Urban displacement and low-income communities: the case of the American city from the late twentieth century

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research

Publication Date



How can urban redevelopment benefit existing low-income communities? The history of urban redevelopment is one of disruption of poor communities. Renewal historically offered benefits to the place while pushing out the people. In some cases, displacement is intentional, while in others, it is unintentional. Often, it is the byproduct of the quest for profits. Regardless of motives, traditional communities, defined by cultural connections, are often disrupted. Disadvantaged neighborhoods include vacant units, which diminish the community and hold back investment. In the postwar period, American cities entered a program of urban renewal. While this program cleared blight, it also drove displacement among the cities’ poorest and was particularly hard on minority populations clustered in downtown slums. The consequences of these decisions continue to play out today. Concentration of poverty is increasing and American cities are becoming more segregated. As neighborhoods improve, poorer residents are uprooted and forced into even more distressed conditions elsewhere. This paper examines the history of events impacting urban communities. It further reviews the successes and failures of efforts to benefit low-income communities.


Economic Advancement


Urban Studies and Planning