Equal Opportunity: Selected Statements from Planning Publications

PAS Report 224

Historic PAS Report Series

Welcome to the American Planning Association's historical archive of PAS Reports from the 1950s and 1960s, offering glimpses into planning issues of yesteryear.

Use the search above to find current APA content on planning topics and trends of today.



Information Report No. 224 July 1967

Equal Opportunity: Selected Statements from Planning Publications

Download original report (pdf)

As the voice of the Negro and other racial minorities has grown louder in its demand for equality, many communities have taken steps to provide them with opportunities for full participation in society. Fair employment practices, open-occupancy legislation, and other civil rights guarantees have been enacted, and such programs as vocational training, pre-school education, and dispersed public housing have been developed to help break down patterns of discrimination and segregation.

The increasing public concern for minority rights has important implications for the work of planning agencies. Many have studied the problems of minority groups and have recommended policies and programs to promote equality of opportunity. ASPO has examined a number of planning agency publications — concentrating on comprehensive plans and community renewal program (CRP) reports — and has selected several which address the problem of racial discrimination or its converse, the provision of equal opportunity, for inclusion in this report. As the publications speak for themselves, this report is composed almost entirely of excerpts. These excerpts are grouped by subject, and several examples, representing different points of view, are included in each section.

Because of its limited purpose — to illustrate a variety of approaches proposed by planning agencies to eliminate the barriers to equal opportunity — the sample of publications quoted in this report is biased. It includes mainly those which prescribe more explicit policies and programs aimed at reducing the barriers to equal opportunity, with the addition of a few general goal statements to indicate the point of departure from which the detailed programming proceeds.

We have not, therefore, excerpted from publications which seek to solve the problem of racial discrimination indirectly or which make some mention of it without suggesting methods to combat it, for example, those which recognize the existence of discrimination but seem to assume that a continuation of present programs is sufficient, or those which subsume inequality of opportunity under the general heading of poverty.

Of the 12 publications quoted in this report, seven are CRPs, four are comprehensive plans, and one is a housing study. All have been published within the last three years. More CRPs are represented largely because the CRPs tended to produce specific policies and action programs and generally gave more attention to social programs than did the comprehensive plans.

Format of the Report

The first section of the report contains several equal opportunity goal statements. In this section, too, are declarations of objectives dealing specifically with housing, the area of particular interest of many of these publications. The next, and longest section, contains recommendations for action programs for housing, relocation, school integration, public housing, and methods for achieving open occupancy in the metropolitan area. The third section deals with administrative arrangements to implement various aspects of the program. The final section includes suggestions for legislative changes.


Many plans and CRPs contain statements of objectives and policies relating to the attainment of equal opportunity. Sometimes these statements are couched in general terms, sometimes they refer specifically to housing objectives. The following are examples of such statements.

General Objectives

Boston Plan, 1965

[Boston] must pool [its] considerable planning, administrative, and redevelopment experience, and, ... make every effort to ... [b]reak down discriminatory barriers that waste talent, inhibit motivation, limit educational achievement, and restrict choice of residence and employment.... (p. 50)

Philadelphia CRP, 1967

The concept of equal opportunity implies that all persons have freedom of choice in housing and employment, and equal access to educational resources and to the public and private facilities of the community. Although every society has some constraints on full equality of opportunity, public intervention becomes necessary when specific, identifiable minority groups are denied substantially the same degree of freedom as the society in general. (p. 26)

One method of allaying hostility, or at least countering its effect, is a clear, firm assertion of the principle of equal opportunity by public authorities. Determined enforcement of the laws against discrimination, coupled with an expressed policy of equal opportunity to be applied through all City programs, can lead most citizens to acceptance, if not support, of the principle. (p. 27)

Chester, Pennsylvania, CRP, 1966

Since low income, dependency, social dislocation, and substandard housing are especially concentrated among the 35% or 40% of City residents who are Negro, programs which fail to improve conditions for Negroes will not accomplish the City's renewal objectives. It is necessary to give special attention to the special problems of Negroes in order to provide them with opportunities which are equal to those provided for white families. (pp. 175–176)

