[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 73 (Monday, April 16, 2012)]
[Pages 22599-22602]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-9092]



[Docket No. FR-5580-N-03]

Department of Housing and Urban Development Summary of Public 
Comments, Response to Public Comments, and Final 2012-2015 
Environmental Justice Strategy

AGENCY: Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, HUD.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: On September 30, 2011, HUD posted its draft environmental 
justice strategy and requested public comment. This notice summarizes 
public comments submitted in response to HUD's draft environmental 
justice strategy, offers response to comments, and announces the 
release of HUD's final Environmental Justice Strategy. The changes in 
the final strategy reflect HUD's consideration of the public comments 
received and HUD's effort to improve and expand its commitment to 
avoiding disproportionately high and adverse human health or 
environmental effects on minority and low-income populations, as well 
as creating geographies of opportunity. The final strategy is posted at 

Sustainable Housing and Communities, Department of Housing and Urban 
Development, 451 Seventh Street SW., Room 10180, Washington, DC 20410, 
telephone number 202-402-6011 (this is not a toll-free number). Persons 
with hearing or speech impairments may access these numbers through TTY 
by calling the toll-free Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.


I. Background

    On September 30, 2011, HUD published for public comment a draft 
Environmental Justice Strategy for 2012 through 2015. HUD is committed 
to meeting the goals of Executive Order 12898, ``Federal Actions to 
Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income 
Populations,'' which states that each federal agency, with the law as 
its guide, should make environmental justice part of its mission. In 
this regard, HUD has developed its Environmental Justice Strategy (EJ 
Strategy). HUD's EJ Strategy is a four-year plan to address 
environmental justice concerns and increase access to environmental 
benefits through HUD policies, programs, and activities.
    The release of HUD's EJ Strategy is part of the latest step in a 
larger Administration-wide effort to ensure strong protection from 
environmental and health hazards for all. In August 2011, federal 
agencies signed the ``Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental 
Justice and Executive Order 12898'' (EJ MOU), which committed each 
agency to, among other things, finalizing an EJ strategy and releasing 
annual implementation reports. Links to the other federal EJ Strategies 
are available on the Environmental Justice Interagency Workgroup (IWG) 
Web page at http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/interagency/index.html.
    Now that its strategy is final, HUD will continue to work with the 
IWG and other federal partners to engage stakeholders through outreach, 
education, and stakeholder events and respond to public comments 
through its annual implementation reports.

II. Final Strategy: Changes to the September 30, 2011 Draft EJ Strategy

    This final strategy follows publication of the September 30, 2011 
draft strategy and takes into consideration the public comments 
received. The public comment period on the draft strategy closed on 
November 23, 2011, after HUD extended the deadline from the

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original November 14, 2011 date. HUD received relevant input from a 
total of 36 commenters representing a wide variety of stakeholders, 
some of whom submitted multiple comments, in response to the draft 
strategy. Comments were submitted by private citizens, local, regional, 
and state agencies, and advocacy groups. The comments were on a wide 
variety of issues from many different sections of the draft strategy.

