From International Socialism, No.21, Summer 1965, p.30.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Slums & Social Insecurity
Alvin L. Schorr
Mr Schorr’s book on housing is, unlike so many others, written more out of concern for the problems of the poor than for those of administration. The book is therefore as refreshing in its approach as it is depressing in its conclusions. There are two main themes: the interaction between people and the housing in which they live, and the effects of national housing policy. The author deals mainly with American conditions except for one devastating chapter on Britain but the conclusions also apply in this country.
The second theme is treated in terms of whether policy helps the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. In most cases the answer is no often tragically so. Over the period 1928-32 in Stockton, the death rate in families which moved to new housing was higher than in those remaining in slums. With marginal incomes, higher rent means poorer nutrition. In Britain and the USA public housing does not cater for the poorest. Nor does the provision of housing for the middle classes lead to much filtering down. Houses which do reach the bottom are in a poor condition when they get there. If anything the position is even worse in America than it is here, but this is no consolation for anyone. The poor in both countries tend to be block, rather than city, dwellers and the design of cities for the middle classes for the automobile age can only intensify this distinction. The book is well and carefully written, and backed up by a large number of references. We may forgive the author for not pointing to the obvious conclusions about capitalism as a system indeed it is hardly necessary to do so. Anyone concerned with housing should read this book. Anyone not concerned should, perhaps, be made to.
Last updated on 11.9.2007