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Foreign Policy Analysis
Why Do We Have Housing Projects?

Why Do We Have Housing Projects?

Today over 2 million Americans are living
in public housing. That’s a sizable number (though it makes
up a relatively small percentage of the population and it’s low compared to other nations that
offer similar housing initiatives like say the UK). In spite of that, we largely only hear news
stories about public housing in the US when there’s a moment of crisis or when decisions
about state and federal budgets are being handed down. Take for example Chicago’s Cabrini-Green
homes which were built beginning in 1942 and demolished by 2011 due to highly publicized
issues with violence and disrepair. The discourse on public housing structures
is generally that they are riddled with maintenance issues, crime and unsightly exteriors, or
are the victims of budgetary constraints. And yet, many if not most of these developments
nationwide are either at close to full occupancy or have very long waiting lists. And residents of public housing are fighting,
not only for improvements to their homes but also for the right to remain there. That’s despite a shift from thinking of
public housing as a long term resource to treating it as a stopgap on residents’ trajectories
of success that they should look to move out of eventually. So today I wanted to go into the history of
how we ended up with approximately 3,400 public housing authorities nationwide and why this
state funded resource is still in such high demand. The Great Depression marks the beginning of
the US federal government’s direct funding of public housing. But Professor Lawrence Vale notes in his book
on the history of public housing that this is actually part of a larger story about changing
attitudes around what constitutes societal responsibility. Namely: when should society assist people
in need of housing and what form should that assistance take? According to Vale’s research, providing
housing for people with either financial constraints or who are unable to care for themselves independently
has taken a variety of shapes throughout US history. He writes: Before there were public housing projects,
there were model tenements, zoning laws, and philanthropic developers; there were settlement
houses, working-class suburbs, and private charities; there were tax advantages for homeowners,
land bounties for worthy veterans, and Homestead Act opportunities for thrifty pioneers; there
were “Overseers of the Poor,” pauper auctions, and laws of settlement; and there were almshouses,
“bridewells,” and “houses of industry.” All of these helped to codify the relationships
among land tenure, house form, and labor, and all were attempts at “improving poor
people.” So public housing was developed in the 20th
century as part of FDR’s New Deal and in the midst of the Great Depression. But it was just the latest event in a longer
history between government oversight and coded, paternalistic language about “improving”
the poor through housing. That mission, although somewhat consistent,
didn’t always take exactly the same form. In some of the cases listed earlier, the housing
assistance came in the form of private charitable donations that built shared homes for poor
families (like almshouses). In others it came in exchange for forced labor
(like the case of “houses of industry”). And in others still it came in the form of
government initiatives and tax breaks for people who were willing to work to expand
the continental US’ reach at crucial moments (like the case of the Homestead Act of 1862). But as Vale notes, we often don’t include
these other forms of housing under the umbrella of public housing or public assistance because
the because we think of them as different from their predecessors. Before there was discussion of building public
housing through the government, housing reform and regulation was the more common conversation. And this largely came through innovations
in the field of photojournalism, rather than new discoveries in city planning or architecture. In 1890 Danish immigrant Jacob Riis used a
new fangled thing called flash photography to document the tenements and lodging houses
of New York City’s most notorious slums. He published these images of impoverished
communities in his book How the Other Half Lives, which looked to sensationalize and
expose the dangerous and deplorable living conditions of the city’s poor residents. The book was wildly successful, not only for
its harrowing images, but also for stark language about the trials faced by vulnerable populations. As a result, New York City’s police commissioner
(and future president) Theodore Roosevelt closed a number of notorious lodging houses. And city officials began to more strictly
enforce and expand upon existing housing codes. Roosevelt even said of Riis: “The countless evils which lurk in the dark
corners of our civic institutions, which stalk abroad in the slums, and have their permanent
abode in the crowded tenement houses, have met in Mr. Riis the most formidable opponent
ever encountered by them in New York City.” So at this point, photojournalistic efforts
had shone a light on the deplorable conditions of slums and privately run charitable homes
were already an established precedent. That’s when the government decided to move
beyond just regulating housing to actively providing dwellings for residents. The Federal Housing Administration was created
by an Act of Congress in 1934. But the relationship between the government
and providing safe, cheap housing was already established. This included everything from the forceful
frontierism of the Homestead Act, to Teddy Roosevelt’s regulation of New York lodging
houses. This new entity also made it easier for white
US citizens to get loans, while “redlining” communities of color and black communities,
which strongly enforced segregation. But this latest iteration of government assisted
housing focused on subsidizing home ownership for a relatively small percentage of the population
through mortgage insurance programs. Through these programs people were allowed
to pay an upfront, relatively low down payment, and then to cover the rest of the cost through
