2015 Legislative Priorities

Building Stronger, Healthier, and More Resilient Communities Through Planning

The American Planning Association believes that federal policy can be a vital tool for supporting local planning that builds communities of lasting value. A supportive framework in federal policy for good local planning is vital to the safety and prosperity of the nation and its communities.

To promote economic growth and local innovation, APA urges Congress to:

Reauthorize the nation's surface transportation law with a focus on promoting planning innovation; stable, long-term funding; and multimodal, performance-based investments.

This year MAP-21 is set to expire. Reauthorization provides an opportunity to build on and strengthen the innovations begun in MAP-21 in areas such as performance-based planning, safety, design, and freight planning. Legislation should support policies, such as transit, Transportation Alternatives, and TIGER grants, which expand choices, bolster public health, and strengthen communities. Reauthorization should incorporate planning into TIGER, expand efforts to leverage transportation investments through better land use planning and design, and provide needed fiscal certainty for new transportation investments.

Key issues:

  • Planning and MPOs
  • Performance-based Planning
  • Transportation Alternatives
  • Transit
  • Safety and Design
  • Transportation Trust Fund

Advance federal tax and fiscal policies to better support stable, strategic, and place-based investment in critical infrastructure and economic development.

Investment in infrastructure and communities are critical to the nation's long-term prosperity and competitiveness and short-term economic and job growth. Efforts to overhaul the tax code, reauthorize key programs, or address broader fiscal policy should support and advance this needed investment. Policy decisions should strengthen and stabilize proven tools while advancing innovative approaches to infrastructure funding and local economic development. Any broad tax reform should include policies that strengthen communities and advance a place-based strategy for growth.

Key issues:

  • Transportation Trust Fund
  • Community Development Block Grants
  • Water Infrastructure
  • New Markets Tax Credit
  • Marketplace Fairness Act
  • Transit Commuter Benefits
  • Tax Reform

Encourage communities to improve planning for water hazards, use, and quality.

Whether facing historic drought, rising sea levels, frequent flooding, or aging infrastructure, America's communities have significant and growing challenges related to the essential resource of water. Expanded planning for water resources, infrastructure, coastal changes, and hazards is essential to successfully confronting these challenges. While these water plans are inherently local, federal policy can play a critical role by providing critical data, supporting research, and creating appropriate incentives and standards. Maintaining a robust federal role in funding and financing capital projects in partnership with states, localities, and the private sector is vital.

Key issues:

  • Hazard Mitigation
  • Flood and Coastal Mapping
  • Infrastructure Standards and Performance Measures
  • Planning Grants, Incentives, and Assistance
  • Building Codes
  • Energy Policy

Provide high-quality federal data resources that support the needs of local governments, planners, and decision makers.

Good planning is based on sound, comprehensive data. The federal government is a key provider of essential data for understanding economic, social, environmental, and demographic trends shaping the nation's communities. These resources make government programs more effective and efficient and allow for better decision making by local citizens and businesses. It is vital that federal data agencies and resources are maintained, coordinated, and strengthened with a focus on supporting local communities. Often federal data direct allocations of government spending and aid programs at all levels, as well as inform local plans. It is essential that these resources fully consider and analyze changes related to key demographic trends ranging from aging to immigration.

Key issues:

  • Census and ACS
  • Digital Coast
  • Economic Data
  • Federal Geospatial Data
  • HUD and Other Federal Location Efficiency Data

Assist communities working to address affordable housing, encourage economic mobility, and build stronger neighborhoods.

A rebounding economy but persistent challenges in wage growth combine to create significant housing affordability problems in many communities. Communities and developers of affordable housing need critical financing support and reforms to programs to improve their use and speed projects. As the future of housing finance and government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) are debated, it is important to maintain a commitment to supporting low-income and multifamily housing, improving energy efficiency, and addressing homelessness and supportive housing. Partnering with local governments, planners, and residents to build neighborhoods of opportunity and promise should be a fundamental goal of federal policy. This challenge should be met with a combination of proven tools and programs; targeted and coordinated investments and incentives; thoughtful strategies for immigration policy and demographic change; and strategic support for new economic and community development strategies.

Key issues:

  • Community Development Block Grants
  • Choice Neighborhoods      
  • Low Income Housing Tax Credit
  • Fair Housing
  • GSE and Housing Finance Reform
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Neighborhood Stabilization
  • Promise Zones and SC2
  • Aging in Community
  • HOME
  • Housing Trust Fund

Respect state and local planning authority.

While APA recognizes the importance of federal involvement where necessary to address certain historic inequities, we remain vigilant in defense of local planning authority as a cornerstone value in our system of government. Congress should continue to respect local planning and community safeguards by rejecting any efforts to impose regulatory takings standards that increase lawsuits and undermine locally adopted plans. Respect for the critical role of planning is especially vital in energy policy. Federal policy should support and encourage energy-related local planning that addresses issues of community impacts, safety, economic development, and environmental quality. Federal policy should respect and appropriately engage local decision makers in the siting of key federal facilities and energy and telecommunications infrastructure.

Key issues:

  • Takings
  • Telecommunication Siting and Facilities
  • Federal Buildings and Facilities
  • Energy Siting and Safety