Updated: May 1
The Housing Acts of 1949 and 1954 provided the foundation for slum clearance and urban renewal. Despite efforts to finesse the issue, race remained central to the formation and implementation of public policy.
The Racial Relations Service (RRS), an institutional remnant of the New Deal, tried unsuccessfully to prevent local authorities from using the new federal resources to reinforce existing “ghettos.” Searching for a “sound Negro policy,” the RRS warned housing officials against pursuing such a course and offered bureaucratic resistance to individual projects deemed inimical to minority interests.
The coincidence of demographic and political change in the 1950s, the subsequent dismantling of the RRS, the reaction to the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and the passage of the Housing Act of 1954 all contributed to the use of urban renewal to create and sustain racially separate neighborhoods even as the civil rights movement gained momentum.