Urban Renewal: Code word for Urban Removal

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ULISH CARTER

 

Back in the 1960s and early ‘70s it was called Urban Removal and Black activists protested throughout the country to stop it. Some being successful while most were not.

The common practice was to tear down vacant houses without making an effort to either sell or renovate the building or putting anything in its place. This led to vacant blighted lots, a decrease in population in the Black communities, which reduced school attendance and the number of people in Black districts throughout the country which further reduced the power of Black district voting and tax income, which eventually led to the massive inner city school closings throughout the country.

This has helped the suburbs grow while the inner city declined and decayed.

Recently Tim Stevens and other activists issued a request to Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to halt its housing demolition program until the new mayor takes office and a discussion with the community about which houses should be demolished, and which houses can be saved can be held. Some type of constructive plan—not a massive multi-million dollar plan, but a block-by-block plan must be discussed. Because homeowners have never liked the idea of a blighted lot or vacant house next to their house for years while the politicians get their multimillion-dollar plan together.

It’s odd because in talking to all three candidates all agreed that a halt is the right thing to do, and a closer look should be taken to determine how a community could be developed. To me this is just common sense. There should be some kind of plan before you start tearing houses down.

Stevens and group made a very valid point that I’ve been trying to make the past 30 years, and that is why tear a house down just because it’s vacant and the city owns it? The city or URA owns most of the vacant houses and lots in the city because they acquired them through delinquent taxes or people just walking away from the building because of the lack of money to repair it or people dying.

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