How Many Houses Will We Need?
How many houses will America need after the war? The answer to that question isn’t easy since it depends on many factors, some of which must be guessed at. Let’s try to estimate the size of the housing market when building materials become available after the war. The 1940’s began with a great backlog of demand for better housing, despite the fact that there were about 1,400,000 vacant nonfarm dwelling units in the United States. During the depression and the immediate prewar years, not enough new houses were built to take care of the demands. The number of nonfarm homes built in 1925 reached a peak of nearly a million. In 1933 there were less than one hundred thousand. A gradual recovery started after that, however. In 1941, about three-quarters of a million dwelling units were constructed, but the war put a stop to the building boom.
Owing to the shortage of housing, we can assume that in most war centers nearly all houses in livable condition, including those that were vacant in 1940, are now being occupied. Thus, we will probably start the postwar era with almost all our present supply of houses in use. There probably won’t be many vacancies.
A large number of additional houses will be needed to shelter the new families that are started each year when couples get married. Also, many thousands of dwellings will be required to take care of families migrating from one part of the country to another-for example, war workers moving back to their. home towns and war veterans seeking opportunities to make a living in new localities. Finally, it will be necessary to build houses to take the place of those that have simply worn out—become absolutely unlivable-since 1940.
Taking all these things together, and studying the building and replacement rates of the past, it looks as though we probably will need over a million nonfarm dwelling units a year, including apartments-for at least 10 years after the war. Also, there should be a heavy demand for new farm dwellings and for repairs and alterations.