When the War Ends

The answer to the problem of providing better housing after the war depends, as we have seen, on a good many things. It is tied in with our whole postwar economy. Food, clothing, and shelter are the three basic needs of all people. Americans have reached high national standards of diet and clothing-in fact, the highest in the world. But most Americans would admit that we have not done quite so well in housing.

When the war ends, there is likely to be a tremendous demand for new houses, and for repairs and alterations of old ones. The money for financing will be potentially available—from private individuals, from banks, insurance companies, and other lenders, and from government, probably both federal and local. One of the leading economic tasks, therefore, will be to bring together the demand for housing and the available financing so as to improve the standards of shelter for a great many Americans.

The first World War gave a big push to our agriculture and to our industries. The same has been true in this war—but on a much bigger scale. Our food production and output of planes, guns, tanks, ships, and innumerable other industrial products have reached undreamed-of heights.

Will we apply to the problem of housing some of the industrial techniques that have been developed during the war? There can be no doubt that we have the materials, the factories, the labor, and the industrial “know-how.” The question is, can these be turned into a program of building millions of good houses at costs within reach of the average family?

There are many obstacles, but there are also many forces working toward this goal. One thing is certain-house building is one of the great industries that can help take up the slack in employment that comes with the end of war production. A postwar surge of activity in the building industry could have the doubly welcome result of assuring work for many returning soldiers and at the same time of providing new and adequate homes for their families.