Friday, March 20, 2009

A Sea Change

Earlier this week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new partnership called "Sustainable Communities." The press release explains:

"The average working American family spends nearly 60 percent of its budget on housing and transportation costs, making these two areas the largest expenses for American families. [HUD and DOT Secretaries] Donovan and LaHood want to seek ways to cut these costs by focusing their efforts on creating affordable, sustainable communities."

Of course, this is just the latest effort bringing a new attention to metro areas. Last month President Obama created the White House Office of Urban Affairs, headed by Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion.

It is good to see that the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program has found so much leverage with this administration. Its director Bruce Katz left his mark all over these new initiatives.

The success of the Office of Urban Affairs and the new HUD-DOT partnership is yet to be seen. However, a sea change is certainly beginning. Over the past eight years we saw urban and metropolitan areas ignored completely. We saw HUD's budget slashed and slashed again. We saw a huge decline in money for affordable housing. We saw calls from the White House for de-funding Amtrak, and no attention paid to regional transit systems.

Well, the times they are a changin'. Members of Congress are trying to establish an office of rural affairs, accusing President Obama of focusing too strongly on urban America! That is quite a change from an administration that could not have cared less about urban America over the last eight years. Also, who would have thought we would see an article like this one?

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