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HUD No. 99-264
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Monday
Or contact your local HUD officeDecember 13, 1999


WASHINGTON - More than 200 state and local government officials, academic experts, business leaders, federal officials and leaders of organizations began a two-day summit today organized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to promote regional cooperation between cities and suburbs.

In a welcoming letter to the Bridging the Divide conference participants, President Clinton said: "Whether it is building enough roads to get everyone in metropolitan regions to and from work, keeping regions competitive in the global economy, protecting open space and natural resources, ensuring that all families have affordable housing, or finding jobs for those moving off of welfare into the work force, the problems are not simply city- or county-wide. These problems affect entire regions, and their solutions must be regional as well."

HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said: "Suburbs and cities can help themselves by helping each other. In many areas, suburbs are concerned with too much development and sprawl, while just a few miles down the road cities are worried about the continued loss of people and businesses. If growth can be channeled into cities, people on both sides of the city line will benefit."

Cuomo welcomed members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and others to the conference, and also announced the first annual HUD Secretary's Awards for City/County Innovations. Awards went to programs in Yuma, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Northampton County, Virginia. The awards honor innovative city and county collaborations in areas such as governance, economic strategies, affordable housing, reducing housing discrimination, and sustainable growth. (See separate release for details).

During the Bridging the Divide conference, regional representatives are discussing with federal officials how national policies and programs can best support their efforts. The conference is giving prominence to center city revitalization and the special challenges facing low-income and minority populations.

Cuomo convened the conference in response to the finding of a widespread consensus among local elected officials of the need to promote regional cooperation and to revitalize central cities as a way of combating unchecked suburban sprawl.

A survey of local officials in 173 cities and 32 large urban counties found that all of the county officials and 97 percent of the city officials agreed with these statements: 1) "The long-term health and vitality of our region depends on greater cooperation between cities and suburbs." 2) "There should be more city-suburb and central city-county cooperation." 3) "Expanding housing and homeownership opportunities in the urban core of our region would benefit the entire nation."

The survey also found that more than 80 percent of all the officials surveyed agreed that "the competitiveness of our region is directly tied to the economic strength of our urban core."

HUD commissioned leading experts to offer their thoughts to conference participants today and Tuesday on how America's leaders and the federal government can make regions work for everyone.

  • David Rusk, former Mayor of Albuquerque and one of the nation's most sought-after thinkers on regionalism and smart growth, said both federal housing policy and local zoning policies have been critical in setting the rules for regional growth and housing development. He said federal policies have improved significantly, especially in the past six years, in the direction of deconcentrating poverty and promoting mixed-income communities. However, he said local land use - zoning in particular - has a long way to go.

  • Myron Orfield, a Minnesota state representative and nationally known expert on "metropolitics," said federally funded metropolitan planning organizations could be more accountable to communities in core cities and older suburbs. He said the federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century has great potential to strengthen cities at the heart of more competitive regions. The huge transportation investments on which these metropolitan organizations focus should be coordinated with housing, economic development, and other growth-related needs, Orfield said.

  • Rutgers University Professor Bob Burchell said government and business would save a minimum of $250 billion over the next 25 years by pursuing smarter growth strategies that focus development and redevelopment in already built-up areas, especially cities and close-in suburbs. Not included in these "costs of sprawl" are many benefits and savings to individuals resulting from less commuting time, protection of natural resources, and a greater sense of community.

Other experts speaking at the conference said smarter investments could enhance the quality of life, while protecting housing affordability and ensuring economic growth. Georgia Tech Professor Arthur Nelson stated, for example, that housing affordability has worsened in Atlanta relative to its sprawling region in the past few years. In contrast, Portland's housing affordability has improved, despite the presence of strong growth management in the Oregon city.

Across the country, long-standing political and economic boundaries are falling away, and leaders from the public and private sector are crossing old lines to create new and productive alliances to plan transportation, environmental management, economic development, and social stability. Bridging the Divide addressed many of the highest priority issues confronting the nation's 320 metropolitan regions.

Topics for discussion at the conference included: transportation and environment; housing and community development; regional coalition building and decision-making; competitiveness: economic development and workforce strategies; and growth patterns: benefits and costs.


Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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