PCRI Joins the Sustainable Communities Initiative

October 5, 2010 · by pcriadmin · PCRI

From the Director’s Corner:

On June 23, 2010, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).  The NOFA was a collaborative effort of HUD, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI).

I understand when your time is absorbed with managing a family, working a job, or perhaps searching for a job, you may think, “Who has time to think about government things like a NOFA, HUD, DOT, EPA or SCI?”  You may also ask yourself, “HUD, NOFA, DOT, SCI, EPA; what are they about and how do they matter in my life?”

Let’s start by reviewing what the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University recently wrote in a document specifically prepared for and about Portland, Oregon:

The policies, practices and assumption that have historically guided our models of planning and development have created uneven opportunities and burdens that are perpetuated today by the status quo.  In our cities, the targeted disinvestment of our inner urban communities and the flight of resources to the urban fringe have produced extreme isolation for the marginalized communities, resulting in segregation into unhealthy environments where entire neighborhoods are detached from the critical life-sustaining opportunity  structures needed to survive and thrive in our 21st century society.

When I first heard of SCI, I had many questions from both a personal and professional perspective.  So, I began to read and, if you are familiar with reading government documents, then you will agree with me: it made for difficult and complicated reading.  There were many hmmmms during my reading, which I am not ashamed to say took more than a once-through to understand.  Reading the Kirwan Institute’s writings helped my understanding as they repackaged the federal information in everyday wording.

By reading these documents, I discovered what the federal government was attempting to do and why.  I already knew the problems they were talking of existed.  What excited me was the federal government finally knew it.  They realize there are historical social inequities that have deprived low-income and communities of color from access to opportunities which exclude them from the decision making process that directly impact their lives and livability, and as a result, they are being negatively impacted.  SCI is the federal government’s way of addressing this.

Based on income capacity, lower income residents contribute to community livability, however they are not benefiting from that livability in a manner equal to their contribution.  The federal government is now saying this must be corrected.  SCI builds the opportunity and expectation for regional (urban, rural and suburban) governments to work together and correct the problem by identifying affordable housing options, transportation needs, economic needs and energy conservation systems for the region by defining a single, integrated plan for growth in the region and establishing performance goals with must meet targets consistent with HUD-defined livability principles.

There are more requirements, however, I will stop here and keep you updated as this work progresses because it will require your participation as a City of Portland resident.  Multnomah County will have to engage traditionally marginalized residents in the creation of a shared vision and the creation of a new way of accomplishing, at least minimally, the following goals:  more and better transportation choices, adequate types and amounts of affordable housing, and educational and employment opportunities that will allow all Portland residents to thrive.  There are many other goals to achieve, but for a start, don’t you think these will do?

I have tried to reduce this information as much as possible.  There is much more to SCI and the federal government’s plans than I can share in one writing.  Next time, I will share HUD’s livability principles with you.

If we are to combat social and economic inequities, we must become engaged in the process.  It may mean you need to attend a Saturday meeting when it’s your only day of rest, or going to a meeting after working hard all day.  It may mean helping with a survey in your neighborhood or attending school board, local or state governmental meetings to share what you believe is a solution to inequitable living environments.  We know the problems, and with the creation of the SCI, the federal government is telling us that they too are aware.  Our work is not to identify the problem.  Our work is to provide the solution.  No one can do that as well as you.

“Poverty is not created by poor people.  It is created by the system we have built, the institutions we have designed and the concepts we have formulated.”  – Muhammad Yunus

Let’s work together to change the system we have built!


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