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Federal Policies and Land Use Laws of 2015

Josh Stephens on
Feb 5, 2015

Last week's UCLA Extension Land Use Law and Planning Conference included a session on updates from the faraway land of Washington, D.C. Federal policymakers ended the year with a few new developments, and continued policies, that may be of interest to planners. This summary comes courtesy of Steven Preston, planning director for the City of San Gabriel, who collaborated with staff members at the American Planning Association's Washington office. 

Pending Issues

In the coming months, the continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire, and the debt limit will be reached in March. More importantly for cities, the MAP-21 law expires and, with it goes the funding for the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Debates over replacement funding are ongoing in Washington -- including proposals to raise the federal gas tax -- with little resolution in sight.

Extension of Tax Provisions

Congress voted to extend a host of tax provisions at the end of 2014, and the president is expected to sign. These provisions include the following: 

  • New Market Tax Credits: 
  • Credit Rate for Low-Income Housing: 9 percent fixed rate for low-incoming housing tax projects
  • Energy Credits: energy efficient construction of residential and commercial buildings
  • Parking and Transit Tax Benefits: restores parity between parking and transit tax benefits for commuters
Omnibus Spending Bill

The Omnibus Spending Bill funds all agencies, except DHS, through September 2015. Some of the areas and programs that this budget affects include (as detailed in the APA's blog): 
  • Community Development Block Grants
  • HOME
  • Choice Neighborhoods
  • Homeless Assistance Grants
  • TIGER Grants
  • Bike and Pedestrian Safety
  • Highways and Transit
  • Water Infrastructure
  • Hazard Programs
  • Brownfield Mitigation
Climate Preparedness and Resilience

The session also highlighted the findings and recommendations of President Obama's Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The task force released a tool kit to aid cities' climate resiliency plans. 
FCC Wireless Communications Rules

As reported in CP&DR last month, the Federal Communications Commission released new rules regarding the siting and modification of towers and antennae for cell phones and other wireless communication technologies.