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Greater Emphasis on Urban Affairs

What statement(s) related to housing—policy, or otherwise—would you want to hear in the presidential debates?

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I would like to hear the following statements from either candidate, to wit:

  1. As we know, many solutions are already on the table for the complex land use/housing/transportation strategies of the next 20 years. The main barrier is the political will to select a holistic cluster after a Presidential Housing Summit involving all the public interest groups, think tanks, associations, academic institutions, and individual thought leaders. I will look to the current national housing commission to convene this summit, provide strategic evidence-based papers to support it in a bipartisan way, and sustain its momentum over the next ten years.
  2. As President, I will pledge to keep as much attention on domestic urban issues as I do on foreign affairs or emergencies. In the past, Presidents who even want to help in this area seem to get pulled away into the international arena, partly because it is ‘easier’ (no local constituencies and politics to sort out). We are in a housing/job crisis now, and I will take the necessary time to prioritize this key issue.
  3. I will continue to emphasize and educate from my ‘Teddy pulpit’, the historical value of public-private partnerships in the housing/urban field. Throughout our American history, all classes of citizens have been dependent on government through land grants, housing subsidies, zoning decision, military and security funding for personnel and private contracting, gigantic public works (dams, dikes, railroads, canals, atomic energy, oil drilling, automobile highways), and other innovations and spin-offs. Private wealth was created by public decisions and investment (charters, licenses, tariffs, patents, trademarks, other regulatory devices for monopoly or quasi-monopoly, subsidies, grants, loans, tax credits and deductions, eminent domain write-downs, etc.). Too much government is not good, but pure market capitalism does not exist either, at least not in the housing and urban development field. I will continue to find the balance for all of our citizens, not just a few.
  4. I will work with the Congress to continue to carry out and expand upon the 2008 FTA/HUD Report. I will ask the DOT to include more affordable housing incentives and concurrent collaborative timing in their capital grants and cost-benefit analysis during the application process by various cities. I will continue to ask for additional funds for urban and metropolitan planning that will integrate all federal funding so that it is not wasted on specific grants in aid but rather be targeted as a package grant for specific neighborhoods. I will cut red tape by re-introducing the stimulus grant procedures (ARRA) that resulted in authentic shovel in the ground progress, with minimal fraud and abuse.
  5. I will provide for a robust White Office for Urban Affairs that will assemble and integrate the overall federal urban agenda to avoid duplication and identify gaps in individual departmental R&D budgets and programs. This Office would also prepare a series of metropolitan/urban plans for the following years – 40, 25, 10, 5 – in addition to the annual submission from OMB.

Kent Watkins is Chairman of the National Academy of Housing and Sustainable Development.


Welcome to the BPC Housing Commission expert forum! This forum is intended to foster interactive and substantive discussion about pressing housing issues. Each month contributors from different parts of the housing sector will be invited to respond to a discussion topic. Guest posts will feature prominently on BPC’s website, as well as be shared regularly with Housing Commissioners to help inform their work.

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Expert bloggers are not members of the BPC Housing Commission. Any views expressed on this forum do not necessarily represent the views of the Housing Commission, its Co-Chairs, or the Bipartisan Policy Center.

2012-10-03 00:00:00

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