July 28, 1933: Low Cost Housing & Slum Clearance

I really have little to add to what Shaw & Bloomingdale bloggers have to say about the various things going on, so I’m going to go to history and type up more of City Planner John Nolen’s report “Low Cost Housing and Slum Clearance Opportunities in Washington Under the Public Works Administration”. I previously typed up the section “Washington’s Problem”. The following is “Objectives of a Housing Program”:

Many reports on this subject by Mr. [John] Ihlder and others to this Commission have indicated that the following program should be followed.

1. Concentrate on the elimination of the alley slums.

2. Provide suitable housing for the alley population either by repair or reconstruction of existing vacant street dwellings, or by the building of entirely new housing. New housing might well be for not only the alley population but similar economic and social elements of a population not now adequately housed.

3.Through the rehabilitation of blighted areas, pressure would be relieved on better neighborhoods inducting the natural flow of capital by private initiative for other modern reconstruction as the inevitable result of the rehabilitation of the areas originally causing the shift in population.

It may be that the present situation and opportunities will make advisable some change in the order of this program; for example,- the population in the alleys has been increased by the depression whereas the street vacancies in the same neighborhoods have increased. This situation will make more difficult the acquisition of alley property at fair prices, as well as work a hardship on the unfortunate elements of the alley population. At the same time the widespread increase in street vacancies may mean a willingness on the part of owners to sell their property at reasonable prices. A housing development only incidentally involving inhabited alleys as the first step to be taken may thus well take advantage of natural economic conditions.

-From part of a Report by John Nolen to the National Capital Planning Commission, July 28, 1933. Found in the appendix to the July 1933 minutes. National Archives and Records Administration, RG 328, A1-15.

4 thoughts on “July 28, 1933: Low Cost Housing & Slum Clearance”

  1. I never understood the tendencies of property owners, slum lords, and churches in DC who just sit on properties until they rot. It’s inconceivable anywhere else in this country. The values only drop when the properties rot, so why do they let it happen? Is it just laziness? I honestly don’t understand how this happens.

    I do know that more attention is being focused on these vacant slum-lord owned properties, such as 424 Q (owned by Vincent Abell) and other properties on that block. 424 Q has some new residents lately! I love my new squatter neighbors, all 3 of them. The police can’t go in the property to actually check, so their hands are tied. In the mean time they poop in the alley.

    Someone on the block suggested we all go to the slum lord’s address in Silver Spring and poop in his driveway. I like that idea.

  2. The definition of “slum” is changing.

    I don’t have a direct link, but check out this Nashville blog:

    And watch the video about the housing crisis in Southern California.

    Neighborhoods such as those are finished in terms of the middle class American dream. Who will inhabit them in the future?

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