Su casa no es mi casa: Hispanic Housing Conditions in Contemporary America, 1949- 1980
Manuel Mariano Lopez
The period of general prosperity following the close of World War II, aided in large part by the Housing Act of 1949, the Federal Housing Administration's loan program, and the GI benefits packages--including the Veterans Administration's loan program--led to improvements in housing for all Americans. Overall, improvements in housing from 1949 through 1980 were substantial.
Yet contradictions persist. While great improvements have occurred, continuing gaps remain in both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of units occupied by the dominant whites and various minority groups. That housing for Hispanic Americans is better in 1980 than it was in 1970, and presumably in the 1950s and the 1960s, is to miss the essence of the issue at hand. 1
As Myrdal ( 1944: 375) noted, housing is much more than mere shelter; it provides a setting for one's entire social existence. Differential access to housing provides "the base structure for other forms of segregation" ( Johnson , 1944; Hershberg et al., 1979: 57). Being "ill-housed" can mean deprivation along several dimensions such as health, safety, and transportation. Such relative deprivations then lead to differential disadvantages in employment, educational opportunities, and most importantly economic stability.
For the non-Hispanic white population, as families' ability to pay for housing increase so do their options relative to housing: desirability of location, suitability of dwelling for family needs at different life-cycle stages, personal taste, and proximity to employment and other services ( Feagin and Feagin, 1978: 85). The issue, then, is the extent to which Hispanic households have the option in choosing quality housing comparable to those of non-Hispanic white population. 2