Monday, December 18, 2017

Social Cleansing in the USA

When my neighborhood hosted the Olympics in 2012 the supposedly left-leaning local council decided it was the perfect opportunity to compulsory purchase the homes of local residents. It wanted to sell off the properties of local working-class families to property developers (for a profit), with no plans to rehouse the locals in the new private development.

This form of covert social cleansing has a long history in both the UK and the USA. In the U.S. the post-war federal Urban Renewal program, that ran from 1950-1966, provided funding to local governments to acquire and clear 'blighted' neighborhoods. Residents who were displaced under the scheme were meant to receive compensation, in the form of money, assistance in relocating or public housing. In reality "these federally guaranteed measures were often too meager, late in coming, or never delivered". People who were displaced often didn't receive a fair market rate for their compulsory purchased homes.

The University of Richmond's Renewing Inequality is a visualization of this program of urban renewal and displacement. An interactive map shows the cities where families were displaced by urban renewal. It provides information on the number of families displaced in each city and the number of families displaced in each year. It also shows the ethnicity of the displaced families. You can switch from the map view of the data to a cartogram or chart view. The chart view in particular reveals the hidden racism in the Urban Renewal program.

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