CNU E-Update
January 2011


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Help Fannie, Freddie and HUD Encourage Better Urbanism
Ask HUD Secretary to Support Mixed-Use Buildings


Show your support for Main Street today. Email HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan at and ask him to support good urbanism by relaxing the standard used by Fannie and Freddie that blocks mortgage financing to residential units in mixed-use buildings.


Financing is one of the most significant obstacles to mixed-use development, and CNU is excited to announce a major step removing a major obstacle.  In a partnership with the National Town Builders Association (NTBA) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), CNU has encouraged the NAHB board to push Fannie and Freddie to raise their minimum threshold for the amount of commercial space in mixed-use developments from 25% to 45%. The standard also applies to mortgages guaranteed by HUD.


In December, John Norquist, President and CEO of CNU, and a delegation of new urbanists including Frank Starkey of the NTBA met with Jerry Howard, president of NAHB, to encourage him to support this effort. Earlier this month at the NAHB winter Board of Directors meeting, Starkey and William Tuyn, who is on the NAHB board and is a longtime CNU member, worked successfully with four committees to authorize the NAHB lobbyists to help reform Fannie, Freddie and HUD.


This is encouraging news for developers and designers of urban infill, mixed-use and Main Street development types, as reforms will provide federally-backed loan guarantees for a sector that has been overlooked for decades. CNU's John Norquist is pleased with the results so far. "CNU looks forward to continued efforts to work with NAHB and NBTA to remove obstacles in the way of good urban development."


We at CNU would like to thank William Tuyn, Frank Starkey, and Jerry Howard and the NAHB board for their support to-date. These and future efforts will help provide critical financial backing that will improve the long-term health of our cities.


Through brief, informal discussions with Secretary Shaun Donovan at CNU 18 in Atlanta, it seemed as through Secretary Donovan was sympathetic to our views. However, we still encourage you to communication your views to Secretary Donovan. To express your support for this effort, email Shaun Donovan today at

CNU 19
Register now!

Don't miss out on the best guided tours and 202s! Now is the time to register for CNU 19. Come early and stay late - May 31 offers some fascinating tours, and June 4 and 5 feature terrific closing plenaries and additional tours. Visit today.




CNU is leading the charge to get new urbanists and firefighters to agree on a set of street design standards
Well-connected street grids are essential to good urbanism


CNU is leading the charge to get new urbanists and firefighters to agree on a set of street design standards that are both attractive, useful, pedestrian-friendly and safer for all.


The Emergency Response & Street Design Initiative is a collaboration between the Congress for the New Urbanism, fire marshals across the United States and the U.S. EPA's Smart Growth program.  It has arrived at significant agreement on efforts to reconcile narrower streets and good emergency access.


The bottom line is a well-connected street grid network is essential to good urbanism, but also shortens emergency response times, both of which improve safety and quality of life.Narrow streets encourage walking and slower traffic speeds, making the overall environment safer for walkers, bikers and drivers alike.  Taken in isolation, a narrow street may inhibit emergency response vehicles, but a well-designed street network can provide ample alternative routes and accessibility.


A study in Longmont, Colorado by Swift-Painter-Goldstein indicated a 485 percent increase in accident rates per mile when streets are widened from 24 to 36 feet.  Couple that with a study in Charlotte, North Carolina, indicating the per capita costs for fire service increased from $159 in the portion of the city with the best-connected street grid network to $740 in the least connected zone.  This indicates that a good urban street grid is both efficient and safer.


Currently the International Fire Code (IFC) does not take in to account the street network, and CNU is working to create a coalition of allies and propose amendments to the fire code to make it more flexible with regard to street design.  Our initial code revision was turned down, but we generated significant attention and a positive response from many participants, indicating that the principles of urbanism may have support in future efforts.


CNU's next steps are additional research, outreach and pursuit of future code revisions to promote not only good urbanism, but overall improved safety.


Please join us in this effort! To join in this effort, please contact Heather Smith at


Don't miss the "Building Better Streets and Connected Cities" session at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Charlotte on February 3rd. There is still time to register at


Groves Awards
Award to be presented at CNU 19

The Groves Award will be presented in June at CNU 19 in Madison.  The Groves Award recognizes outstanding leadership and vision in the promotion of transect-based planning, according to the Center for Applied Transect Studies, and was created by the Congress for New Urbanism and the Transect Codes Council.  Ken Groves, who died last September after a battle with cancer, is the former Montgomery director of planning and development.


Transit Commuter Tax Break Extended By Congress
$230 per month commuter tax benefit

In December, Congress approved an extension of the $230 per month commuter tax benefit for transit users. This tax benefit is particularly beneficial to commuters who use transit on a daily basis. Read more here.

The New Urbanism vs. Landscape Urbanism Debate Heats Up
Named in Top 10 issues of past year

Planetizen included the debate between New Urbanism and Landscape Urbanism as one of the top 10 planning issues of the past year. Read about it here


Don't miss CNU 19 in Madison in June, where Andres Duany and Charles Waldheim will provide clarity to the New Urbanism vs. Landscape Urbanism issue.

Concrete Change

Concrete Change has received the 2011 Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award from the Rollins School of Public Health and the Goizueta Business School for their work to make all homes visitable.  Access and urbanism have lots of common ground, and CNU has worked with Concrete Change in a sometimes contentious but usually productive way to find common solutions to building and urban design issues.


Find Concrete Change at

Upcoming Events on CNU Event Calendar
Check out

CNU Florida 2011 Statewide Meeting

January 27th - January 29th

Seaside, FL

 Smarter Codes, Smarter Growth: How to Achieve Your Smart Growth Goals Through Zoning Code Reform

February 2, 2011

Charlotte, NC 


What Healthy Communities Need from their Transportation Networks Webinar 2: The Health Benefits From Active Transportation

February 15, 2011 


Miami21 Case Study Webinar

February 17, 2011 


Smartcode Intensive

February 24, 2011 

About the Congress for the New Urbanism
The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is the leading organization promoting regions, cities and towns built around walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods.  Learn more.