A Historical Review of Changes in Public Housing Policies and Their Impacts on Minorities
The federal government has played an important role in the provision of housing for racial minorities, particularly blacks, since the inception of the public housing program in 1937. Indeed, nearly a half century after the passage of the federal Housing Act of 1937, state-owned housing for the nonelderly has become, to a large extent, minority housing. A major reason for this is the fact that, unlike the experience of governments in housing markets in most of the advanced industrial societies of Western Europe, subsidized rental housing did not become a universal program, but was instead targeted to the poorest stratum of American society. The consequence has been a program beset by a lack of public support, resulting in a situation where the approximately 1.2 million units that have been constructed constitute less than 3 percent of the nation's total housing stock. This chapter examines changes in governmental policies regulating the public housing program over time, focusing on the effects of these policies on racial minorities.
One of the remarkable things about the program is that early supporters in the academic community and among social reformers frequently voiced second thoughts about the efficacy of government-owned housing, and within the span of three decades the overall assessments and perceptions of the program had changed dramatically. Once seen as not only part of the solution to the housing needs of the poor, but as a social locus wherein the pathologies generated by poverty would dissipate, public housing is now frequently seen as part of the problem. It is illustrative to contrast two sociologists whose views rather succinctly depict these changes. In 1940,