Sayles Belton joins U.S. mayors to promote inner-city development

Jessica Thompson

Since the development of the suburbs, urban areas have faced an uphill battle for the attention of policy-makers concerning such issues as inadequate housing and low levels of commercial and retail development.
In an effort to combat inner city deficiencies, Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton joined Monday with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to announce a five-point plan to encourage city reinvestment.
The plan calls for a partnership between USCM and the Mortgage Bankers Association of America called the Council for Investment in the New American City.
The council is discussing strategies to create jobs, strengthen economies, build healthy communities and extend access to housing opportunity in urban cities.
“I am hopeful that this plan will result in new resources and support for the outstanding work we are doing in Minneapolis … to bring housing, jobs and economic opportunity to all of our citizens and communities,” Sayles Belton said.
The plan also calls for a Washington D.C., summit within 120 days of next year’s congressional session to help develop a national policy proposal on city reinvestment.
One of the proposal’s key issues is the affordable housing crisis. The council proposes a reduction in the cost of home production, protection against predatory lending, and tax credit to employers who give their employees assistance toward buying homes.
The council will propose financial incentives to stimulate support of urban businesses and recycle urban land, said USCM public affairs director Jubi Headley.
Another focal point of the proposal will be inner-city transit. The conference is in favor of implementing high-speed rail systems.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the next administration to have a huge impact on barriers within the inner cities,” Headley said.
The plan does not specifically target the issue of racial segregation, but the conference recognizes minorities are often disproportionately represented in the inner city.
“In this unprecedented time of prosperity, many communities are left outside of the boom,” said Ann Freeman, communications director for Sayles Belton. “This includes minorities, new immigrants, single parents, or combinations of the three.”
Freeman said Sayles Belton is interested in reducing the disparity between opportunities for minorities and non-minorities.
The plan was announced at the same time USCM and the MBAA released a nationwide poll regarding city revitalization.
The poll was given in seven cities: Atlanta, Boston, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Jose, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. The cities were chosen based on geographic diversity and their comparable sizes.
Within each city, the numbers of urban and suburban respondents were roughly equal, Headley said.
Approximately 66 percent of the 1,400 respondents were white, 19 percent black, 6 percent Latino and 5 percent Asian-American.
The poll focused partly on inner-city transit problems. It found that 68 percent of city residents and 66 percent of suburban residents favored increasing public transportation over building more roads as the most effective means to solve traffic congestion and reduce urban sprawl.
The poll also found that both suburban and urban respondents support tax dollars going to revitalize inner cities.
Some say the results imply the gap between suburban and urban concerns is not as wide as it is often perceived to be.
“For the first time, suburban and city residents are agreeing on issues that have blocked consensus building in the past,” said Christopher J. Sumner, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association. “This is good news for policy-makers looking at ways to deal with affordable housing, traffic and sprawl.”

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