III. Discussion of Public Comments Received on the September 30, 2011 
Draft Strategy

    This section presents a summary of the significant issues raised by 
the public comments in response to the September 30, 2011 Draft EJ 
Strategy and HUD's responses to these issues.
    Comment: HUD should expand the definition of ``Colonias'' to 
include rural communities with similar characteristics but not located 
on the southern border of the U.S. to increase assistance to farmworker 
and rural communities.
    Response: For the purposes of the colonia set-aside in the CDBG 
program, HUD must follow the requirements of Sec.  916(e)(1) of the 
1990 Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act, which defines 
colonia as: ``Any identifiable community * * * in the State of Arizona, 
California, New Mexico, or Texas * * * in the United States-Mexico 
border region * * * [and] is determined to be a colonia on the basis of 
objective criteria, including lack of potable water supply, lack of 
adequate sewage systems, and lack of decent, safe and sanitary 
housing.'' Because the geography of the colonia is defined in statute, 
expanding the definition would require a statutory change by Congress.
    Comment: HUD should include clear and specific requirements and 
incentives for energy and water efficiency in all HUD housing 
rehabilitation and construction programs.
    Response: HUD values energy efficiency and is committed to 
efficient, green, and healthy homes. Subgoal 4B of HUD's Strategic Plan 
for FY 2010-2015 calls on HUD to ``support and promote an energy-
efficient, green, and healthy housing market by retrofitting existing 
housing, supporting energy-efficient new construction, improving home 
energy labeling, and promoting financing products that reduce the 
carbon footprint of non-HUD-supported residential buildings.'' 
Furthermore, for the past several Fiscal Years, HUD has offered policy 
priority points to applicants that plan to use HUD discretionary grant 
program funding to build or rehabilitate to a recognized green building 
rating standard (see section I.B.2. of HUD's Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 
Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) Policy Requirements and General 
Section to HUD's FY2012 NOFAs for Discretionary Programs).
    Comment: HUD should add to selection criteria of all NOFAs a 
discussion of the impact a project would have on homeless populations 
and planned mitigation strategies, where appropriate.
    Response: One of the goals outlined in HUD's Strategic Plan for FY 
2010-2015 is ending homelessness by reducing the number of homeless 
families, chronically homeless individuals, and homeless veterans. To 
achieve this goal, HUD has partnered with local, state, and Federal 
organizations, including the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, 
to deploy evidence-based interventions, such as supportive housing, 
housing first, homelessness prevention, and rapid rehousing, to more 
effectively and efficiently use the Nation's limited resources to bring 
an end to homelessness. While a criterion described in the comment is 
not included in all of the NOFAs for HUD's discretionary programs, HUD 
is working proactively to end homelessness through strategies such as: 
providing additional individuals and families with rental housing 
subsidies; increasing service-enriched housing; working with state and 
local governments to expand rental assistance and prevent homelessness; 
and improving access to HUD-funded housing assistance by eliminating 
administrative barriers and encouraging prioritization of households 
most at risk for homelessness.
    Comment: Two commenters noted that the strategy was broad in scope 
and lacked benchmarks and goals that would quantify performance and aid 
in implementation.
    Response: HUD is eager to make headway on the myriad department-
wide and program office-specific policy priorities outlined in the EJ 
Strategy in the pursuit of environmental justice--defined by HUD as 
equal access to safe and healthy housing for all Americans, mitigating 
risks to communities in disaster-prone areas, access to affordable, 
quality housing free of hazards to residents' health, and working to 
achieve inclusive, sustainable communities free from discrimination. 
The next step in the process is finalizing the EJ Strategy to comply 
with Executive Order 12898. This strategy lays out the general 
principles of HUD's approach to Environmental Justice but is not 
intended to be HUD's last word on the subject. Beginning in 2012, HUD 
will provide an annual report on progress in carrying out this strategy 
and Executive Order 12898, with meaningful opportunities for public 
comment and recommendations.
    Comment: Multiple commenters wanted to know more about the EJ 
training, progress reports, potential new reporting requirements, and 
policies that were mentioned in the draft EJ Strategy. One commenter 
further noted that HUD should expand the training materials it is 
planning to provide to include seminars, webinars, handouts, and in-
person training.
    Response: Finalizing and releasing the 2012-2015 EJ Strategy is the 
first step toward working toward the priorities outlined in the 
Strategy, including offering EJ training and reporting HUD's annual 
progress. Now that HUD has finalized its Strategy, HUD's EJ Working 
Group and other staff will continue to work to develop training 
materials, as well as a timeline for progress reports, and will make 
details available to the public. HUD's Web site will continue to be the 
best place to find information on training, progress reports, and any 
relevant guidance.
    Comment: HUD should issue the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA)-related guidance on how it will consider environmental justice 
impacts of major federal actions affecting the environment.
    Response: In Section A.3 of the Strategy, HUD commits to reviewing 
and evaluating environmental review requirements and delivering special 
training materials to HUD and grantee staff on environmental justice.
    Comment: HUD needs to change the definition of what constitutes 
affordable housing to include energy and water efficiency standards.
    Response: HUD understands that both transportation and utility 
costs have a significant impact on the overall affordability of housing 
for individuals. Several initiatives are underway to improve our 
understanding of the combined cost of housing, energy, and 
transportation for American households. HUD took unprecedented actions 
in FY2010 and FY2011 to increase energy efficiency in affordable 
housing. Through an interagency Rental Policy Working Group, HUD, the 
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other federal 
agencies adopted a framework for common energy efficiency standards in 
federally-assisted affordable rental housing, as published on December 
31, 2011 in the Federal Alignment Report (http://www.huduser.org/

[[Page 22601]]