Housing Objectives

New York CRP, 1965

The problems of the underprivileged are ... organically linked to the historic evil of racial discrimination. Many of the victims of deprivation are Negroes. New York City reaffirms its dedication to the color-conscious policy set forth in the 1962–63 Urban Renewal Study Program:

"Racial and ethnic considerations are an integral part of any sound planning approach in this City. A 'color-blind' government policy carried out in a color-conscious housing market can only entrench and aggravate the segregation of racial and ethnic groups, with all its enervating and corrosive consequences." (p. 31)

San Francisco CRP, 1965

The tendency to segregate racial and ethnic minorities forces these groups to pay an inordinate proportion of their income for housing.... Minority groups are disadvantaged in their efforts to find decent housing and the number of substandard and ultimately serious substandard housing is significantly increased. Unless the housing market is open to all racial and ethnic groups, the limited supply available to them will continue to be of poorer quality. (p. 8)

[Therefore t]he maximum opportunity for choice of housing and residential location should be ensured for all people, including all minority groups. (p. 64)

Washington, D.C., Plan, 1967

Like all large cities, Washington has a large number of people whose standard of living is well below the acceptable minimum ... A very large proportion of them are Negroes, handicapped by centuries of oppression and discrimination, and still denied equal opportunities in some parts of the job market and some of the housing market.

We must create an environment which helps to compensate for some of the things which deprived families are unable to provide for themselves.... In many ... ways, the physical environment must help to lift the city's deprived population to the standard of living to which all Americans are entitled. (pp. 12–13)

Chicago Plan, 1966

It is the policy of the City of Chicago to assure full and equal opportunity of all residents of the city to obtain fair and adequate housing for themselves and their families in the City of Chicago without discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, or ancestry.... In addition to providing equal opportunity for individuals and families, the city's policy is to seek to change the pattern of massive racial transition, neighborhood by neighborhood, which has in the past characterized the expansion of housing opportunity for non-whites. (p. 35)

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Housing Study, 1966

Discrimination against Negro and Puerto Rican families in the housing market should be reduced. Full open-occupancy throughout Lancaster as a short-run goal is impossible of attainment. However, a concerted effort to reduce racial barriers would do much to ease the present low-cost housing shortage. (p. 10)

Denver Plan, 1967

The attitudes of most Denver citizens and the legal framework provided by State Law are conducive to a minimum of racial discrimination in housing. Yet there remain areas nearly completely occupied by members of a racial minority group. Although this segregation may to some extent be voluntary, vigorous enforcement of the fair housing law, supplemented by broadened educational programs and activities of such groups as the Fair Housing Center, can result in more integration in residential areas. This in turn can lead to improved human relationship within Denver, better education for all children through experiencing inter-group relationships, a break in the vicious poverty cycle, and an improvement in the stability and tax base of central area neighborhoods. (p. 101)

Minneapolis CRP, 1965

The goal of the CIP Equality in Housing Program is implicit in its title — to assure that all minority-group citizens of Minneapolis have equal opportunity, within their financial means, to secure the housing of their choice in the neighborhood they desire. This goal is integral with the broader CIP goals of preventing blight, improving services, and promoting the well-being of Minneapolis and its citizens. No community can achieve these goals if it permits restriction of minority groups to certain areas of the city, limits (in consequence) their access to the services and facilities which are the right of all citizens, and tolerate the waste of physical and human resources inherent in racial discrimination.

It must be the city's policy, moreover, to administer all ordinances, departments and services which affect housing with absolute impartiality.... Impartial administration involves not only the just application of laws and the equal provision of services, but also the free access of minority-group citizens to municipal agencies for information, assistance and redress of grievances. (p. 78)


Most of the planning agency publications reviewed go beyond a mere statement of goals and often include quite specific proposals for action programs. The emphasis in many of these reports is on the programs by which the goals are to be achieved, rather than on the goals themselves. Because of the variety of the proposals, they have been broken down into appropriate categories.

