April 12, 2015
Origins of the Urban Crisis Review Thomas J. Sugrue is the author of the book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis. From the title of the book you understand that Sugrue makes an effort to explain what exactly caused the Urban Crisis that exists in U.S. cities. Sugrue writes specifically about the city of Detroit and how it went from, ”the Arsenal of democracy,” to no man’s land. (Sugrue, location 1282). So what is Sugrue’s Answer? His thesis is that the economic and spatial structures as shaped by racial attitudes created the urban crisis and that racial attitudes affected how systems were created economically and how things were set up physically (i.e. housing). ““I argue that the coincidence and mutual reinforcement of race, economics, and politics in a particular historical moment, the period from the 1940s to the 1960s, set the stage for the fiscal, social, and economic crises that confront urban America today,” (Sugrue, Location 1068). Sugrue writes about a “vicious cycle” that is put into effect by housing segregation, which reinforces patterns of racial inequality.
“Federal housing policy gave official sanction to discriminatory real estate sales and bank lending practices. The primary sources used by brokers and lenders to determine eligibility for mortgages and home loans were the Residential Security Maps and Surveys, developed by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board officials with local real estate brokers and lenders… Residents of areas rated C and D were unlikely to qualify for mortgages and home loans… Every Detroit neighborhood with even a tiny African American population was rated D, or hazardous… Areas where there was shifting or infiltration of an undesirable population likewise warranted D ratings,” (Sugrue, Location 1784-1797).
Blacks made less money and had to pay more rent than whites. In turn, blacks had to double up with other families to afford their living spaces and save any money. Two families in one living space caused extensive wear on the property and when the banks looked at the condition of the homes they would deny the owner of any loan or mortgage opportunities, confining the black man to his space and poverty. The spatial and economic structure of Detroit was impacted by racial discrimination and racism was reinforced by the spatial and economic systems. Sugrue gives another example of the spatial structure causing increased racial discrimination leading into the current urban crisis as he explains the way public housing was organized for blacks and whites. “The result of wartime housing battles in Sojourner Truth, Dearborn, and Oakwood was that whites began to view public housing as “Negro housing,” and grew increasingly skeptical of the federal agenda that called for the housing of America’s poor.” (Sugrue, location 2570). Despite the fact that more whites applied for public housing than blacks, public housing became associated with blacks because the public housing that the blacks lived in was often a high-rise apartment complex or some sort of concentrated housing. The public housing that the whites lived in was often dispersed and therefor…