    In addition, as part of a joint effort with the Department of 
Energy (DOE), HUD established and exceeded a two-year goal for energy 
efficient, healthy retrofits and new construction of affordable units. 
Through HUD's core programs, HUD has expanded financing, increased 
technical assistance, and strengthened basic energy requirements to 
advance greater energy efficiency. Many of HUD's competitive grant 
programs provide bonus points for projects that comply with standards 
including EnergyStar, WaterSense, and Leadership in Energy and 
Environmental Design (LEED). The competitive nature of these programs 
often ensures that only proposals that achieve these points are funded. 
HUD also acknowledges successful sustainable projects of various types 
through national award programs as an additional incentive to achieve 
these and other goals. Through a partnership with DOE to break down 
interagency barriers, more than 1.5 million units of HUD-assisted 
housing have increased access to funding under DOE's Weatherization 
Assistance Program.
    In FY2011, HUD continued existing innovative energy-efficiency 
financing programs such as the Mark-to-Market green initiative, and 
launched new financing programs such as the PowerSaver pilot program to 
provide FHA-insured loans for homeowners to invest in home energy 
improvements and the Fannie Mae-FHA Green Refinance Plus that allows 
for refinancing of existing affordable multifamily rental properties 
into new mortgages that include funds for energy saving improvements. 
HUD is also working to improve its data collection and reporting 
systems on energy efficiency. For example, HUD strengthened the 
Integrated Disbursement & Information System (IDIS) reporting for 
Recovery Act reporting through HOME, the Community Development Block 
Grant Program (CDBG), and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), 
as well as energy improvements funded through the American Recovery and 
Reinvestment Act (Pub. L. 111-5) (Recovery Act) Capital Fund in public 
housing. The Administration's FY2013 Budget proposal for the Office of 
Sustainable Housing and Communities builds on this progress and 
requests funding to support energy efficiency and green building 
initiatives which will allow HUD to further develop uniform energy 
efficiency guidelines for HUD-assisted properties.
    Comment: HUD should set standards for making spatially referenced 
housing information available to local agencies. (Example: Assigning 
multi-family units to their actual location versus the address of a 
management office.) Also, HUD could provide funding and/or leadership 
in creating agreements with private vendors (like RealtyTrac) to make 
standardized, geo-coded foreclosure information accessible to local 
jurisdictions and to the public.
    Response: HUD is currently investing in a project called Enterprise 
Geospatial Services that includes establishing geocoding standards for 
the agency and conducting an agency-wide geospatial needs assessment. 
The geospatial needs assessment will include a summation of the 
agency's geospatial environment as is and recommendations for an 
enterprise geospatial architecture for HUD. In recent years, HUD has 
made great strides toward expanding our geospatial mapping capacity and 
tools for the public. Thirteen mapping tools for various HUD programs 
are available at: http://egis.hud.gov. This page will soon be rebuilt 
using portal technology that will allow users to search or browse for 
data, services, and applications. In addition to supporting these 
specific applications, HUD is also designing a public map services 
program that will make core data sets available to Federal and local 
partners and the general public. HUD projects that these map services 
will be available in starting in 2012 in a variety of standard formats, 
such as WMS, REST, and KML. At this point, HUD is unable to reach a 
licensing agreement that would allow the agency to make foreclosure 
data publicly available that would not be prohibitively expensive.
    Comment: With close to half of the Tribes recognized by the United 
States of America located in Alaska, and the known communication issues 
between many of these Villages and Federal Agencies, HUD is not doing 
enough to make it possible for the Alaska Tribes to participate in a 
meaningful way. In addition, HUD is not doing enough to stop pollution 
from entering Alaska's natural environment, which has adverse effects 
for many indigenous peoples. Finally, with almost half the federally 
recognized tribes located in Alaska, HUD should pursue budget equity 
with the funds designated as tribal funds. The majority of funds should 
be directed to Alaska's Tribes.
    Response: HUD and its Office of Native American Programs recognize 
and support the sovereignty of federally recognized Tribes through the 
unique government-to-government relationship formally established 
between the Tribes and the United States government. This relationship 
is reflected in HUD's Government-to-Government Tribal Consultation 
Policy which was established pursuant to Executive Order 13175 which 
required federal agencies to: (1) Establish regular and meaningful 
consultation and collaboration with Indian Tribal officials in the 
development of federal policies that have tribal implications; (2) 
strengthen the United States government-to-government relationships 
with Indian Tribes; and (3) reduce the imposition of unfunded mandates 
upon Indian Tribes. HUD's Government-to-Government Tribal Consultation 
Policy applies to all HUD programs that have substantial direct effects 
on federally recognized Indian Tribal governments.
    Regarding environmental impacts, recipients of HUD grant funds, 
including the Office of Native American Programs' NAHASDA Indian 
Housing Block Grant and Indian Community Development Block Grant 
programs, must meet the statutory and regulatory provisions of NEPA and 
other environmental laws and authorities. HUD environmental regulations 
establish a policy that properties proposed for use in HUD programs be 
free of hazardous materials and contamination that could affect the 
health and safety of occupants or conflict with the intended use of the 
    Finally, regarding the allocation of funds to federally recognized 
Tribes, HUD's Government-to-Government Tribal Consultation Policy 
clearly establishes the methodologies HUD will follow to affect 
meaningful Tribal Consultation and Collaboration at the local, 
regional, and national levels. Consistent with HUD's Tribal 
Consultation Policy and in accordance with the Native American Housing 
Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996, HUD has established a 
number of negotiated rulemaking committees in the past to develop and 
regularly review program regulations governing the allocation of Indian 
Housing Block Grant (IHBG) to Indian tribes. In doing so, HUD ensured 
that each committee, as a whole, reflected a geographically diverse 
cross-section of small, medium, and large Indian tribes, including 
representatives of Alaska tribes. All decisions made by these 
committees have historically been made on a consensus basis. HUD 
intends to establish negotiated rulemaking committees in the future to 
review the method by which IHBG funds are allocated to Indian tribes 
and remains committed to ensuring continued tribal participation. This 
process has been

