First Tier Suburbs Issues of Importance

The First Tier Suburbs (FTS) Council of the National League of Cities has identified a variety of major issues of importance facing first tier suburbs. A primary purpose of the FTS Council is to provide input to the National League of Cities on programs and policies that will afford city officials from first tier suburbs the strategies, tools, and effectiveness needed to address these issues.

Housing

Strategies are needed to help first tier suburbs develop a wider range of housing options to remain competitive with new suburbs and to address and accommodate changing housing needs. Major housing challenges for first tier suburbs include:

  • Foreclosures and vacant properties
  • Absentee landlords
  • Predatory lending
  • Home renovation/aging and deteriorating stock
  • Inequitable regional distribution of affordable housing/concentration in first tier
  • Outdated zoning and land use controls

Transportation and Infrastructure

Strategies are needed to ensure that first tier suburbs have the transportation infrastructure needed to sustain quality of life and economic growth. The primary transportation issues for first tier suburbs include:

  • Aging infrastructure, including roads, local streets, and storm and waste water
  • Federal and state focus on highway construction and maintenance
  • Transportation-land use-economic development coordination
  • Traffic congestion
  • Access to transit
  • Development and maintenance of regional transit systems
  • Participation in regional transportation planning organizations (MPOs) and processes

Changing Demographics

Strategies are needed to help first tier suburbs become more inclusive and meet the increasing needs of a changing population. The major demographic challenges for first tier suburbs include:

  • Population loss
  • Aging population
  • Capitalizing on rapid increase in racial and ethnic diversity (i.e. access to services, cultural sensitivity)
  • Increasing poverty and social service needs
  • Unemployment

Regional Cooperation and Partnerships

Many of the issues of importance for first tier suburbs are regional in scope and can be better solved by sharing resources, ideas, and decision making both with other suburbs and core cities. The primary obstacles to regional cooperation include:

  • Lack of trust among regional leaders
  • Lack of communication/regional structure or venue for discussing regional issues
  • Uncoordinated lobbying efforts/need to build regional political coalitions
  • Perceived loss of power

Economic and Community Revitalization

Strategies are needed to help first tier suburbs revitalize in creative ways that take advantage of the unique assets first suburbs offer with metropolitan areas. The major economic and community revitalization challenges confronting first tier suburbs include:

  • Building a sense of community and neighborhood vitality/improving image
  • Public involvement and consensus building/working with community and neighborhood groups
  • Updating zoning to allow for mixed uses and density
  • Retaining small businesses
  • Redeveloping retail (main street, strip centers)
  • Land assembly
  • Declining tax base
  • Workforce development
  • Brownfields redevelopment

Education

Quality schools are a critical component to the long-term vitality of first tier suburbs. The major education challenges for first tier suburbs include:

  • Collaboration with schools
  • Deteriorating schools/obsolete facilities
  • Poor school performance in general and its impact on efforts to attract businesses and families with school-age children