New Working Group to Coordinate and Attract $150 Million for Economic Development and Opportunity

Social investors invited to join the effort

WASHINGTON--()--A working group of major philanthropic and financial institutions, Investors for Sustainable Communities, has announced an effort to coordinate up to $150 million in investments to build stronger communities grounded in more resilient, regional economies that provide opportunity to all residents and that firmly embrace environmental stewardship.

Investors for Sustainable Communities is sponsored by Living Cities, a consortium of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions working to revitalize America’s cities. Participants in Investors for Sustainable Communities include national philanthropies such as the Ford, Surdna and Rockefeller foundations, regional funders such as the McKnight Foundation, and financial institutions such as Citi and Morgan Stanley (a full list is provided below).

The working group’s three-part approach, known in policy circles as equitable Transit-Oriented Development (equitable TOD), seeks to: develop healthier, more affordable neighborhoods that offer convenient and safe access to jobs, stores, schools and services; expand transportation options connecting these neighborhoods to the regional economy (e.g. job centers); and ensure that all people—regardless of income, race, age, ability, and similar considerations, can participate in development decisions and share in the benefits.

From 2008 through 2010, participants in Investors for Sustainable Communities invested over $100 million in equitable TOD. Going forward, participants will coordinate their investments, aligning them as appropriate with federal grants such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program, and invite others to invest alongside them - leveraging more than $150 million over the next three years. The effort will also benefit from the participation of national nonprofit organizations such as the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, a learning and action collaborative of national and regional foundations and other funding partners, and Reconnecting America, a national organization working to integrate transportation systems and the communities they serve.

“Transit-Oriented Development is a powerful way to make metro areas, the engines of our economy, more competitive, inclusive and environmentally sustainable,” said Pablo Farias, Chairman of Living Cities and Vice President of Economic Opportunity and Assets at the Ford Foundation. “Just as important, it offers a chance for low-income people to contribute to and share in the benefits of metropolitan growth. The participants in this collaborative, and the members of Living Cities more broadly, are committed to making this agenda a pillar of our effort to strengthen American cities.”

Economic growth is a critical dimension to the effort. “As America begins to rebuild its economy following the Great Recession, we need to ensure we are laying the foundation for lasting and broadly-shared prosperity,” said Lee Sheehy, Director of the Region and Communities Program at the McKnight Foundation and co-chair of the working group. “Our ability to innovate and create jobs depends on our ability to connect business, capital and talent as efficiently as possible. China and India get this, and are way ahead of us. We need to grow our options in order to compete.” Audrey Choi, Head of Global Sustainable Finance at Morgan Stanley adds, “Designing new, innovative ways to achieve growth by blending public, philanthropic and private capital will be critical to this work.”

TOD is also a quality-of-life issue, noted Nick Turner, Managing Director at the Rockefeller Foundation. “Families must have more options to live in places where they can bike or walk to school or the grocery store, or take the bus or train to work,” said Turner. “Providing more walkable and transit-oriented development would help hardworking Americans to save more of their time and money. This effort is one step in making sure people have those affordable options.”

The working group is particularly interested in the equity dimension of TOD: ensuring that all people can participate in development decisions and share in the benefits and opportunities TOD creates. This means, for example: expanding housing options for working families and seniors near train stations and bus routes; using transit to revitalize distressed neighborhoods while taking measures to prevent low-income residents from being priced out; connecting local residents and businesses to the employment and contracting opportunities created by these investments; and intentionally engaging disadvantaged communities in decision-making to ensure that development meets their needs.

“Millions of working families, particularly those living in ‘first-ring’ suburbs, have seen their combined monthly housing and transportation costs rise to more than half of their incomes,” said Phil Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation. “At Surdna, we believe there is an economic, environmental, and equity imperative to expand quality transportation options throughout the country, improving residents’ access to available jobs, education and training, and other opportunities in their regions.”

The working group’s emphasis on equity and inclusion was a major factor in the AARP Foundation’s decision to participate, according to foundation president Jo Ann Jenkins. “Equitable TOD can provide options for all people, regardless of age or income, so that access to auto transportation does not determine their ability to live independently, connect to their families and communities and access the job market," said Jenkins.

