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The Process of Redevelopment

The Housing Acts of 1949 and 1954 established the federal urban renewal program. The Acts enabled cities to use eminent domain to take ownership of properties, then sell them to private developers, who would rebuild them according to the city’s specifications. The federal government paid New Haven two-thirds of the cost of buying, clearing, and reselling the land. The city reimbursed people whose homes it took for what it determined to be the market value of the property.

Roughly 25,000 people were forced to relocate over the course of the Lee Administrations’ urban renewal programs. Some stayed in New Haven, while many moved to the suburbs. The process of being evicted, moving, and witnessing the demolition of their former house — and, sometimes, block or neighborhood — in the name of progress proved an ordeal they would never forget.

How much money did New Haven receive?

By 1967, New Haven had received more federal urban renewal funding per person than any other city in the nation — approximately $790 per person. Newark, New Jersey ranked second in federal funding, at $286 per person.

Relocation statistics by neighborhood

Neighborhood Households displaced
Wooster Square 2,710
Dixwell 1,127
Hill 1,049
Oak Street 866
Church Street 707
Dwight 485
Newhallville 363
State Street 270
Fair Haven 107
Oak Street demolition photo
Demolished structure on Oak Street, 1957. Photograph by Frank Barone. Courtesy NHCHS.