Home | En Español | Contact Us | A to Z 

HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 99-100
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Friday
Or contact your local HUD officeJune 11, 1999


Click here for full report (was linked to http://www.huduser.org/publications/polleg/tsoc99/tsoc_99.html)

President Clinton today issued the third annual State of the Cities report, which finds that most American cities are prospering with strong economies. However, the report says too many cities have been left behind and face major challenges of population decline, loss of middle-class families, slow job growth, income inequality, and poverty.

The report - prepared by the Department of Housing and Urban Development - also finds that some older suburbs are experiencing problems once associated with cities. In addition, the report says a new survey shows most urban and suburban officials agree they must develop regional solutions to the common problems facing their communities, and cites the historic opportunity for more cooperation between cities and suburbs.

The State of the Cities concludes that the Clinton Administration's 21st Century Agenda for Cities and Suburbs would help communities left behind become participants instead of spectators in the nation's booming economy. The Agenda is a broad range of initiatives in the President's proposed Fiscal Year 2000 Budget designed to promote economic growth, job creation, expanded homeownership, and affordable housing opportunities.

Speaking via a videotaped message to the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in New Orleans, the President said: "Now, on the edge of a new century, our cities are strong - and growing stronger. This strength is made plain in our third State of the Cities report."

"But we can't grow complacent," the President added. "As all of you know, some of our hardest-pressed neighborhoods and smaller-size cities do not share in our prosperity yet. We have to keep working together - those of us in Washington, those of you in City Hall, men and women in every civic institution, to bring all Americans into the economic mainstream."

HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, who will address the Conference of Mayors meeting Saturday, said the State of the Cities documents the need for the 21st Century Agenda for Cities and Suburbs.

"A renewed prosperity has touched many places as a result of the Clinton-Gore Administration's economic policies," Cuomo said. "But a prosperity gap still divides the majority of communities that are doing well from the minority that are struggling. Our challenge now is to invest in building a brighter future for people and places left behind."

Incoming Conference of Mayors President Wellington Webb, who is the Mayor of Denver, welcomed the State of the Cities report, saying: "Now we are calling for a new partnership with the federal government and with the states. This would be a partnership that extends the economic recovery to distressed areas, that invests in working families and that reverses federal and state policies which tilt the playing field against older communities."


The State of the Cities report contains these major findings:

Finding #1: Thanks to a booming national economy, most cities are experiencing a strong fiscal and economic recovery. However, too many central cities are still left behind and continue to face the challenges of population decline, loss of middle-class families, slow job growth, income inequality, and poverty.

Finding #2: Some older suburbs are experiencing problems once associated with urban areas -- job loss, population decline, crime, and disinvestment. Simultaneously, many suburbs - including newer ones - are straining under sprawling growth that creates traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, loss of open spaces, and other sprawl-related problems, and a lack of affordable housing.

Finding #3: There is a strong consensus on the need for joint city/suburb strategies to address sprawl and the structural decline of cities and older suburbs. We now have an historic opportunity for cooperation between cities and counties, urban as well as suburban, to address the challenges facing our metropolitan areas.


The State of the Cities contains a wealth of statistics illustrating the magnitude of the urban rebirth since 1993, following decades of decline. These include:

  • Unemployment rates in cities are down, from 8.5 percent in 1992 to 5.1 percent in 1998 - falling at a faster rate than in suburbs. Four million more people in cities now have jobs than in 1992 - an 11 percent increase. However, urban unemployment rates still exceed suburban rates.

  • For the first time, most urban households are homeowners. In the first quarter of 1999, the central city homeownership rate was 50.3 percent. Since 1993, the number of homeowners nationwide has increased by 7.8 million. A total of 69.6 million families (66.7 percent) own their own homes - more than at any time in American history. A record high 5.9 million African American and 4.2 million Hispanic families own their own homes.

  • Americans experienced fewer violent and property crimes in 1997 than in any year since the survey began in 1973. Much of the crime decline occurred in cities with over 1 million people, where the murder rate fell from 35.5 murders per 100,000 population in 1991 to 20.3 per 100,000 in 1997 - the lowest level in 20 years.

    The State of the Cities also points out that challenges remain.

