Public Housing, Racial Policies, and Civil Rights: The Inter-Group Relations Branch of the Federal Public Housing Administration, 1936-1963

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Public housing at the federal level was introduced in 1937 and was intended to provide public financing of low cost housing in the form of publicly-managed and owned multifamily developments. Public housing was not originally built to house the "poorest of the poor," but was intended to serve the needs of the "submerged middle class," who were temporarily outside of the labor market during the Depression. After World War II, many working-class families were able to use low-interest mortgages through the VA and FHA to purchase new homes in the suburbs. These mortgage programs were targeted to whites, keeping African Americans concentrated in cities and inner suburbs. This distribution of federal programs and benefits contributed to a downward income shift in the public housing population.

The Inter-Group Relations Branch, 1936-1963

This collection includes directives and memoranda related to the Public Housing Administration’s policies and procedures. Among the documents are civil rights correspondence, statements and policy about race, labor based state activity records, local housing authorities’ policies on hiring minorities, court cases involving housing decisions, racially-restrictive covenants, and newsclippings. The intra-agency correspondence consists of reports on sub-Cabinet groups on civil rights, racial policy, employment, and Commissioner’s staff meetings.

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