NEW YORK CITY-On Park Avenue yesterday mayors and mortgage bankers held a press conference at the Chase Building, hosted by Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp.’s CEO and chairman Thomas Jacob. While the mayors of Boston, Boise, Idaho and Minneapolis joined with the private sector to discuss what they described as a housing crisis in America, one noted absence was that of this city’s mayor. With Mayor Giuliani committed to a charity golf outing out of town, those present were left to field questions about New York’s tight housing market, among other things, on their own.

When asked if the team of mayors and mortgage bankers are working with Mayor Giuliani to address the housing crises in New York City, one of the worst in the country, Jacob answered that Chase is one of the leasing lenders in the city and is working in areas like Brooklyn and Harlem to help people achieve home ownership. Each mayor talked about their individual cities and discussed them as models of a national issue. Each pointed to the results of a survey in which respondents expressed concern about affordability of housing, an issue in New York, where rents are skyrocketing.

Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles-Belton summed up much of the discussion noting, “One of the things I’m most delighted about is that we’re talking about new American cities. Today people are coming back to central cities; neighborhoods are blossoming.” She said culture, education, and parks are drawing even suburban families. “People are always telling me, ‘You’ve got a great city here mayor, but I can’t afford to stay,’” she commented. “I need to find ways to make it more affordable. The Federal government has not been the driver it needs to be to address the housing crises. It’s not just a conversation the government needs to have with the poor, but with middle income families.”

All of the mayors discussed the need to lobby Congress and whichever candidate wins in November. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino noted, “This is the best of times and the worst of times” economically as the “rich get richer” and “poor get poorer.” Jacob added, “The economy has exacerbated problems, presenting new challenges.”

Jacob cited the Census Bureau’s report that populations in cities that had seen losses like Boston, Little Rock and Newark are now gaining and cities like Philadelphia and Detroit are seeing a reduction in the rate of loss. Jacob noted that there is an opportunity to rehabilitate aging housing and brownfields. Christopher J. Sumner, president of MBA also said that it was the mortgage banking community’s responsibility to “rehabilitate” how it brought “deliverable” programs to the people.

The survey unveiled at the conference found that 67% polled favor rebuilding cities, redeveloping public transportation and using public and private incentives to help families buy or rent in cities. While 60% said job availability had improved, 62% reported housing was getting less affordable. One in eight said they would consider leaving the suburbs for the city.

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