Federal Bill Aimed at Improving Livability in Ohio and Rebuilding Communities

By Lavea Brachman. Following a key committee vote, I was pleased to participate today in a news conference call with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-17) discussing critical legislation that could improve the livability of Ohio communities and direct federal assistance to communities with a high concentration of vacant and abandoned homes due to major population and job loss.  Portions of Senator Brown and Congressman Ryan’s Community Regeneration, Sustainability, and Innovation Act (CRSI Act), which was first introduced in 2009, was included as an amendment to the Livable Communities Act of 2010. Specifically the amendment will create a  new, competitive  grant program under HUD that would allow communities to demolish abandoned properties, find innovative uses for old structures, and create green space.

If enacted, the CRSI amendment will help communities better address fallout from the “shrinking city” phenomenon, which is pervasive in Ohio.  The issue confronting these cities is not whether they will have different physical footprints and more green space than they do now, but how this transformation will happen, so they are ultimately smaller but stronger places to live.  These cities, which have far more vacant land than can be absorbed through traditional redevelopment efforts, require innovative, comprehensive solutions that this legislation will be instrumental in encouraging.

The Livable Communities Act of 2010 with the newly added language from the CRSI Act will improve the coordination between housing, community development, transportation, energy, and environmental policies to help create better places to live, work and raise families.  All of these goals align closely with our report, Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy, which was released earlier this year.  The bill cleared the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee yesterday and awaits consideration by the full Senate.

For more information on the bill and today’s conference call, please see Senator Brown’s press release.