Orfield, Myron. Metropolitics: A Regional Agenda for Community and Stability. Cambridge, MA: Brookings Institution Press; Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 1997.

Author – Myron Orfield

Myron Orfield identifies six distinct types of suburban communities:

  1. at-risk segregated,
  2. at-risk older,
  3. at-risk low density,
  4. bedroom-developing,
  5. affluent job centers, and
  6. very affluent job centers.

These six types represent one of the greatest challenges of suburbia: the socio-economic stratification of the suburban population. (31-48)

Social separation leaves middle-class children in overcrowded, underfunded schools, but its more powerful harms accrue to the poor people of color left behind in communities of concentrated poverty in many American cities and some older suburbs. Neighborhoods of concentrated poverty destroy the lives of the people trapped in them and create a growing social and fiscal cancer in the midst of previously healthy communities. In cities and older suburbs, as joblessness, racial segregation, and single-parent families come to dominate neighborhoods, residents are cut off from middle-class society and the private economy. Individuals, particularly children, are deprived of successful local role models and connections to opportunities outside their neighborhood. A distinct society emerges with expectations and patterns of behavior at odds with middle-class norms, and the ‘exodus of middle and working-class families from ghetto neighborhoods removes an important social buffer. (53-54)

From a review of Orfield’s related article:

Orfield gives two steps, to be implemented on a regional level, toward the deconcentration of poverty. The first is regional reform in fair housing, including the destruction of regulatory barriers to affordable housing in the suburbs. Orfield contends that once affordable housing is built at the metropolitan periphery, the expansion of the urban and suburban distressed areas will slow and ultimately stop.

The second reform is tax-base sharing. The most prosperous areas of the metropolitan region will share a certain portion of commercial, industrial, or residential property taxes on high valued homes region-wide. Orfield argues that property tax-base sharing: (1) creates equity in the provision of public services, (2) breaks the intensifying metropolitan mismatch between social needs and property tax-based resources, (3) undermines local fiscal incentives supporting exclusive zoning, (4) undermines local fiscal incentives supporting sprawl, and (5) ends intra-metropolitan competition for tax base.

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