Action Programs for Housing

Omaha CRP, 1966

The Omaha Redevelopment Corporation will also be able to make small loans and outright grants, on an individual basis, to home owners with low incomes whose homes are substandard but cannot afford themselves to pay for rehabilitation. This organization's positive policy is non-discrimination. (p. 101)

Philadelphia CRP, 1967

A ... kind of persuasion [to allay white hostility to Negroes] is the effort to convince some large housing developers of the area to merchandise open-occupancy housing. Open-occupancy has been accepted by builders in other parts of the country with no loss in sales or profits. (p. 28)

Chester, Pennsylvania, CRP, 1966

As a matter of policy, the renewal process should be organized to make home ownership available to families as far down the economic scale as possible. ...

Home ownership can be encouraged by several means. Special mortgage insurance privileges for persons displaced from renewal areas or buying in renewal areas should be offered as widely as possible through the relocation office, realtors, banks, and savings and loan associations. This means that the renewal agency first must provide background information on these programs to the realtors, banks, and savings and loans. Secondly, the banks and savings and loan associations should be urged to liberalize their credit policies for home buyers. These financial institutions might also consider pooling capital for a special "high-risk" mortgage fund for moderate and low income families. (p. 55)

Omaha CRP, 1966

The Human Relations Board, the Omaha Urban League and two non-profit corporations created to build housing under Section 221-d-3, are going to form the Omaha Housing Exchange. The Exchange will be a community-wide central registry of property owners willing to sell or to rent homes to any buyer that can afford the property, and of families trying to buy or to rent standard homes without fear of discrimination. (p. 101)

Philadelphia CRP, 1967

To provide positive encouragement for Negroes and other minority groups, the City should maintain a clearing house of prospective clients who are willing to move into all white or substantially white areas. ... The City agency should give continuing assistance to the families concerned through the bargaining period, the search for credit at reasonable terms, and the actual transfer of property or signing of a lease. (p. 29)

A City program of buyer and renter "out-reach" should be organized to encourage Negroes to seek homes outside of the segregated areas. It will be necessary to give them direct assistance in finding an appropriate housing unit, in negotiating for it, and in making adjustments to the new community. The same agencies discussed earlier, on overcoming reluctance to move into white areas, would provide support for the "out-reach" program. (p. 30)

Relocation as a Tool for Integration

Minneapolis CRP, 1965

[The CRP recommends:] Full concern for minority-group rights and needs in the programming and administration of urban renewal, rehabilitation and code enforcement programs, including assurance of adequate housing for relocated minority families. (p. 79)

Chester, Pennsylvania, CRP, 1966

The Redevelopment Authorities of the City and County can assist [integration] by using [the Fair Housing Council and the fair housing realty agency] for relocation, and by favoring private realtors who show their willingness to place Negro buyers and renters wherever they choose to live. (p. 137)

Action Programs for School Integration

San Francisco CRP, 1965

The fears and attitudes that cause residential segregation stem from a concern on the part of some elements of the population for property values, school quality, and safety.... Concern for the quality of schools could be dispelled by sustaining the excellence of basic academic programs and instituting comprehensive compensatory education programs. (p. 85)

Chicago Plan, 1966

A school system that is versatile and that serves children from diverse backgrounds requires that the city and its communities be attractive to all kinds of families. And the schools themselves are of great importance in achieving a city of full opportunities for all in stable, integrated neighborhoods.

To reduce the impact of segregation and avoid further massive transitions the Board of Education has studied and experimented with flexible attendance districts, pupil transfer plans, and "clustering" two or more schools in the same attendance area.

