Grant money could change how Houstonians live

HOUSTON Mayor Annise Parker, along with representatives Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green and Gene Green, made the announcement of the grant Friday. It's part of a broader plan that could lead to more jobs in those areas.

Downtown Houston may not be the 'center' of the city for long. Our region just got more than $3.5 million to spread the wealth into several pockets of town.

Over the last 50 years, Houston's city planning mirrored that of many growing cities. The "bigger is better" mindset led to a vast highway system and jobs centered around downtown.

Dr. Edward Pringle said, "As a result the average American now spends 50 cents of every dollar on housing and transportation."

Now the Houston area is shifting gears -- focusing on building smaller, sustainable communities spread across 13 counties in our region.

"So people don't have to spend so much time in their cars, and people don't have the stress of that kind of world," explained David Crossley with Houston Tomorrow.

As part of a $100 million federal grant, the Houston-Galveston Area Council is getting $3.7 million to kick off the reorganization. The main idea is to make existing suburbs and smaller communities more efficient -- bringing in their own transportation, moving jobs out to them and centering it all around affordable housing.

U.S. Rep. Al Green said, "So if you can marry the housing with the transportation and the jobs, and do it in a clean way, you have a sustainable area."

Long term, the plan means less traffic, less pollution and more freedom to plan your region the way you want.

"Not having that old picture of one center. That's going away," said Crossley. "There are people starting to get that."

It's a new attitude that city planners hope makes Houston even more attractive.

"Our vision is that in 2036 when Houston is 200 years old, it'll be home to the healthiest, happiest most prosperous people in the United States," Crossley said. "This grant gives us a shot."

Money awarded is just meant for planning now. No specifics are in place yet.

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