monthly mortgage payments. (This system is commonplace today, but was
a relatively new practice at the time). But the government’s role in subsidizing
housing soon evolved beyond mortgage insurance. When the Housing Act of 1937 was passed, the
law looked to create and build subsidized housing particularly geared towards people
that met certain income requirements. This was a radical shift in the scope and
mission of the federal government’s role in public housing. For the first time they were getting into
the business of building, renting and maintaining structures specifically designed for this
purpose. Although Mayor Daniel Hoan of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
built the nation’s first public housing project in 1923, the project ended just a
few years later under the weight of mounting administrative issues. The idea of building structures and essentially
becoming governmental landlords was untested on a national scale. But perhaps the biggest difference in nationwide
public housing from its earliest inceptions in the 1930s to today is the way it was talked
about and represented to the actual public. In an interview for City Lab, journalist Ben
Austen notes that when they were first built, places like Chicago’s Cabrini-Green were
seen as sites of hope and promise. He says: That was one of the great ironies of public
housing when it was being demolished. The arguments for replacing it were that we
were saving the people living there from death. [Those were] the exact same arguments that
were used to justify building public housing in the first place. So when public housing emerged on the scene
as a nationwide initiative it was accompanied by promises that it would be safe, affordable,
government controlled and regulated. But when did this narrative of hope and potential
change? Although there are other crucial plot points
between 1937 and the mid 20th century in the larger narrative of public housing and housing
development, perhaps the most critical change came in 1965 with the establishment of HUD
or the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD marked a huge shift in not only the visibility
of public housing officials, but also elevated the platform of public housing. It went from being a more locally operated
affair to becoming a cabinet level program. And by the mid 90s public housing had exploded
from a small agency granting mortgage insurance to a massive program with 1.3 million individual
housing units managed by approximately 3,400 housing authorities and a sizable budget. But with growth comes growing pains. The initial narrative of public housing was
outrage over the deplorable conditions of privately owned slums that led to the creation
of promising new developments. And the conversation of public housing’s
metaphorical back nine was that public facilities were sites of disrepair and neglect. This was reflected not only in the national
discourse, but also in the policies of elected officials in the 1980s and 1990s. Public housing had ballooned in a relatively
short amount of time and with limited budgets. And suddenly, it became a political lightning
rod, with many politicians looking to either defund it and tear the buildings down all
together, or at least to limit the number of buildings and the scope of HUD. Early housing programs from the Great Depression
were restrictive, highly regulated, enforced racial segregation and prohibited single parents. And by the 1980s and 1990s discussions about
housing projects began to use language about race and crime as coded signs that the projects
themselves were failures. But a 1995 HUD report found that public housing
buildings were no more racially segregated than their surrounding neighborhoods. And most often the racial makeup of an individual
building reflected the demographic breakdown of the neighborhood where it was located. And in the midst of the Civil Rights Era of
the 20th century, residents began to make demands for improvements to the living conditions
inside of the structures. But that also meant that some of the public
perception of these facilities was that they were only intended for black and brown residents,
and that they should be defunded, torn down, and the residents should be rehomed to “save
them” from these housing projects. But in the crosshairs of political strife,
many people didn’t stop to take stock of the reactions and concerns of residents. Now grassroots organizing and reports take
into account the stories and perspectives of actual residents of public housing, rather
than those of the general public and elected officials. Community driven research from 2010 found
a stark difference between the perspectives of residents and the perspectives of the general
public gleaned through the media. For example a review of 400 newspaper articles
in the study found that, “Guns and poverty are the two most prevalent words found in
the articles about public housing.” And yet residents consistently felt that housing
projects are actually good places to live, that provide affordable rent, despite their
own concerns and their need to have more input in the oversight of the buildings. They also assert that considering the issues
of homelessness nationwide more units need to be built. And many residents have at least one member
of the household who is elderly, disabled, or in need of care. So public housing could serve as an alternative
way to bridge some crucial gaps in housing possibilities for people with limited or fixed
incomes. So the conversation around public housing
since its inception has been split. Because the same arguments that were levied
against privately owned slums in order to support the creation of public housing are
now being used in the tail end of the 20th century and early 21st as justification for
tearing public housing down. But if we look at it through this longer historical
lens, it seems like the conditions people are critical of in public housing aren’t
inherent to buildings and systems themselves. They’re problems that can and do emerge
whenever housing is underfunded, not well regulated, and not well maintained regardless
of if the units themselves are publicly or privately owned.