The board's policies for attendance districts can have significant effects on the avoidance or reduction of racial segregation. In addition to the measures already tried or under consideration, further measures should be investigated. (p. 47)

Washington, D.C., Plan, 1967

We must create an environment which helps to compensate for some of the things which deprived families are unable to provide themselves. ... They need well-equipped schools that are open longer than the normal schoolday because they cannot afford provide each member of the family with the intellectual and cultural experiences that are essential to continuing growth. (p. 13)

Public Housing as a Tool for Integration

Chester, Pennsylvania, CRP, 1966

The City and County Housing Authorities can further extend the housing market for Negroes by using their new authority to purchase existing housing units for low rent public housing. Carefully distributed, such units could add a reasonable mix of Negro occupancy to white neighborhoods which already have shown acceptance of Negro neighbors. (pp. 137–138)

Omaha CRP, 1966

The Omaha Housing Authority owns and operates approximately 2,300 dwelling units, 528 of them designed for the elderly, which are available without discrimination. In addition, the Authority, with approval of the City Council, has applied to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for permission to lease and then to rent to occupants 100 scattered dwelling units. These will also be offered without discrimination. (p. 100)

Philadelphia CRP, 1967

The public low-rent housing program can also provide new opportunities for a racially and ethnically mixed housing environment. In existing projects the Housing Authority's policy should emphasize desegregation. In future projects the Authority should encourage occupancy patterns which reflect all segments of the eligible population. It is also suggested that the State establish a new housing agency with authority to build low-rent public housing in suburban communities. The new agency would exercise its powers where the local community fails to provide the housing resources needed. The agency could be particularly helpful by providing housing for both white and Negro low-income families who find job opportunities in the suburbs, but who cannot find housing accommodations at prices they can afford. (p. 30)

Metropolitan-wide Integration

Chicago Plan, 1966

All Chicagoland residents should have freedom of opportunity and choice for housing, jobs, medical care, and cultural and educational facilities throughout the metropolitan area. Exercise of these opportunities can be facilitated through provision of adequate transportation facilities and through elimination of discriminatory practices. (p. 28)

Philadelphia CRP, 1967

A State agency should be given authority to build low-rent public housing in suburban communities. It would exercise its powers where the local community failed to provide the housing resources needed. The agency could be particularly helpful by providing housing on a non-discriminatory basis for low-income families who find job opportunities in the suburbs but who cannot find housing accommodations at prices they can afford. (p. 83)

Washington, D.C., Plan, 1967

The housing needs of the metropolitan area can only be met by an areawide program of action. This must include, above all, the opening of suburban housing to occupancy by Negroes. The Federal Government should not allocate additional Federal employment to any local jurisdiction in the Region until enactment of local open occupancy legislation. (p. 203)


Many of the reports examined discuss the responsibilities of various agencies for the administration of equal opportunity action programs. In most communities a human relations commission (or human rights commission) is expected to bear the major responsibility, while in others private or quasi-public organizations are emphasized.

It should be noted that some of the goals and programs quoted above have been excerpted from sections in the reports dealing primarily with administrative responsibilities. They were included in previous sections rather than this section because it was felt that the substance of the proposals was more important than the administrative arrangements.

Human Relations Commissions

San Francisco CRP, 1965

[The Human Rights Commission should:] As the official advisory body on equal opportunity in housing and urban renewal, establish formal relationships and consult regularly with all City agencies concerned with planning, housing, and urban renewal regarding impact of projected programs upon intergroup relations, and assist such agencies involving citizens in the program planning process.

Continue to strive for a competitive and open housing market, solicit cooperation of all public and private bodies to expand job opportunities for minority groups, and develop open employment and training programs for minority groups.

Establish a neighborhood stabilization program designed to help neighborhoods that are experiencing problems of intergroup relationships. Establish formal relationships with the Unified School District for consultation regarding intergroup problems. (p. 150)

Hartford CRP, 1965

The city's Human Relations Commission recognizes that human concern must run as the common thread through the Community Renewal Program, for cities are many things to many people. It is axiomatic that bricks and mortar have no meaningful existence, except in their functional relationship to the needs of people. Programs of the Human Relations Commission are especially significant to the Community Renewal effort. They can serve in the following specific ways:

Developing the concept of an integrated society as a total responsibility of the entire structure of the city and its various departments.

