The federal government will speak with one voice on housing, environmental and transportation policy, Secretary of Housing Shaun Donovan said today in announcing an interagency "Partnership for Communities."

The partnership, between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency, is aimed at improving access to affordable housing and providing more and cheaper transportation options.

The federal government will speak with one voice on housing, and environmental and transportation policy, Secretary of Housing Shaun Donovan said today in announcing an interagency "Partnership for Communities."

The partnership, between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency, is aimed at improving access to affordable housing and providing more and cheaper transportation options.

In addition to developing transportation choices to reduce dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, the partnership will promote "location- and energy-efficient" affordable housing.

The partnership will seek to target federal funding to help existing communities employ strategies like transit-oriented, mixed-use development and "land recycling," and to promote "healthy, safe and walkable" neighborhoods in rural, urban and suburban settings.

New suburban developments built far from job centers during the housing boom have been among the communities hardest hit by foreclosures and price declines during the housing downturn. In a three-part series, Inman News looked at lessons planners are drawing from the foreclosure crisis.

High gas prices also have consumers looking to live closer to where they work, and "walkable" communities are also seen as a selling point for homebuyers.

Zillow.com, ZipRealty.com and Postlets.com are among Web sites that employ an application from Seattle-based "civic software" developer Front Seat to provide "Walk Scores" for individual listings. The application looks at the distance to walkable locations near an address to generate a score of zero to 100.

Front Seat is working on a study examining whether homes in walkable communities are more likely to retain their value and spend fewer days on market than homes in less pedestrian-friendly communities (see story).

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