"The Crisis of Housing : The Crisis in Housing"

Kathleen O'Donnell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


I consider the decision to construct two phases of Chicago Public Housing as a Capitalist response to the Crisis of Housing in America during the 30’s and the 50’s in context of the intellectual, Scientific, and Active thought of the Pragmatic Reformers from the University of Chicago with their imposed system of consumer ‘values’ of land; the economic, the social and the moral, on the abstract figurative grid of the City. In the 80’s those same Housing communities become ‘the Crisis’. ‘The Projects’ become ‘valueless’ ‘no longer viable’ with the decision to ultimately demolition of these communities. Who was at threat? The origin of ‘value’ is first defined as the abstract concept of space and time assigned to the land of Chicago’s Grid as part the intellectual project of the Chicago School of Social ecology and School of Political Science including the authorship of zoning laws that intent to actively reduce the social disorder of neighborhood through uniformity of building appearance and use around uniform land values of neighborhood blocks much in the same way the Taylor mapped separation of labor on the factory grid to equalize labor and to make efficiency in processes defined with his work on the Scientific Method. ‘The Crisis of Housing’ is shown to produced both local and federal responses to the emergency through three types of housing; 1]the private sector single family bungalow of the 20’s; 2] the early pre WW2 public housing units exemplar of the Ida B. Wells Homes; and 3] the technical/specialist response of highrise housing exemplar of the Robert Taylor Homes. Each housing type reflects difference in: 1] modern views of the urban subject in relationship to the production of capitalism and; 2] land ‘value’ types and 3] the spatial intentionality in relationship of the grid. The land ‘value’ generated by difference is shown to drive the placement of housing throughout Chicago and to drive patterns of community mobility. ‘The Crisis in Housing’ arises when the public housing communities evolve as informal economies with no perceived measurable values and the ‘valueless land’ reduces the value of the grid beyond the neighboring blocks. Recent histories of public housing assign blame to this last ‘Crisis in Housing’ on the moral and social behavior failures of individual residents, the economic and class homogeneity of the communities or the failure of the housing authorities to provide adequate maintenance to name a few. All may contribute, but fail to reflect on the transformative impact of these 25,000 family homes on Chicago’s urban systems. The collapse of the Capitalist economy in Chicago not only includes abandonment of parts of the city from loss of production, such as the stock yards and steel industries, but follows the collapse of the ‘value’ of Land and the subsequent injustice of the civitas. I expose these ‘values’ as constructive elements of the city through the understanding the subject and spatial intention and utilizing Chicago’s abstract grid as a framework.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhatever Happened to the Twentieth Century: Modernity and its Discontents
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
EventWhatever Happened to the Twentieth Century: Modernity and its Discontents - Netherlands
Duration: 3 Jan 0001 → …


ConferenceWhatever Happened to the Twentieth Century: Modernity and its Discontents
Period3/01/01 → …


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