Historic Context for Public Housing in the United States, 1950-1980

Rosin Preservation prepared a national context for public housing developed in the mid- to late-twentieth century for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The document expands on the existing context Public Housing in the United States, 1939-1949. It presents historical, social, political, architectural, and landscape trends during the period of significance and describes the types of public housing developments and development components that were constructed. Research delved into the social and political debates about race and class that fueled both the legislation that enabled the construction of public housing and also prevented housing development from achieving the full scope intended by its champions. Beginning in the 1950s, these debates illustrated shifts in the perceived intention of the government’s role in providing housing, where it should be located, and who was worthy of receiving it. The systemic racism prevalent throughout American society, including within the administration of the program, contributed to both the increased demand for public housing and the increasingly negative perception, particularly among whites, of people who relied on public housing. Despite consistent underfunding of public housing programs and the lack of comprehensive services and programs to address the problems that created the need for public housing, HUD retains ownership of a large portion of the public housing building stock constructed between 1950 and 1980.  HUD envisions that Rosin Preservation’s work will help public housing authorities determine if a property is considered historic and plan for a compliant and efficient review process when changes are contemplated.