The 2021 APA Policy and Advocacy Conference brought together planners and key decision makers around the vital issues facing communities — housing, climate change, equity, and infrastructure. Experts and Congressional leaders shared insights into how planners are the profession to tackle these key issues.
A key part of the conference was carrying the planning message to Capitol Hill to advocate for federal action on zoning reform. With support from President Biden and key champions in Congress, planners were well-positioned to make the case for addressing barriers to housing supply as part of the massive reconciliation package coming together now on Capitol Hill. More than 200 virtual meetings with Congressional leaders and staffers were held.
Here's a snapshot of the momentum created during conference and how planners can keep that momentum up:
Capitol Hill Visits
One benefit of a virtual conference was no one got lost in the tunnels and hallways between federal office buildings. Members stepped up to advocate for planning in their community through a variety of meetings with Congressional leaders and staffers.
There are a variety of planning-led efforts that can help communities address climate change, and in an equitable way so vulnerable populations do not bear the burden of climate change impacts. Panelists shared how to use climate action plans that can lead to measurable results, the impact of net-zero initiatives and codes, and connecting all climate-related action to enviornmental justice.
Equity was interwoven throughout all sessions and conversations at the conference. Several areas where planners can help to advance equity were discussed including reconnecting communities and the role of federal infrastructure legislation to help advance those goals, and the potential impact of the Biden administration's Justice40 initiative. Newly released tools to assess and understand equitable impacts were also shared with attendees.
Housing & Zoning Reform
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) spoke about still needing long-term solutions to address our country's housing shortages. She emphasized that cities and towns need to be empowered to find solutions that work for them. She pointed to the Housing Supply and Affordability Act as one possible avenue for federal support. APA proudly endorses this legislation.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman discussed the variety of federal programs and funding resources available to address the nation's housing crisis, including homelessness through the new initative House America, the impact of climate change on housing, and improving the image of public housing.
Key leaders discussed that now is the right time to tackle zoning reform at the AARP-sponsored Daniel Burnam Forum on Big Ideas. Moderated by Jerusalem Demsas, policy reporter and co-host of The Weeds on Vox, AARP's Rodney Harrell, PhD, discussed the importance of allowing residents to age in place within their communities. Opticos Design founding prinicipal Daniel Parolek discussed addressing the missing middle housing and how accessory dwelling units are one approach to filling the housing availability and affordability housing gap.
A key takeaway across all the sessions — there is no-one-size-fits-all method for zoning reform.
Former Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater spoke about the potential of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework legislation pending in Congress and what that means for planners and their communities. He praised the leadership of planners and for being instrumental in helping to revisit decisions of the past and modifying those decisions for today. Technology will play an integral role within the transportation sector from electronic to autonomous vehicles. Slater stated that the future of transportation infrastructure is to use fewer vehicles but have greater movement of people.
Thanks to all the planners for continuing to advocate for the profession and to ensure good policies will help our communities today and in the future. Access more information on APA's advocacy efforts and our 2021 legislative priorities. Speakers throughout the conference recognized and applauded the work of planners in creating more resilient and equitable communities.
Keep the momentum going!
Stay up-to-day on policies and legislation that can impact planning efforts and your community. Join APA's Planners' Advocacy Network, free to APA members. Enjoy access to exlusive issue briefings and tools designed to sharpen and maintain the momentum of your advocacy skills.
And don't forget to share your own zoning and code reform stories. We know you are hard at work breaking down local barriers to housing supply, and APA would like to help share your work.
Top image: A collection of APA members during their respective Congressional meetings during the 2021 Policy and Advocacy Conference.
About the author
Roberta Rewers is APA's communications manager.