Interview: Sustainable Development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Ana Marie Argilagos is Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation (OIPI) at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She oversees the establishment of OIPI as it looks outside the federal government to inform the domestic work of HUD and the Office of Policy Development and Research. OIPI is charged with engaging partners in the international and philanthropic sectors to harness people, organizations, ideas, and resources for the benefit of our communities. Ana Marie is also responsible for engaging with stakeholders in the nonprofit and for profit sectors on comprehensive strategies for viable and livable communities.
Interview by Brett Roeth, ECPA Program Intern
Through your role at HUD, how do you work to promote sustainable development?
OIPI is charged with building new capacity and clarity within HUD to learn from the best that philanthropic and international organizations have to offer to transform places of disinvestment into places of opportunity. With that mission, we use the best available evidence, innovations, and lessons to assure HUD achieves long-term community-building results and return on taxpayer dollars, supporting a “triple bottom line” approach – financial, social, and environmental accountability. We also develop collaborations that align ideas, investments, and resources for transformative and sustainable development. Our most immediate connection to sustainable development is HUD’s new Office for Sustainable Housing and Communities (OSHC). We work very closely with OSHC to leverage the knowledge, networks, and investments that can truly nurture healthier and more inclusive communities.
OIPI is also developing a set of global sustainable urban development indicators with the help of university researchers, interagency colleagues, foundations, and non-profits to evaluate successful sustainable urban development and revitalization strategies. We hope to develop indicators that municipalities and regions can use to serve both domestic purposes and the needs of the global community. We are compiling best practice toolkits and a knowledge base for future sustainable and inclusive urban development, all while improving and informing domestic housing and urban development policy.
How can governments and the private sector work together to promote this type of development?
There are places doing this already and learning from other sectors and other countries through our various initiatives allows HUD to assist these efforts. Beyond these initiatives, we broker partnerships with civil society – foundations and international partners – to align and leverage resources to ensure that sustainable development funding is strategic and targeted. This alignment allows HUD to be more effective at transformation, enacting change and increase scale. For example, HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative has led to the coordination of federal housing and transportation investments with local land use decisions to reduce transportation costs for families, improve housing affordability, save energy, and increase access to housing and employment opportunities. The initiative will stimulate more integrated and sophisticated regional planning to guide investments in land use, transportation, and housing, and challenge localities to undertake land use reforms. This effort requires unprecedented partnerships, across agencies, the private sector, and civil society, to foster and encourage local innovation while providing resources and tools to help communities realize their own visions for building more livable, sustainable regions.
What has HUD learned at the international scale from the Sustainable and Inclusive Housing Prize Competition that is applicable to its domestic mission?
One key goal of the Sustainable and Inclusive Housing Prize Competition is to link the results and outcomes with OSHC domestic sustainability efforts and develop deep knowledge exchange. This will provide HUD and the broader field with opportunities for learning, surfacing innovations and new ideas on policy, practices, and tools and transferring knowledge to US practitioners and policymakers.
The competition is a prime example of the alignment of partners to seek out best practices both domestically and globally. It has stimulated new thinking and developed lessons from global thinkers to revitalize neighborhoods through mixed-income and mixed-use strategies. It is our hope that the competition will encourage domestic and global adaptation of innovative approaches and building technology in low and middle-income housing and communities to create solutions that can be scaled, vetted, and implemented across the globe.
The competition is also lifting up innovative ideas to address urban development needs for planning, policy, process, and housing both domestically and globally. It builds on the Administration’s focus on prizes as a strategy for sourcing and promoting innovations that pair affordable, inclusive, and sustainable ideas for housing with implementable plans for replication, adaptation, and scalability. We hope to build on the innovative lessons from the competition by partnering with organizations to test the applicability and transferability of the most innovative entries in various urban environments. We’ll continue to add to the growing knowledge with direct application to HUD and its domestic partners and we are looking at additional phases for the competition. This competition and any additional phase will provide HUD and partners with opportunities for field building, with transferable knowledge for U.S. cities and additional information about implementation of new and innovative policies, practices and tools.
How would you encourage young persons who are interested in addressing the challenges of climate change through urban planning?
It is clear that there is a new mandate for American cities in the framework of sustainable development. In order to compete on the global scale and out-educate and out-innovate, we need the coming generations of public and private sector workers to be versed in sustainable urban development and thinking in new ways. Our cities will only grow, and their impact on the environment is greater than anything else as we move through this century. Young people interested in urban planning must be well-versed in the sustainable development framework that will give us healthy, viable cities for the foreseeable future, so we can reduce the negative impact as our population swells in urban cores. We want these talented people at HUD as we transform the way we are working in cities large and small to define this next era and create many more “sustainable development generations.”
The American Planning Association (APA), with the support of the U.S. Department of State, promotes urban planning as a tool to foster sustainable, climate-proof development across the Americas. APA leads activities and programs designed to advance institutional capacity and improve long-term access to planning expertise and technical assistance in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Sustainable Cities Collective