We are now at a point where we are wondering how the United States allowed itself to develop in such a way where we do not see the kind of integration seen elsewhere in the world. We can tell from looking at the history of our country that the main focus has never been on the housing sector but rather other areas of development and economics. In the late 1800s, prior to the development of the housing sector, cities in specific were considered unsanitary and overcrowded. Many buildings were being rushed in the building process leaving occupants with doors that let in cold drafts as well as walls that slowly eroded. During this time through the early 1900s, there was minimal government action to try and improve upon the housing sector and it proved unsuccessful. The Great Depression then struck the world creating even worse problems related to heating and sanitation.
It wasn’t until the 1940s that dealing with housing became a national policy and proper action on improving conditions was not actualized until the 1960s. In comparison to European countries, the United States was far behind at this point with cities in Europe implementing housing restructure programs that brought citizens together. Early planning reforms seemed to only improve upon the aesthetic of cities and housing rather than fixing problems of overcrowding and undesirable living conditions over in the United States. In many places, suggested changes related to housing and architecture were never implemented. For the greater half of the 1900s, the focus was highway development which we see today has failed and been neglected with busier streets occupying most cities rather than pedestrians.
During the early 1900s, organizations were created separate from the government to try and fix these issues. They did what they could during that time to improve upon living conditions but not much could get done without government support. As the government has isolated itself from the issue at large, the result is now that citizens of this country are isolated from each other. These issues were never fully realized by our government and we have adequate housing conditions today thanks to the development of technology that gives us more accurate cuts and placements of housing interior as well as stronger building structure. Architects are also to credit through this time period as we may not have the well designed structures of our homes without their contribution to innovation. I believe that we may have seen better designs of cities earlier in our country’s history had our government aided its citizens in this issue that was predominantly ignored.
Source: Marcuse, Peter. Journal of Urban History, Housing in Early City Planning. Beverly Hills California Volume 6 Issue 2 (Feb 1, 1980)