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Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division

Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division

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The Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division of the Federal Works Agency
Federal Works Agency
The Federal Works Agency was an independent agency of the Federal government of the United States which administered a number of public construction, building maintenance, and public works relief functions and laws from 1939 to 1949...

 part of the United States government, operating from about 1940 to 1942 under the leadership of Colonel Lawrence Westbrook
Lawrence Westbrook (politician)
Colonel Lawrence Westbrook was a Texan politician and official in the Roosevelt administration. He was born 23 August 1889 in Belton, Texas and was a 1908 graduate of the University of Texas and later the University of Texas Law School. Colonel Westbrook also served as a member of the Texas...

, was an attempt by the United States Government, late in the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

, to respond to the housing needs facing defense workers and develop housing projects for middle-income families utilizing the cooperative/mutual
Mutual organization
A mutual, mutual organization, or mutual society is an organization based on the principle of mutuality. Unlike a true cooperative, members usually do not contribute to the capital of the company by direct investment, but derive their right to profits and votes through their customer relationship...

 housing ownership concept. Under pressure by entrenched real estate interests and intense and competing resource needs caused by World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Division lasted for only two years. As stated in the Second Annual Report of the Federal Works Agency:


"As a group, defense workers were also poor candidates for individual home ownership because the duration of their employment was uncertain, and because few of them had savings adequate to finance the downpayment on new homes. Recognizing these characteristics, attention was given early to some special form of housing to meet squarely the economic problem of the defense worker and one which, at the same time, might lead to an ultimate solution of the housing problems of millions of other American families of similar economic status."


Limited staffing resources within the Division also resulted in poor management practices, and a number of the projects were investigated for cost overruns and poor construction standards. Although only eight projects were ever built by the Division, all but one were eventually purchased from their government by their residents and continue to operate as mutual home corporations as of 2009. The Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division projects can be considered a rare but important example of successful public housing within the United States.

During its very brief existence - from the autumn of 1940 to the winter of 1942 - the Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division built the following eight projects.
Project Location Dwelling
Units
Development
Cost
Year Purchased
from Government
Current Status
Audubon Park
Audubon Park, New Jersey
Audubon Park is a Borough in Camden County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 1,023.Audubon Park was incorporated as a borough on July 3, 1947, from portions of Audubon Borough, based on the results of a referendum held on October 28, 1947,...

Audubon, New Jersey 500 $2,321,000 1947 Owned and Maint. Audubon Mutual Housing Corp.
Avion Village Grand Prairie, Texas
Grand Prairie, Texas
Grand Prairie is a city in Dallas, Ellis, and Tarrant counties in the U.S. state of Texas and is a part of the Mid-Cities region in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex. Grand Prairie is a suburb of both Dallas and Fort Worth and had a population of 175,396 at the 2010 census.- History :The city of...

300 $920,000 1948 Owned and Maint. Avion Village Housing Corp.
Bellmawr Park Bellmawr, New Jersey
Bellmawr, New Jersey
-Local government:Bellmawr is governed under the borough form of New Jersey municipal government. The government consists of a mayor and a borough council comprising six council members, with all positions elected at large. A mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office...

500 $2,321,000 1953 Owned and Maint. Bellmawr Mutual Housing Corp.
Dallas Park Dallas, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas and the ninth-largest in the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the largest metropolitan area in the South and fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States...

300 $972,000 1948 Mutual Ownership Corp. dissolved
Pennypack Woods Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

1,000 $4,367,000 1952 Owned and Maint. Pennypack Woods Home Ownership Assoc.
Greenmont Village Dayton, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
Dayton is the 6th largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County, the fifth most populous county in the state. The population was 141,527 at the 2010 census. The Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 841,502 in the 2010 census...

500 $2,385,000 1947 Owned and Maint. Greenmont Village Mutual Housing Corp.
Walnut Grove South Bend, Indiana
South Bend, Indiana
The city of South Bend is the county seat of St. Joseph County, Indiana, United States, on the St. Joseph River near its southernmost bend, from which it derives its name. As of the 2010 Census, the city had a total of 101,168 residents; its Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 316,663...

250 $1,149,000 1947 Owned and Maint. Walnut Grove Mutual Housing Corp.
Winfield Park Winfield Township, New Jersey
Winfield Township, New Jersey
Winfield Township is a township in Union County, New Jersey, in the United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township population decreased to a record low of 1,471...

700 $3,704,000 1950 Owned and Maint. Winfield Park Mutual Housing Corp.


Additional projects were planned but never built as Mutual Ownership Defense Housing project in Alcoa, Tennessee (250 Units), Long Beach, California (600 Units), Beaumont, Texas (600 Units), Buffalo, New York (1,050 Units), Coatsville, Pennsylvania (300 Units), Coatesville, Pennsylvania (100 Units).

Late New Deal Public Housing


By the middle of the 1930s the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration began to bring attention to the housing plight of lower-income groups in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Many of the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

 administrators became convinced that decent housing was the right of every citizen, and believed it the duty of the government to find ways to provide such housing. A decentralized lower-income housing program was developed, which relied heavily on local community involvement, organization and input. Financial and administrative support for this initiative were provided by the federal government. In support of this effort, a well-developed public relations
Public relations
Public relations is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc....

 campaign was begun to promote and explain the need for public housing, and to establish popular support for the program. Some administrators of the housing program were not satisfied with assisting only the lower-income groups. They asked why programs could not be expanded to assist the middle-income groups in finding decent, affordable housing
Affordable housing
Affordable housing is a term used to describe dwelling units whose total housing costs are deemed "affordable" to those that have a median income. Although the term is often applied to rental housing that is within the financial means of those in the lower income ranges of a geographical area, the...

. Able to afford higher rents, yet often unable to accumulate the required down payments for ownership
Ownership
Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be an object, land/real estate or intellectual property. Ownership involves multiple rights, collectively referred to as title, which may be separated and held by different parties. The concept of ownership has...

, members of the middle-income group found it very difficult, if not impossible, to make the jump from rental housing to home ownership. Affordable housing
Affordable housing
Affordable housing is a term used to describe dwelling units whose total housing costs are deemed "affordable" to those that have a median income. Although the term is often applied to rental housing that is within the financial means of those in the lower income ranges of a geographical area, the...

 plans were developed but were unable to garner the necessary support within government circles, and they were filed away to await a time when the environment would be right for implementation. Surprisingly, the wait was not long. Just prior to direct American involvement in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the nation entered an emergency period of military buildup that required the development of housing for the middle-income defense workers then streaming into defense plants across the country. The nation's entire public housing program needed to adjust quickly to the needs of the middle-income worker, and the proposals for housing programs—filed away just a few years earlier—were dusted off. During this relatively brief period of time (1940–1941) just prior to the outbreak of war and its accompanying material shortages and limitations, housing officials had a great deal of freedom to implement these experimental middle-income housing plans.

