Shape APA Policy Guides on Equity, Housing, and Surface Transportation

Authentic and transparent community engagement is a core element of good planning just as meaningful member engagement is essential to the development of APA policy guides.

Now through February 28, APA members can comment on draft policy guides on equity, housing, and surface transportation. The draft guides, which were developed by APA members and approved by APA's Legislative and Policy Committee, propose policy recommendations that move us all closer to a shared vision of great communities.

The chairs of APA's three policy guide working groups recently previewed the policy ideas and themes behind the draft guides and offered tips for making the most out of the member-only review process.

Planning for Equity Policy Guide

The member-led effort to create APA's first Policy Guide on Equity has been under way for the better part of two years. During that time, a working group of APA member volunteers produced a white paper, a draft framework, and an outline and full draft of the policy guide. The volunteers engaged hundreds of APA members and partners at the National Planning Conference and the Policy and Advocacy Conference in 2017 and 2018. They also received and reviewed input from APA members from all over the country.

From the start, our approach to this policy guide was based on two simple, yet bold ideas:

Planning for equity is not an extra for planners — it should be practiced as a hard skill.

The principles of equity should be at the core of all planning policies.

Thanks to the efforts of the working group and ongoing feedback from APA members, the policy guide has reached an important milestone: the APA member comment period. This review period is your opportunity to preview the full guide in draft form and share your feedback and additional ideas with the committee.

As you review the document, here are a few things to keep in mind:

The policy guide is written by and for APA members. The policy guide working group is a diverse group of APA members volunteering expertise and significant time to create a policy guide that helps all planners embrace their ethical responsibility to plan for equity by building field capacity with specific policy considerations and practices.

The policy guide is a living document. While this policy guide covers a lot of ground, it does not cover everything. This guide does not address every aspect of planning practice. The policy guide is a living document that will benefit from regular review and updates as APA members and allied professionals expand their equity knowledge base through research and practice.

The policy guide is one element of APA's ongoing equity, diversity and inclusion efforts. In the last two years, APA has reached a number of significant milestones, including establishing the Diversity Committee (2017), defining a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy (2018), introducing the Planning for Inclusiveness and Social Justice educational track at the 2018 National Planning Conference, and establishing a Social Equity Task Force (2018) to assist APA in identifying the set of resources and tools members need access to for their own capacity building. When adopted, the Planning for Equity Policy Guide will be an important addition to this broader set of activities.

The policy guide benefits from your feedback. Every step of this process has been critical to ensuring that our team understands what APA members need to see in the final policy guide. We thank each member that has contributed to this process to date. Your ideas, questions, stories, and challenges continue to inform this work. Your feedback also helps to frame future work — research, training, and more — in the planning for equity space.

Housing Policy Guide

Much has changed in the U.S. and globally since the current APA Housing Policy Guide was adopted in 2006. The Housing Bubble, mortgage crisis, subprime and predatory lending, and foreclosures fanned the flames of an intense Great Recession. The great recovery has had its own peaks and valleys. The economy rebounded in most places, but the lingering challenges of housing availability and affordability remained.

Despite the difficult environment, the current guide has helped APA advocate for reforms and has encouraged planners to continue their efforts to create and preserve housing options for all. The adequate supply of housing and importance of its location; the key role planners play in creating affordable and accessible housing; and the importance of housing as a way of achieving social equity goals are among the myriad of issues covered in the 2006 guide.

Today, housing remains a top issue for cities and metro areas as much as it is for suburbs and rural places. Throughout the U.S., planners are struggling to address the challenges of meeting current and future demand for housing.

The new draft guide provides an overview of how the housing inventory and housing conditions have changed since 2006 and emphasizes the challenges of affordability, cost burden, and location. The guide outlines ways planners can help meet current and future demand and the role of housing in achieving sustainability goals. Lastly, the guide discusses the issue of the rise in homelessness.

The policies identified in the draft guide complement APA's Planning Home initiative goals: encouraging planners to plan, zone, create and preserve, and advocate for housing choice. Policies that aim to improve public and private financing are also discussed in the guide.

As housing availability and affordability continue to figure prominently in local, state, and national dialogues, this guide will become a critical tool for APA and its members.

