Urban Renewal began with the Housing Act of 1949 and was officially ended in 1973 (though some funding of projects that were started before 1973 continued far into the 1980s). The goals of the program, as expressed in legislation and congressional debate, included the following:

  • • Eliminating substandard housing
  • • Revitalizing city economies
  • • Constructing good housing
  • • Reducing de facto segregation.

The method used was clearance and rebuilding directed by local agencies and supported by large federal subsidies. It was and still stands as the largest federal urban program in U.S. history, and it reshaped parts of hundreds of communities.1 Statistics published in 1973 when the program was terminated showed that more than 2,000 projects had been undertaken on 1,000 square miles of urban land. Some 600,000 housing units, the dwelling places of perhaps 2 million people, had been demolished and those people forced to move. Approximately 250,000 new housing units had been built on the same sites. Approximately 120 million square feet of public floor space and 224 million square feet of commercial floor space had been built on renewal land.2 As a measure of economic impact, the floor space figures translate into workplaces for almost one-half million employees. The assessed value of land and structures in renewal areas increased by a factor of 3.6 from what it had been before the program started. Today, the figures for new construction would be much larger because the 1973 figures, which actually represented the facts as of about 1971, caught many renewal areas after the demolition phase but well before the construction phase was complete.

By 1973 the Urban Renewal program had spent approximately $13 billion in federal funds, a figure that would be about seven to eight times as large if converted into current dollars.3 To this figure should be added several billion dollars in local funds. Beyond that were the private investments on Urban Renewal sites. These far exceeded the total public investments.

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