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People Like Ourselves: Forecast for Survey Graphic

by Paul Kellogg

November 1935


Hopes ran high two years ago when the need for low cost housing and a pull to meet it were recognized by federal statute. The need was old—imbedded in expert findings and government surveys that show that one third of the families in the United States live in dwellings below modern standards of sanitation and convenience—a threat to health and an exorbitant drain on the earnings of tenants. The pull was new—the chance that building construction held out as an all round stimulus to employment.

Incredible as it seems, in those two years the administration has to show only seven limited dividend projects through government loans and but six public housing projects under way. Conflicting policies, administrative inertias, outworn laws and stubborn circumstance have all been on the cards in this pack of the New Deal. Should the government build directly and to what extent? Should it lend money at low rates to private builders or local public agencies? Should it merely make mortgage money liquid so as to encourage insurance companies and saving banks to lend funds for the purpose?

Turning from finance to construction, we come upon questions of relative costs and availability, upon the competing claims put forward for slum clearance and cheap land development, upon the issue of federal condemnation before the Supreme Court, and upon delays due to cramping local laws and to rigorous attempts at headquarters to eliminate graft. Out of it all two things stand clear; the call for state and city housing authorities and purposeful citizen groups, forcing and watching developments; and the call for a permanent low cost housing policy at Washington, on its own, and not merely incident to the employment program.


Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2001-2003