2021 will be a significant year for planners and the communities they serve, and APA's 2021 legislative priorities reflect this moment. Federal support in the areas of recovery, transportation and broadband infrastructure, climate change, and housing will be critical to bolster the work of planners at the local and regional levels and help communities build an equitable and resilient recovery.
Activity from the Biden administration and 117th Congress on each of these issues is already underway, only a week into the new administration.
Day one of the Biden administration brought immediate action on climate change. In a highly anticipated move, President Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement by executive action. The executive order also begins a review of 100-plus regulatory changes made by the previous administration to environment and climate rules — including the National Environmental Policy Act — which APA opposed because it ignored long-term climate impacts in environmental reviews.
President Biden also reinstated an Obama-era executive order which requires all new federally-funded infrastructure projects located in flood zones to be built to withstand future flooding events planned with the impacts of climate change in mind. APA strongly supports this action, as called for in our Hazard Mitigation Policy Guide.
And in a second, sweeping executive action one week after taking office, President Biden shifted to a stronger federal regulatory approach on climate and resiliency; moved to increase collaboration among federal agencies on climate-related efforts; and signaled an intention to create federal tools that drive local decision making.
Now, the hard work of meeting climate goals begins, and planners will play a leading role in creating local solutions. APA has just released the Climate Change Policy Guide to help planners identify and build political support for the right policies and legislation to support and fund the integration of climate goals into local plans.
APA believes that the first job of the new Congress is to act on recovery measures that provide financial stability to the states, cities, small towns, and suburbs on the frontlines of pandemic response and recovery.
In an early demonstration of top priorities in his first 100 days in office, President Biden unveiled a nearly $2 trillion COVID relief package, which includes billions of dollars in flexible aid for local and state governments and critical housing and transit assistance.
Transportation and Broadband Infrastructure
The administration is moving quickly to assemble its team at the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT), which reflects President Biden's documented commitment to moving swiftly on infrastructure.
Pete Buttigieg, former mayor, presidential candidate, and Biden's pick for DOT Secretary, faced members of the Senate Commerce Committee in his confirmation hearing last week. In recent weeks, Buttigieg has publicly stated his support for several APA surface transportation priorities, including expanding support for transit, walking, and biking; incorporating climate and resiliency into transportation planning; and planning for emerging technologies. Planning issues were a central part of the questioning during Buttigieg's hearing.
Other notable DOT picks include Polly Trottenberg, who most recently led New York City's transportation department and will be appointed to the position of deputy transportation secretary.
We're hearing that an infrastructure stimulus package could come as soon as February when Biden is expected to announce the second of a two-part rescue and recovery legislative package. Past Planners' Advocacy Network outreach to federal legislators on transportation and infrastructure has positioned planners to play an important role in this debate.
The nation's housing crisis is more dire now than at any other moment in history. Both congressional leaders and the new administration seem acutely aware of this, delivering early action on housing through executive action that extends eviction and foreclosure moratoriums through March.
The administration also took an important first step toward tackling racial injustices perpetuated by federal housing policy. President Biden renewed the federal government's commitment to fulfilling the promise and requirements of the landmark Fair Housing Act by ordering a review of Trump administration actions that undermined Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) and Disparate Impact - two rules that are central to consolidated plans.
On January 28, Marcia Fudge, nominee for secretary of housing and urban development, appeared before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs for a confirmation hearing. As a former mayor, Fudge brought a local government perspective to the discussion, and voiced her support for strengthening AFFH, Disparate Impact, and focusing on the role of housing in achieving racial equity.
Housing assistance is likely to be incorporated into the next congressional relief package, based on the new administration's first of two emergency relief proposals. APA supports this move; housing security is a cornerstone of recovery.
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About the Author
Emily Pasi is APA's public affairs manager.