The election of President Bill Clinton has put the problems of our cities, including housing and poverty, back on the national agenda. What does it really mean to say that an issue like housing is "back on the agenda"? After twelve years of Reagan-Bush anti-housing policies (policies enacted with the complicity of the Democrats in Congress, I might add), we have come so far from any real vision of a decent fed eral housing policy, that even returning to where we were in 1980 would leave us far behind the curve.
I think all of us in this room tonight can agree that twelve years of cutbacks in federal housing assistance, and twelve years of bank de regulation, have had a devastating impact on American cities. During the last decade, the American establishment basically became indiffer ent to the needs of its poorest citizens. All you have- to do is walk down the street going home or on your way to work and you will either step over or be confronted by someone who doesn't have any thing to eat, or any place to live. This situation didn't exist in America 15 years ago, certainly not at the magnitude we see today. Because many suburban communities reject all forms of low- and moderate income housing, our central cities have become places in which poor people are concentrated in ghettos and barrios. The severity of the so cial and economic problems plaguing our central cities has worsened noticeably over the last 1 5 years.