Conservation and Rehabilitation of Housing: An Idea Approaches Adolescence

From the time of construction, buildings are subject to the physical elements, the wear and tear of time, and the constant march of progress which transforms yesterday’s luxuries into today’s necessities. Left unchecked, these forces tend to produce the slums and blight that traditionally have been the curse of urban areas. Private, charitable, and civic organizations were the first to deal with the problem of improving conditions in slum areas. Later, state and local governments joined the effort, and although they were somewhat more successful than the pioneers in the field, without federal assistance the task proved to be beyond their capabilities. In 1949, the federal government launched its grant-in-aid program known as “redevelopment.” This program made federal funds available to municipal agencies for the purchase of slum areas so that the buildings in the project area could be destroyed and the land could be sold to private concerns who would agree to redevelop it. Unfortunately, the success of the federal redevelopment program has been limited because of its high costs and the fact that slums have grown faster than it has been possible to clear them.