The Housing Act of 1937
Housing Act of 1937
The Housing Act of 1937, sometimes called the Wagner-Steagall Act, provided for subsidies to be paid from the U.S. government to local public housing agencies to improve living conditions for low-income families....

 directed that initial motivation, maintenance, and partial funding of the housing program originate as the local level. The federal government would now provide loans and subsidy assistance to local public housing agencies for the construction and operation of projects for "families whose incomes are so low that they cannot afford adequate housing provided by private enterprise." Those involved actively with public housing were generally pleased with this readjustment in operations. One federal publication stated that "..we must remember that in 1931, Government housing was only a dream of progressives. Today it is a fact and there is strong reason to believe that, in the near future, it will be recognized as a permanent necessity..." The United States Housing Authority
United States Housing Authority
The United States Housing Authority, or USHA, was an agency created during 1937 as part of the New Deal.It was designed to lend money to the states or communities for low-cost construction. Units for about 650,000 low-income people but mostly homeless were started...

 (USHA) was soon established to facilitate the implementation of the Housing Act of 1937
Housing Act of 1937
The Housing Act of 1937, sometimes called the Wagner-Steagall Act, provided for subsidies to be paid from the U.S. government to local public housing agencies to improve living conditions for low-income families....

. The USHA was charged with the responsibility for the development and administration of all federal public housing programs. One of the Authority's first efforts was the implementation of a public relations campaign to establish popular support for the housing program that would help blunt attacks from the construction industry and others enemies. Public Housing was a highly polished monthly publication distributed as part of this public relations campaign. This publication not only discussed the benefits and justifications of public housing programs, but charted progress on a national scale. Many other government agency publications also took a very protective and supportive—some might say radical—tone concerning the newly established United States Housing Authority
United States Housing Authority
The United States Housing Authority, or USHA, was an agency created during 1937 as part of the New Deal.It was designed to lend money to the states or communities for low-cost construction. Units for about 650,000 low-income people but mostly homeless were started...

 and its mission:


"A clear-cut opposition (to public housing) has been formed of which the spearhead is the Realtor. He sees in this work an invasion of the field of private initiative and contends that Government housing projects subject him to unfair and ruinous competition
Competition
Competition is a contest between individuals, groups, animals, etc. for territory, a niche, or a location of resources. It arises whenever two and only two strive for a goal which cannot be shared. Competition occurs naturally between living organisms which co-exist in the same environment. For...

... Every attempt is being made to restrict competition with private enterprise to that restricted field where operators exploit the misery of the underprivileged. Here the competition is deliberate and amply justified."


Many public housing officials in the Roosevelt Administration were progressives, and had strong convictions about the right of all citizens to inexpensive, quality housing. The provision of decent housing seemed to many of these officials to be a key to the preservation of democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 during the dark days of the Depression
Depression (economics)
In economics, a depression is a sustained, long-term downturn in economic activity in one or more economies. It is a more severe downturn than a recession, which is seen by some economists as part of the modern business cycle....

. Housing was simply too important a concern to be left only to private industry, labor, or even individual citizens; they believed it was the responsibility of the government to take the lead. Sentiments such as these quickly led to the consideration of public housing programs for those other than just the low-income groups. But the government creation of middle-income housing projects was viewed by many members of the nation's building and real estate industry to be a much larger threat to their livelihood than that designed for the lower-income group. Although pressure from these groups did not stop the development of innovative middle-income housing programs, it did stop those programs from being implemented during the 1930s.

In 1939, the Federal Works Agency (FWA) was established with the aim of consolidating all government public works
Public works
Public works are a broad category of projects, financed and constructed by the government, for recreational, employment, and health and safety uses in the greater community...

 programs, including those for public housing, into one agency
Government agency
A government or state agency is a permanent or semi-permanent organization in the machinery of government that is responsible for the oversight and administration of specific functions, such as an intelligence agency. There is a notable variety of agency types...

. This new agency became responsible for the United States Housing Authority
United States Housing Authority
The United States Housing Authority, or USHA, was an agency created during 1937 as part of the New Deal.It was designed to lend money to the states or communities for low-cost construction. Units for about 650,000 low-income people but mostly homeless were started...

(USHA), its planning and operations; under a great deal of pressure, the FWA promptly filed away the newly developed plans for middle-income housing initiatives. However, few of those involved in the design process forgot about these innovative ideas, and hoped that one day they would be reconsidered.

Defense Housing Programs


The 1940s began in a state of global crisis as the European and Asian Wars began rapidly expanding into what would eventually be known as the World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, although officially neutral
Neutral country
A neutral power in a particular war is a sovereign state which declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents. A non-belligerent state does not need to be neutral. The rights and duties of a neutral power are defined in Sections 5 and 13 of the Hague Convention of 1907...

, was busily taking defensive measures to ensure national security, while also attempting to assist friendly nations already in the midst of the fighting through measures such as the Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease was the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and 1945. It was signed into law on March 11, 1941, a year and a half after the outbreak of war in Europe in...

 program with Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. The corresponding expansion of defense industries, especially those located along coastal areas, and the massive migration of workers into these booming regions, created a serious housing shortage that demanded immediate government intervention. On June 20, 1940, the Congress passed the National Defense Bill. Shortly thereafter, on June 28, the 1937 United States Housing Act was amended, instructing the USHA to waive income requirements for potential public housing residents, and to apply all remaining monies from low-income housing projects into efforts to house defense workers. Additionally, monies were made available for defense housing through the President's Emergency Defense Fund. In July, 1940, President Roosevelt created the position of the Defense Housing Coordinator to oversee the new defense housing effort. Out of political necessity this position possessed only limited authority, and the Coordinator was instructed by the Presidential directive to fit the defense housing program into the decentralized public housing program already in existence since the 1930s. Real authority for the Defense Housing effort would remain vested in the FWA and its administrator, John Carmody (This administrative structure would last only until early 1942, when wartime limitations not only permitted but necessitated far greater centralization.)

The establishment of the defense housing program accelerated quickly after the passage of National Housing for Defense Act of 1940 (also known as the Lanham Act) by Congress on October 14, 1940, which provided $140,000,000 for defense housing construction. The Lanham Act specified that, "The housing is to be wherever feasible of a permanent nature, and after the emergency has passed these homes are to be disposed of, and in that way the Government is to recoup the initial investment... and they will be available for permanent homes." The cost per unit was set at, and not permitted to exceed, $3000. By its very nature, defense housing was primarily constructed for the middle-income employees of the defense industry. The Act also empowered the Federal Works Agency (FWA) to overrule local governmental resistance and regulations in order to expedite construction. Additionally, it ensured that the host communities of defense housing projects would receive payments from the federal government, in lieu of taxes "equivalent to full ad valorem tax
Ad valorem tax
An ad valorem tax is a tax based on the value of real estate or personal property. It is more common than a specific duty, a tax based on the quantity of an item, such as cents per kilogram, regardless of price....

, less the cost of any municipal services provided by the project". During the war years the Lanham Act was regularly amended by Congress in order to provide additional funds for housing and to adjust various aspects of the Act, especially its impact on local communities. By 1945, almost 9,000,000 individuals had been provided with housing. Total costs approached $7.5 billion ($5.2 billion private financing and $2.3 billion public financing), with the average unit costing $4,566.00.

The Federal Works Agency, as the principal governmental agency responsible for construction, maintenance and disposal of defense housing constructed prior to 1942, established three goals for its efforts:


1. To provide housing to defense workers as quickly as was possible.

2. To provide housing to defense workers as inexpensively as possible,"in accordance with the permanent or temporary character of the need and prospective uses of the facilities."

3. To provide to employees housing of a quality and standard that "benefits the defense personnel for whom the housing is constructed, and for the purpose of realizing the maximum permanent public benefit to be derived from the new housing."


