonwealth’s Smart Growth Overlay District Statute, by promoting neighborhoods with affordable housing choices near jobs and transit.

Both the housing production goal and the Compact Neighborhood program were among recommendations made by the Governors’ Institute to the Patrick Administration in a report last month, and support Governor Patrick’s comprehensive economic development plan. The Governors’ Institute has been working with the Patrick-Murray Administration on workforce housing policy since last spring. Workforce housing is a major issue in maintaining the Commonwealth’s economic competitiveness. Even though Massachusetts is the epicenter of the nation’s higher education system—350,000 students attend college or graduate school in the Boston area alone—the Commonwealth is often unable to retain this skilled young talent because of a shortage of affordable homes and lack of housing choices.

In July, the Governors’ Institute convened a high-level workshop that included Governor Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, several cabinet members, agency directors, and key stakeholders, such as local officials, business leaders, and housing organizations, as well as the Governors’ Institute’s nationally renowned housing, transportation, and real estate experts, to discuss policy ideas on workforce housing. Subsequently, the Governors’ Institute provided a set of recommendations to guide the Administration in strengthening its housing initiatives.

The Governors’ Institute’s technical assistance is made possible and guided by the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnerships promotes better coordination between housing, transportation, and other infrastructure investments to create more prosperous and vibrant communities. The Patrick Administration’s new initiatives are a great example of policies and initiatives that the Partnership encourages across the country.

GICD Official Kick-off Event in the News

Governors Get on Board With Smart Growth

Streetsblog — August 2, 2012
The Governors’ Institute on Community Design isn’t a brand new undertaking — it’s been around since 2005 — but it’s just gotten some high-profile support which could catapult it to a different level. Yesterday, a bipartisan group of six governors and ex-governors celebrated the new support of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities – the collaboration of HUD, DOT, and EPA — for the Governors’ Institute. This kind of collaborative work, among federal agencies and with the states, is “common sense writ large,” said U.S. DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari at the event.


Perdue to next governor: you have to make tough decisions

The News & Observer (NC) — August 1, 2012
Perdue was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday with a long list of governors and former governors to discuss the infrastructure challenges facing state leaders during tough economic times. The event was organized by the Governors’ Institute, which provides technical guidance to governors on, among other needs, housing, transportation and the environment. “If you’re going to get things done and focus on the future and continue to invest in the future, you have to make tough decisions, and you can’t stick your finger in the wind and decide which way the public is going,” said Perdue.


Livability Funding for Governors’ Institute on Community Design will improve transportation options across America

Fast Lane (Official U.S. DOT blog) — August 1, 2012
At DOT, we are constantly looking for innovative partnerships to help solve our transportation challenges. Through our work in the Partnership for Sustainable Communities with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, we’ve helped communities boost economic development at the local level by thinking comprehensively about transportation, housing, and environmental needs. Good community planning requires a unified and collaborative approach. That’s why DOT is proud to join HUD and EPA in supporting the Governors’ Institute on Community Design in a new effort to help states grow their economies and make better use of taxpayer dollars.

Political will, leadership crucial to building great communities

From left: former Maryland Governor and President of the Governors' Institute, Parris Glendening; former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge at the Governors' Institute launch event.

Great neighborhoods, strong local economies and balanced budgets don’t happen by chance. It takes political leadership and resilience to achieve those goals – political leadership that is sometimes hard to come by.

“Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die to get there,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge during a conversation between past and current state leaders at the National Press Club today. The Governors’ Institute on Community Design hosted the event, which kicked off newly announced support for the Institute from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

That reluctance to stick one’s neck out can have a negative impact on states and local communities, explained former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who co-chairs the Institute with former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening. Instead of planning for long-term, sustainable economic growth that meets a wide range of goals, it’s easy for elected officials to lapse into short-term, often politically motivated decisions.

“People have come up with this mindset that it’s an either or [between jobs and smart, long-term thinking], and we have to break that,” said Whitman, noting the pressure on state and local leaders to show immediate results.

She emphasized the need for state and local leaders to think tactically and show more resolve, a point Ridge hammered home when he likened current federal and state budget deficit reduction battles to a “kabuki dance” between political parties.

Many of the decisions needed today are bound to be unpopular, because the country needs both cuts to costly services as well as new revenue creation sources to fund important infrastructure upgrades and investments, Ridge said. Drawing attention to the need for increased leadership at all levels of government is therefore vital, as are more transparent and proactive efforts to inform the public about the realities of municipal costs.

“We almost need a public education campaign,” Ridge said about the cost of updating America’s infrastructure systems and investing in the things that will lead to long-term growth. “You flip on a light, you don’t think about [the cost]. You turn the water on, you don’t think about it.”

