Is it an overstatement to characterize the housing reforms of the last 40 years as revolutionary? No! The transition away from the infamous projects was, first of all, very rapid: Relative to the usual slow-as-syrup reform, the United States rather abruptly rejected traditional public housing for families, with President Nixon halting funding in 1973 and President Ford then expanding the voucher system in 1974. The postwar urban renewal projects, ushered in with great fanfare as part of President Truman’s Fair Deal, were quickly left with few defenders.
The tide turned quickly because, as with most revolutions, we were quite convinced that we knew what had gone wrong and why. The main concern among social scientists was that traditional public housing served to concentrate the poor and to isolate them from others.
A SPECIAL ISSUE PARTIALLY FUNDED BY THE JOHN D. AND CATHERINE T. MACARTHUR FOUNDATION