The concept behind mutual home ownership was developed in the late 1930s and filed away by the FWA as were other middle income housing plans. But the emergency guidelines and policies outlined by the Lanham Act, the goals of the FWA, the availability of necessary resources, and the decentralized administrative structure for the development of public housing all contributed to an ideal environment for experimentation in public middle-income housing. The mutual housing concept was taken off the shelf, to be tried as an experimental community. An entirely new office was established by FWA in support of this effort. Headed by Colonel Lawrence Westbrook
Lawrence Westbrook (politician)
Colonel Lawrence Westbrook was a Texan politician and official in the Roosevelt administration. He was born 23 August 1889 in Belton, Texas and was a 1908 graduate of the University of Texas and later the University of Texas Law School. Colonel Westbrook also served as a member of the Texas...

, this office was known as the Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division.

Mutual Home Ownership Concept


One of the United States government's plans for middle-class housing was the Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division of the Federal Works Agency (also sometimes referred to as the "Camden Plan" in honor of the city closest to the first project at Audubon, New Jersey). From the conception of the Division; through the development of its eight projects;, and to its demise at the hands of inept management, wartime limitations and shortages, and attacks from powerful enemies was only a short few years. By the conclusion of the Second World War, the Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division was all but forgotten. The Division's eight projects were presented by critics as unworkable and highly unattractive projects in the economic and political environment of the post-war period. But almost seventy years later, all but one (Dallas Park) of these projects is reported as continuing to operate as highly successful mutual housing corporations. The passage by the United States Congress of the Housing Act of 1937
Housing Act of 1937
The Housing Act of 1937, sometimes called the Wagner-Steagall Act, provided for subsidies to be paid from the U.S. government to local public housing agencies to improve living conditions for low-income families....

 can be thought of as a reaction to criticisms of earlier New Deal low-income housing programs operated through the office of the Federal Emergency Administrator of Public Works. Many officials were concerned about the over-centralization and disregard for local involvement and control in these early experimental programs.

The Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Program, as designed by Westbrook and his team, called for government construction of houses or apartments to be occupied—and eventually owned—by middle-income defense workers. A key to the plan was the commitment made by the federal government to sell the projects, at the conclusion of the emergency period, to a non-profit Mutual Housing Corporation made up of the projects' residents. This cooperative
Cooperative
A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit...

, non-profit corporation would be initially supported and advised by the government and later turned over completely to the members. This corporation would be responsible for amortizing the government backed mortgage
Mortgage loan
A mortgage loan is a loan secured by real property through the use of a mortgage note which evidences the existence of the loan and the encumbrance of that realty through the granting of a mortgage which secures the loan...

 over a 45 year period through monthly payments that included a 3% interest charge on the unpaid balance. Each of the project's residents would be a member of the corporation, and receive a contract from the corporation entitling him/her to perpetual use of his/her unit and one share of stock in the corporation. The monthly payment made by each member to the corporation would include individual amortization
Amortization (business)
In business, amortization refers to spreading payments over multiple periods. The term is used for two separate processes: amortization of loans and amortization of intangible assets.-Amortization of loans:...

 payments based on a 30 year rate, as well as set costs for maintenance, taxes, insurance, major repairs, etc. Each share was interchangeable among residents, thus allowing families to easily exchange different size units as family sizes and needs changed over the years.

As an added bonus, each member would build ownership equity
Ownership equity
In accounting and finance, equity is the residual claim or interest of the most junior class of investors in assets, after all liabilities are paid. If liability exceeds assets, negative equity exists...

 within the corporation,


"since, during the amortization
Amortization (business)
In business, amortization refers to spreading payments over multiple periods. The term is used for two separate processes: amortization of loans and amortization of intangible assets.-Amortization of loans:...

 period, the tenant is paying off his share of the mortgage in 30 years, rather than the 45 years allowed the corporation, he is in effect enabling the corporation to make prepayments on the principal owed to the Government. In this way he builds up an equity, or cash value, equal to the original value of the house, less depreciation
Depreciation
Depreciation refers to two very different but related concepts:# the decrease in value of assets , and# the allocation of the cost of assets to periods in which the assets are used ....

 and less the amount of principal still unpaid. Should he wish to withdraw from the project the equity is returnable to him in cash. Moreover, if for hardship reasons such as unemployment or illness he is unable to meet his monthly payments, the equity can be drawn upon to tide him over."


This equity could also be available to the Corporation as an emergency fund.

In a mutual home ownership corporation, rents are kept low by creating an economy of scale. There are also savings for mass-construction, improved land use, centralized facilities, operating economies, and maintaining a non-profit status. Costs can also be contained—although controversially—by the federal government providing all necessary public works (i.e. sewers, streets, curbs, sidewalks) through the Works Progress Administration
Works Progress Administration
The Works Progress Administration was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects...

 (WPA). According to Colonel Lawrence Westbrook, membership in the community should be based on a process in which individuals of predominantly similar income groups from a cross-section of area occupations, and from different age groups, are selected. These demographics
Demographics
Demographics are the most recent statistical characteristics of a population. These types of data are used widely in sociology , public policy, and marketing. Commonly examined demographics include gender, race, age, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment status, and even location...

 made the community less vulnerable to economic crisis, while the differing family sizes and space needs allowed for flexibility in housing requirements. Plans called for the final selling price of the Mutual Housing project to be set through negotiations between two separate appraiser
Appraiser
An appraiser , is one who sets a value upon property, real or personal. In England the business of an appraiser is usually combined with that of an auctioneer, while the word itself has a similar meaning to that of "valuer." In the United States, the most common usage relates to real estate...

s-- one representing the federal government and the other representing the Corporation—and title would be transferred at the 20% amortization point.

Advantages of the Mutual Housing Plan


Testifying before Congress in the summer of 1941, Colonel Westbrook outlined the following advantages that he believed would result from the implementation of the Mutual Housing program:


Advantages for Workers
  1. Permits the building of substantial financial reserves for bad times through the elimination of down payment
    Down payment
    Down payment is a payment used in the context of the purchase of expensive items such as a car and a house, whereby the payment is the initial upfront portion of the total amount due and it is usually given in cash at the time of finalizing the transaction.A loan is then required to make the full...

    s and high rents for housing.
  2. Allows interchangeability of housing units to account for changing family conditions.
  3. Enables a family to maintain a substantial investment in a "facility in which it will always have a personal need."
  4. Prevents individual foreclosures through cooperative risk sharing.
  5. Group maintenance and repair is possible and can be accomplished at less cost while also maintaining a uniform community appearance.
  6. During times of financial stress the program will permit large-scale refinancing and a more effective means for investment protection.


Advantages for the Government
  1. Affords a better protection for the Government's investment by reason of the occupants' direct concern and interest in their homes.
  2. Eliminates a sudden flood of housing in the real estate market at the conclusion of the emergency, because "occupants in the Mutual Housing program will have been selected on the basis of their probable permanence, high credit ratings.."
  3. Improves the chance of recouping original investment by permitting the purchase of the project by its residents.
  4. Creates a stable and responsible community with lower defense worker turn-over.
  5. Creates a new and valuable pattern for home building.


Advantages for the Host Community
  1. Acquires a group of carefully selected stable new citizens.
  2. "Full participation of the residents of the project in community affairs and in the sharing of the community expenses."


