Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Green Urban Solutions


America is projected to grow by 90 million people over the next 50 years. Our nation faces a critical choice: do we grow by sprawl and continue to contribute to the destruction of our biodiversity and the fabric of our communities or do we develop compactly to build diverse, healthy communities needed for climate prosperity?
National Policy Integrated Transit System
Go Green
Transit Oriented Development (TOD)
Green Affordable TOD Housing

national_policy integrated_transit_system


If we are to green our communities, we need to green the systems that frame, connect and sustain them. We need to rebuild our largest 100 metropolitan regions which contribute to 80% of our nation’s economy. To do so, a comprehensive national strategy is essential to plan and coordinate federal investments that rebuild our communities in an era that demands immediate solutions to climate change.

To enhance America’s global competitiveness, and address key concerns regarding energy security, regional prosperity, and quality of life, we need a cohesively planned and integrated, national freight, inner-city passenger, and regional commuter transit system. The national, integrated system must be regarded as a whole-network in lieu of disparate parts, and planned in conjunction with housing, water and sewer systems, energy and data systems, green open space, and the social, cultural and educational systems that make regions thrive.
go_green transit_oriented_dev


Buildings’ consumption of electricity, oil and gas generate 42% of the country’s green house gases. Since only 1% of our annual building stock consists of new construction development, we need to build green but also to focus on successful strategies for the greening of the existing 99% of building stock. New credit enhancement programs to guarantee small second mortgages to help the home and building owner finance green renovations. Energy savings of 20-30% are easily achieved by simple improvements such as increased insulation, improved windows, and smarter energy controls.
Transit Oriented Development is typically defined as development within a quarter to a half a mile of a transit stop, whose design is oriented toward improving access to and use of transit. The development orients to transit by enhancing safe pedestrian and shared vehicle connections to transit. To provide the transit system with sufficient ridership, the development needs to be dense and there needs to be a mix of uses along the system.
mixed_use mixed_income


Why mixed use? Economic, ecological and social health all stem from diversity. Healthy cities are diverse cities. Our communities will continue to need greater resiliency to respond to the growing stress of population growth, globalization, and climate change. Mixed-use developments and communities can draw from a broader range of resources to provide this resilience. Mixed-use communities are also more likely to have a healthy job/ housing balance which help to reduce commuting time and costs for citizens and to maintain a steady cash flow within the neighborhood by creating reliable assets.
As demonstrated in the Hope VI program, the economic and social benefits of income mixing to communities and residents are enumerable. However, most of our Federal programs are either aimed at specific income brackets, typically those below 60% of median income or have no income focus but cost limits, both of which tend to support market sprawl development. The most effective current mixed-income financing tool is the 80/20 tax exempt bond program. Additional programs to further increase the mix of incomes in projects using tax exempt bond allocations following the 50/30/20 model need to be promoted as well.


Low, moderate and middle income families spend between 54-64% of their income on their combined housing, energy and transportation costs, often spending more on transportation then housing. Locating affordable housing within walking distance to affordable transit is essential if families are to save and invest in their future. Transit accessible affordable housing also provides families with access to greater employment and educational opportunities that are essential to their livelihood. Green housing is healthier for the labor that builds it, its residents and the community.