What that means for the country’s towns and cities is significant, as leaders shy away from making investments or bold policy changes to attract voters. Politicians on both sides of the aisle might recognize the need for smarter decision-making in light of changing market trends toward walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods and evolving population demographics, but it can be difficult to roll out reforms.

Current governors Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Beverly Perdue of North Carolina addressed that point, noting that leaders must persevere through criticism while simultaneously showing how new strategies will benefit communities over the long-haul.

“To continue to have a state that is growing as quickly as our state is growing, and to continue to have the kind of economic development we want,” Perdue said, “you need revenue … not just in North Carolina, but in any state.”

“All the great things you say during the campaign … all the, ‘I can fix it all with a magic wand,’” she said, “If you want to focus on the future, you have to make tough decisions and you can’t just stick your finger in the wind and decide which way the public is going.”

The Institute, established in 2005 and currently administered by Smart Growth America, aims to shore up political leadership and lend assistance to governors looking to promote economic development and make a better use of taxpayer dollars. Glendening said the three federal agencies’ funding support will enhance the Institute’s ability to provide technical assistance and counsel across the country.

“It’s very clear that the innovation is at the local and state level, and it’s important for us to recognize this at the federal level,” said U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari.

For leaders who want to address state concerns in a more comprehensive, strategic and financially sustainable way, the Institute is at governors’ disposal, Glendening said.

“We see our job in the Obama Administration as doing some of the downfield blocking,” Porcari added.

EPA, HUD, DOT partner to fund Governors’ Institute on Community Design, help states drive economic development, make better use of taxpayer dollars


EPA, HUD, DOT partner to fund Governors’ Institute 
on Community Design, help states drive economic
development, make better use of taxpayer dollars

Former and current governors to address economic, housing and
transportation issues at National Press Club next week

CONTACT: Thomas Madrecki, 202-215-2258,

Former and current governors from across the country will look to address states’ most pressing economic, housing and transportation issues at a roundtable kickoff to the Governors’ Institute on Community Design next week in Washington DC.

The Institute, established in 2005 and administered by Smart Growth America, will now receive support from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in a new, collaborative effort as part of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

Funding for the Institute enhances the Partnership’s ability to provide thought leadership and policy-development assistance in states looking to promote economic development and make a better use of taxpayer dollars.

Among those participating in the Institute’s panel discussion will be former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening; former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman; former Iowa Governor Chet Culver; former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge; current Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; current North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue; James Lee Witt, former Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and Greg Bialecki, current Secretary of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. The session will be held at the National Press Club’s Zenger Room from 9 to 11 a.m.

“The Institute is a vital tool for our states’ leaders as they look for ways to trigger economic development and create strong, resilient communities,” says Glendening, who co-chairs the Institute alongside Whitman. “Governors and their administrations who reach out to us and receive assistance have access to the leading practitioners and academics in government, design and regional economics. Together we are able to map out the unique, state-specific strategies that will lead to long-term success.”

EPA, HUD and DOT’s role in funding the Governors’ Institute is a landmark step for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which works to provide communities with faster, more streamlined access to federal programs. The Institute is one of the first programs to receive joint support from all three participating agencies in the three years since the Partnership was established.

“We are deeply appreciative that the Partnership is investing in this program,” Glendening says. “We urge interested states to use this resource as a way to drive economic development and to create the kinds of great neighborhoods people want to live, work and play in nationwide.”

# # #

For more information about the Governors’ Institute on Community Design,

For more information about the Partnership for Sustainable Communities,

GICD workshop provides best practices to Vermont

Earlier this week, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design and our team of experts traveled to Vermont to host a workshop on disaster recovery for Governor Shumlin, his cabinet, and the community. This past August, the state suffered severe flood damage following Tropical Storm Irene. The workshop this week gave the state and the community the opportunity to hear from experts about best practices from other states as well as have a facilitated discussion for how planning should move forward in Vermont.

Local coverage can be viewed here.

Gov. Glendening in PA: Businesses and governments benefit from smart-growth principles

Governor Glendening in Reading, PA

Last Tuesday, President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute and the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, Governor Parris Glendening spoke at the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast in Pennsylvania about the benefits of smart growth planning and development that is responsive to current economic, cultural and demographic challenges. Read more here.

Maryland’s Arts and Entertainment Districts: how the state program works

Map of Arts and Entertainment Districts in Maryland

The semi-annual deadline for communities in Maryland to submit an application for the statewide designation as an Arts and Entertainment (A&E) District is fast approaching, on October 1. Communities can apply as a sole entity or combination of entities for the state designation which makes them eligible for various tax incentives.

