The Southeastern Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project, a 501(c)3, is a regional organization of municipal, faith and community leaders from the older, developed suburbs of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.
The leaders have joined together to harness our communities’ power by directly engaging citizens to affect policies and practices that will lead to our communities’ stabilization and revitalization.
The Project’s name is taken from a Brookings Institute study, “One-Fifth of America: A Comprehensive Guide to America’s First Suburbs.” That study explained that “first” suburbs across the country face common challenges: high taxes, crumbling infrastructure, declining schools, changing demographics, and inadequate aging housing stock. The leaders of the First Suburbs Project recognize their communities cannot address these common challenges on their own.
- Co-sponsored the White House Forum on “Older Suburbs: Inclusion, Sustainability and Economic Growth.” A delegation of 32 Pennsylvania mayors and leaders from 22 metropolitan regions in the United States participated in this event along with Counselor to the President Pete Rouse and Secretary of the US Department of Transportation Ray LaHood.
- Confirmed commitment from HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan that HUD will work with the First Suburbs Project to make Southeastern Pennsylvania a model of diversity, mobility, and fair housing.
- Commissioned a Regional Metropolitan Opportunity Index to identify the geography of opportunity in the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania region. Urban and Suburban Policy Expert, David Rusk, mapped the region’s 238 communities by factors of good schools, jobs, tax base and neighborhoods.
- Co-Convened Building One Pennsylvania Public Meeting on economic growth, regional opportunity and sustainability, bringing together over 800 leaders from across the state and securing support from HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and a bi-partisan group of state legislators to with our organization on regional fair housing and re-prioritizing federal and state funding streams for transportation and sewer and water infrastructure so that they stabilize, rather than by-pass our communities.
- Trained over 40 locally-elected civic and faith leaders at the Building One America National Leadership Training
- Won legislative support for 2008’s state education budget that not only substantially increased funding for education statewide, but also allocated the state funds in a more equal manner to benefit first suburb school districts like William Penn and Upper Darby.
- Initiated the first regional housing study to examine the current location, condition and affordability of housing in the region by obtaining the commitment of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to perform the work and state funding from the PA Department of Community and Economic Development to finance the work that will be completed in 2011.
- Secured the commitment of Governor Ed Rendall’s Secretary of Policy to work with first suburbs leaders to develop a more equitable manner for paying for water infrastructure costs, like sewers.
Each of these victories came about because first suburb leaders came together across municipal and county lines to demand the policy changes that will benefit their communities. The Project:
- Developed its policy agenda on its own in 2008 by convening over 150 stakeholders (mayors, council people, clergy, union members, and community residents) in over a dozen policy development sessions. With input from leaders across the state, the agenda was expanded in 2011 to include issues facing older suburbs and third class cities that share common challenges across Pennsylvania.
- Convened more than 3,000 suburban leaders at its public forums, district legislative meetings, and other public events; and
- Directly engaged and secured commitments from policy makers including Shaun Donovan, Secretary, US Department of Housing and Urban Development; John Porcari, Deputy Secretary, US Department of Transportation; former Governor Rendell and over 30 State Representatives, State Senators, and County Commissioners on its policy agenda
The member institutions of the First Suburbs Project pay dues to support the organization’s work. Support has also been received from the following foundations and institutions: Ballard Spahr LLP, Smart Growth America, William Penn Foundation, SEIU 32-BJ, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania