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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

The Latest Housing Scandal

(6 January 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 1, 6 January 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

To say that New York City is the center of the world is not a patriotic exaggeration. It is the simple truth. It is the guiding brain of United States capitalism whose economic, political, and military pre-eminence is today seriously challenged only by Russia. If the United States is not the cultural master of the globe it is because that in this period of capitalism’s decay its recent contributions to human culture have been relatively modest and that amid the ashes of intellectual Europe a few bright embers glow.

In this city, whose powers and possessions make the wealth and influence of the Athens of the Age of Pericles seem like the worldly goods of a gifted child, live 7,500,000 people. About one out of ten are veterans; 765,000 of them returned from the war hoping to find a home and to pick up again the delightful monotony of living. They were cruelly disappointed. There are 85,000 applications on file with the New York Housing Authority alone “for permanent or temporary housing of any kind.”

The Incredible Truth

Fantastic though it may seem in this city of apartment dwellers, despite the crying need not a single new apartment house was built in the first ten months of 1946. This isn’t Düren, Cologne, Caen, or Hiroshima – it’s New York City, the richest city in the world!

The astonishingly pitiful record in the creation of other types of housing is revealed by construction statistics:

One-family houses



Two-family houses


Units derived from remodeling


Temporary apartments in quonset
huts and rebuilt barracks


Dormitory rooms


The incredible total


Thus, by adding together every possible nook, cranny, clothes-closet, and rumor of a clothes-closet, a trickle of shelter was squeezed out in a Sahara of need. To top it off, more “New York families than ever before are being put out of their homes through eviction orders ...”

Real Estate Cracks The Whip – Truman Jumps Through The Hoop

In the face of such typical conditions Truman’s revision of the government housing policy-under the friendly pressure of the real estate boys was so scandalous that even the newspapers felt constrained to protest. Norton E. Long, the resigning assistant national housing administrator, called the new program “a fraud perpetrated on veterans ....”

The new policy does the following:

  1. Removes the $10,000 ceiling price on new homes. This will result in the production of the more profitable higher-cost dwelling – which will be out of the reach of even those veterans able to buy the $10,000 home.
  2. Encourages commercial and industrial construction – at the expense of low-cost, housing.
  3. Delivers a blow at prefabricated housing manufacturing through failure to correct the Reconstruction Finance Corporation’s abuse of its loan facilities.
  4. Fails to broaden and ease financing of rental projects by the FHA.
  5. Abolishes, quality standards.
  6. Attacks rent ceilings in permitting ceilings of $100, if the project average is $80.

There’s the dead-end of all the promises to the boys overseas, the glowing housing newsreels, the cardboard models, the pre-election oratory, the dream castles of the women’s magazines.


Do you remember those days two years ago or so when you and the rest of the guys were lying around in some French orchard in a rest area, speculating about that vague future state known as Civilian Life? If you were like us you were saying, “I’m so used to the army that when I get back I bet I won’t rent a house. I’ll just take my entrenching tool and go in the back yard and dig in.” It was, under the conditions, a pretty funny gag. But there’s very little humor in the current housing crisis.

The situation calls for bold action on a national scale. The Workers Party program calls for d 250 billion dollar five-year program to provide decent housing at low rental for all,” the aim to be the construction of 25 million permanent low-cost housing units. Does this seem absurd? This country spent an estimated $317,600,000,000 for war material to prosecute World War II, a genuine absurdity. Let a similar mobilization be made for peace. Nothing less will suffice.

Truman’s latest action once again demonstrates the necessity for the creation of an independent labor party – independent of both the republicans and the democrats, who, however they may differ in some things, are united in one:

Hatred of the working class.

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