The benefits offered to designated districts include:

1) property tax credits for new construction or renovation of certain buildings that create live-work space for artists and/or space for arts and entertainment enterprises;

2) an income tax subtraction modification for income derived from artistic work sold by “qualifying residing artists”;

3) an exemption from the Admissions and Amusement tax levied by an “arts and entertainment enterprise” or “qualifying residing artist” in a district.

These incentives promote smart growth, creative placemaking and community design by focusing economic development in a specific area as well as around creative industry.

This program is but one of many in the state of Maryland that supports neighborhood revitalization–other examples include Main Street Maryland, Community Legacy and Neighborhood BusinessWorks. However, when the program was created by the General Assembly in 2001, it was the only (and remains today), the only arts-based revitalization program sponsored at a state level.

Watch this space to learn more about how the program revitalized one community, and for details about this year’s selections from the Maryland State Arts Council.

Gov. Glendening challenges Ranson, WV to plan for the future, to protect resources, and to stimulate economic growth through community design

Governor Glendening in Ranson, WV

Last night, President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute and the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, Governor Parris Glendening delivered the keynote address to kickoff a weeklong planning workshop in Ranson, WV (crossposted from Smart Growth America).

Together with EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus, Governor Glendening provided context at the opening session. Governor Glendening addressed how the Ranson community can meet changing demographic trends, protect natural resources, and overcome current economic challenges through planning dense, walkable, livable areas connected to housing and transportation. More information on the opening session here.

In the weeklong ‘mega’ planning workshop (September 8-14), the Ranson community will discuss issues and ideas before draft plans are completed for each of four, linked and interdependent projects that are being funded by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Ranson is one of only two communities that was awarded grants by all three partner agencies for a combined total of $1.4 million in planning grants (the other community is Denver, CO). Read more about the weeklong workshop and the four projects at Ranson Renewed.

Since the Partnership for Sustainable Communities was created in 2009, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design has supported the Partnership’s efforts to improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities. The Governors’ Institute has served as a liaison between the Partnership and state administrations, hosting meetings to allow for a dialogue between federal and state officials. To learn more about the partnership agencies, see Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

North Carolina Sustainable Communities Grant Program announces first round of grant projects

North Carolina Community Practices Assessment

North Carolina’s Sustainable Communities Task Force recently announced the recipients of the new Sustainable Communities Grant Program, which supports regional sustainable development partnerships and makes the connection between land use, housing, and transportation issues. Recognizing that regional planning and collaboration are critical to implementing sustainable economic and community development, the state of North Carolina created the grant program to encourage cross-border efforts.

The grant program is a great example of state government recognizing the significance of regional partnerships in sustainable development. By creating incentives to strengthen regional collaboration and providing tools to assess implementation, the program helps communities become more resilient through tough economic times and create innovative solutions to sustainable development.

Nine applications were selected in April 2011, with each grantee receiving between $10,000 and $50,000. Grant applications were evaluated based on four factors: regional collaboration, evidence of need, implementation of sustainable development principles, and project effectiveness.  The Task Force awarded funds to the following entities:

City of Raleigh
Town of Morrisville
Centralina Council of Governments
Triangle J Council of Governments
City of Durham
Town of Fuquay-Varina
Town of Robbinsville
N.C. Eastern Region Military Regional Growth Task Force
Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization

The winning applications vary from revitalization projects to transit-oriented development studies.

Centralina Council of Governments, which serves nine counties in the Charlotte region, will use the grant fund to support communities in revitalizing vacant and underutilized properties, currently zoned for industrial purposes. The COG is targeting a total of 150,000 acres across five corridors and identifying existing and potential job centers and regional economic revitalization.

The Town of Morrisville plans on conducting market analysis to assess various options for transit-oriented development along a proposed regional rail line that would stop in Morrisville. They also intend on developing neighborhood compatibility models in order to garner community support for transit-oriented development and to meet the needs of local businesses and communities.

In July 2010, North Carolina passed legislation that established the Sustainable Communities Task Force, six guiding sustainability principles that reflect the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities, and a $250,000 state grant fund to encourage regional planning and collaboration. The grant fund was available to regional bodies, cities, and counties that are part of a regional sustainable development partnership.

In addition to the grant application, applicants were required as part of the submission to complete the Community Practices Assessment (CPA), a scorecard that allows local governments and regional bodies “to evaluate their current practices and identify opportunities for improvement in six areas of sustainable development.” While the CPA did not drive the grant project selection, the assessment tool helps applicants increase their transparency and accountability of investments they make by tracking progress and measuring performance over time as they move their planning efforts and projects forward.

Previously in April 2010, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design hosted a workshop for Governor Bev Perdue, members of her cabinet, state legislators, and local leaders assisting with the legislation development and other sustainability initiatives in North Carolina, such as the development of the CPA.

Read more about each winning project here.