Suburban Land-Use Policies

Past resolutions of the UAHC have placed strong emphasis on social and economic justice for all Americans, with housing and job opportunities long at the forefront of our concerns. While our nation has made some little progress in these areas, the following harsh realities mandate the adoption of new policies:

  1. 80% of new jobs created in the last two decades in the nation's large metropolitan areas have been located in their suburban rings, while many central cities have experienced a decline in jobs.
  2. Central cities increasingly are becoming white-collar employment centers while the suburbs are job employment areas for new blue-collar workers.
  3. While suburban areas have also experienced the greatest share of all new housing 70% in the last only 15% of American households can afford the housing produced. Thus the housing needs of low- and moderate-income families who both need and are needed by suburban industries cannot be met in the suburbs.
  4. Restrictive zoning and land-use controls have been used to prevent development of job-linked moderate-cost housing for working-class families in the suburbs. Over 10,000 local governmental units are authorized to make land-use decisions.
  5. It is further recognized that current methods of financing educational and other municipal services encourage restrictive use of land at the same time that current building codes contribute to the high cost of construction.
  6. The 1968 report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission) warned as follows: "To continue present policies is to make permanent the division of our country into two societies: one, largely Negro and poor, located in the central cities; the other, predominantly white and affluent, located in the suburbs and in outlying areas."

THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations:

  1. Calls for the establishment in each state of an agency for the purpose of creating and implementing comprehensive state and regional land-use plans and policies and uniform building codes. The creation of a fair share plan by which local communities would agree to set aside land for its fair share of low-moderate income housing should be a priority for any such state agency;
  2. Urges that each state consider an equitable alternative to the property tax as a method of financing municipal expenditures;
  3. Urges that state and federal governments provide special assistance for municipal improvements such as schools, water and sewer systems, and parks and for the acquisition of open space by those suburban communities that seek to provide their fair share of low- and moderate-income housing;
  4. Urges that the federal and state governments withhold grants for municipal improvements from those suburban communities that perpetuate existing zoning policies that exclude low- and moderate-income housing and ignore needs for parks and open space.
  5. Urges that state government purchase land or interest in land for the purpose of banking such land in advance of needs for housing, parks and, open space and that there should be federal assistance for such land acquisition;
  6. Urges that our local congregations become actively involved in the changing of those land-use federal, state and that perpetuate the economic and social discrimination so detrimental to our society; assure the rights of minority groups to decent housing; and that more of our local congregations become actively involved in the sponsorship of low- and moderate-income housing.