When Public Housing Wasn’t Charity

In an article about public housing in Alexandra, VA, there’s a very important, but forgotten, point about why it was built (boldface mine):

Public housing was originally built not as a social safety net program, but rather because the government once took the idea of building enough homes for our workforce seriously.

Tens of thousands of homes were built by the government in the 1930’s to meet the demand in cities across the US that were epicenters of wartime production. The reasoning was simple: if people were going to work here they needed a place to live affordably, so the government built homes–a lot of them in a very short amount of time….

Nearly all of these buildings were explicitly segregated, and in fact were used as a tool to further segregation in many cities. Then after WWII, the government began to heavily subsidize and incentive suburban development. Often these developments were for whites only thanks to racist zoning, covenants or deeds, so in many cases urban public housing became nearly exclusively occupied by people of color.

In the 1970’s the federal government not only stopped building significant amounts of public housing, but also began to underfund its maintenance. Deterioration and eventual destruction of these homes followed.

As we’ve noted before, the weird thing about housing markets is that no one tries to compete on price, so that’s a void the government has to fill–if we really do want affordable housing. When I lived in Long Island, NY, local businesses–not exactly TEH SOCIALISMZISTS!!–kept trying to convince Nassau and Suffolk counties to build housing that was affordable for middle- and lower-middle class people, to no avail. Which of course has nothing to do with political contributions at the federal, state, and local levels.

We really do need a housing market targeted towards the middle and lower-middle class. Instead, too many people are paying too much for housing, often housing they don’t even own.

Someone might want to do something about this–like build some damn housing.

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3 Responses to When Public Housing Wasn’t Charity

  1. The only housing anyone is building anywhere is “luxury” housing. Nobody cares about us poor.

  2. plch says:

    crappy luxury housing, which are an absolute echological catastrophe from every point of view.

  3. plch says:

    ops, ecological

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