Just as real estate thrives -- or doesn't -- by location, so does the nation, according to a recently announced blueprint for national prosperity.
The blueprint is designed as a new partnership with federal, state, local, and private sector leaders to strengthen metropolitan economies, build a strong and diverse middle class, and grow the nation in environmentally sustainable ways.
It isn't federal policy or a presidential campaign promise.
It's, well, metro.
And it has a strong housing component.
"We are a full-fledged Metro Nation and need to change our mental map of the United States, from a union of 50 states to a network of 363 highly connected, hyper linked, and economically integrated metropolitan areas," said Bruce Katz, Vice President and Director of Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program recently, when launching the "Blueprint For America Prosperity".
That a think tank, rather than the federal government, is launching such a bold bid to reshape the nation, is itself indicative of the nation's ills.
Brookings says more and more often, large metropolitan areas are at the forefront of social change, quickly addressing housing policies, sprawl, sustainable development, education, immigration, infrastructure, energy independence, technological innovation, global warming and a host of other pressing social concerns.
"Metropolitan areas are vital to national prosperity because they're the engines of the economy. So much of what happens in America happens in metropolitan areas," says Rey Ramsey, Chairman and CEO, One Economy Corporation a non-profit spreading technology and information to low-income people.
Eighty-three percent of Americans live in metropolitan areas, which contain 86 percent of American jobs. The vast majority -- 94 percent -- of people in the nation's 100 largest metros live and work in the same metro.
It's not surprising then, that with such a constituency, metropolitan leaders, not Washington D.C. politicos, are the ones with their fingers on the pulse of innovation and the need for both swift and long-term change.
Unfortunately, dynamic efforts on the metropolitan level are getting short-circuited by out-dated policy and procedural procrastination from a growingly more detached federal government.
Stuck on political partisanship and legislative lethargy, bogged down in war and embroiled in another national election, the slow, plodding federal government is too often ineffectual when it comes to addressing the national penchant for prosperity.
"America's metros find our national government strangely adrift, ignorant of the dynamic changes sweeping the country and the new spatial geography of our economy. Our federal government is mostly a legacy government, a collection of ossified agencies carrying out decades-old programs and policies, through means and mechanisms suited to a pre-Internet world. As a result, our federal government is out of step with rapid change, and is failing to leverage those assets that drive secure and sustained prosperity," Katz said.
He also characterized current government's housing policies aimed at "the expansion of McMansions at the periphery of metropolitan areas, while failing to address the rapid suburbanization of poor people and employment opportunities."
While the blueprint calls for plans to fully recognize and further tap metropolitan might, it also seeks an upgrade in the federal government to foster a federal-metro partnership to put the nation back on the right track.
"A metro can focus on building its economic strengths, but its economy is profoundly influenced by federal monetary, trade, regulatory and investment practices. A metro can focus on reducing income disparities, but only the federal government can close the gap between wages and the cost of living. A metro area can focus on environmental sustainability, but only the federal government can regulate industries on a national scale," Katz said.
Following the blueprint's introduction, Katz's Brookings crew will begin identifying specific reforms for the next administration and Congress to advance key national priorities including boosting innovation and productivity, replicating the best examples of urban school reform, increasing the supply of workforce housing, improving transportation within and across metros, and making energy efficiency in our homes part of the solution to climate change.
"We are a metro nation. And now it is time to start acting like one," Katz said.