HOUSING: Answer to Decay

The No. 1 economic problem of many U.S. cities is downtown rot. As middle-and upper-income families move to the suburbs, property values decline. Businessmen find themselves shouldering an increasing share of taxes while the shoppers they lost throng suburban shopping centers. Often the attempted remedy, subsidized public housing, turns out to be little better than the disease: the untaxed projects house people on relief.

Planners have long known that a far better answer to downtown blight is to attract higher-income families back to town. Many cities have pondered how to do this,...

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