100 comments on “Why Do We Have Housing Projects?

  1. Hey Everyone! I'll be here answering questions for the next hour so leave me a comment!!

  2. Offer sterilization to people and pay them 5000 dollars to get sterilized after they enter the system.

  3. Why couldn’t it b called public housing or just housing? U can look at the place and no were black ppl live. Housing projects were create as a project 2 destroy people not help. They put guns N drugs N poor communities to make them think that selling drugs was going to get them rich N out the projects but it got them a new project the jail house or dead. It used 2 b the best place 4 Black family’s N still is a stepping stone 2 do better. Education is key if U want 2 do better. Still need blk psychiatrist, therapists N counselors cuz they will understand the blk experience.

  4. For people further interested in this topic, I’d advise you to google and research “Pruitt-Igoe”.

  5. Its because of the democratic party oppression is why you got a homeless problem and high crime in public housing.

  6. Public housing is another form of oppression most are run by blacks they are simply overseers. Gentrified neighborhood are are replacing projects and forcing people out of the area bringing White back to urban areas. Thanks for the upload.

    I believe gentrification was set into place twenty years ago. Can you cover this?

  7. So basically public housing was all good when it was for white people, but when black folks were finally allowed to share the wealth, then they had to get rid of it, for…. reasons😒

  8. They should be fighting for jobs, not to remain in projects. Intergenerational dependence on public assistance is the reason.

  9. They tear down these people's homes and then leave the rubble. Just blocks and blocks of abandoned empty lots. SMH. the government ain't shit.

  10. And yet modern times (today) where’s the study how project housing created subhuman species? People that feels entitled to remain subjugated. Containment from the liberal middle class. Generation of young people developed in conditions including subpar educational system in those neighborhoods. Divisional economic opportunities for the poor but a mechanism for distinct group of people that capitalize their wealth in those same slums. One group spent 40 years playing around and eventually moving from while another group still after 120 plus years haven’t woken up.

    These cherry picked narratives gets on my nerves.

  11. Its not a cut and dried issue. I have known people that lived in Housing woman I worked with told
    me that every time she got a raise they would go up on the rent and food stamps, how could they get ahead.
    and the apartments are in terrible conditions. this problem is deep and wide. if I had to live there, I would live in
    my car first , charity is not charitable ,I use to work for a 501c3. people that work hard better never fall on hard
    times because they wont get help. Habitat for Humanity is a sham ,I have heard its just like a mortgage company.
    if you cant pay you cant stay. its all bullshit ,im not giving anymore money for any of these con artist. your job
    aint safe nor the jobs of your families that would help if you needed it.

  12. I live in Mississippi.
    We have public housing everywhere out here.
    I'm really surprised about that 2 Million number.
    I figured it would be much bigger.

  13. What i take from here is that projects were created to keep whoever lives in them down. How u gonna argue the same opinion twice? 1 to get them bulit. Then again to get them torn down. Smh.

  14. Sucks kuz all of our input about anything on here is going straight to the "source" then gathered with everyones opinions and the outcomes play out.

  15. I hate to say it but I absolutely hate public housing, I rather live in car if anything happens,why?
    While I stayed there for a few years to get on my feet; all the office did was put their noses all in my business,do u work over time?
    Do you have a bank account?
    Credit cards?
    Boyfriend or other adults?
    Not to mention the drug dealers,bad ass kids running around unsupervised,ghetto people, I love and appreciate my house in the country,thank you jesus

  16. Because you have a large percentage of useless and lazy black and latino population which creates more housing projects

  17. I think this video misses a lot of the economic perils of 'affordable housing.' The biggest being that the overall endeavor creates a net loss. Building costs and maintenance will likely far outpace any rents received by tenants. Second, the complexes will be run by a bureaucratic entity of the government. Any experience renewing your driver's license will show you that these agencies don't specialize in speed and efficiency. Crushing city's budgets and debt, will likely insure that shortcuts will be taken to maintain them, with most repairs being woefully inadequate or late. The true solution is to deflate the housing bubble and let housing prices fall and normalize. Nobody wants this – it'll hurt too much…

  18. There was a lot of information I didn’t know about the PJ’s 💯👍🏿🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲

  19. That's one way to explain how the project of housing turned into the projects? . . Wondering why you didn't go into further discussion about why most of these public housing projects were replaced with "mixed income" housing units, that most did not qualify for.. Especially in bigger southern cities they were replaced with condos or luxury apts?

