White House Round table Highlights Challenges of Diverse, Middle Class Suburbs

The First Suburbs Project and Building One Pennsylvania hosted a White House Round table meeting in August 2012 in Valley Forge with the White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, David Agnew.  The meeting, which was attended by 60 local leaders representing 35 towns, resulted in several tangible outcomes: Mr. Agnew affirmed the White House’s support for the work that we have been doing with HUD over the past year to reform federal housing programs to promote opportunity rather than continue to over-steer low-income housing into our middle class suburban communities – communities that are already diverse, increasingly fiscally challenged, and declining in opportunity.  Mr. Agnew also heard our concerns about how infrastructure investments and education policy can better serve our diverse, middle class towns and he pledged to broker meetings with EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  In particular, he recognized that EPA demands on our aging storm-water and sewer systems have put tremendous fiscal pressure on our communities that get passed on to homeowners and businesses in the form of increased property taxes and utility rates.

First Suburbs Project Releases Regional Study

On Saturday June 9, 2012, 75 local leaders gathered for the First Suburbs Project’s Public Briefing at the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church.  The Briefing including the release of a recent Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) study that identifies a significant mismatch between housing and jobs.  The briefing included state and federal policy recommendations — including action on school funding in the state’s 2012 budget and passage of a bi-partisan federal transportation reauthorization bill — to enhance the region’s economic competitiveness, and promote regional opportunity and sustainability.

In 2008, the First Suburbs Project secured funding support from the Department of Community and Economic Development to study the alignment of jobs and housing in the four suburban counties. DVRPC was recruited to conduct the study, and expanded it to a study of the entire metropolitan region.  After assessing the region’s current housing stock to evaluate the balance between jobs and housing, the report concludes that many of the region’s largest employment centers are located in growing suburbs, in places that lack both affordable housing opportunities and transit access.

Speakers included Upper Darby’s Mayor Micozzie, Upper Darby School District Superintendent DeVlieger, Lansdowne’s Mayor Young and Mary Bell of DVRPC.

See the DVRPC study ‘The Mismatch between Housing and Jobs’: here.  Read more about the Public Briefing in the press: The News of Delaware County and The Daily Times.

2011 Leaders: Building Our Future Together

The Southeastern Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project’s December 8th Second Annual Fundraiser and Inaugural Awards Ceremony was a success.

Pictured: Awardee Victory Christian Fellowship Pastor Rev. Ed Crenshaw, HUD Acting Deputy Secretary Estelle Richman, Upper Darby Councilman Nate Goodson, Awardee Coatesville City Assistant Manager Kirby Hudson and Ted Reed, former Coatesville City Manager

Also honored were U.S. Congressman Jim Gerlach and State Senator Ted Erickson.
In her remarks, keynote speaker, HUD Acting Deputy Secretary Estelle Richman, enthusiastically reiterated HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan’s commitments to the First Suburbs Project that HUD “is willing, ready and able” to do whatever it can to make our region a model mobility, diversity and fair housing enforcement.

Read more in the Daily Local News.

Building One Pennsylvania Statewide Public Meeting

800 Leaders at Building One Pennsylvania Public Meeting  on October 27, 2011 at the Bright Side Baptist Church in Lancaster, PA

Leaders from across the state convened to present an agenda for change to state and federal policymakers that will stabilize and revitalize our communities.  The 800 leaders from across the state secured a commitment from U.S. HUD Sec. Shaun Donovan to work directly with Building One Pennsylvania and our regional and national partners to “end the tyranny of the zip code.”  He specifically committed to working with the First Suburbs Project to make the southeastern Pennsylvania region a model of regional fair housing.

Donovan also reported that HUD, DOT and EPA are creating a “preferred sustainability status,” to give funding priority through their competitive grants to communities that develop strong plans to re-invest in existing communities and create regional opportunity by coordinating transportation, housing, and access to jobs.

Plans are already in the works to meet with a bi-partisan group of members of Congress to develop “sustainability” criteria for federal transportation funding.  In the large public meeting, the same concepts of funding priorities were introduced as it relates to state policy. Bi-partisan support was secured from Senator Ted Erickson, Rep. Tom Killion, Rep. Hennessey, Rep. Mike Sturla, and Greg Grasa (policy analyst for the House Transportation Committee) to work with us on developing similar performance criteria for transportation and infrastructure funding.

Click here for press in Lancaster Online Newspaper.