Boston-The Council for Investment in the New American City is conducting its summit in Washington, DC, following Monday’s announcement in New York City of the formation of the joint partnership between the US Conference of Mayors and Mortgage Bankers Association. Mayor Thomas M. Menino will reiterate the concerns he expressed earlier this week. “We’re surpassing every other city,” he said of Boston’s efforts, “but we can’t do it alone.”

“In the last few years we’ve created 1,205 units of housing,” Menino said proudly of Boston’s efforts to address the growing shortage of available and affordable housing in America. Last year Menino formed the Housing Strategy Advisory Group, which has recently released Leading the Way: A Housing Strategy for Boston. The report maps a three-year strategy to create 7,500 new units of housing, rehabilitate 1,100 vacant public housing units, preserve 10,000 affordable units, and use $45.5 million in land and other resources to obtain $2 billion in private and government financing. Menino said on Monday, however, “You can’t ask cities to do it all alone.”

“This is a partnership,” he said of the joining of mayors and mortgage bankers. “We have to set an agenda for the new Congress and whoever wins the presidential election; we can’t expect the private sector to do it all. This is a good beginning, a good catalyst.” He added, “We need to focus on how cities create housing.” Menino drew on a popular Dickensian dichotomy when he declared, “These are the best of times economically; these are the worst of times economically.”

“The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer,” he explained. “Urban areas are the economic engines for states. We have the jobs, but if we don’t have the housing,” he said, the economic edge will be lost. “This is about urban survival,” he added.

When asked by the press whether statements made about involving the Federal government after the election in terms of tax incentives and other programs betrayed a preference for the Democrats, who tend to favor such programs, he agreed with the other panelists that this was a bipartisan issue. He noted, “What has made urban areas like Boston so attractive is the stabilization of the tax rate. In suburban areas they are bonding to rehabilitate schools and municipal facilities.” He added that the suburban tax base is now strained trying to create what cities already have. “Cities have character,” he concluded. “The suburbs all look the same with strip malls and the like.”

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