Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley make the case for extending urban policy to the suburbs, creating a broader metropolitan-oriented policy:
America can’t ensure its leading place in the global economy unless we grapple with the problems and opportunities of our suburbs. Nonprofits, long focused on inner cities, need to reach out to poor families and immigrants in the suburbs. The federal government should support the production and preservation of affordable housing there. Even more important, Washington needs to recognize that suburban governments are being flattened by the housing crisis—they don’t have the experience or the capacity to slow the tide of foreclosures or deal with neighborhoods strafed by vacancies. The Feds need to use some of the billions in recovery funding to help local governments buy up foreclosed properties and put that land to productive use.
Ryan Avent weighs in here.
Sure, some suburbs need help. Sure, there will be a lot of adaptive reuse work to be done there. Sure, we can us regionally oriented metropolitan policy. But in the main, we need to reorient urban policy from social policy to economic competitiveness policy. The cornerstones of that policy must be to enable mobility (which has all but stopped now), encourage scale and density, and dramatically increase speed and velocity of the movement of goods, people, and ideas within urban areas. The scale of the problem is gi-normous and there is precious little indication the U.S. political system is up to it, or even aware it. One thing is for certain, getting this geography right is key to broad U.S. recovery, critical to any stimulus, and essential to long-run competitiveness and proseperity. The historical analog is of course suburbia’s role as the spatial fix for post-World War II capitalism and the spur for Fordist production. So what is the spatial fix for today’s economy? The place that gets this right generate huge first-mover advantages in capitalism’s next phase. For something so important, I’m amazed so few people are even thinking about it.