Housing standards relate mainly to adequacy of shelter from the elements, light, ventilation, water supply, disposal of waste, privacy, space for play and family gatherings, arrangement and equipment affecting the amount of labor required for housework, appearance and general attractiveness, housekeeping, maintenance, and constant improvement as the family's needs develop and its taste improves. The last statement is not meant as an argument for continual discontent with the best that may be available at any given time, or that a house should undergo extensive alterations once or twice a year. It does mean, however, that a family which resigns itself to accept, as a matter of course, temporary "makeshifts" which it could be reasonably expected to remedy, loses in self-respect, and suffers accordingly. It means that every family can make its home more attractive and livable by constant attention to matters of detail. It means that every time a room is re-papered, or any time the interior decoration is changed the result should be a distinct advance over the old.
Standards vary according to whether the house is on a farm, or in a small town or a suburb or a large city, but many of the principles apply to all classes of houses, and examples chosen from one group may have their counterpart in another.
.... Every child needs plenty of sunlight and fresh air, and is better off in a well-kept house with modern improvements, in which there is enough room for privacy and for the different members of the family to be alone when they wish.
1 Adapted from "Housing Standards," Child Welfare Magazine, May, 1925.
On the other hand, poor sanitation may mean illness and death. Falling plaster, unpainted and never-cleaned woodwork, a general state of disrepair, filth and litter in and about the house, and similar deficiencies, have a depressing effect on an adult or child.
The first element in good housing is the physical structure of the dwelling and its state of repair. Foundations underlie the house. If they are not adequate they will settle unevenly and throw the whole structure and frame of the house out of alignment, resulting in cracked plaster, doors that will not shut, and bulging and sagging floors. The cellar should be dry. The walls and framing of the house need to be well designed, and substantial, if it is to stand square and true through wind and storm, and not shrink out of line as the timber seasons. These and other standards, and the means for realizing them in new construction, are set forth at some length in the Department of Commerce booklet on small dwelling construction.1
The outside walls should be well insulated against cold and heat, and in northern climates window openings should be weatherproof. A good roof is absolutely requisite, for water leaking through stains the wall surfaces and leads to rot and decay. The floors need to be firm, and the plastering, if any, must be on a firm backing and of good workmanship in order that cracks may be as few as possible, and so that it will not drop off.