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Housing and The New Labor Legislation – America United – NBC Radio – February 27, 1949 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
A Housing Crisis in America – 1948. Legitimate housing shortages were not really new; it was part of the mid-century urban experience. Whether through wars, immigration, shifts in population, or a spike in birthrates, urban centers in America would feel the pinch and the strain every few decades.
In 1948 it was a combination of displaced refugees fleeing obliterated towns and cities in Europe or the encroaching march west of the Soviet Union and the increasing Communist influence. The wave of returning Vets, eager to start new lives and families and the plain simple truth that housing which was never meant to last a long time during the previous crisis, was still in use and at best decrepit.
The landscape was changing – the great move out of congested urban centers into suburbs brought waves of desirous homeowners, flooding hastily constructed communities of tract homes.
We were also in the midst of a post-war baby boom which would continue until the early 1960s. These babies eventually became school-aged children and the problem was amplified by woefully inadequate school size, with students crammed as many as 40 in a classroom space designed for 18. It was only destined to get worse.
And so a campaign was begun to address this issue by creating housing to accommodate this veritable human tsunami – affordable housing – housing which anyone could afford. It also meant revamping deteriorating housing; tearing down whole blocks and rebuilding with new and more efficient apartments.
In this episode of America United, moderator David Brinkley poses several questions about the housing situation and what was the government prepared to do about it.
It’s interesting to note that the current housing crisis and the housing crisis of 1948 are similar only in name. In 1948 there was a legitimate shortage – in 2021 there is no shortage, just a shortage of realistically priced housing and skyrocketing rents that apparently have no end in sight. In 1948 the shortage was fueled by a war and a population explosion – in 2021 the shortage is fueled by an unwillingness on the parts of owners and landlords to be realistic in charging exorbitant rents or homeowners whose motto is “buy cheap – sell high”.
So 2021 is an entirely different world from 1948 – and to get some idea of just how different, here is that episode of America United with David Brinkley from February 1949.
Note: Strangely, the broadcast goes from being about housing to being about the upcoming Taft-Hartley legislation in Congress. This appears to be two entirely different programs, although I have checked several times and find no jarring indication other than a change in names and moderators. I suspect it may have been a crossed network circuit.
In any case, both are interesting programs and give some indication of how complicated our lives were becoming during this era of Cold War.
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