January 22-24, 2002: Washington, DC
January 24-26, 2002: New York City

Problem expected to grow even worse without action

WASHINGTON (January 18, 2002) - Cities across the country are facing a serious shortage of affordable housing, according to data collected by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. All 31 participating cities reported difficulty meeting the affordable housing needs of their residents - with two-thirds characterizing the problem as "very serious" or "serious." Seventy-two percent expect the crisis to grow worse over the next two years due to increasing population, rising property values, and tight housing supply.

"This is a wake-up call for national action," said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Vice President of the Conference. "Housing is a fundamental right. We need a bi-partisan effort to attract public and private investment in housing for working families."

Together, these cities currently receive $526.3 million in federal funds each year to provide subsidies to eligible households. However, city housing officials estimate that they would need an additional $1.12 billion per year to adequately meet their residents' need for housing assistance.

The cities also offered specific recommendations to the Millennial Housing Commission, created by Congress to fashion proposals to improve housing production. The recommendations include increased federal investment for housing programs, tax changes to spur an increased private-sector commitment to affordable housing, and greater flexibility and local control of housing programs. The Commission is expected to issue its report in the spring.

Menino pledged to make promoting the nation's housing needs his top priority as Conference President, a position he assumes on May 2, 2002. He will lead a two-hour plenary session on housing on Wednesday, January 23, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. at the Capital Hilton Hotel, part of the Conference's Winter Meeting. Speakers include Franklin Raines, Chairman and CEO, Fannie Mae; Dwight Robinson, Senior Vice President, Freddie Mac; Sheila Crowley, President, National Low-Income Housing Coalition; Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe; Chicago Mayor Richard Daley; Nelson Rising, CEO, Catelus Development Corporation; Scott Syphax, President and CEO, Nehemiah Corporation of California; Edward Sullivan, President, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO; Cheryl Mathesis, Director of State Affairs, AARP; San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Chairman, Housing and Community Development Committee.

"While the national homeownership rate is at an impressive 68%, too many families are still struggling to find affordable housing," said Menino. "Supply outstrips demand, impacting not just low-income people, but also moderate-income working families, and the elderly, among others. Examples supplied by these cities illustrate that housing challenges can be met if the resources and the will exist. Cities are on the cutting edge of innovation, but they need the full support of federal, state, and private-sector partners to be successful."

The 31 cities range in size from 35,000 to 2.9 million and are located across the country. They are North Little Rock, Arkansas; Fremont, California; Long Beach; San Francisco; Denver; Arlington Heights, Illinois; Chicago; Palatine, Illinois; Indianapolis; New Orleans; Boston; Dearborn, Michigan; Burnsville, Minnesota; Reno; Irvington, New Jersey; Trenton; Hempstead, New York; Rochester; Rome, New York; Akron; Tulsa; Providence; Charleston; Knoxville; Nashville; Beaumont, Texas; Dallas; Laredo; Burlington; Virginia Beach; and Madison.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,139 such cities in the country today, each represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the Mayor.

Andy Solomon