New Deal Housing Programs

At the time when we watched the NPR podcast on housing discrimination, I had recently heard that there used to be a sign outside Roland Park and Guilford that said “No Blacks, No Jews, No Dogs” until around the 1950s, so it was really interesting to learn about the federal government’s role in this segregation. In addition, in Baltimore, the racial divide is still very evident, as the majority of those in poorer areas are African Americans and the majority of those in wealthier areas are white Americans. I had always wondered how the neighborhoods were so close to each other but one had much bigger and more expensive houses just a few blocks away from the smaller not as nice houses. The New Deal’s housing programs divided cities, labeling black Americans and Jewish Americans to be higher risk, so houses in nice neighborhoods could not be sold to them, mandating housing segregation.

It was interesting to learn that although people generally believe that housing segregation was caused by prejudice, bank redlining, and real estate steering, the federal policies created to segregate all cities established segregation in cities across the United States with effects of which that have lasted to present day. Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) established the Public Works Administration in 1933 to build the housing projects mostly for low income, white Americans, but also built some for African Americans. All of the projects were segregated, which racially divided cities that had previously been integrated. In 1934, FDR established the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that subsidized builders in Suburbs on the terms that they would not sell to African Americans. The builders could only receive FHA loans if they agreed to only sell to White Americans and to require those who purchased the house to sign in the deed to not sell their home to any African Americans. It was interesting to learn how they had no evidence to support the segregation, but the federal government mandated it anyway. They argued that African Americans’ purchasing houses in white neighborhoods would lower property value, but when African Americans moved into White neighborhoods the property value increased, since the African Americans had fewer and worse options for housing, so they were willing to pay more than White Americans. The government also argued the Jewish Americans would lower property value as well, so they were also confined to their own area like the African Americans.

I had only ever viewed the New Deal as a positive program, as its policies helped revive the United States’ economy after the Great Depression, so it was surprising to learn that it is also one main factor of the lasting segregation that I see in Baltimore and that is all around the United States.

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