Supporters


Among the first groups to support (and continue to support) the plans of the Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division was the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America, a member union of the Congress of Industrial Organizations
Congress of Industrial Organizations
The Congress of Industrial Organizations, or CIO, proposed by John L. Lewis in 1932, was a federation of unions that organized workers in industrial unions in the United States and Canada from 1935 to 1955. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 required union leaders to swear that they were not...

 (CIO). Representatives from the Kearny, New Jersey
Kearny, New Jersey
Kearny is a town in Hudson County, New Jersey, United States. It was named after Civil War general Philip Kearny. As of the United States 2010 Census, the town population was 40,684. The town is a suburb of the nearby city of Newark....

, Local spoke before Congress in support of initiatives put in place by the Lanham Act, while representatives of the Camden, New Jersey
Camden, New Jersey
The city of Camden is the county seat of Camden County, New Jersey. It is located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 77,344...

, Local were among the first to benefit from the mutual housing program itself, with the construction of Audubon Park
Audubon Park, New Jersey
Audubon Park is a Borough in Camden County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 1,023.Audubon Park was incorporated as a borough on July 3, 1947, from portions of Audubon Borough, based on the results of a referendum held on October 28, 1947,...

, built just outside of Camden. For many years the entire program itself was better known as the "Camden Plan." In a Congressional hearing during March, 1941, a union representative stated that:


"In the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the workers, who will live in the homes, the (Mutual Ownership) plan, with a few minor changes, is absolutely foolproof and can assure the United States Government a full return on its investment.. and could ...provide good living space in a good established locality, where you can have an investment in the locality, not down in some slum-clearance district, homes where people can live for many years."


Another representative stated in a July, 1941, hearing that:


"Study of this project by the CIO housing committee has confirmed our view that it (mutual housing program) points the way toward a proper answer to the problem of housing permanent workers in established industrial communities."


and


"This plan is the best and most efficient type of public housing) with the most satisfactory relationships with the occupant workers, and the least ultimate expense to the Government."


The National Committee on the Housing Emergency, a private group set up to examine all potential solutions to the defense housing problem, were also strong supporters of the mutual housing program and wrote the following in their final report to Congress:


"After study of the details of a plan of mutual home ownership this committee believes that such a plan includes many advantageous features in the planning, financing and construction of houses for defense workers... So that further experimentation in this direction may be undertaken, this committee urges that funds be made available for defense housing under future appropriations by the Congress be used in part to further such experimentations."


Another very important and powerful supporter of mutual housing was Senator Lanham himself, who stated the following during a March 1941 hearing before Congress:


"My understanding of the original (Lanham Act) was that it was not the purpose to make (homes) ideal, but it was the purpose to build them in areas where they could be used permanently and of a standard that would be suitable for permanent residence, because in that way the Government has the best chance of recouping its investment by the sale of the homes, and, of course, this (mutual ownership plan) is different in that respect from many of these housing projects, because these are built from the standpoint of sale and recouping the expenditure insofar as possible, at the same time affording an opportunity to these industrial workers to get a home where they are permanently engaged."

Critics


Of course, not everyone was supportive of the mutual housing concept, and many of these critics were especially powerful and influential individuals. First among these critics was Charles Palmer, the federal government's Defense Housing Coordinator. Palmer was frustrated by his lack of control over the highly decentralized defense housing effort, and from his perspective certain housing programs were wasteful, ineffective and unproductive. This was especially true of experimental housing programs like the mutual housing program. Although not directly able to stop the program, Palmer was in a position to hamper the program's progress. Palmer went so far as to declare the program itself to be illegal—although never specifying how it was so—and made himself readily accessible and helpful to organizations protesting the siting of mutual housing projects within their communities.

Evidence supporting Palmer's contention of wastefulness is readily available. Unfortunately, Colonel Westbrook did not possess many of the organizational or management skills necessary to successfully and efficiently supervise his division. On two separate occasions the mutual housing program's projects and efforts were brought before the scrutiny of the Truman Committee investigating waste and corruption in the National Defense Program. Contractors for mutual housing projects in New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 did particularly poor jobs and completed the projects substantially over budget. Bids were also badly mishandled by the Mutual Ownership Division. Senator Truman himself became so disgusted by the management of the mutual housing program that in answer to a witness' statement that he did not know exactly what the Mutual Ownership Division did, Truman was recorded as saying that, "They (Mutual Ownership Division) don't either, so proceed."

Other significant contentions expressed by the critics of the program included the following:


1. Temporary short term housing should be destroyed at the end of the emergency period. This was viewed as far more appropriate than attempting to plan for the long term in the midst of a crisis. Senator Kilburn stated that, "It is my contention that they (defense workers) are taking advantage of the situation to feather their own nests."



2. The defense housing problem could more efficiently be handled through the private market. The mutual housing program just competes with, and hurts the private developers. Senator Bell asked: "I am just wondering...if people earning between $160 and $200 a month or less regularly and are permanently employed, (could have their housing needs) handled through channels of private industry? Aren't there plenty of builders and finance available for construction of homes of that character?" The New Jersey Realtors' Board President wrote an editorial published in local newspapers stating, " ..The USHA no longer can attempt to justify subsidized, socialized housing... with defense activity providing new employment at good wages, and financiers alert to the rising home market, there can be no justification for another such (mutual housing) project in New Jersey."



3. The residents of a mutual ownership project will simply leave the project at the end of the emergency, taking their equity with them, and selling the whole project to speculators. Senator Kirman asked a resident of one of the projects "...don't you think you will take the whole thing and hock it off to the highest bidder? Every one of the emergencies in the past shows that this has been done."



4. The mutual housing program is good for city dwellers, but provides no solution for the severe housing needs of rural farmers who were also working for the defense program, but often living in squalid surroundings.



5. The federal government should not have to assume the risk for housing its citizens. According to Senator Johnson, "The thing that alarms me is the philosophy which the entire country seems to be adopting, that if the risk is not good, let the government take it. That is nothing more than a refinement of the old thought that the world owes you a living."



6. There are many hidden costs in a mutual housing project - especially related to the public works being provided by the Federal Works Administration (FWA) - which make each unit far more expensive than indicated, and far in excess of the maximum allowable dollar amount specified by the Lanham Act. Senator Shelton stated that, "..if you put in a public housing job by Lanham funds, and you ask the cost of it, and it comes to $3200 a unit, the public housing sponsors do not count in the FWA that did the excavations and the landscaping and we do not count the sewers that are $8 a running foot, and if it was all counted in and it was properly appraised and capitalized, the structure would cost $5000..."


By far the most persistent critics of the mutual housing program—and many other defense housing programs—were residents of the host communities where the projects were being built, or being planned. The residents feared additional financial burdens to be imposed on them for expanding public facilities. They were also very concerned about the quality and background of the new people moving into their community. Congress began reacting to the financial fears of potential defense housing host communities early in 1941 by passing an amendment to the Lanham Act that provided additional resources for the expansion of public facilities (i.e. schools, government offices, libraries, feeder roads, sewers, etc.) in these communities. Congress also anticipated the fears and concerns host communities would have about defense housing projects and empowered the FWA to overrule local resistance and regulations in order to expedite the provision of defense housing. Residents of host communities would continue to be fearful that their new neighbors would be a lower class of people (no matter how similar to themselves they actually may have been), while also feeling resentful that others seemed to be getting a tax supported subsidy for housing when they themselves had worked "long and hard" to obtain their homes.

