Free Technical Assistance

Is your community working to become more livable and sustainable? Are you running into barriers in achieving these goals? Project for Public Spaces offers free technical assistance with our partners at Livability Solutions, thanks to a grant from the EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities’ Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program

Livability Solutions partners, which include the nation’s leading experts in creating sustainable communities,  lead one- and two-day targeted workshops in communities around the U.S. Communities learn how to use one of our tools or workshop approaches, such as walkability audits, green infrastructure valuation guides, shared use agreements, and community image surveys, that can help achieve goals of enhancing livability, creating lasting economic and environmental improvements, and improving residents’ public and social health. A short report is prepared for each community following the technical assistance. Eight to ten communities are selected to receive technical assistance each year of the program.

View profiles of past Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities projects to learn more about this program.

View a webinar recording and slides to learn more about the program and the tools being offered.

Application period closed, but sign up for Livability Solutions updates to receive notice about our next call for applications.

To apply for free technical assistance, applicants must:

  • Complete the online application
  • Obtain signed letter(s) of commitment from a local elected official or head of local government agency (there is a spot in the application to upload the letter(s)), as well as any other letters to demonstrate support for the application
  • You will receive notification once we have received your application. You will be notified if your application is incomplete.



Who is eligible to apply for the assistance?

This technical assistance is designed to serve local and/or tribal governments. Any local, regional, state, or tribal government, or agency or subdivision thereof, or community-based organization working in close conjunction with any such division of government may apply.

We focus on helping communities to reach a tipping point or to overcome a significant hurdle in achieving a particular livability or sustainability goal. If you are a community with a strong interest in and commitment to livability, smart growth, and sustainability principles, but face a significant challenge or barrier to moving forward with those goals, please apply for technical assistance. This year, we are also placing a stronger emphasis in prioritizing neighborhoods with social, economic, and environmental disadvantages, in order to help those communities most in need of assistance.

The intention of this technical assistance is to work directly with local and/or tribal governments to increase their capacity to successfully implement smart growth and sustainable communities approaches that protect the environment, improve public health, facilitate job creation and economic opportunity, and improve overall quality of life. If the primary applicant is not a local government, then the applicant must indicate, through a signed letter from a local elected official or head of a local government agency, that the local government is committed to efforts described in the application and will be substantively involved in the technical assistance.

Selection process

  • In order to apply for this free technical assistance from Livability Solutions, candidates must complete and submit the application.
  • Candidates will be evaluated by a selection committee on the basis of the criteria described below. Only complete applications will be reviewed. You will be notified if your application is incomplete.
  • Those candidates best meeting the selection criteria described below will be selected to receive technical assistance.
  • PPS and Livability Solutions reserve the right to reject any or all incomplete applications or applications not meeting the criteria.
  • Selected candidates will be notified in early March 2015.
  • Candidates not selected for this round of assistance will be notified shortly thereafter, and will also be notified of future technical assistance offerings.

Selection criteria

Primary selection criteria

  • Demonstrated interest or initiative in livability, smart growth, or sustainability (20%): We are looking for communities with a strong interest in and commitment to livability, smart growth, and sustainability principles that are facing a significant challenge or barrier to moving forward. Successful candidates will illustrate past and present activities working toward livability, smart growth, and sustainability that have hit some type of roadblock. Possible indicators of commitment and capability might include, but are not limited to: policies enabling or requiring smart growth considerations in both public and private sector projects; comprehensive plan language that recognizes the need for smart growth; draft bicycle or pedestrian plans; a political commitment to reducing vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions; policies illustrating a commitment to transportation equity and environmental justice; use of growth boundaries; recent summits on growth, development, and/or transportation;  or similar activities.
  • Clarity and capability to achieve candidate project or initiative (20%): Candidates are asked to identify a project or initiative that could reach the tipping point with this EPA-funded technical assistance. The candidate should identify one or more issues that they are currently facing in the development of a policy or project, and where the right technical assistance can lead to substantial and meaningful progress. The existence of a clear project or initiative to address and the candidate’s readiness and capability to act on the assistance provided will be considered.
  • Magnitude of need (20%): Candidates will be evaluated regarding the nature and magnitude of their expressed needs.
  • Demonstrated commitment to public engagement (20%): Community commitment and participation is critical to livability and sustainability success. Successful candidates will have demonstrated a track record and commitment to including a broad spectrum of the community in their planning and/ or development process including people of all ages, abilities, economic conditions, and ethnicities. This demonstration of commitment to public engagement could be expressed in the form of policies on public engagement; past examples; or stated commitments from a mayor, council members, or agency heads.
  • Demonstration of partnering capability and stakeholder interest (20%): Successful candidates will illustrate that they are willing to work across agencies or departments to improve capacity for smart growth and sustainable change. Working with community-based organizations, the business community, business improvement districts, local chambers of commerce, health professionals/medical community, public health practitioners, and other appropriate partners will be considered an asset.

Additional considerations

Community diversity: In order to ensure that the communities selected represent a range of community scales and demographics, we will seek to ensure that each of the following categories is represented among the selected communities:

  • Tribal
  • Rural/Small Town (less than 15,000 population)
  • Suburban/Medium City (15,000 – 100,000 population)
  • Large City / Metro (>100,000 population)

In addition, to ensure that this assistance successfully reaches communities that may not have the capacity to provide as thorough applications as communities with more resources, two-thirds of the assistance will be targeted to projects in low resource neighborhoods with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • There are high rates of poverty (more than 20% of households are at or below the federal poverty threshold, or the median household income is at 70% or less of the national average).
  • There are high rates of unemployment (unemployment rates are greater than the national average).
  • Residents face a disproportionate level of environmental degradation, social inequity, health disparities, historic underrepresentation, economic stagnation, and/or recent economic disruption (e.g., closure of major plants or businesses, resulting in significant local job loss).
  • A relatively high percentage of the population pays more than 45% of household income on combined housing and transportation costs.
  • A high percentage (greater than 15%) of households are not food secure.

Geographic diversity:We also intend that this technical assistance reach communities of different sizes across the United States and we will strive to select a geographically diverse group of communities.

Potential for leveraging: The existence of additional commitment, funding, and/or in-kind support to the proposed project or initiative from a public or private sector partner or a local foundation, which can add value to the EPA-funded assistance by supporting follow-up plans or implementation, will be considered a plus.

Prior receipt of federal sustainable communities technical assistance: One intention of this technical assistance is to increase the reach and impact of livability and sustainability solutions. Past and current provision of assistance will be taken into account. That a community is receiving or has received additional technical assistance from the EPA, or other sources, does not mean that it is ineligible. It simply means that the community will need to illustrate how the technical assistance they are requesting from Livability Solutions will complement the other assistance they received before, currently have, or are applying for.


If you have any questions about this assistance, the selection criteria or application, please email In order to ensure that we can adequately respond to questions, please aim to submit any questions by December 5th.  Questions received by this date will be compiled and the answers to these questions will be made available on the website by the end of that week. You can also check our FAQ’s page. We will be available after this date to answer questions, as well.

About the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program

The EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities’ Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program  funds quick, targeted assistance to communities that face common development problems. Two other nonprofit organizations have received competitively awarded grants under this program to help communities achieve their sustainable communities-related goals: Global Green USA and Smart Growth America.