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HUD Seeks to Amend ConPlan Regulations to Address the Digital Divide and Climate Change

Published on June 6, 2016 by Althea Arnold
HUD Seeks to Amend ConPlan Regulations to Address the Digital Divide and Climate Change

On May 18, HUD published a proposed rule, Modernizing HUD’s Consolidated Planning Process to Narrow the Digital Divide and Increase Resilience to Natural Hazards, that would require jurisdictions to consider broadband access and resilience to natural hazard risks, including hazards that may result from climate change, in their Consolidated Plans (ConPlan). The ConPlan is the outcome of the comprehensive planning process that jurisdictions administering HUD Community Planning and Development programs—the Community Development Block Grant program, the HOME Investment Partnerships program, the Emergency Solutions Grants program, and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program—undertake once every five years to guide program their activities. HUD contends that requiring jurisdictions to analyze both broadband access and resilience to natural hazard risks will help ensure more complete profiles of communities’ needs.

The proposed rule would amend the consultation and public participation sections of the ConPlan regulations to require jurisdictions to consult with and encourage participation of public and private organizations, including broadband Internet service providers, organizations engaged in narrowing the digital divide, agencies whose primary responsibilities include the management of flood prone areas and public land or water resources, and emergency management agencies.

It would also amend the housing market analysis section of the ConPlan to require jurisdictions to describe broadband access of housing occupied by low- and moderate- income households based on an analysis of the National Broadband Map* or other data. It also would require jurisdictions to describe the vulnerability to natural hazard risks of housing occupied by low- and moderate- income households. The proposed rule identifies a variety of readily available data sources that jurisdictions could use for this analysis, including the National Climate Assessment, the Climate Resilience Toolkit, the Impact of Climate Change and Population Grown on the National Flood Insurance Program Through 2100, and the Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems. Jurisdictions also can use other climate-related data sources developed by the Federal government, and other state and local data sources approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

HUD does not anticipate the costs of revised consultation and reporting requirements to be significant, maintaining that the revisions would build upon other elements of the ConPlan and the data is readily available. HUD also stresses that the proposed rule does not mandate that jurisdictions take actions to address broadband needs or climate change adaptation needs, stating, “HUD leaves it to jurisdictions to consider any appropriate methods to promote broadband access or protect against the adverse impacts of climate change, taking into account the other needs of their communities, and available funding, as identified through the consolidated planning process.”

HUD will accept comments on this proposed rule until July 18, 2016.

* The National Broadband Map, a website first published in 2011, was the result of a collaboration between the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five United States territories. The National Broadband Map website has been taken down since this blog’s publication.