The Demise of the Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division


There were a number of pressures, factors and individuals that contributed to the early end of the Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division.

On November 30, 1941, just eight days prior to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and the start of direct United States involvement in the Second World War, tenants of the last mutual ownership project (Winfield Park, New Jersey) began to move into their new homes. The outbreak of war ignited the smoldering debate over permanent vs. temporary housing for the defense workers. Early shortages of materials, equipment and manpower for construction, along with the early retreat of the allied forces on all fronts, added support to the argument that emergency housing should be only of temporary nature, and not built in support of long-term postwar goals. The construction of temporary housing quickly became the program's emphasis. But the mutual housing program was based on long-term financial planning for the construction of permanent housing, and could not function with this new temporary construction emphasis. Support for centralizing the defense housing effort was also increasing, and resulted in the February 24, 1942 establishment of the National Housing Agency by Executive Order of the President. Those individuals sympathetic to centralization were not very supportive of experimental housing programs. Even prior to the formal outbreak of war, the entire defense housing program, under pressure from Congressional conservatives and industry officials, began to make a significant switch to private sector initiatives to get the defense housing job done. Supporters of this new direction strongly believed that private industry was far more efficient, and "..could utilize a few lots here and a favorably located site there, wholly unsuitable for large-scale Government projects." Congressional support of the private construction industry came in the legislative form of Title IV of the Lanham Act, passed in the Spring of 1941. This legislation provided 100% financing for speculative builders of housing for workers in defense areas. Obviously Title IV was meant to serve the same housing market as the mutual housing program. Evidence also suggests that the staff of the NHA was far more conservative than had been the staff of the FWA. This swing to the right was completed when 700 members of the consolidated staff were laid off; many of those leaving were among the most progressive, and many programs, including the mutual housing program, were officially ended. This newly consolidated agency moved quickly to develop programs that were especially supportive of private initiative programs for solving the defense housing need, and generally supportive of Title IV. Colonel Lawrence Westbrook noted in 1945 testimony that the NHA had destroyed the mutual housing program even at a time when requests for expansion of the program were pouring in from across the nation. Although news of the mutual housing concept had spread quickly through the labor union network, and many committees had been organized by workers to aid the implementation of the plan locally, all committees had to be told that the program was experimental in nature and no more staff could be made available to work with them.

During its short period of existence neither financial nor personnel resources were provided at the necessary levels to effectively support and operate the Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division. The eight projects undertaken were far more than the Division could handle with its limited resources. Claims and investigations of mismanagement of the Division were partially related to Westbrook's weak supervisory abilities, but they were also due to oversights and mistakes made by a small, overworked staff trying to do more than it could efficiently do, in a unsupportive environment. In addition, problems at many of the projects—especially those in New Jersey—provided a lot of ammunition to critics of the mutual housing effort. Once publicized, these difficulties generated a large political and public backlash against the project. On November 30, 1942 Life Magazine provided its readers with a photographic expose on the Truman Committee's investigation of the Winfield Park Project, which reported:


"These hearings are to establish and fix responsibility for the outrageously inept planning, construction and supervision of the 700-home project financed by the Government to house war workers from nearby Kearny, N.J. shipyards."


The very nature and concept of the mutual housing program was threatening to other government housing officials because it would result in a further division of limited resources, and because it called for the ultimate disposal of projects through direct purchase by its residents; although this was a very innovative concept in the United States, it would result in the reduction in the number of these same government managers and administers. The mutual housing concept was also not easily understood, contributing to the lack of support or remorse at the prospect of the demise of the program. An illustration is the October 29, 1941 Congressional testimony of Nathan Strauss, Administrator of the United States Housing Authority
United States Housing Authority
The United States Housing Authority, or USHA, was an agency created during 1937 as part of the New Deal.It was designed to lend money to the states or communities for low-cost construction. Units for about 650,000 low-income people but mostly homeless were started...

 (the Authority had essentially been put out of business by the June 1940 defense housing amendment to the 1937 Housing Act):


"Next, the Federal Works Agency, no doubt pressed hard by other eager outstretched hands, sought still additional methods of getting defense housing done. Some money was made available to the Farm Security Administration
Farm Security Administration
Initially created as the Resettlement Administration in 1935 as part of the New Deal in the United States, the Farm Security Administration was an effort during the Depression to combat American rural poverty...

, to the Tennessee Valley Authority
Tennessee Valley Authority
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a federally owned corporation in the United States created by congressional charter in May 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected...

, and within the FWA itself another unit was set up, the Mutual Ownership Division of Defense Housing, under Col. Westbrook. I don't know exactly what they do, sir."


But then he became very critical of Title IV of the Lanham Act. He stated that he viewed Title IV as a:


"...device evolved by the Defense Housing Coordinator to utilize the desperate need of defense workers for shelter in order to force them into the purchase of a home...The result of the enactment of this bill would be to give away millions of public funds to speculative builders to enable them to sell homes on the installment plan to workers whose probable inability to meet the installments is the very justification urged for enactment of the bill."


Either Strauss knew as little as he indicated about the mutual housing program, or he was deliberately obfuscating, since a successful and growing mutual home ownership program would have pushed housing programs in a completely different direction from those already under way at the USHA.

There was also a great deal of discussion about the legality of the mutual housing program. This discussion was sparked by Charles Palmer, the Defense Housing Coordinator, during 1941, although there was never any clear statement of an actual legal problem related to the mutual housing program. On a number of occasions the Legal Counsel of the FWA and Westbrook were asked to defend the legality of the program. They announced that they could not find any violation of the law. But the question itself, posed by the Defense Housing Coordinator, created a number of doubts among influential individuals who could have protected and encouraged the program, rather than watch it be dismantled.

Taken together, these issues, concerns, falsehoods and speculations would have injured even a strong and stable program, but in this case completely undermined an innovative experimental program. It is actually surprising that the mutual housing program survived as long as it did. In 1942, the Council for Industrial Organizations (CIO) expressed its concern at the ending of mutual housing effort, and at the small percentage of permanent housing being built as part of the Defense Program. In March, 1942, a CIO representative presented to Congress a copy of his organization's resolution on war workers' housing in the United States, that included the following demand:


"We demand not only that there be a return to a sane program of building planned housing communities, but insist further that war workers as tenants, through the labor organizations which represent them, be given an opportunity to participate in planning the layout and construction of such communities and in their cooperative management after construction, and renew our endorsement of the Mutual Home Ownership Plan.."


These protests were ignored by Congress, and the mutual housing program never revived.

The Mutual Housing Projects After The Second World War


By the conclusion of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the eight completed mutual housing projects built in 1941 were doing exceedingly well, though federal, state and local governmental support had been and continued to be severely lacking. A number of these projects were reported to be the lowest-costing permanently constructed housing projects ever built by the federal government. Some reports indicated that the cost of development and management of the mutual housing projects had been approximately 50% of the cost for comparably sized regular public housing
Public housing
Public housing is a form of housing tenure in which the property is owned by a government authority, which may be central or local. Social housing is an umbrella term referring to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organizations, or by a combination of the...

 projects. According to mutual housing supports, the vested interest of corporation members inspired demands for efficient low cost operations. As one resident of Greenmont Village Mutual Housing Corporation stated:


"When everybody owns an equal share of his community and knows that if his neighbor does not do his share, that the village as a whole and, in particular, his own equity will lose in valuation, each owner is interested to see that all people in the community do their share and will also help to educate those who are not true cooperators."


