From The Upshot in the NY Times:
Two weeks before the election, Donald J. Trump delivered a speech in Charlotte, N.C., sketching his “New Deal for Black America.” It was a set of ideas promising greater school choice, safer communities, lower taxes and better infrastructure.
The four-page outline posted to his campaign website that summarizes it — a document subtitled “A Plan for Urban Renewal” — is today the closest thing the president-elect has to a proposal for America’s cities. …
The term “urban renewal” dates to the Housing Act of 1954; its 1949 predecessor called the same policy “urban redevelopment.” Under these laws, the federal government gave cities the power and money to condemn “slum” neighborhoods, clear them through eminent domain, then turn over the land to private developers at cheap rates for projects that included higher-end housing, hospitals, hotels, shopping centers and college expansions.
After the 1956 Highway Act, the same process displaced communities to make way for the construction of urban thruways.
Urban renewal was meant to wipe clean poor, deteriorating neighborhoods, while boosting tax coffers, stimulating private investment and luring middle-class residents and shoppers back into the city. It was one-half of what Ms. Pattillo calls the federal government’s schizophrenic policy at the time: As the government was incentivizing middle-class whites to move to the suburbs, it also invested heavily in trying to rebuild central cities to draw them back in.
It was billed as progress. “A lot of the emphasis in urban renewal was on the ‘new’ part of renewal — that this was a way of moving forward,” said Lawrence Vale, a professor of urban design and planning at M.I.T.
But that progress came at the expense of communities as they were bulldozed. Ultimately, those middle-class families and shoppers did not move back in — at least not for many decades. The entire program, the sociologist Herbert Gans wrote in 1965, was “a method for eliminating the slums in order to ‘renew’ the city, rather than a program for properly rehousing slum-dwellers.”
Urban renewal was fundamentally about places, not people — and the people in the way of redeveloping those places were often scattered to other slums or housing they could not afford. Seldom were they welcomed back to what was built in place of their homes. …
During that era, four units of low-income housing were destroyed for every one new unit that was built. And more than two-thirds of the displaced were black or Hispanic, a pattern that was clear by 1963 when the author James Baldwin observed that urban renewal “means Negro removal.” …
This era of federal urban renewal ran through the early 1970s, after which a series of other redevelopment ideas followed: Community Development Block Grants, “enterprise zones,” “promise neighborhoods.”
What has lingered since then is abiding suspicion — regardless of the name of the program — of public and private-developer intentions in lower-income, minority communities.