Participants’ shift toward collaboration is an important one, stated Living Cities’ CEO Ben Hecht. “Our members have been investing individually in this work for years,” said Hecht. “But they recognize that no one institution has the means to achieve this agenda on its own. By working across sectors, coordinating their resources and pooling their influence, these organizations can move the needle far more effectively.”

The name Investors for Sustainable Communities signals the working group’s intent to reinforce the federal policy framework emerging from the recently established Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnership, launched in 2009, consists of several federal agencies including HUD, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Partnership agencies are working to align their rules and funding programs so that efforts in housing, transportation, environmental infrastructure and economic development reinforce and leverage one another. Many local and state governments are following suit. Within weeks, HUD, through its Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, is expected to announce grants tallying over $200 million toward the Partnership’s goals.

The working group is taking measures to promote the successful adoption of the Sustainable Communities framework at the regional, state and local levels. In early 2011, it will sponsor a “Sustainable Communities Boot Camp” tailored to the needs of regions that will receive grant awards from HUD. The Boot Camp will help arm practitioners with the approaches and strategies they need to build systems that advance economic prosperity, equity and inclusion and environmental stewardship simultaneously.

“The emerging Sustainable Communities Framework is critical to our work,” said Sheehy. “This is not a partisan issue. We want to see the Sustainable Communities approach become the way government at all levels does business. We welcome the opportunity to partner with the administration to advance our common goals.”

Investors for Sustainable Communities is one of several efforts under way or in development at Living Cities that seeks to address issues affecting people, places and economic opportunity, such as access to education, housing, health care, transit and jobs, simultaneously. On October 28, for example, Living Cities will announce the five urban regions selected to participate in the Integration Initiative, which will provide up to $80 million in grants, loans and Program-Related Investments (PRIs) to support game-changing, cross-sector efforts to create opportunities for low income people.

For additional information on Investors for Sustainable Communities, please see the attached program summary.

Investors for Sustainable Communities: Participants

               
AARP Foundation

Ford Foundation

Morgan Stanley

The Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Kresge Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation

Citi

The McKnight Foundation

Surdna Foundation

 

INVESTORS FOR SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
A Living Cities working group

As America begins to rebuild its economy following the Great Recession, it is imperative to build stronger communities grounded in more resilient, regional economies that provide opportunity to all residents and that firmly embrace environmental stewardship.

Investors for Sustainable Communities, a working group of foundations and financial institutions sponsored by Living Cities, seeks to advance this vision of prosperity by promoting equitable Transit-Oriented Development (equitable TOD). Equitable TOD seeks to develop healthier, more affordable neighborhoods that offer convenient and safe access to jobs, stores, schools and services; expand transportation options connecting these neighborhoods to the regional economy (e.g. job centers); and ensure that all people—regardless of income, race, age, ability and similar considerations, can participate in development decisions and share in the benefits. Through these interventions, equitable TOD promotes increased economic efficiency, improved quality-of-life and increased access to opportunity and services for all Americans.

Over the past three years, the institutions participating in Investors for Sustainable Communities have invested over $100 million in equitable TOD. Recognizing the limitations of acting independently, these institutions have come together to achieve greater impact by coordinating investments, aligning them as appropriate with federal grants such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program, challenging other foundations, financial institutions and businesses to invest in equitable TOD, and conducting “research and development” on tools and strategies to advance equitable TOD nationally and locally. They anticipate this effort will help them leverage additional investments in TOD—up to or exceeding $150 million, including their own investments, over the next three years—and make these investments more effective. The effort will also benefit from the participation of leading organizations such as the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, a learning collaborative of national and regional foundations, and Reconnecting America, a national nonprofit which works to integrate transportation systems and the communities they serve.

Development trends are slowly shifting towards TOD. However, intervention is required to ensure that TOD promotes:

        1.  

Fully integrated regional economies. The markets are beginning to deliver TOD, but primarily in the form of high-end luxury projects. The working group seeks to ensure that individual TOD projects “roll up” to better integrate living and transportation options across communities and regions, and make those options accessible to more of the market. Regional capacity to innovate and create jobs will increase as a result of more efficient connections between business, capital and talent.

