Smart Growth

Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities

Smart Growth Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities
This video from EPA describes how a walkability audit — one of the Building Blocks tools was conducted in Blue Springs, Missouri.This video from Housing & Community Solutions, Inc. (HCSI) describes how community members in the 26th Ward of St. Louis, Missouri, worked with HCSI to apply for technical assistance from EPA's Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program. This technical assistance included a walkability audit in the 26th Ward.
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Many communities around the country are asking for tools to help them achieve their desired development goals, improve quality of life, and become more economically and environmentally sustainable. In response to this demand, EPA developed the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program in 2011.

Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities provides quick, targeted technical assistance to selected communities using a variety of tools that have demonstrated results and widespread application. The purpose of delivering these tools is to stimulate a discussion about growth and development and strengthen local capacity to implement sustainable approaches.

A tool includes:

  • An agenda, presentations, and exercises that help facilitate discussion around a given topic.
  • Data or information from the community that can be analyzed, helping to drive a conversation.
  • An action-oriented process that leads to a set of potential next steps.

Technical assistance is delivered by EPA staff and EPA-hired consultant teams. Each technical assistance project includes:

  • Public engagement through a one- to two-day workshop.
  • Direct consultation with relevant decision-makers.
  • A memo outlining specific steps the community could take to implement the ideas generated during the workshop.

See the Frequently Asked Questions About Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities for more information.

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2016-2017 Request for Letters of Interest

EPA is requesting letters of interest for a new round of Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities technical assistance. We will select 25 communities to receive targeted assistance to help overcome barriers to smarter, more environmentally and economically sustainable growth. This assistance will help communities, local governments, and tribal governments improve their capacity to implement smart growth and other approaches that protect the environment, improve public health, and expand economic opportunity.

Read the 2016-2017 Request for Letters of Interest for information on how to apply.

  • Eligibility: The applicant can be a local, county, or tribal government, or a nonprofit organization that has the support of the local government on whose behalf they are applying.
  • Deadline: 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on October 12, 2016.
  • How to apply: Submit the fillable PDF letter of interest, along with a short letter of support signed by a mayor, city manager, elected official, or other representative of the community (see the Request for Letters of Interest for details).
  • Timeframe: EPA expects to select 25 recipients by November 2016 and provide all technical assistance by July 2017.
  • Tools offered:
    • Tool 1: Creating Equitable Development: Helps communities evaluate their needs around equitable development and identify strategies to manage neighborhood change and support community goals around housing, culture, and local businesses.
    • Tool 2: Planning for Infill Development: Helps local governments in distressed communities identify obstacles to development in their downtown core and strategies for overcoming those obstacles. The tool is based on Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Cities: 30 Strategies.
    • Tool 3: Sustainable Strategies for Small Cities and Rural Areas: Helps small cities and towns in rural areas evaluate how well their zoning codes, policies, and programs align with smart growth principles. The tool is based on the Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities.
    • Tool 4: Flood Resilience for Riverine and Coastal Communities: Helps communities prepare for climate change-related flooding and plan for disaster resilience by assessing local plans, policies, and development regulations. The tool is based on the Flood Resilience Checklist.
    • Tool 5: Green and Complete Streets: Helps communities develop strategies for greening their streets based on national models and case studies.

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Past Recipients of Building Blocks Assistance

EPA has conducted more than 150 Building Blocks projects in 45 states. See the list of communities that received assistance.

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Assistance From Grantees

In addition to the EPA Building Blocks assistance described on this page, EPA provides grants to nonprofit organizations to provide similar assistance to communities. Learn more about assistance from the grantees.

Smart Growth America Accepting Applications

One of the grantees, Smart Growth America (SGA), is now accepting applications for free technical assistance. Applications are due by October 5, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

SGA plans to select up to six communities, three of which will be rural (20,000 or fewer residents), to receive workshops using one of SGA’s nine technical assistance tools. In addition and for the first time, SGA is offering a Complete Streets Consortium Series for three municipalities within the same state. The three municipalities join together to form a consortium, with each municipality receiving its own workshop that builds on the other workshops in the series. This is a unique opportunity for communities in the same state to form a mutual support network while enhancing relationships between state and local stakeholders. SGA expects to select one consortium for assistance.

Click here for information about what workshops are available and how to applyExit

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