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Poverty Programs Aimed At Places

July 8, 1999

America’s war on poverty has been fought mostly with programs for poor people. But since the 1960s, some presidents also have launched an array of initiatives to revitalize depressed areas.

JOHNSON: Created the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Office of Economic Opportunity. Started the Model Cities Program, which gave cities money to tear down old buildings and replace them with new housing and commercial projects. Funded urban renewal in ghetto areas by providing money for housing, social services, job training and community organizations.

NIXON: Started the Community Development Block Grant Program, which still provides lump sums to cities for redevelopment projects determined by local officials.

CARTER: The Urban Redevelopment Action Grant program gave assistance to targeted economic development projects in urban areas. Signed the Community Reinvestment Act, the first major program to fight discrimination by mortgage lenders. Set up an office at HUD to focus on revitalizing neighborhoods.

REAGAN: Slashed funds for community development, triggering greater support from the private sector and foundations. Offered low-income housing tax credit that provided tax breaks for businesses to invest in low-income housing. During his two terms, many states set up enterprise zone programs to foster economic activity in poor neighborhoods with tax subsidies and regulatory relief for businesses.

BUSH: Started a block-grant program to cities for housing rehabilitation and development.

CLINTON: Launched empowerment zones, which are economically disadvantaged areas that offer tax relief to attract new business as well as housing redevelopment and enhanced local services. Gave extra funding to community development corporations. Gave cities approval to dismantle old public housing development projects and replace them townhouses and single-family homes for the poor.

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