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The Public Housing Program Essay

3043 words - 13 pages

Public housing is a program, introduced at the federal level in 1937, which provides for low-cost housing through public financing by means of publicly owned and managed multi-family developments. Several cities began providing publicly funded housing prior to the introduction of the 1937 Housing Act through local programs of their own. Additionally, it was these kinds of local programs that helped mold the model for the federal program. Although there are multiple themes and topics related to public housing this paper will solely focus on 6 themes that are critical in understanding the history and development of public housing. These themes are in regards to the population it was aimed for, ...view middle of the document...

Although Massey and Denton’s study focus on the segregation of blacks other minority groups were also affected and segregated as well. Regardless of what minority group an individual belonged to, public housings were segregated and the higher end ones were mainly exclusive to whites while the lower end ones were mainly exclusive to minorities.
Public housing has also been viewed and portrayed as a solution for inner-city poverty and isolation, and as a basic human necessity for lower-class individuals. According to urban planner Peter Marcuse’s study, the view of many planners, architects and social workers was that good housing was humane and necessary to the well-being of all individuals and would greatly improve the quality of life for slum dwellers. They viewed public housing as way of fulfilling part of the state’s responsibility to ensure that decent and affordable housing was available for all residents of the United States. However, early reformers were appalled by the conditions of the tenements where immigrants lived. As previously mentioned, minority groups live in terrible public housing and in order to put an end to this the early reformers initiated the demolition of the tenements, an end to windowless interior rooms, better air circulation and more lighting. Many of the undesirable qualities led to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions. By the turn of the century, however, housing commissions had been set up in several major cities in order to impose some regulations on landlords. Landlords were therefore now being held responsible with providing adequate living conditions for all residents regardless of ethnicity and immigration status, which was consequently a major improvement in comparison to the previous lack of regulations and treatment of minority based public housing.
In 1937, after a long struggle in Congress, the first national housing legislation was passed. In addition to providing low-cost housing, the housing legislation also improved the deteriorating economy by providing jobs in the building industry. Public housing was never actually thought of as being a long-term or permanent home for the poor. The actual purpose of the act was “...to alleviate present and recurring unemployment and to remedy the unsafe and insanitary housing conditions and the acute shortage of decent, safe and sanitary dwellings for families of low income...” A modification was actually made to the original legislation in order to be accepted by congress which was the addition of “alleviation of unemployment” as of the main purposes of the act. This housing meant to house low-income families, which was defined as, “...families...in the lowest income group who cannot afford to pay enough to cause private enterprise...to build an adequate supply of decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings...” The 1937 National Housing Legislation essentially intended to remedy the unsafe and insanitary housing conditions.
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