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Katherine M. O’Regan, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development Message from the Assistant Secretary

This issue of Evidence Matters examines the many opportunities and challenges inherent to planning on a regional scale. It profiles communities that have joined together to think more holistically about their housing, transportation, environmental, and economic needs and goals as well as the processes they used to engage community members and overcome disagreements. This issue also explores how the federal government, through interagency efforts such as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and program offices such as HUD’s Office of Economic Resilience, uses grantmaking and the dissemination of best practices to support and institutionalize regional planning.

In the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), we’re deeply aware of the need to work across agencies, levels of government, and sectors to solve cross-cutting problems. Our team members provided early assistance for the development of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and helped create and sustain the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities, a partnership among 14 federal agencies that works directly with local governments around the country to foster economic development and resilience and make existing federal funds stretch further.

Because PD&R supports policy development throughout HUD, we’ve been especially engaged in the agency’s recently completed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which will have important implications for regional planning. The rule, which clarifies obligations established in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, is a critical affirmation of HUD’s commitment to fair housing and equality of opportunity. The rule streamlines the planning process that communities use to set goals and analyze challenges to fair housing choice. It also provides tools to help communities use local and regional data in their assessments and encourages stakeholders to form partnerships to develop regional fair housing plans.

Housing markets are regional in nature, and the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule aims to equip communities with the data and overarching process to ensure that residents can access affordable, quality housing in neighborhoods of opportunity with access to employment and social connectedness — the types of communities that regional planning seeks to create. Indeed, the collection of HUD’s efforts to promote fair housing and economic and environmental resilience truly work hand in hand to give regions and metropolitan areas the tools needed for long-term, inclusive growth.

Yet, there is no question that working together regionally to address economic and environmental issues will continue to be a tremendous challenge for communities nationwide. Maintaining momentum for regional partnerships can be extremely difficult after the events that spur collaboration — whether a federal grant or a moment of crisis such as a natural disaster — recede into the past.

That is why learning from existing efforts is so important. The Partnership for Sustainable Communities and the Office of Economic Resilience, in partnership with their grantees, are building the body of evidence and research; through this community of practice, regional partnerships can share their results and help other communities recognize and seize opportunities to build resilience. Although regional planning must ultimately develop at the local level, these efforts demonstrate the important role the federal government can play in promoting innovation.

— Katherine M. O’Regan, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research


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