Promoting equal housing opportunities and acceptability to housing accommodations for all people.

Developing efforts to enhance and increase the supply of housing for low and middle-income groups so conceived that racial desegregation will be a natural consequence.

Creating a forum for the ventilation of fears, hostilities, intergroup tensions and other problems which adversely affect community growth.

Working with other organizations to create new job opportunities and to enhance and upgrade educational abilities of those citizens who are presently non-competitive because of lack of basic education and skill. (pp. III 34–III 36)

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Housing Study, 1966

Suggested action programs [to combat discrimination include]

(a) The development of several well-publicized Pennsylvania Fair Housing Law test cases through a City-County Human Relations Commission and possibly the A.C.L.U.

b) Cooperation and coordination of the housing activities of the City-County Human Relations Committee, the Fair Housing Listing Service and the Community Relations action ... to prevent wholesale white selling when a Negro or Puerto Rican family moves into a formerly all-white neighborhood. (p. 10)

Chester, Pennsylvania, CRP, 1966

Rigorous enforcement of the law on sale or rental of housing to minorities is one immediate way to broaden the market. To help locate and process violations quickly, with minimal cost for the aggrieved person, both the City and County should establish Human Relations Commissions.... The Human Relations Commission should concentrate its efforts on investigating individual complaints and on a vigorous educational campaign. (pp. 136–137)

Philadelphia CRP, 1967

Enforcement of law is just as important as enactment. One sensitive area could be supervised effectively by having the Commission on Human Relations test-check every realty firm in the City every year. The check would be designed to test compliance with the Fair Practices Law. In a related effort, the Commission could regularly review and practices of real estate firms and builders contracting with the City to assure their full compliance with the law. Those who show the strongest response to both the spirit and the letter of law should be favored in future awards of City business.

...the Commission on Human Relations could take the lead in forming cadres of volunteers to work in white communities. The volunteers would try to build a climate of acceptance in advance of any attempt to locate Negro or other minority families in the community. This program should be conducted in cooperation with citizen fair housing organizations. (p. 28)

Private and Quasi-Public Organizations

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Housing Study, 1966

Formation of a large-scale non-profit organization is recommended to develop new supplies of low-cost housing units and to improve the present supply.

Among the most important projects which the group should undertake [is]:

Assistance to minority group families in the rental or purchase of housing outside the southeast [a heavily Negro populated] area. The organization could assist in the purchase of homes in white neighborhoods and could strengthen existing community organizations in the enforcement of fair housing laws. (pp. 11, 12, 13)

Minneapolis CRP, 1965

[Equal opportunity recommendations:]

Direct assistance to minority groups by social service agencies and minority organizations, to help minority families find satisfactory housing, and to encourage those who may be hesitant to seek the housing and neighborhood of their choice.

Educational and action programs by religious, humanitarian, and neighborhood groups to lessen the resistance of white neighborhoods to minority-group newcomers, to prevent neighborhood instability in areas of racial change, and to promote meaningful interracial cooperation.

Educational and action programs by appropriate organizations and agencies to assure that the real-estate market mechanism functions equally for the benefit of all homeseekers. (pp. 79-80)


A small number of the publications examined make rather specific recommendations for changes in existing legislation or for the passage of new legislation. The recommendations generally deal with fair housing laws at the local or state level, or with changes in federal legislation. Illustrative excerpts in each of these categories follow. (Some recommendations for legislative changes appear above, e.g., to expand the jurisdiction of a local housing authority to include suburbs.)

State and Local Laws

Philadelphia CRP, 1967

The current State law against discrimination in the sale and rental of housing excludes single-family housing and two-family housing in which the owner resides. As a result, it is estimated that as much as 65% of the housing in the State is not covered by the law. To provide full equal opportunity in housing, the law should be amended to apply to the sale and rental of all private residences.

