The poorhouse: subsidized housing in Chicago, 1895-1976

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Southern Illinois University Press, Jun 1, 1978 - Biography & Autobiography - 254 pages
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The first major study of subsidized housing in any American city, this history of the Chicago experience shows that decisions about the future of public housing to be made in the next few years will if not made in the context of past programs achievements and fail­ures inevitably lead to more “poor­houses” for the indigent and elderly.



Chicago, city of big shoulders, of Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, seems an ideal environment for public housing because of the city’s youth among major cities and well-deserved reputation for technology, innovation, and architecture. Yet, as this seminal new work shows, Chicago’s experience on the whole has been a negative one, raising serious questions about the nature of subsidized housing—about whether we should have it and, if so, in what form.


Devereux Bowly, Jr., is uniquely qualified to write this perceptive ac­count. For Bowly, a lawyer at a com­munity law office in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago, a native of the city, active in landmark preserva­tion organizations, and interested in urban and architectural history, “subsidized housing is an area where my poverty law practice, interest in the his­tory of the city and architecture all came together.”


Bowly’s detailed examination of sub­sidized housing, though specifically that of Chicago, no doubt will have im­plications for establishing new national policy. The achievements of Chicago, especially in architecture, slum clear­ance, and sound, safe, and sanitary housing for poor people, and the deeply disturbing corollary matters of unbear­able costs, population losses, high and increasing default and foreclosure fig­ures, and the large-scale abandonment of housing by owners—the phenomenon of the late 1960s and the 1970s—illuminate a national problem of staggering proportion and thus far un­fathomable dilemma from which we must learn if only to survive, this un­usually interesting book suggests.

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Early Public Housing
The War Years
The Middle Years 5 5

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