For those concerned with urban and regional problems, probably the most noteworthy development in 1966 was the passage by Congress of the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act. The Congress has authorized $900 million for the first two years of the new program, but nas not yet made any appropriations.
In effect, the Act provides for a contest among American cities, the winners (some sixty or seventy) to be chosen on the basis of how innovative and comprehensive their plans are for tackling the human and physical problems of their slum areas. The prize: in addition to contributing its regular share, the federal government will finance up to 80 percent of the local share of financed programs, such as a renewal, education, and health. The city plans would have to cover entire neighborhoods. It is hoped that such programs will provide models of what could be done elsewhere; hence the term "Demonstration Cities" written into the Act—a term which in everyday use, however, is fast becoming replaced by “Model Cities.”
The Act is something of an omnibus bill in that it brings together and mends a great deal of previous legislation under which earlier programs of the old Housing and Home Finance Agency had operated. In addition, the Act specifically authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to call upon other federal agencies engaged in metropolitan development activity and to assist the President in coordinating efforts of all such federal agencies or departments.
While physical renovation of blighted areas is a major concern of this legislation, it is comprehensive in the emphasis placed on other dimensions of metropolitan development. A city will be eligible for assistance in demonstration programs only if its program has the following attributes: (1) contributes to the development of the entire city; (2) reduces social and educational disadvantages, ill health, underemployment, and enforced idleness of a "target" population in a slum area; (3) provides educational, health and social services necessary to serve the poor and disadvantaged; (4) provides for widespread citizen participation as well as maximum employment opportunities in the work to be undertaken for residents of the area; and (5) generally enlarges opportunities for work and training.
The imagination of local officials and planning agencies will be challenged in new ways if their proposals to HUD are to comply with the language of the new legislation. For example, a number of cities have shown interest in the suggestion for the creation of "New Towns Intown" which would bring some of the best features of the "new town" idea to the older sections of the city. What is called for is abandonment of the idea of merely "cleaning out" slums (and usually the poor people who live in them) and the development of a positive approach which would provide for the creation of more attractive, viable communities which can help satisfy the needs of poorer residents of the city.
To aid those individuals and agencies responsible for planning and implementing the Demonstration Cities Act, there are provisions for the collection of information and the conduct of research. Title IX authorizes grants to states to help finance the "assembly, correlation, and dissemination of urban physical, social, and economic development information and data for the purpose of informing local governments, and interested organizations and individuals, of the availability and status of Federal, State, and local programs." Title X of the Act authorizes a program of "research, studies, surveys, and analyses to improve understanding of the environmental conditions necessary for the well-being of an urban society, and for the intelligent planning and development of viable urban centers." This latter provision was author-ized, but no specific funds have been appropriated yet for its implementation. It should be evident that an experimental program—entering into fields about which we know very little—will need a good bit of research and evaluation if it is to have a fair chance of success.