Decent, Safe, and Sanitary: America’s Quest for Social Housing

Born of the dystopian concept of the nineteenth-century slum, housing reform came of age in the 1930s when reformers, many of them unconventional women, persuaded the United States government to provide low-income Americans with \”decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings.\” Public housing survived but never thrived, while the federal government continued to enact affordable housing programs, some to supplement and some to replace what came before. These piecemeal efforts at social housing have provided dwellings for millions of Americans and seemingly endless controversies-about home, neighborhoods, architecture, race, class, and the proper role of government and private enterprise. Through weekly reading assignments, lectures, and discussions, this course traces the evolving cultural meanings, design, and politics of low-income housing policy in the United States from the nineteenth century to the present. At a time when the Obama administration is assessing federal strategies for housing and urban affairs, the course offers an opportunity to use the lessons of the past to discover a new and effective social housing policy for America. No prerequisites. Besides reading for discussions, students are asked to write short analyses of topics and a research paper on a topic of student???s choice.