Housing and History

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I'm looking at a Washington Post article from Jan. 23, 1972 titled "'Fair Share' Housing Beset by Problems", and there is a photo with the caption, "Dora Crowder points to fire-damaged door that was not replaced at her home at 1## Bates St. N.W."** The article starts off describing the home as having missing plaster, saggy ceilings, and rodent issues, but Mrs. Crowder said it was better than the place she lived before. The place has greatly improved since the 70s, and the 80s, and possibly the 90s. I was planning to somehow tie that in with Paul K. William's recent post about the building of Bates Street.

Yet my thoughts wander to all the various public or publically financed housing schemes that I've encountered in my general research and writing this blog. Possibly in a pile (a pile which must be in a box somewhere) there are papers, most likely from the Alley Dwelling Authority, about public housing in Washington, DC in the 30s and 40s that is so unlike what we think of public housing today. Think of Greenbelt and what it was supposed to be and what it was, and that was supposed to be replicated in DC. But something, happened. There was a war, the population of DC started going down and then jump to the housing plans of the 60s with urban renewal and the Model Cities. Then following there are various church led housing projects such as Lincoln Westmoreland and Immaculate Conception (now 1330 or 1300). There is also the building of the co-ops. Then later there is Section 8/ Housing Choice vouchers, so after 50, 70 odd years there is this hodge podge of various housing programs and plans which are still being lived out or have legacies which I wonder if anyone thought out and wondered what will this look like in 30-50 years.

In a recent WCP Housing Complex post, the Housing Authority Chief testified saying:

I don't think we have had that kind of conversation here in a meaningful way. I think that when public housing was created, it was meant to be an up and out. it was meant to be temporary, for soldiers and families. You came home from the war, and went on your merry way. And lots of different rules in the 60s and 70s changed who we housed, and how they were housed.

Honestly when I look at the housing authority papers from the 30s and 40s and the 60s, I don't really see that much forethought. I see a history of alley dwelling and slum dwelling clearance, dealing with the problems in the present and hoping that there is a gleaming future just across the ridge. 


** I blocked out the number because my ex-roommate lives there and I want to give a head's up.

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