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Understanding These Top 5 Reasons for Urban Blight is Important

Understanding the Reasons for Urban Blight
Certain deserted areas of a city are blamed to have an old and grungy look. Such areas or cities are in the state of urban blight or urban decay. OpinionFront informs you about the different reasons causing urban blight.
OpinionFront Staff
Last Updated: Dec 21, 2017
Blight Statistics
Urban Blight in the US - Chicago
According to the United States Postal Service data collection, in March 2012, in New Orleans (LA) 21% of the homes were blighted or empty, but habitable. This figure was 19% for Cleveland (OH), 24% for Detroit (MI), 27% for Flint (MI), and 21% for Youngstown (OH).
Why have many cities and towns been built and flourished along river banks? It is interesting to learn about human settlement patterns. They keep changing frequently. Whether a region is inhabitable or not is decided by the resources (natural, economic, human) the region has. If and when it loses its resources, it loses its utility too. That is exactly what happens when a once flourishing city turns into an urban blight later.
Definition of Urban Blight
It is the process where a city, or a part of it, deteriorates and is abandoned for several reasons including unemployment, depopulation, outmigration, ethnic clashes, high level of crime, etc.
It is also known as Urban Decay. It is a stage where the earlier economic growth comes to a halt. There is hardly any development seen in the region.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines a "blighted structure" as: "A structure is blighted when it exhibits objectively determinable signs of deterioration sufficient to constitute a threat to human health, safety, and public welfare."
Reasons for Urban Blight
There are several reasons behind the process of urban decay. Even in case studies considering one particular city, urban decay cannot be attributed to any one causal factor. It is a mix of various events or conditions triggering minor changes.
Reasons for Urban Blight
There are several reasons behind the process of urban decay. Even in case studies considering one particular city, urban decay cannot be attributed to any one causal factor. It is a mix of various events or conditions triggering minor changes.

Poor Urban Planning: Considering the needs and issues of the local area, urban planning is done to make meaningful use of a vast space. Developing transport mechanism, centrally accessible roads or rail routes, restraining urban sprawl, are aimed at in the planning. Convenience is the key here, as little problems like traffic congestion or narrow lanes can deter investments from coming to the area. Also, building of Interstate highways in the United States left some areas secluded and out of the loop, leading them to remain undeveloped.

Unemployment and De-industrialization: Setting up of huge manufacturing plants in resource rich areas had brought up new cities during the period of industrialization. However, outsourcing of the manufacturing processes to the south-eastern states in the U.S. for cheap labor, increased automation, decline of the steel industry during the mid-20th century, rendered many workers jobless. Industrial plants, factories, and other processing units were left empty, or created waste lands.
Factory Belt to Rust Belt
Urban Blight in the US - Michigan Central station
The Rust belt cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, in the North American Great Lakes region, are a more recent example of cities facing urban blight due to the impacts of globalization. Industrial cities were abandoned as major auto manufacturers collaborated with foreign companies to outsource automobile production, forcing the earlier highly paid individuals to move out.
Suburbanization: This refers to the process of out-migration of the city dwellers to the suburbs, exurbs, or commuter towns outside the city. It occurs due to shift in their place of employment, better and affordable housing in the outskirts. In the post World War I period, the Whites (Americans of European origin) left the cities to settle in the peripheries of the city due to the increased crime rates and seeming danger from African-Americans migrating to the North.

Poverty and Crime: Slum areas in a city with a high crime rate discourage people from living in the cities. Street gangs indulging in criminal acts of robbery, threatening, murders or drug abuse, characterizes the poverty stricken pockets of the city. Thus, the well-to-do families prefer residing in a secure environment and a known neighborhood. This leaves the city to be populated with only few, more so only with the poor, leading to disrepair of the city and lack of growth.

Rent Control: This refers to the practice of rent regulation followed by the administration, to encourage affordable housing for all, especially the minorities. However, due to rent control (a rent cap or limit), maintenance costs for the landowners increase, leading to lack of housing construction and investment in that area.
Besides these, there can be other social factors like the mixed-racial nature of urban areas that sometimes creates ethnic tensions. Clashes between two or more ethnic groups also result in the high income groups of the city to migrate to the suburbs (into neighborhoods with common racial origin) in order to avoid confrontation with other racial groups.

Remedies to the problem of urban blight include practices of New Urbanism with walkable neighborhoods and a mixed range of housing and job types and Intelligent Urbanism with concepts like transit-oriented-development; these were adopted by the U.S. during the mid 1990s.