The law should be further amended to make mandatory the issuance of an injunction against sale or rental upon the request of the State Human Relations Commission after its finding of probable discrimination. (pp. 82–83)

The law can be reinforced by two additional changes. First, the City's Human Relations Commission should be given the authority (already granted to the State Human Relations Commission) to stop sale proceedings by court injunction pending settlement of alleged violations. Secondly, the State Human Relations Commission should be given the responsibility for reviewing zoning ordinances and other land use controls in suburban communities to determine whether or not the regulations are intended to exclude minority groups. Cities within the region would have the right to be heard when the Commission gathers evidence. (p. 28)

Omaha CRP, 1966

A major, perhaps the prime portion of the Boards [sic] own program, therefore, is the passage of legislation that would make fair housing meaningful in Omaha and that would give the Board the financial and staff resources and the legal authority to improve its operations. (p. 99)

Federal Legislation

Philadelphia CRP, 1967

Legislative efforts should be continued to extend the right of all persons to secure decent, safe and sanitary housing in a location of their choice. The Executive Order which forbids discrimination in the sale or leasing of housing constructed under federally-aided programs or insured by federal agencies could also be expanded to include all housing financed by lenders whose operations are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. (p. 82)

Chester, Pennsylvania, CRP, 1966

Negro and white low income families will both gain flexibility in choosing a place to live when Congress appropriates funds for the rent subsidy program.... The program would be much more effective if it applied also to privately built housing, with reasonable controls to keep subsidized rents in line with the normal market.

The program would gain further utility if it applied to all who are forced to pay more than 25% of income for decent shelter, whether or not they are eligible for low rent public housing (as required in the Federal law). (p. 138)


The excerpts in this report should be considered in historical perspective. Twenty years ago, few plans said much about racial discrimination or what to do about it. This was a reflection of the prevailing public mood toward the problem at that time — some awareness but little public attention.

Today, that mood has radically changed. There is much greater concern and more public attention. The series of quotations from recent plans and CRPs excerpted in this report bear out this point. Some planning agencies are examining the problems of inequality of opportunity and are proposing courses of action to combat them. The quotations indicate that these agencies are beginning to play a role in recommending policies and programs to combat racial discrimination. This report, then, merely indicates the point at which some planning agencies are in their treatment of the subject of racial discrimination.


Community Renewal Program, Chapter III, "The Goals and the Means," Hartford Commission on the City Plan, Hartford, Connecticut 1965.

Community Renewal Program, Chester, Pennsylvania, Government Consulting Service, Fels Institute of Local and State Government, University of Pennsylvania, 1966.

Community Renewal Program, Section I, "Basic Analysis," Section II, "City Wide Analysis," Henningson, Durham & Richardson, Omaha City Planning Department, Omaha, Nebraska, 1966.

Comprehensive Plan of Chicago, Department of Development and Planning, Chicago, Illinois, 1966.

Denver 1985: A Comprehensive Plan for Community Excellence, Department of Planning, City and County of Denver, Colorado, 1967.

Goals and Policies for Comprehensive Planning for Community Development, Minneapolis Community Improvement, Publication No. 166, Series 22, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter 1965–66.

Lancaster Housing Study, John O. Shirk, Redevelopment Authority of the City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1966.

Major Policies and Proposals, Community Renewal Program, City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1967.

New York City's Renewal Strategy/1965, Community Renewal Program, New York City Planning Commission, 1965.

1965/1985 General Plan for the City of Boston and the Regional Core, Boston Redevelopment Authority, Boston, Massachusetts, 1965.

Proposed Comprehensive Plan for the Nation's Capital, National Capital Planning Commission, Washington, D. C., 1967.

San Francisco Community Renewal Program: Final Report to City Planning Commission, City and County of San Francisco, California, Arthur D. Little, Inc., 1965.

Prepared by Michael J. Meshenberg. Copyright © 1967 by American Society of Planning Officials