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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Future of Housing--Atlantic Conference

Yesterday I attended the Atlantic/AARP Future of Housing Conference. Some takeaway questions.

1) HUD Secretary Julian Castro discussed a San Antonio Leadership program for older, retired citizens to use their experience working with communities and nonprofits. Why doesn't HUD develop a volunteer program for former HUD workers to work in their regions with nonprofits and cities on affordable housing strategies? 

2) Many participants discussed the need to increase the supply of affordable housing especially through densification while avoiding and overcoming segregation. But we know that a new segregation is occurring, mainly economic, related to income inequality, but also having racial/ethnic characteristics. Instead of just focusing on developing new projects, how can we make the regional housing market work to achieve regional goals?

3) I agree with Bruce Katz that there can/should be a devolution of power to the cities, meaning metro regions. I disagree that the national government has no role in this development. It needs to a) stimulate regional planning and commitment, b) stimulate systemic housing market change, and c) monitor and intervene on inequalities within and among regions.  HUD, DOT, EPA, Commerce need to change their toolkit to focus less on specific projects and more on regional outcomes. This was begun in the first term of the Obama administration, but hardly carried to fruition. Also former Secretary Steven Preston developed a Field Advisory team that was very influential in getting HUD better focused in regions and less top-down. That should have been maintained in the Obama administration. 

4) I attended earlier Atlantic forums hosted by Steve Clemons with some excellent leaders in public and private sectors. But the dots are not yet connected. Steve asks great questions. Yesterday he asked the former HUD employees, like myself, what HUD should do differently, how they would design HUD to meet present problems and possibilities? There are good answers out there. 

How about the Atlantic through CityLab developing a team (Brookings, Urban Institute, EPI, HUD PD&R, and some folks in the Field to hash out a new more systemic strategy to answer Steve’s question? This might even have an impact on the presidential candidates.