Urban Renewal

The first major initiative to appear after the war was Urban Renewal or, as it was called in its early days, Urban Redevelopment. The difficulties cities faced in competing with suburban areas for investment capital had been perceived during the later years of the Depression. In the Housing Act of 1949, Congress set up the mechanism by which cities might be enabled to compete more effectively with outlying areas. At the time, the biggest need of the cities appeared to be for investment in housing, both to clear away many acres of slum housing and also to alleviate severe housing shortages resulting from low rates of construction during the Great Depression and World War II. Thus Urban Renewal started as a slum clearance and housing program. It soon added a major commercial thrust as well. By the time the program was ended in 1973, some $13 billion of federal funds had been expended. Several billions more were spent on projects that were in the pipeline at that time and were subsequently completed. Adjusted for inflation, expenditures on Urban Renewal probably totaled in the range of $100 billion in today's dollars. A great deal had been accomplished, but there were also very high human costs in the form of neighborhood disruption and the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of households. The program is discussed in detail in Chapter 11.

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