Clearly this type of involvement and concern by residents had a stabilizing effect on the communities, and the increased involvement of residents encouraged greater efficiency. Reports from residents indicate that individuals had actually turned down other employment opportunities because they did not wish to leave the cooperative
Cooperative
A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit...

, neighborly, low-cost environment of their mutual housing project.

The Congress of Industrial Organizations
Congress of Industrial Organizations
The Congress of Industrial Organizations, or CIO, proposed by John L. Lewis in 1932, was a federation of unions that organized workers in industrial unions in the United States and Canada from 1935 to 1955. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 required union leaders to swear that they were not...

 (CI0) was so impressed by the mutual housing program, and so frustrated by the inaction of the federal government in expanding it, that it obtained private financing to build a second mutual housing project next to Greenmont Village in Ohio. This new project differed considerably from the original mutual housing concept however. Residents of this new project owned their own homes, forcing the project into the speculative housing market. The CIO believed that residents would not be inclined to sell out of the project because of the many advantages and benefits of being a member of a mutual housing corporation.

Although only positive reports were coming from the mutual housing projects already in existence, the Housing Act of 1945 made only vague mention of the mutual housing concept. The Act provided only limited resources to promote the program as a private initiative model for groups of returning veterans seeking housing. The National Housing Agency informed Congress that research on the program would continue, and that:


"Records on the projects are being maintained for future analysis and study. They will be available for the guidance of groups interest in this approach to the low-cost housing market and to private capital and developers seeking to broaden the scope of private industry in the field of the so-called 'middle market' in housing."


Only one thin publication on how to create a privately financed mutual housing corporation was ever published by the National Housing Agency. This publication stated that:


"The Federal Public Housing Authority (FPHA) is in the process of disposing of a number of housing projects constructed during the war. The Authority will sell these properties to mutual ownership corporations formed by present and prospective occupants of the specific projects, provided these groups meet the requirements of FPHA (2/3 occupancy at the time of Corporation purchase). Among prospective occupants, veterans are given first preference."


Residents of a number of projects, most located in the midwest and working with the CIO, established a National Mutual Housing Association during the mid-1940s. Colonel Westbrook was a member of the advisory board. This association promoted what it believed was the housing solution of the future, whose time had come. The Chairman of the Association made the following report to Congress:


"...I think it is the most thrilling story of housing that you have heard or will hear, and the only hopeful story that you have heard. We contend that this is the first showing of a hopeful effort, under Government auspices, to solve the housing problem, the first plan to be tried and tested which offers to you any solution of the housing problem. Therefore, we want someone to administer it with faith in it and with faith in the people."


The goals of the Association included the creation of a Mutual Housing Agency in the National Housing Authority to promote the program and at the same time dispose of all war housing projects as mutual housing projects. It also wanted to open the mutual housing program to all citizens regardless of "social, racial, or economic status." Supporters realized that without the government resources or support of this type there could be little hope of the mutual housing program becoming a national program. Once again, however, the concept that public housing was only for the low-income populations had taken hold, and also the concept that only through private initiative and financing, with substantial government support, could the United States provide appropriate middle-income housing.

The red scare of the immediate postwar years also created a negative environment for programs with even the slightest socialistic overtones, which was true for the mutual housing program. The CIO itself, with the creation of its own mutual housing program in which each resident owned his/her own unit, clearly illustrated that the popular housing sentiment of the time was to own your own home. The resulting lack of mutually maintained equity, and the ability of residents to independently sell out of the project, created a speculative
Speculation
In finance, speculation is a financial action that does not promise safety of the initial investment along with the return on the principal sum...

 market environment that ran counter to the principles that held the mutual housing program together. Additionally, the desire for home ownership and the increasing affordability of middle-income housing, thanks to extensive government subsidies both in the mortgage market and through tax policy
Tax policy
Tax policy is the government's approach to taxation, both from the practical and normative side of the question.-Philosophy:Policymakers debate the nature of the tax structure they plan to implement and how they might affect individuals and businesses .The reason for such foitution effect]],...

 following the second world war, ensured that the mutual housing concept was shelved once again.

Both John Carmody (FWA Administrator) and Colonel Lawrence Westbrook continued to be devoted to the mutual housing concept and participated in interesting letter exchange trying to ensure that the final disposal of the eight projects were in keeping with the original mutual housing plan. Additionally, as seen in these letters below, as late as 1952 Westbrook was looking for ways to resurrect this middle-class public housing effort although this was not to be with the election of the Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower:



___________________________________________________

August 21, 1942

Wardman Park Hotel
Marriott Wardman Park
The Marriott Wardman Park Hotel is a Marriott International property in Washington, D.C.. The hotel is located in the Woodley Park neighborhood at 2600 Woodley Road, NW and Connecticut Avenue, NW, adjacent the Woodley Park station of the Washington Metro system.The Wardman Park is the largest...

, Washington, DC


Honorable John M. Carmody

Maritime Commission

Washington, DC



Dear Mr. Carmody:



It has been called to my attention that the Mutual Ownership Plan is being subjected to certain drastic changes which are contrary to the original basic ideas supporting this Plan. Question has also arise as to what commitments were made by the Government to the tenant groups in Audubon, Winfield and Bellmawr, New Jersey; Dayton, Ohio, South Bend, Indiana; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Dallas and Grand Prairie, Texas.



While our discussions on this subject were in the main oral ones and the agreements not worked out in detail, still there was a set of general principles that were agreed to, as per copy attached hereto.



The main points in our discussions were as follows:


1. Mutual Ownership Corporations were to be organized by the Government with the full knowledge and cooperation of the tenants' groups for these projects.



2. Monthly payments were to be established by the Government at such rates as to enable the Government to recapture the bulk of its construction cost, over a period of years, plus 3 percent interest. The amount to be recovered was roughly estimated at 90 percent of the cost, excluding WPA contributions. This price of 90 percent was considered fair in view of the excessive cost of building during this period, particularly at the required speed. As an alternative to this 90 percent estimate, it was proposed to appraise the property immediately upon completion through FHA or otherwise, on the basis of pre-war costs, and contract for sale at this appraisal price.



3. Tenants were to be selected on the basis of desirability and on the probability of their remaining in the community as permanent residents. The first year of tenancy for any industrial war worker was to be considered a probationary period, but at the end of that period, if retained, each tenant would be considered as having acquired an equity beginning with his initial tenancy.



4. At the time of the execution of the Purchase Contract, an audit of the accounts was to be made and any excess of income over expenditures on the part of the Government during the period up to that date should be deducted from the purchase price after allowing for a reasonable interest credit to the Government.



5. The Government was to select the first Board of Trustees and was to have representation on that Board. The project manager was to be selected by the Government at the inception and could not be changed later without consent of the Government. Government representatives should at all times have access to the property for inspection purposes and to the books of the Corporation for purposes of audit. The Government reserved the right to cancel the Purchase Contract at its discretion upon evidence of such mismanagement as would jeopardize the interests of the Government, with ample provisions for the protection of rights and equities of individual tenant members.


