HUD Secretary Donovan Names CNU's Norquist to UN World Habitat Day Honorary Committee

Group meets in DC to begin preparing for international event dedicated to "planning our urban future"

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CNU President and CEO John Norquist was in Washington D.C. last night for a dinner hosted by US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and UN Under-Secretary General Anna Tibaijuka.

Norquist joined other members of the Honorary Committee for the UN World Habitat Day, an international event held each October "to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, the basic of all right to adequate shelter...and to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat." After programs in recent years in Angola, the Netherlands, and Mexico, this year's event will be hosted by the Obama Administration in Washington DC on October 5, 2009. Tibaijuka is Executive Director of UN Habitat.

This year's World Habitat Day will focus on the theme of improved urban planning so that our cities can manage and reduce the impacts of climate disruption, the economic crisis and urban poverty around the world. "It's a very timely theme," said Norquist. "Through its Sustainable Communities Initiative led by Secretaries Donovan and LaHood, the Obama Administration is showing its awareness that our future neighborhoods must be more walkable, urban, diverse, and energy-efficient. As big an issue as it is domestically, it's even more important internationally."

Other members of the Honorary Committee in attendance at last night's dinner include Paul Farmer, Chief Executive Officer of the American Planning Association, Amy Liu, Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, and Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. Besides HUD, the Obama Administration's Office of Urban Policy was also represented at the event.

At the dinner, Donovan spoke about how the principles behind the Sustainable Communities Initiative relate to the goals of UN Habitat. Norquist said the U.S. must take the lead in creating a more efficient, sustainable and livable built environment so it doesn't continue to export the sprawl model to places like China, compounding the problems of world oil dependency, climate change and transportation inequity. He used the opportunity to offer Donovan CNU's support for the joint sustainability effort and suggested CNU and experts from within its ranks would welcome opportunities to collaborate. Work could include helping officials from HUD, DOT, and other departments develop operating principles, design criteria, and staff education programs to support the joint program's vision of communities with high-quality diverse housing, lower transportation costs, proximity to jobs, and healthier energy-efficient development patterns. CNU provided design guidance in the development of HUD's Hope VI public housing revitalization program in the 1990s and has since partnered with the USGBC and NRDC to create LEED for Neighborhood Development, the first certification system in the U.S. for extending green building to the scale of the neighborhood.