  20. To save land or because of land limitations. So we built up instead if outward. But ultimately these were to pile distressed poor blacks on top of one another as a giant ghetto.

  21. This is just another example why everyone thinks they are entitled to everything in this country. Don't have a house, then the taxpayer will foot the bill… Need a college degree? the government will take care of it…. Cradle to grave government…

  22. These projects just enabled these folks to hunker down into generational poverty for their whole lives… These people should have been on the move looking for work and not living on government largesse.

  23. I think public housing was the worst thing besides food stamps the government could of dose for poor people sad to say but they should of should them how to make money & build wealth

  24. 6:57 same argument means "public" housing was destined for failure right from the start. instead of people trying to get OUT of bad housing/slums, we now have MULTIPLE generations people/families trying to get ON the waiting lists for slum GOV't housing…

  25. Public housing is not just in inner cities. In rural areas they have them but they don't look anything like you would see in say New Orleans. Public housing was a bandaid on a serious wound. A lot of people who live there it's a economical problem in the area they live in. Lack of jobs that actually pay a decent wage

  26. According to Google 4.8million are on section 8 housing. Why would u let people be on housing and continue to let them have kids???. The system is broken. It perpetuates generational dependency on the government.. give help for 1 year, no additional children or you go into forced labor camps. You learn a skill or trade in less than a year or off into forced labor camp. You make a child with a single mom, you are the dad,>>>> forced labor camps
    . . This crap will stop being abused, 1 year help and thats [email protected]@@!!!

  27. And why does housing have their hands out real quick when u get a raise . Yet when it comes to repairing things they don’t . Real sick of housing one min ur late they ready to evict . Ask them to repair a wall they Tare down and leave that way weeks , months and even years . They never want to do their jobs .

  28. Projects are reservations for the original Americans so called African Americans native americans got reservations and Indegenous people got projects

  29. My lil town got rid of both projects. People were scared to live outside of one. Because for most of them its generational and they dont want to break the cycle. I fought project b's everyday growing up because they were jealous I didnt live in one.

  30. Because it is like a school project you do for a Science class. Thus the name projects. The project is an experiment. Tbe experiment is with the masses. Oh it's all one great big psy op they run on so called poor folks.

  31. We have more empty homes then people that need them. We could solve the housing crisis overnight if we actually had the will as a society.

  32. How can there move out when rent is average 1600 a month so tell me who and tell me again will out move to a house will out have 10 people in it

  33. The problem is the people that run public housing always threatening to evict people and they treat the people like s***never mind if you have kids nobody wants to hang around with kids that live in public housing and it's based on your income it's mostly for single mothers with kids and they count child support as income which is crazy cuz it's for the kids

  34. Blacks should fight for more private affordable home ownership programs theres nothing better than being able to say You own ur own home it also boosts ur self esteem n self motivation

  35. How about get rid of the old and build new what's wrong with taking care of the one's who need this world is getting so selfish greedy dishonest and evil

  36. They really built these low income homes for whites that's who lived in them firsts blacks always get the seconds or leftovers they built them to keep the people contained away from certain shish

  37. Investigate Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. This was designed to segregate the poor and keep them reliant on the government.

  38. I watch a lot of blogs and never comment. I have never seen one this well created. The background prop is amazing! Your delivery, approach and most importantly… ACCURATE presentation should be bottled and sold. Definitely consider charging HIGH FEE courses on your technique! 🙂 I'm interested in more information you've researched. Thank you for your service.

  39. No disrespect to the people responding to the video, but I don't think she's asking for applauds on the information she's given, but on the topic itself. So with that being said, I'll give my opinion on the housing projects across the United States. The #1 reason the housing projects have become an eye sore and catastrophe across the country, is the same reason many companies went belly up and bankrupt, basic principles. The local government failed the people in other words. How? Well for starters, the United States population over the past 40 years has dramatically increased, rising over 200%(Go look up the numbers). And local governments have been operating under an old model, mandated based on a lesser population. So what has happened, is that over the years, the housing projects have become a hornets nest for people that have no desire to live a quality life, forcing legitimate people that need a place to live, to either be homeless, or live from house to house. What's the solution? Create more strict policies on living conditions. Meaning, women that have children, once they turn 18, must immediately be removed from the housing area, therefore forcing parents to prepare there children to live productively in society. Secondly, visitation hours should be cut off by 6 o'clock pm, thus reducing the likelihood of drugs and violence to take place, and any woman that allows men to spend the night, risk being evicted, non negotiable. Government housing should also be mandated to hire security officers, not police officers, to keep trespassers away, and anyone found loitering in the area, are subject to be arrested(meaning spending the night in jail) No exceptions!!! I could go further, but I'll stop here.