The above points are the basic factors under which these projects were to be sold. The first projects, those in Audubon, New Jersey and Grand Prairie, Texas, have now been in operation for a year or more and I have been advised that the representatives of the tenants in these projects are demanding that they be tendered a Purchase Contract substantially in accordance with these principles.



In view of the fact that the present NHA officials do not appear to be informed with respect to the above understandings with tenant groups, it is suggested that you advise the Administrator of the National Housing Agency that such understandings were in fact reached with representatives of the various tenant groups concerned.



Very Sincerely,


Lawrence Westbrook
Colonel, A.U.S.


_________________________________________________________

August 24, 1942

Colonel Lawrence Westbrook

Wardman Park Hotel

Washington, DC



Copies to Mr. Blandford and Mr. Johnstone



My dear Colonel Westbrook:



I acknowledge receipt of your letter of August 21 about the Mutual Ownership Plan for defense housing which you have developed during my administration at Federal Works Agency. It is now almost a year since I left there. At that time, as you know, defense housing was one of the activities of that agency for which the Congress had made provision both by legislation and appropriation. I do not recall, at the moment, all of the details of the arrangements to which you refer. You and your staff and the lawyers were closer to them than I. Defense housing was only one of the many activities to which I gave daily attention. I brought no part of the voluminous files with me. I presume they are still intact.



Even though some of the details are hazy I have clear and distinct recollection of the history of that special defense housing program and of its social and economic objectives. Two events happened almost simultaneously as the defense housing program go underway.


(1) John Green, President, Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America, and a committee from his organization called on me and proposed that the shipyard workers in Camden, New Jersey
Camden, New Jersey
The city of Camden is the county seat of Camden County, New Jersey. It is located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 77,344...

, be allowed to participate in planning and building a housing project in Camden that they could acquire over a period of years out of rentals adjusted for that purpose. The union had had a committee working on the housing in the Camden area for several months. They had already talked to architects and others interested in building. Mr. Green had appeared before the Public Buildings and Grounds Committee in support of public housing legislation. He had made out a good case and had impressed the Committee favorably. The idea that he and his committee presented to me was neither new nor strange. It had all the elements of sound cooperative enterprise such as I had seen succeed in rural electrification.



(2) Then you came in with a more definite plan which you called mutual home ownership and referring to mutual insurance
Mutual insurance
A mutual insurance company is an insurance company which has no shareholders but instead is owned entirely by its policyholders. The primary form of financial business set up as a mutual company in the United States has been mutual insurance. Under this idea, what would have been profits are...

 as well as REA cooperatives. You asked for an opportunity to participate in the program at least on an experimental basis which would utilize the experience you had gained when you built Westlake in Texas. I got you and Green and his committee together. You did the rest.



The whole arrangement seemed to me to be made to order for a successful defense housing experiment. The need had already been certified for defense homes in Camden, one o the bad spots from the point of view of rent rises and accompanying disturbed morale among vital shipbuilders working on Navy projects. We would build the houses in any event. We would restrict tenants to families of certified defense workers. We would dispose of them "in the public interest."



We did not realize at that time how the idea of Mutual Ownership would spread to other groups, especially organized groups, and how it would catch the imagination of wives and daughters and sons of these defense workers as well as the workers themselves. What a mistake that many more of the Mutual Ownership Plans that were urged upon us were not built and carefully nurtured by people really aware of worker psychology and really concerned about strong national morale!



Now with respect to your suggestion that I "advise the Administrator of the National Housing Agency that such understandings were in fact reached" etc. I think it only fair to him to say that he may well look upon any such advice as unwarranted interference with his own administrative responsibility. It is true that all of the details with respect to the operation and management and final disposition or acquisition of the houses were not agree upon. Negotiations seemed to me to be approaching satisfactory conclusion even as I left. It is my understanding they continued under my successor and your staff up to the time housing was separated from Federal Works Agency. I have heard nothing about the matter since, until your letter came, except a rumor imparted to me by some of the occupants of one of the Mutual Ownership projects which I visited recently to take a firsthand look at your handiwork and that of the enthusiastic supporting committees. The rumor was to the effect that the Plan would be abolished even for Mutual projects already in operation. Frankly, I did not believe it and promptly dismissed it from my mind. I have plenty of responsibility here and do not expect to be concerned with public housing again until I return to private life.



In the meantime, three things:


1. My views on cooperative
Cooperative
A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit...

 housing of the sort you promoted are best stated, perhaps, in a piece I wrote for a special issue of a Camden, New Jersey, paper that was published on the occasion of the dedication of Audubon Village. I attach a photostatic copy.



2. I commend you for your continued interest in a program that is so wholesome and so fundamentally sound and so close to your heart. I only hope even the demands on your time and energy that the war will make will not prevent our participating in discussions that will lead to constructive solution, and



3. Inasmuch as you have sent a copy of your letter to Mr. Blandford, I am sending him a copy of this reply and a photostatic copy of the Audubon Village dedication piece to which I referred above. It borders on prophesy. I refrain from making any suggestion to him. I am sure he and the prospective owners will work out a satisfactory solution.



With all good wishes for your own safety and success in the danger zones to which you are assigned and with renewed feeling of obligation for your loyalty and cooperation during the years of our official relationship, I am



Sincerely,



John M. Carmody

Commissioner



Enclosure


Carmody, John M. " 'Village Improves National Morale,' Says Carmody. More Needed, He Declares. Project Symbol of What Nation Can Do, He Points Out." Special Edition Courier Post Newspaper. Camden, New Jersey
Camden, New Jersey
The city of Camden is the county seat of Camden County, New Jersey. It is located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 77,344...

. Saturday, December 16, 1941. p.5



If we as a nation had had the foresight to begin building Audubon Village throughout this land when Hitler began to build his military machine and all that goes with it, neither he nor his ally, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, would feel so confident of ultimate conquest of this country through South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 and the Pacific.



That they do fell confident of this has been made abundantly clear to anyone who has followed the work of Dr. Haushofer
Albrecht Haushofer
Albrecht Georg Haushofer was a German geographer, diplomat and author.Albrecht Haushofer's father was the retired General and geographer Karl Haushofer . His mother Martha . Albrecht had one brother, Heinz.Albrecht studied geography and history at Munich University...

 and that of his thousand scientists working through the Geopolitical Institute in Munich.



We Need Morale



It is late but not too late. We need airplanes and great numbers of them. We need ships-- more and more ships. We need vast quantities of a wide variety of materials. We are on the way to get them.



But we need, beyond all else, strong national morale. The time is at hand when all work is dense work and all housing is defense housing. We are in the fight together.



We fight better from a strong base. Audubon Village is a strong base.



If we had 3000 Audubon Villages inhabited by happy, intelligent, patriotic Americans no Nazi propaganda would lull us to sleep nor mislead us all to the ultimate goal of Hitlerism.



These homes speak for themselves. Audubon Village speaks for itself. It is there for all to see. It was a vacant field just a short time ago. In spite of snow and cold and rain and mud and all the elements that impede man in his effort to build shelter, as fine a group of workmen and supervisors as ever trod the earth drove ahead at top speed to bring this village to life.



They did the impossible, but that's what America needs to do, from stem to stern, in every activity today. Nothing else will turn our potential strength into actual strength, nothing else will defeat the carefully worked out plans of Hitler and Dr. Haushofer and thousands of scientists and technicians in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

.



