National survey reveals suburban residents support city reinvestment

Nation's mayors & financial leaders join together for first time with 5-point plan to reinvest in cities and fight housing/traffic crisis

provided by US Conference of Mayors

he US Conference of Mayors and the Mortgage Bankers Association of America have announced a five-point plan to encourage city reinvestment at the same time they released a nationwide poll that found city and suburban residents alike support tax dollars being spent to revitalize central cities. This finding challenges the widely-held belief that cities and suburbs have little in common and are often in conflict with each other over housing, transportation and other community development issues.

The poll found that 68% of city residents and 66% of suburban dwellers said rebuilding cities and relying more on public transportation is the most effective way to solve the impact of sprawl and traffic congestion.

"We must focus on the well-being of families and the livability of our neighborhoods in both cities and suburbs. We are in this together, and this poll shows there is common ground between the two. Upon this ground, we must build policies and strategies that will benefit all, making housing affordable, reducing commute times and managing development," said Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles, President of the US Conference of Mayors.

Joining Coles in the announcement was Christopher J. Sumner, President of the Mortgage Bankers Association. "For the first time, suburban and city residents are agreeing on issues that have blocked consensus building in the past. This is good news for policy makers looking at ways to deal with affording housing, traffic and sprawl," said Sumner, who is also CEO of CrossLand Mortgage. "This presents an opportunity to stimulate private investment in cities throughout the nation to build strong local economies and healthy communities."

Other participants at the press conference included Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, USCM Advisory Board Chair; Mayor Sharon Sayles-Belton of Minneapolis; Andrew D. Woodward, Chairman of Bank of America Mortgage and MBA President-Elect; and Thomas Jacob, CEO and Chairman of the Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation.

The five-point plan (see details below) includes the establishment of The Council for Investment in the New American City, a partnership between the US Conference of Mayors and the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. Importantly, the Council's formation marks the first time mayors have come together in an official capacity with the country's top financial lending and development leaders to confront and address issues around housing, transportation, commercial and retail development in central cities and suburbs.

The plan also calls for a Washington, D.C. summit within 120 days of next year's congressional session and several regional summits across the country to help develop a national policy proposal on city reinvestment. This national policy proposal will include strategies to help develop public transportation, solve traffic congestion, manage development in suburban areas and provide housing affordable, not just for low-income families but the middle class as well.

The Council released last October's poll as part of a report, entitled The Changing Realities of Cities. This report and poll are the first of several to be developed by The Council for Investment in the New American City to measure public support over time for reinvestment strategies and document the most recent research and innovative policies.

Of the poll findings, Mayor Sayles-Belton said, "This survey clearly shows that the public is overwhelmingly in support of using creative public-private funding to improve the quality of life in our communities in tangible ways, such a building better public transportation systems to combat traffic congestion, and sprawl and creating opportunities for affordable homeownership in central cities."

The major findings of the poll include:

  • The overwhelming majority of Americans polled (67%) favor rebuilding cities and relying more on public transportation as the most effective way to solve traffic congestion and lessen sprawl.
  • City dwellers and suburban residents are in agreement on many issues related to sprawl, housing affordability and public transportation. For example, 68% of city residents and 66% of suburban dwellers said rebuilding cities and relying more on public transportation is the most effective way to solve the impact of sprawl and traffic congestion.
  • 67% said they support public and private incentives to help families buy or rent in cities.
  • More than half, 52%, of both suburban and city residents support encouraging people to live in cities in order to discourage the overdevelopment of suburban areas -- 59% of city residents and 44% of suburban residents.
  • 77% support the use of tax dollars to help improve public transportation where they live -- 81% of city residents and 73% of suburban residents.
  • 62% said the cost of housing had gotten worse in the city where they lived while 60 percent said job availability had improved over the past five years.
  • More people in the suburbs than in the city feel that crime levels have gotten worse where they live, 30% of suburban dwellers compared to 23% of city residents.
  • ople in cities are becoming more confident about where they live, with 38% saying that crime levels have gotten better, compared with 22% of suburban residents.
  • 74% said affordable housing should be made available to public servants, such as teachers, firefighters, and police officers, so they can live in the communities where they work.
  • 72% said that traffic had worsened in the city where they lived and 55 percent said access to public transportation had stayed the same or gotten worse in the past five years.
  • in 8 suburban residents said they are very likely or somewhat likely to move back to the city. This finding challenges the conventional belief that suburban residents universally wish to avoid the city.

The poll, conducted by the Global Strategy Group for The Council for Investment in the New American City, measured attitudes of residents in seven cities: Atlanta, Boston, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Jose, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. About 66 percent of respondents were Caucasian; 19 percent African American, 6 percent Hispanic/Latino, and 5 percent Asian. The majority of the respondents earned incomes between $25,000 and $100,000. About a third were renters, and 65 percent, homeowners. More than half (54%) were married; 26 percent, single. The poll has a margin of error of 2.7 percent.

The Council's five-point plan to develop a national policy proposal includes:

  • Conducting regional education summits across the country from January to April 2001 to inform the public on city revitalization issues, share information about successful financial and development projects for cities and gather ideas and input on a national policy proposal and city revitalization strategies.
  • I. Holding a national summit with mayors and the private sector to address key policies and issues affecting and promoting city reinvestment, within 120 days of the congressional session in Washington, D.C. next year. Some of the key issues that will be addressed by the Council at both the national and regional summits include:
  • Incentives and strategies for transit-oriented mixed use development
  • Options to encourage private investment and lending into both inner-city redevelopment and efficient patterns of development in high-growth areas outside the urban core
  • Incentives and barriers to private finance in housing (rental and home-ownership), retail and commercial development
  • The affordable housing crisis: the explosion of working poor and its effect on national housing policy; the growing housing crisis for middle class families; innovative down-payment assistance programs; low-income tax credit for new homeowners; location-efficient mortgages; retooling existing housing program
  • Tax credit for employers who give their employees assistance, such as down payment funds, when buying a home
  • Reduction of local and federal barriers to reduce the cost of home production
  • Construction defect litigation, land availability, zoning and tax base policies and other factors
  • The promotion and access of programs to advance financial literacy among residents
  • Protection against predatory lending
  • Expansion of the Hope 6 public housing program
  • Financial incentives to stimulate market support of businesses that build metropolitan economies
  • Efforts to stimulate private investing and lending in urban brownfields that will complement federal grants
  • I. Conducting surveys and providing ongoing research into central city livability for the general public as well as for government officials, planners and researchers.
  • . Sharing and promoting "Best Practices" through numerous publications and web sites of what has worked and has not worked in cities around the country.
  • Marketing of Council-sponsored programs to raise media and public awarenessnd ultimately drive participation by the general public.

Additional information can be found on the US Conference of Mayors Web site,