  40. Lived there for 4 years can say I gotten better jobs( all on my own) they had no programs for us, it wasn’t anything that at least tried to push more people into or back into the work field. It was a dog eat dog living, violence and junkies everywhere, the people walk around like zombies. If I would’ve stayed any longer I would’ve still be asleep like those people. I’m not better I just want better & I know living in that condition wouldn’t get me there. It was a stepping stone. Glad I made it out & good luck to the people that want too make it out of there but I learned the hard way everybody don’t.

  41. Where did the people of the slums and ghettos go? Where are the slums in america currently?

    Where did the tenants for the project housing come from?

    The slums, project housing and homestead acts = an exchange program. It's crazy once you really look into the re-distribution of land, the eradication of slums and the development of project housing during that timeframe.

  42. Great topic, can be hard to follow at times. Simpler terms would be nice because not everyone’s vocab is as extensive,

  43. The answer to the question asked in the headline of this video is.. because of democratic policies and libtards every Democrat ran city is a s*** hole. PBS is nothing but mainstream libtards funded by our tax dollars.

  44. Thanks for educating the miss informed. It's amazing how some ppl grew up in public housing but don't know the history behind it. Love your channel 💞💞💞

  45. I lived in my. And worked as plumber help in various public housing.almost all public houdings are supermarket to buy frugs

  46. It's good you got a good head on your shoulders.But you are talking over people head's. it's good to keep it simple sometime.

  47. This was a "whitewashed" version void of the specificity on how and why it failed when it was finally applied to the black community. I love how this non-existent "black and brown" coalition narrative gets weaved into early 20th century history. A time when Mexicans and Asians didn't even make up a single % of the population in America.

  48. Public Housing Same As Welfare Was Created For Caucasian People… Not African-Americans/Black People At All… That Is Why Black People Are Always Looked Down Upon Once On It… Take A Trip To A Welfare Building You Will See Exactly Who Is Receiving The Benefits (During The Early Day Hours) You Will Be Shocked…

  49. When I was in my early 20s I lived in a type of big city public housing called an "SRO." It was in an old building that may have once been a nice hotel but that had lost all sentiments of luxury. The elevator was a gold thing like a bird cage, with that old hard type of plastic that isn't even used today.

    The room it's self was small, dirty, infested with mice and roaches, but boy did it beat sleeping on the pavement outside. I appreciated that place, it was truly my home, my first home that didn't belong to my parents and it felt absolutely luxurious by comparison.

    I have learned that recently that same hotel building has been sold and gutted and rebuilt and looks amazing! It was rebuilt for the purpose of public housing and I can only imagine the gratitude of those who will be residing in it in its completion.

  50. Public housing does nothing to integrate users into the mainstream public. It is a failed experiment. Users of public housing are exposed to the psychological effect of poverty and desperation,which breeds crime and violence. If libraries only cater to the popular items used by patrons , then hat good Influence's are there for the communities that are forced to live together because of their financial status. I think people would be better off if they were distributed into every neighborhood. Instead of creating one neighborhood of poor and desperate. We could all use better influences.

  51. HUD should set up a system where the local city administration puts all the project units up for sale, giving priority to the current occupants to purchase them below market value. Set up a co-operative with board of directors until there are enough new owners to fill the spots. That would free up millions to do restoration work. The new owners will then have equity and eventually get off welfare so that would save billions. They could then sell their apartments if they choose, and increase value to the neighborhood, creating a new working class.

  52. intelligence quota (iq) is an average predictive indicator of wealth. there is no billionaire with a measured iq of less than 120. the poorest and most destructive are on average the lowest iq, the richest and most constructive have on average the highest iq.
    its an iq thang and nothing but gene therapy (which doesnt exist) will ever fix it.
    the lowest iq create their level of wealth, which is small and destroyed or stolen by other low iq's nearby.
    nobody gives the high iq ppl anything but they are able to create their wealth with their intelligence and it doesnt get stolen bcuz they dont live nearby to low iq destructive ppl.
    resources and money given to low iq ppl is in vain bcuz the low iq ppl usually wont utilise it for self improvement but .. well spend it or destroy it another way. then they beg for more money and/or guilt trip the high iq with the money and repeat the pattern.
    low iq immature ppl blame others, high iq ppl take responsibility and fix their things themselves.
    if there's anybody to blame it's the genes.

  53. As I’m in my last semester in college and I was thinking about writing my research paper on NYCHA development and issues this should be very helpful for me to find research on thanks

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