  • One of every six cities faces unemployment rates 50 percent higher than the national rate, with 95 central cities in 25 states and the District of Columbia showing jobless rates of 6.75 percent or higher in 1998 (versus 4.5 percent for the nation). Although the employment of urban residents is up in most cities, job growth in some cities has not yet made up for losses early in the decade. Jobs continue to grow faster in suburbs - by 11.3 percent during 1993-1996, versus 4.3 percent in cities.

  • Nearly one in three central cities had poverty rates of 20 percent or more - 50 percent higher than the national rate - according to the most recent HUD estimates. These rates have remained high since the start of the decade, despite some drop during the recovery. Poverty rates of 20 percent or more persist in 170 central cities in 34 states and the District of Columbia. While two-thirds of cities have gained population since 1980, suburbs have grown over twice as fast as cities in the past two decades (25.4 percent in suburbs versus 10.8 percent in cities).

  • Serious population losses affect about one in five central cities. A total of 116 central cities in 28 states and the District of Columbia lost five percent or more of their people between 1980 and 1996. That's one in ten central cities losing significant population at a time when the nation as a whole grew rapidly (17 percent). Most cities losing population are small or mid-sized.

  • Rents have increased faster than incomes. Between 1995 and 1997 rents increased faster than incomes for the 20 percent of American households with the lowest incomes. Over 5.3 million very low-income renter households pay more than half of their incomes for rent or live in severely substandard housing. The decline of affordable housing over the past two decades has continued in recent years. The nation lost an estimated 900,000 units affordable to very low-income families during 1996-1998 alone - a 13 percent decline.


  • Nearly 400 suburbs in 24 states are distressed, with high poverty rates (50 percent or more above the national average) and population declines. Suburbs are showing strains of sprawling growth that creates long commutes and traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, and other problems. Sprawling development means that the average suburban household drives about 31 percent more annually than its central city counterpart. Road costs in sprawling communities are 25 to 33 percent higher, utility costs 18 to 25 percent higher, and municipal and school district operating costs are 3 to 11 percent higher than in sprawl-free communities.


In May, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties completed a survey of over 200 officials from cities and suburbs nationwide to identify the challenges facing both areas and the prospects for addressing those challenges.

More than 80 percent of the officials surveyed from both suburban and urban communities agreed that all communities in a region benefit when they work together. And 97 percent of officials in both urban and suburban areas agreed that the most important challenges facing their communities are regional challenges, encompassing surrounding communities as well as their own jurisdictions.


Building on a track record of substantial accomplishment in addressing community needs, President Clinton and Vice President Gore, working with Congress, have proposed a significant agenda to respond to the challenges and opportunities highlighted in the State of the Cities.

The 21st Century Agenda for Cities and Suburbs has four parts:

  • Opening Doors to New Markets. President Clinton's New Markets Initiative is designed to make it more attractive to invest in communities left behind, to ensure that central cities' untapped markets for labor, retail opportunities, and land are utilized. The Agenda includes initiatives to close the equity and debt capital gaps faced by public, private, and nonprofit developers that are ready to meet the untapped market demand in cities for homes, stores, offices, entertainment facilities, and business services.

  • Investing in America's Working Men and Women. The Agenda provides the tools to help workers take advantage of the 21st century job market, including the skills, information, training, and access to jobs that may be distant from their homes.

  • Expanding Homeownership and Affordable Rental Housing. The Agenda says promoting homeownership must be a vital component of any national urban strategy. Homeownership fosters community stability and safety by encouraging families to maintain their properties, watch out for their neighbors, and get involved in neighborhood improvement activities. Providing more assistance for rental housing is equally critical. The strong economy is pushing up rents, intensifying the current affordable housing crisis.

  • Promoting Smarter Growth and Livable Communities. To realize the billions in savings that could be generated by curtailing sprawl and promoting growth in already-developed communities, the Agenda provides support to state and local governments and private sector partners in six areas: creating smart-growth strategies, redeveloping urban land and industrial sites, removing blighted and vacant buildings, reducing congestion on roads and highways, promoting community involvement in promoting safe streets and better schools, and preserving natural resources and historic amenities.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

FOIA Privacy Web Policies and Important Links [logo: Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity]
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20410
Telephone: (202) 708-1112 TTY: (202) 708-1455