In draft program guidelines issued last week, the Strategic Growth Council staff will recommend eliminating the jurisdictional cap on funding, increasing the cap for individual developers from $15 million to $40 million, and setting aside 10% of the funding for rural projects. However, the SGC staff recommendations stop short – so far – of a setaside for each region, as some metropolitan planning organizations requested. 

Instead, the SGC staff has recommended that MPO staff should review full AHSC applications based on consistency with each MPO's sustainable communities strategy and provide formal recommendations to the SGC as to which applications should be funded. However, more options may be presented to the SGC at its October meeting. 

The staff recommendations include a wide variety of other changes, including increasing the points awarded for deep housing subsidies on affordable housing projects. Overall, the SGC staff is recommending a 50-50 split in the scoring criteria between GHG emissions reductions and other policy criteria, such as affordable housing and collaboration between transportation and housing projects. Last year, the GHG reduction accounted for 55% of possible points, while policy objectives accounted for 30% and 15% went to "project readiness and feasibility". 

The SGC staff will provide more specifics at the council's October 15 meeting and the SGC is expected to approve final program guidelines at its December 17 meeting. Written comments will be accepted until October 30 via the official AHSC email address,

At the October meeting, the SGC staff is expected to bring forth additional options on four topics:

* Statewide Geographic Distribution of Funds 

*  Technical Assistance for AHSC Applicants 

* Coordination with Metropolitan Planning Organizations 

* Alignment of AHSC with the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program

The AHSC program is funded with cap-and-trade proceeds paid by polluters. At the end of the first program year in June, the SGC awarded $122 million in grants for infrastructure and development projects.  In 2015-16, the AHSC pot is expected to increase to $400 million. However, SGC was criticized for placing strict caps on the amount of funding developers and jurisdictions could receive, shorting rural areas, and not taking regional equity into consideration. 

Among the highlights of the proposed guidelines:

* Instead of requiring investment in transit infrastructure, the guidelines would recognize transit infrastructure investments already made – recognizing that in some cases this investment is not required for the proposed development project to work.

* Ten percent of the funds would be set aside for investments in newly defined "Rural Innovation Project Areas," though these funds would roll over into the main program if not enough rural applications are received.

* Projects will receive credit for active transportation, urban greening, green building, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

* Minimum and maximum awards will increase from $500,000 to $1 million and from $15 million to $20 million.

* Individual developers will be subject to a $40 million cap across all their proposals, up from $15 million.