.... the improvement of housing conditions, if it is to go far enough to meet the need adequately, must be based on sound economics. Philanthropic housing, housing with a deficit, can never serve more than a favored few. Its great contribution lies not in what it does for its tenants, but in demonstration of methods and their results that may be given general application.
There is probably no subject in the social field which contains so much emotion as housing. It deals with the family, the essential unit of society. It deals with children, with whom lies all the future.
England learned how great is the emotional phase of housing when, at the close of the World War, its soldiers who had fought for their homes returned to find there were no homes for them. In order to avoid worse troubles, England embarked upon a great program of government-built dwellings, though it knew that what it was doing was unsound economically.
We were fortunate in that we had only two years of war with its check on building, as against England's four years. We again were fortunate in that having built our cities to care for a great stream of immigration, the war and later the quota law cut that stream to a driblet. Because of this we had housing accommodations, of a sort, to care for our normal increase of population.
So we were able to go through the crisis without a great government housebuilding program. We were able to continue our dependence upon private enterprise. We must recognize, however, that private enterprise first met the needs of the well-to-do. It did this so well that in many cities we are now over-built in houses costing $8,000 and up. Now private enterprise, in order to keep its organizations going, is looking for new work, is becoming interested in less expensive dwellings. Every time $500 or $1,000 is cut from the price of a house, a new market is opened. Gradually we are approaching the condition of before the war when there was contact between new houses and the poorer old houses and when, in consequence, there was a steady progression of tenants from bad to fair to good to better dwellings.
But we must hasten this process. Slums and slum dwellings are a greater menace to America to-day than they were before the war. The immigration quota, the fact that to-day more than half our population lives in cities and towns, mean that the majority of Americans from now on, the majority of our citizens and workers, will be born and reared in our cities.....
1 From Better Dwellings - Work of the Pittsburgh Housing Association. .
We must face the fact that there always are people who will accept the cheapest thing that is offered, no matter how poor it is, no matter how expensive it will prove in the long run. So, in such a vital matter as housing we must see to it that the poorest offered is at least a fit place in which to live.