Maintaining Advocacy Momentum: Three Steps for Planners

On the heels of APA's Policy and Advocacy Conference last week, planners can maintain the momentum generated from 183 virtual congressional visits and continue to demonstrate that planners are essential for leading recovery and the reinvention of communities following the pandemic.

Here are three ways to keep moving forward as the months start to wind down in 2020:

1. Continue a Planning-led Economic Recovery

Despite the challenges 2020 has brought, planners are finding creative solutions to move their communities forward by supporting capital projects, using data to target federal relief to the places and people with the greatest needs, and working to close the broadband gap that the pandemic fully exposed.

Maurice Jones, CEO, Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC), spoke about four levers necessary to have an equitable economic recovery: people, place, enterprises, and systems. He remarked that planners are needed from the start as the country begins to rethink housing, planning, parks, and recreation, and that we must be intentional about race and place.

2. Encourage Investment in Transportation

The congressionally approved one-year extension of the current surface transportation law — the FAST Act — offers time to consider potential reforms for the program. Even with the extension, planners must use this time to continue to advocate for federal transportation policy that will enable communities to rebuild transportation post-pandemic that is future-focused, sustainable, and more equitable.

In the opening keynote, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx noted that the nation's transportation system historically has been shaped by its sources of funding. He suggested moving funding into communities to see a greater mix of roads, transit, and micromobility.

Foxx also urged planners to "be louder." The country needs planners who can speak to these issues forcefully, knowledgeably, and with more precision.

3. Lead the Nation in Solutions for the Housing Crisis

Today's housing challenges demand new tools and better planning. Planners can lead the way by advocating to modernize state planning laws, reforming local codes, promoting inclusionary growth, and removing barriers to multifamily housing and rethinking finance.

To understand the national implications of the housing crisis, Mike Kingsella, executive director, Up for Growth, shared analysis that from 2000-2015, the nation was 7.3 million homes short of meeting the nation's housing needs. This was not just in states like California where you would expect to see housing shortages, but also in states such as Maine, Arizona, and Idaho, illustrating a true national crisis.

In the Daniel Burnham Forum on Big Ideas, Dr. Tiffany T. Manual, or "DrT," president and CEO of TheCaseMade, emphasized that planners are in a unique position to be adaptive leaders that are needed in this critical moment, helping us to get to the future and prepare us for what we will need when we get there. Planners can frame the housing conversation in such a way that technical solutions and well-thought-out housing plans do not backfire. Residents need to see how adding housing benefits them and their community.

She further remarked that solving the housing crisis will not be done by making small changes around the edges of housing markets. Solving the crisis requires a deep fundamental system change, thinking thoughtfully about equity and how we produce more equitable outcomes.

Planners' Advocacy Network

It's more important than ever that planners speak out loudly on the national and state-level policy debates that will directly impact their ability to lead the way to a long-lasting recovery. APA's Planners' Advocacy Network, free for members, provides tools and resources to make help make shaping federal and state policy outcomes easier. At the 2020 Policy and Advocacy Conference, Network members also received exclusive networking and conversational opportunities.

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2020 Policy and Advocacy Conference

Weren't able to attend the virtual 2020 Policy and Advocacy Conference? Level up your knowledge on critical policy issues affecting a planning-led recovery with the collection of recorded sessions from the conference.

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Top image: Composite image by APA.

About the Author
Roberta Rewers is APA's communications manager.

September 30, 2020

By Roberta Rewers