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effective in the past in ensuring the fair and equitable distribution 
of IHBG grant funds among all program recipients.
    Comment: HUD should apply a public health framework to all offices 
and programs.
    Response: HUD knows that stable, healthy housing is inextricably 
tied to individual health and has made improving health outcomes a 
priority in its Strategic Plan. Improving health outcomes starts by 
increasing health knowledge and access to health services. Strategies 
HUD is committed to pursuing in 2010-2015 include: Increasing 
information about and access to health services, including veterans' 
health benefits, through partnerships with health organizations and 
healthcare delivery systems; increasing coordination of HUD programs 
with healthcare resources administered by other federal, state, and 
local programs; providing physical space to co-locate healthcare and 
wellness services with housing (for example, onsite health clinics); 
and promoting housing management practices that protect the health of 
residents (for example, smoking cessation, pest management, and green 
    HUD's Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control administers 
lead hazard and healthy homes programs, enforces lead paint 
regulations, and sets policies to reduce health and safety hazards in 
housing. Its comprehensive approach to healthy homes takes into account 
a variety of hazards in the home that can affect health, especially the 
presence of lead; these hazards often disproportionately impact EJ 
    Health is embedded in many other HUD programs as well. For 
instance, a goal of the Choice Neighborhoods program is to convert some 
of the worst of the nation's public housing into higher-quality, mixed-
income, mixed-tenure developments. The vision is to help communities 
transform into walkable neighborhoods with amenities and health 
services that allow residents to lead healthier lives. The Housing 
Choice Voucher program allows recipients of HUD assistance the mobility 
and freedom to choose the neighborhood they live in, allowing some 
people to leave neighborhoods that were less healthy, from a stress, 
safety, or walkability standpoint, to one that is more healthy.
    Comment: HUD should make public safety a priority in all its 
programs, as it does in the Choice Neighborhoods program.
    Response: Public safety is a key priority for HUD and a component 
of its Strategic Plan (Subgoal 3E). HUD knows that safety and the 
perception of safety are necessary factors for quality of life and that 
enhancing physical safety and reducing crime are essential to improving 
health, education, and economic outcomes. HUD's Strategic Plan 
describes HUD's strategies for improving actual safety and perceptions 
of safety, including: encouraging housing managers to use incentives to 
promote safety awareness and crime prevention programs; maintaining or 
improving the physical environment and design of HUD-assisted 
residences, giving attention to physical safety and crime prevention; 
and promoting a high level of coordination with law enforcement 
agencies to prevent and reduce crime. The new Choice Neighborhoods 
program is one example of how HUD is beginning to realize this 
strategic goal.
    Comment: The Fair Housing Equity Assessment component of the 
Sustainable Communities grant programs should require mapping health 
variables to evaluate the impact of healthy and unhealthy community 
    Response: The Fair Housing Equity Assessment requirement for HUD 
Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program grantees 
includes an identification and assessment of segregated areas and areas 
of increasing diversity and/or racial/ethnic integration, racially/
ethnically concentrated areas of poverty, access to existing areas of 
high opportunity, major public investments, and fair housing issues, 
services, and activities. During the course of their work, Regional 
Planning grantees are required to engage stakeholders and create 
planning priorities around positive community health outcomes.
    Comment: HUD should prioritize housing mobility programs to work 
toward the goal of environmental justice.
    Response: HUD is committed to providing choices and mobility to 
residents of public and assisted housing. Through HUD's Transforming 
Rental Assistance Initiative, HUD will work with partners at the state 
and local levels to regionalize rental assistance administration and to 
offer residents the option to receive tenant-based Section 8 vouchers, 
giving families access to a wider range of choices and opportunities 
when it comes to choosing a place to live.
    Comment: HUD should use its Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) 
authority to create a National Equitable Development Advisory Council.
    Response: HUD is exploring the most effective ways to bring 
Federal, state, and local partners and stakeholder expertise to bear on 
its Environmental Justice work. Establishing an Advisory Council is an 
option that HUD will look into going forward.

    Dated: April 10, 2012.
Shelley Poticha,
Director, Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities.
[FR Doc. 2012-9092 Filed 4-13-12; 8:45 am]