A FRANCO-AMERICAN DEFINITION
In France, the concept of urban renewal dates legally from the late fifties. At the time, fighting insalubrious urban housing was the priority. Urban renewal referred to the demolition of unsafe and unhygienic neighborhoods in order to build new dwellings and to create an urban fabric adapted to the automobile. Source: Definition on the Techno-science website.
In the United States, since 1992, an urban renewal program named Hope VI (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere) set as its goal the demolition of a large number of public housing projects. These massive demolitions were meant to be accompanied by a rebuilding of the housing supply, in order to allow for greater income diversity. The idea was to create an urban fabric that was less dense and to “decongest poverty.” These ideas go back to 1954, with Boston’s Columbia Point Housing Projects.
The first urban renewal programs proposed two action models:
- To encourage minorities to move to areas where they are underrepresented. This meant moving to peri-urban areas. This required fighting resistance from the inhabitants and cities that were to receive them, in addition to establishing greater mobility.
- To foster community development, by relying on a neighborhood’s most dynamic households (while hoping that they do not later move away).
HOPE VI proposed a third way between these options, by making poor minority neighborhoods residentially attractive for the middle class. Of course, for these new groups to move in, older residents had to move out… Source: Article by Tkirszbaum.
The goal of urban renewal is to stabilize the current population while promoting endogenous diversity by “denisfying” the habitat. It would appear that the United States, the Netherlands, and France have pursued a two-pronged policy of voluntary demolitions and gentrification of city centers.
CONDITIONS FOR SUCCESS
Over the years that urban renewal policies have been pursued, several factors contributing to their success have been identified:
- Involve the people living in affected neighborhoods in the definition and implementation of the project.
- Work holistically, as the equilibrium of a neighborhood can be fragile.
- Do not underestimate the need for mobility that population displacements entail.
- Mobilize local actors (like associations).
A VAST TERMINOLOGY
There is a wide range of similar terms that, according to urban planners, have different means: urban requalification, urban renovation, urban rehabilitation, etc.
Concrete examples of urban renewal policies and their critics in various countries can be found CITEGO website.