We are on the way. Audubon Village is bomber, and tanks and ships combined. Audubon Village is national morale. Audubon Village-- defense housing-- spells national success in our great preparedness program. I congratulate the men and women and children, shipyard workers and their families, who will not merely live here, but make a life here.



Audubon Village, you have been baptized but not yet fully confirmed. There are those who do not approve of you. You will have critics. They will look for faults, and they will find them. Nothing is perfect. You and we will have problems. We will work them out together. Patience and forbearance will help. I say this not to strike a sour note at this happy time. I say it merely by way of warning you and ourselves. I say it because I'm getting to be an old dog and an old dog can smell trouble farther than a pup and he can distinguish kinds of trouble and sources of trouble and motives for making it better than a pup.



From this moment on, when we think of Audubon Village we will think of ships and when we think of ships we will think of the freedom of the seas, and when we think of the freedom of the seas we will think of the security of the United States of America as a free nation holding its historic place in the world. And perhaps some of us will think of President Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

, who carries a heavy burden these days, and wonder if we can't induce him to see Audubon Village for himself. He will understand what it means for the present and the future of democratic America.



_______________________________________________


March 22, 1948



2101 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Washington, DC



Colonel Lawrence Westbrook

1333 Connecticut Avenue

Washington, DC



My dear Colonel Westbrook,



A few days ago a Mr. Salzberg called me on the telephone to ask some questions about the Mutual Home Owners program that you got started in Federal Works Agency
Federal Works Agency
The Federal Works Agency was an independent agency of the Federal government of the United States which administered a number of public construction, building maintenance, and public works relief functions and laws from 1939 to 1949...

 when we were building defense homes in 1940 and 1941. I understood him to say he is a member of the council in Greenbelt
Greenbelt, Maryland
Greenbelt is a city in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. Contained within today's City of Greenbelt is the historic planned community now known locally as "Old Greenbelt" and designated as the Greenbelt Historic District...

. I may not have his name spelled correctly but I think you will know who I mean.



The projects he inquires about were built seven or eight years ago. I have not had occasion to think about them for a long time. One project that he asked me about had gone completely out of my mind, largely I think, because I never saw it. It did recall the Camden, NJ project which I saw several times during construction and after people had lived in the houses a couple of years, and the Dallas, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas and the ninth-largest in the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the largest metropolitan area in the South and fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States...

 project which I also visited three or four years after completion.



At both projects I found the people happy with the arrangement. In Dallas some of the occupants told me the housing authority was trying to kill off the mutual ownership idea. "They will have to kill the tenants first" one man told me and his neighbors chimed in to the same general effect. They were completely sold on the project and on the mutual idea. I cite this because you spent a lot of tie on the Dallas project as you had done earlier on the Camden project.



I tried to remember the name of the lawyer who revived interest in the mutual idea after it got pushed around after you and I left Federal Works—you to go into the Army, and I to go to the Maritime Commission. His name is Colwell. I hope Mr. Salzberg got hold of him. Better still I wish he could talk to the people who live in the Camden and Dallas project and others that I can't remember, specifically after so many years.



At any rate, I would like to have him and anyone else who wants to know how you handled these projects, in fact the whole mutual program, come to see me.



Sincerely,



John M. Carmody



______________________________________________________

March 23, 1948



2101 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Washington, DC



Colonel Lawrence Westbrook

1333 Connecticut Avenue

Washington, DC



My dear Colonel Westbrook,



It just occurred to me that one of the projects Mr. Salzberg asked me about is the one we always referred to as Linden, NJ  He called it by some other name which I had not heard. It is my recollection this project was built largely for shipyard workers at the Federal Shipbuilding Plant at Kearny, NJ.



We had a good deal of trouble in those early days before Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 with sites. The idea of these huge defense housing projects was new and a good many communities got scared. They didn't know what such projects might do to property values, or to their limited static school facilities, etc. In many cases, local politicians that had had things pretty much their own way for a good many years got scared because so many new voters might disturb their customary and comfortable "balance of power." In many cases, this was the most obvious reason for whipping up objections to this housing projects: some local politicians were frank enough to admit this. (I wonder how many of them, if they are still in office, would admit it).



At any rate, the so-called Linden project became one of these football playthings. I have some recollection that it was the second choice but was approved by all hands to prevent further delay in getting the project started because housing was already short in that area. I am now told that this project was criticized in a public hearing presided over by Hugh Fulton who was general counsel for he old Truman committee.



We know where Truman is, but, by the way, where is Hugh Fulton? I learned about these hearings long after they were held. I do not know whether you took part in them. I pass this additional information on for whatever it may be worth to you or Mr. Saltzman and his associates.



Sincerely



John M. Carmody.



__________________________________________________________


August 25, 1952



2101 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Washington, DC



Colonel Lawrence Westbrook

1911 R Street NW

Washington, DC



Mr dear Lawrence:



When I saw this piece in the paper a few days ago I was reminded of two things--- one, the tremendous job you did to get this mutual home ownership idea accepted, and, two, that I don't think I ever answered the letter you wrote me in Paris almost a year ago.



With respect to the letter, I think it arrived after I had left the Embassy and was on my way home. At least I was not in a very favorable position to take care of correspondence that arrived during the last few days of my tenure of office. I had a hectic experience. I had gone to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 on a special job but before it was completed, I was persuaded to take on a very important larger responsibility. It takes time there, as it does here, to build staff. I had just got under way when a situation developed that made it clear to me that I would be working for some youngsters not yet quite dry behind the ears so far as an understanding of American industrial and production activities were concerned that we were supposed to be teaching to the French. I was sorry to toss it back in their laps, because they haven't yet gotten straightened out; on the other hand, my self respect would not permit me to undertake to carry on under the circumstances. It was a marvelous experience and if I had stayed, I would have been glad to follow through on the suggestions made in your letter.



With respect to Mutual Home Ownership business, I doubt if enough has been done on that since you and I left FWA. It still has wonderful opportunities. This Philadelphia deal may give it fresh impetus. I suspect that similar arrangements could be made in literally hundreds of communities if the mater were followed up sympathetically and intelligently. It may be something that the new Administration will want to give more thought to.



Sincerely,



John M. Carmody



_________________________________________________


August 29, 1952



Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee
The Democratic National Committee is the principal organization governing the United States Democratic Party on a day to day basis. While it is responsible for overseeing the process of writing a platform every four years, the DNC's central focus is on campaign and political activity in support...



Ring Building

1200 Eighteenth Street, NW

Washington, DC



Lawrence Westbrook, Assistant Chairman



Mr. John M. Carmody

2101 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Washington, DC



Dear John:



I was very glad to have your letter of August 25 enclosing clipping about the sale of Pennypack Woods to a Mutual Home Ownership Corporation. This, of course, should have been done four or five years ago in accordance with the agreement that you and I made at the time the project was started.



After the election is over I expect to present to the incoming Democratic Administration a full brief on the Mutual Home Ownership program. I have every reason to believe that it will be carefully and favorably considered.v


All the best,



Sincerely



Lawrence Westbrook



_______________________________________________

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    Richard Joseph Neutra is considered one of modernism's most important architects.- Biography :Neutra was born in Leopoldstadt, the 2nd district of Vienna, Austria Hungary, on April 8, 1892. He was born into both-Jewish wealthy family...

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    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

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    The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

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    The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

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    The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

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    The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

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External links


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