St. Mary's Law Journal


Arthur Troilo


The Texas Urban Renewal Act (the Act) of 1954 has provided nearly twenty-four Texas cities access to federal assistance programs in redeveloping their blighted communities. As the federal government began withholding its financial support for urban assistance programs, many cities began reevaluating their approaches to redevelopment and the outmoded provisions of the Act. The holding in Davis v. Lubbock (1959) established the constitutional limits of the Urban Renewal Act according to the recent Texas Constitution. This study examines the shortcomings experienced as cities relied more on local funding while struggling with the inefficiencies apparent in the Act’s execution in adhering to the Constitution. The Act’s restrictions on public housing, methods of selling urban renewal land, and on rehabilitation, absent federal assistance, constrict viable private funding. The Urban Renewal Act prohibits public housing within spaces declared for urban renewal, limiting creative approaches in redevelopment. Many private investors are deterred by Texas’ requirement of sealed bids because the risk to acquire the land does not outweigh the cost of relocating displaced families, which is unascertainable until the land is won. Lastly, the recent Texas Constitution has placed restrictions on the ability of an owner to voluntarily rehabilitate their land with federal grants, which forces the owner to sell the land in an overly restricting process of a sealed bid. Since the government affords more authority in urban renewal, they should exercise more flexibility on the restrictions. Providing more flexibility in the disposition and selling of property and permitting new methods of “pay as you go” means of financing, establish the opportunity for more viable urban renewal programs in Texas.


St. Mary's University School of Law