The Senate livability bill has no teeth. That’s okay

The Obama administration is shifting federal transportation and housing funding away from its historical focus on sprawl-inducing highways and toward walkable, transit-friendly, mixed-use development. The work got started with the creation of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, created in January, and is bearing fruit through a recent series of grants for local projects.

For the work to continue, it needs secure funding from Congress, and that’s the point of Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) Livable Communities Act. The bill would provide $4 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to award to projects that fit the administration’s livability priorities—which would encourage cities, towns, and rural areas around the country to
take a long hard look at smart growth design principles. The bill passed the Banking Committee in early August and is awaiting action in the Senate (which may take a while).

In Metropolis magazine, Karrie Jacobs laments that the act would provide incentives but not requirements for smart-growth style projects. “The approach is all carrot, no stick,” she says:

Like much of what comes out of the Obama administration, [the bill] is neither as far-reaching as its proponents would like nor as radical as its detractors claim.