Urban Policy: Just Getting Started

Xavier de Souza Briggs, the Associate Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and the subject of an upcoming Shelterforce interview, wrote in Shelterforce last fall that “Urban policies are the rules and incentives that shape the prosperity, equity, and environmental sustainability of the metropolitan regions in which 8 in 10 people live.”

So, if that’s the case, it’s somewhat interesting to witness the White House’s quiet unveiling of its Office of Urban Affairs.

Why the muted fanfare? Will this office, as Next American City Editor Diana Lind told The Root’s Dayo Olopade, not “be as serious and as powerful a role as many urbanists had hoped”?

Olopade’s piece goes on:

“Under the Recovery Act, federal funding is flooding state governments — by formula and through competitive grants. A robust and powerful Office of Urban Policy, local leaders say, could handle city-specific conflicts that currently fly under the White House’s radar.”

As Briggs says, urban policy “cannot be airmailed from Washington via one-size-fits-all blueprints. It requires local adaptability as well as public/private coordination, operating under clear standards and oversight.” Hopefully, Director Adolfo Carrion Jr. and his Office of Urban Affairs (once referred to as Urban Policy), will take this slow roll out, with its seeming impressive list of attendees, and create the aggressive, promising office it has the potential to be.

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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