Surface Transportation Policy Guide

Transportation remains one of the most critical components of planning and developing a neighborhood, city, or region in which people can thrive. Amid many changes coming about from "disruptive" transportation technology and all the talk of a national effort to improve infrastructure, APA continues to believe that well-planned investments in transportation can and should create great communities of lasting value — for everyone.

Making those well-planned investments means breaking down silos of how we plan and develop places. It takes a broad, comprehensive, and inclusive approach that aligns data, understanding, goals, and resources for transportation to meet the strategic needs of our nation and its communities in an equitable manner for a bright and better future.

It's been almost 10 years since APA developed its adopted Surface Transportation Policy Guide. Since 2010, there have been two federal transportation funding authorizations — MAP21 and the FAST Act — that have largely left intact the legacy of the groundbreaking Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 even amid changes in federal leadership and governance. But that relatively stable funding legacy is being threatened now on several fronts.

The United States is arguably experiencing the biggest change in its public policy environment in decades, as conventional forms of governance, accountability, regulation, budgeting, and funding authority face new challenges in the form of demographic changes, ideology, and political conflict, rapid advances in technology, and an expanding role of the private sector in developing, testing, and deploying new models of transportation mobility.

In addition, the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a comprehensive Special Report about the state of scientific, technical, and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts, and future risks. That report, reinforced by the Trump administration's own documents, lays out a stark projection of the rate at which climate change and sea level rise is taking place and its impacts by 2040, within the horizon of most regional transportation plans under development today.

In recognition of those dynamics, APA drafted a new Surface Transportation Policy Guide that focuses on the pressing issues of change facing the nation, its regions, and individual communities, from large urban metros to small towns and rural areas. Designed to complement the Freight Policy Guide adopted in 2016, Infrastructure Principles adopted in 2017, and Autonomous Vehicles Principles adopted in 2018, the draft guide focuses on seven substantive areas:

  • Data for Equitable and Effective Decision Making
  • Future of Public Transportation
  • Safety and Vision Zero
  • Rural, Suburban, and Exurban Transportation
  • Project Development and Funding Decisions
  • Energy and Transportation in the U.S.
  • Transportation Revenue Amid a Changing Landscape

Together, these topic areas form a new platform that APA and its members will use to advocate for sound policies and priorities in the next major transportation funding reauthorization bill, which is due to replace the FAST Act when it expires in 2021. The guide will also help APA build coalitions to advocate for various policy positions on numerous other programs and spending initiatives at the federal and state level.

Next Steps

Your participation in the policy guide comment period is essential to ensuring APA policy guides reflect the breadth of member perspectives. Members can download the draft guides and share feedback using the online comment forms now through February 28 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

All comments received will be archived and shared with our policy guide working groups, who will use them to prepare the final versions of the guides that will go before the Delegate Assembly for adoption at the 2019 National Planning Conference.

Top image: Policy guides aim to help planners create great communities for all. Here, Oakland's Uptown District, one of APA's 2014 Great Places in America. Photo by Greg Linhares, City of Oakland.


About the Authors

Lynn M. Ross, AICP, is based in Miami Beach, Florida, where she is the founder and principal of Spirit for Change Consulting, LLC, a strategic consulting firm serving mission-driven organizations working in the realm of planning, public spaces, housing affordability, and evidence-based public policy. She is the co-chair of the APA Planning for Equity Policy Guide Committee and a member of the APA Social Equity Task Force.

Susan A. Wood, AICP, is based in Denver where she serves as a planning project manager with the Regional Transportation District, the Denver metro region transit provider. Wood is the co-chair of the APA Planning for Equity Policy Guide Committee and a member of the APA Social Equity Task Force. She also serves on APA's Legislative and Policy Committee and as co-chair of the APA Colorado Chapter Legislative Committee.

Jennifer Raitt is the director of planning and community development for the Town of Arlington, Massachusetts. She is a member of APA's Legislative and Policy Committee and a former chair and vice-chair of the Housing and Community Development Division.

Whit Blanton, FAICP, is the executive director of Forward Pinellas, the countywide land use and transportation planning agency for the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area in Florida's Tampa Bay region. He is a former APA board Director and chair of APA's Legislative and Policy Committee.


February 13, 2019

By Lynn Ross, AICP, Susan Wood, AICP, Jennifer Raitt, Whit Blanton, FAICP