Here’s something else from George Kober’s The History of Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, D.C. regarding slum housing:
But even in modern cities unhealthful habitations abound and have been permitted to be erected without interference.
We have them in Washington and Georgetown in considerable number, which greatly increased during the War, when the slave deserted the plantation to find refuge and liberty in the District of Columbia, the only spot at that time in the United States that offered such a boon.
The rapid influx of a negro population, estimated to have been between 30,000 and 40,000, imperatively demanded immediate accommodation. In consequence of this necessity, hovels of every description arose as if by magic. The result of this abnormal growth of a class of people destitute of means and education, ignorant of physical laws, at a time of war and confusion has been the erection of cheap dwellings, as much of the material having been obtained from army camps and hospitals.
That could explain the shanty nature of some of the ‘houses’ pictured in the book and in other places I’ve seen regarding bad DC housing. The weirdest thing is people paid rent to live in these poorly constructed shacks. In 1874 the amount ranged from $2.50-$10.00. In an 1896 survey unfit housing rents were about $8-10.50. What’s that in 2009 dollars? No clue the BLS inflation calculator only goes back to 1913. But $10 1913 dollars equals $214.57 in today’s dollars. Roughly.
Later I will cover overcrowding.