 
2.

Equitable outcomes. Participants seek to ensure that all people can participate in development decisions and share in the benefits and opportunities TOD creates. For example, the group seeks to: expand housing options for working families and seniors near train stations and bus routes; leverage transportation infrastructure investments to revitalize distressed neighborhoods while taking measures to prevent low-income residents from being priced out; connect local residents and businesses to employment and contracting opportunities created by these investments; and intentionally engage disadvantaged communities in decision-making to ensure that development meets their needs.

 
3.

Environmental sustainability. The working group seeks to promote and leverage transportation infrastructure investments to develop more walkable communities and provide viable alternatives to driving, reducing auto emissions and mitigating the environmental impact of inefficient development.

A robust field of practitioners, policy makers and investors is developing around equitable TOD, and their efforts are yielding transformational results in places like Portland, Denver, Baltimore, Minneapolis and St. Paul. In addition, the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities has led a watershed effort to integrate its programs across multiple cabinet agencies in order to align housing, transportation, environmental infrastructure and more towards lasting, equitable prosperity. Many regions are now following suit. Participants in Investors for Sustainable Communities seek to accelerate this progress through the following three strategies:

  • Speak with one voice to engage more policy makers, practitioners, developers and investors in the effort to promote equitable TOD;
  • Increase their individual impact by deepening their knowledge of one another’s strategies, engaging in discussions of strategic issues of common interest and, where appropriate, coordinating their grants, loans and/or Program-Related Investments; and
  • Conduct “research and development” to address persistent field-level barriers to equitable TOD, such as financing development at scale and aligning federal, state and local policy.

An example of the working group’s efforts is an upcoming “Sustainable Communities Boot Camp.” Tailored to the needs of regions that will receive awards from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants Program, the Boot Camp will help arm practitioners with the approaches and strategies they need to build systems that advance economic prosperity, equity and inclusion and environmental stewardship simultaneously. Equitable TOD will be an important part of the Camp’s focus.

Participation in Investors for Sustainable Communities is open to foundations, financial institutions and other private sector leaders committed to advancing TOD. A minimum investment of $50,000 over three years is required of national institutions who are not already Living Cities members. Financial institutions can use the working group to inform their own investment strategies, source potential transactions and participate in our research and development agenda. Participants will also be able to recommend program-related investments for consideration by Living Cities’ Catalyst Fund, which provides below-market rate loans and guarantees to high-capacity organizations that contribute substantially to advancing Living Cities’ programmatic agenda.

For more information about Investors for Sustainable Communities, please contact Tamir Novotny at tnovotny@livingcities.org. Please note: we will not respond to unsolicited grant proposals.

About Living Cities

Founded in 1991, Living Cities is a unique philanthropic collaborative of 22 of the world's largest foundations and financial institutions. Over the past 19 years, Living Cities has invested more than $1 billion in American cities-leveraged into $16 billion and making a demonstrable difference in neighborhoods throughout the nation. Our members are not simply funders. They participate at the senior management level on the Living Cities Board of Directors and contribute the time of 80+ expert staff toward crafting and implementing an agenda that is squarely focused on improving the lives of low-income people and the urban areas in which they live.

Living Cities Members: AARP Foundation, AXA Equitable, Bank of America, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Citi Foundation, J.P. Morgan Chase & Company, Deutsche Bank, Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, MetLife, Inc., Morgan Stanley, Prudential Financial, The Rockefeller Foundation, Surdna Foundation

Affiliate Members: The Cleveland Foundation, The Skillman Foundation

Contacts

Media:
Living Cities
James D. Ross II, 646-442-2217
504-906-9123 (Mobile)
jross@livingcities.org

Release Summary

A group of philanthropic and financial institutions has announced an effort to coordinate up to $150 million in investments to build stronger communities grounded in more resilient, regional economies

Contacts

Media:
Living Cities
James D. Ross II, 646-442-2217
504-906-9123 (Mobile)
jross@livingcities.org