The 1937 Housing Act Revisited

in Blueprint for Disaster

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780226360850
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226360874 | DOI:
The 1937 Housing Act Revisited

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Understanding the demise of Chicago's public housing requires a close look at the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, which governed the public housing program with few changes for over thirty years. A coalition of reformers, including progressives concerned with alleviating slum conditions and planners devoted to European modern housing ideas, wrote the act and lobbied for its passage. They faced an uphill battle to convince Congress to break with laissez-faire traditions and to have the state enter directly into housing production and management with public goals in mind. But the reformers successfully communicated a rationale for government intervention, fought off external threats, and won enactment in a remarkable legislative victory. At the time, the act was a triumph of New Deal policymaking, praised by its supporters as a major expansion of state responsibility for the welfare of its citizens. The 1937 Housing Act established three overarching principles that defined the program for decades: federal-local implementation partnership, subsidies, and the market failure ideology that justified state intervention.

Keywords: Chicago; public housing; Housing Act; reformers; progressives; Congress; New Deal; subsidies; market failure; state intervention

Chapter.  8050 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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