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Great Depression-Era Planning

The Great Depression era contributed significantly to planning and community-building as we know it today. Due in large part to the urgency to stimulate the economy and work efficiently with limited resources, the 1930's introduced macro-level planning and development that we still hold valuable today. Here are three planning projects and programs birthed out of depression-era innovation.


  • Federal government provision of low-cost housing. Established first of all for improving the housing of the poor. The second purpose was to expand construction as a way to stimulate the economy. The government is still involved in low-cost housing, although most of the financial support, for capital and operations, is now facilitated by public housing authorities.
  • Planning the interstate highway system. The idea picked up momentum then stalled due to World War II. It eventually reappeared as the National Defense Highway Act of 1956. This authorized the building of the interstate highway system- the largest single construction project in US history.
  • The start of regional planning efforts. This is highlighted best by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Established in 1933, TVA was created to provide a combination of flood control, power generation, and natural resource conservation. Dams were built for flood control and power generation. Lakes being created behind the dams also led to recreation planning. 


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