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Urban decay

What Is Responsible For Urban Decay?

Urban decay occurs when a part of a city falls into disrepair and abandonment. Characteristics of urban decay include high unemployment rates, high crime rates, depopulation, desolate-looking landscapes, abandonment of buildings and split families. The factors that are responsible for urban decay is the focus of this article.

Urban decay does not have one single cause, but rather a combination of many, including poor urban planning, redlining, poverty, sub-urbanization and racial discrimination. Let’s take a look at the various factors that are responsible for urban decay.

Factors Responsible for Urban Decay

1. Poor Urban Planning

Urban planning involves planning for land use and transportation. A city could propose to use land in poor ways so as to accelerate the urban decay. For example, when a major employer in the city decides to move outside the city, the city would experience high rates of population decline because people would move with the employer.

A city could have made the company stay by offering more appealing offers, but instead, the moving of the company leaves more land unused and buildings abandoned. Let’s say for Instance, Shell decides to relocate their offices from Warri to a much more safe place, the effect will be felt greatly by the city

2. Redlining

Redlining occurs when services–such as banking, insurance and access to jobs and healthcare–are denied to certain races or classes of people through increasing the costs. The term was coined in the late 1960s to refer to targeting of certain areas of Chicago where banks would not invest due to racial discrimination. As a result, those areas would remain underdeveloped, as no one was willing or able to invest there.

The lack of investment increases the levels of unemployment and poverty, which in turn contributes more to urban decay.

3. Poverty

Poverty contributes to urban decay by helping to reinforce the shoddy and desolate urban landscape. High levels of poverty contribute directly to higher drug and street gang activities. Both are causes for sub-urbanization, as the middle class feel more and more unsafe living in the city. The drug and gang activities often increase the level of crime, which contributes to urban decay.

As the level of crime increases, the property value of buildings in this area decreases, leading to higher levels of building disrepair and eventual abandonment.

4. Sub-urbanization

Sub-urbanization helps further urban decay by removing people who are better off economically, leaving the area to those who are usually poorer, which contributes to higher unemployment rates, a characteristic of urban decay.

5. Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination contributes to urban decay by providing for higher rates of unemployment. In the United States, African-Americans were most likely to be declined jobs and loans, both of which would help their economic status as well as the health of their neighbourhoods.

Discrimination, thus, promotes unemployment, which in turn promotes poverty, street gangs and illegal drug-trafficking activities and other crimes. Discrimination stifles opportunities which would normally be available to certain races and in turn stifles the growth of a city by promoting urban decay


1. The old buildings are overcrowded and have poor living condition.

2. The old buildings run down and are deteriorating.

a. The buildings have shabby appearance (e.g. peeling paint, rusty window frame).
b. There are illegal or unstable structures (e.g. squatter settlements on roof-top).
c. There are improper sanitation facilities (e.g. inadequate kitchen and toilet facilities).
d. There are poor ventilation and illumination.

3. Residential flats are mixed with industrial use, causing noise and air pollution, health and fire hazards.

4. There are not enough open space and community facilities, e.g. parks, schools.

5. Traffic congestion is common in narrow streets.

6. Social problems are common, e.g. crime, vandalism.

Again, urban decay has no single cause, but is a result of interrelated social and economic conditions.

In order to save our cities from this condition, we need to take care of not only our homes but also the world outside. This will ensure that the city, which might be slowly rotting away, is saved from decaying and a stable economic and social future is maintained for everyone.


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