The Community Builders’ Council of the Urban Land Institute, published this handbook in 1948 to serve as a comprehensive guide for suburban real estate and retail development. Influenced by the Institute’s Chairman, J.C. Nichols, the book promoted the redlining tactics he and other real estate developers employed to racially segregate the Kansas City metropolitan area for much of the twentieth century. The Community Builders Handbook circulated widely and became an important tool for federal policy and suburban developers across the nation. It advertised policies intended to create racially homogenous suburban neighborhoods with adjoining strip malls, creating an environment where the white middle class could live and shop without going downtown. The handbook ultimately promoted methods that engrained the division and segregation between the suburbs and the city.
The Community Builders Handbook also speaks to the many issues that brought about the “urban crisis” in Kansas City, which disproportionately impacted Black residents. By the 1950s, decades of discriminatory housing policies, redlining, white flight, and suburban sprawl converged, causing the decline of Black neighborhoods. The effects of racist real estate planning, government disinvestment, and the urban crisis continue to impact Communities of Color across the state. Despite civil rights victories and attempts to dismantle prejudicial policies, the harm caused to Black residents cannot be erased. This handbook endures as a reminder of the racist roots of suburban development, as well as the hardships Black residents faced as a result of private interests and discriminatory federal urban policies.
Creator: Community Builders' Council
Subject: City planning
Contributing Institution: Kansas City Public Library
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Region: Kansas City Metro