APA Legislative Priorities

A Platform for Stronger, Healthier, and More Just Communities through Planning

The American Planning Association believes that federal policy can be a vital tool for supporting local planning that strengthens communities and provides greater access to economic and social opportunity. A supportive framework in federal policy for good local planning is essential to the health, resilience, and prosperity of the nation and its communities.

To promote stronger communities, in 2016 APA urges Congress to:

Support programs that promote the planning and design of healthy, safe and active communities.

A healthy community is a key goal of good planning, and federal initiatives can play an important role in helping realize this goal. Investment in local parks and the Land and Water Conservation Fund supports the creation of healthier communities and neighborhoods. Federal transportation policy promotes active mobility options, ensures greater attention to the safety of all users, and opportunities to advance environmental justice. Programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies can support the alignment of public health and planning activities leading to better local results. Federal policy can also play an important role in addressing healthy food by supporting local food system planning, improved access to fresh food, and urban agriculture.

Advance transportation and infrastructure policy that provides critical investment, promotes innovation and economic development, focuses on a multimodal approach, and improves safety and performance.

With the passage of multi-year surface transportation legislation, the focus of federal policy turns now to effective implementation of the program and the continuing work of securing sustainable, increased infrastructure investment. Tax and fiscal policy should support investment in infrastructure that is critical to the nation's long-term prosperity and competitiveness. Although new legislation maintains and modestly improves many key programs, Congress can do more to improve transportation policy by advancing areas such as support for transit and transit oriented development, competitive multimodal programs, transportation alternatives, safety, regional planning, and freight. In particular, the nation needs to prioritize and expand investment in transit and direct more resources and decision making to local communities and metropolitan regions.

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 an important 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. Community resilience is vital for protecting people and property, and effective federal policies can support and enhance the many local efforts already under way.

Provide high-quality federal data that supports local decision making and encourages efforts to harness new 'smart cities' technologies to promote innovation and efficiency.

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. Federal policy should also support innovation in the use of municipal and regional data to improve government services and facilitate emerging technologies that hold great promise. Federal initiatives can help bridge the digital divide by promoting better access to technology, training, and broadband.

Promote economic growth and community development through proven place-based strategies and programs that support comprehensive planning approaches to building stronger neighborhoods.

Partnering with local governments, planners, and residents to build neighborhoods of opportunity, promise, and equity 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 community development, and strategic support for place-based revitalization and resilience. Additionally, incorporating comprehensive and coordinated planning approaches into federal programs will improve their effectiveness for local communities. The administration has made important progress in linking efforts across individual agencies to support better place-making and community building. This integrated approach should be a goal of federal policy. Key community development tools, including CDBG, Choice Neighborhoods, brownfields assistance, and New Markets Tax Credits, should be supported while also exploring new approaches to technical assistance and leveraging local initiatives.

Assist communities working to address fair housing and affordability.

Access to affordable housing is a key issue in communities across the nation. Federal policy can be a critical partner for local communities working on innovative solutions. The HOME program has a strong track record of providing critical financing for affordable housing, and the national Housing Trust Fund is a critical new resource for addressing affordable housing. HUD can continue playing an important role in providing support, research and best practices. Last year, HUD finalized a new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. This rule has significant implications for local planning and can be a vital tool for promoting economic mobility. To ensure effective implementation, it is vital that HUD work collaboratively with communities and invest in tools and strategies that provide improved access to opportunity. HUD can also work with planners to better understand and promote local innovation. The availability of high-quality, accurate federal data is essential for understanding housing trends, addressing fair housing, equitably allocating resources, and planning for housing affordability.

Respect state, regional, 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 regional and local planning authority as a cornerstone value in our system of government. Congress should continue to respect regional and 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, energy and telecommunications facilities, and municipal broadband services.