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Recalling the prehistory of public housing in Texas

Click the picture to watch our interview with Professor Fox.
Click the picture to watch our interview with Professor Fox.

Watch our interview with Professor Fox on the origins of public housing in Texas.

A number of years ago Karen Paup and I set out to document the development of public housing in Texas. This material and more that I will present in future entries are from that project.

Few people can explain why public housing in Texas came to be built as long rows of two story brick apartments.  To find out we talked to Professor Stephen Fox of Rice University.  Professor Fox is an expert of the history and architecture of public housing.

Cedar Springs Place, the first public housing project in Texas, was built in 1937 in Dallas. (photo: National Archives)
National Archives)

The origins of the earliest public housing in Texas dates back to  the Roosevelt Administration.

Acting under the authority of emergency powers the Public Works Administration began to build housing in 1933 for low income families. The purpose was not so much to build the housing but to create work. Roosevelt recognized the employment potential of home building. One third of the unemployed were from the building trades. The Public Works Administration had millions of citizens on its payroll at subsistence wages and it needed work for them.

Housing reformers inspecting poor housing in San Antonio in 1930's. (photo: Institute of Texan Cultures)

I started my commitment to housing justice for people and communities with low incomes in 1975 in Austin's Clarksville community. These years of working side-by-side with dedicated community leaders to find solutions to housing and community development challenges have taught me some things and I’m learning new things every day.

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