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Housing Corporation, and provision was made for the housing of 640 persons in them. Of the properties retained 42 were rented from the owners by the Housing Corporation at a rental fixed by a highly competent board of appraisers, and of these houses retained 23 were leased by the Housing Corporation to families of war workers or to boarding-house keepers, at a price sufficient to cover the rental paid to the owner and, in some cases, to amortize the cost of the repairs on these houses made by the Housing Corporation prior to their occupancy. In case these lessees rented furniture from the Housing Corporation a monthly payment was made in addition to the rent for the use of that furniture. This payment usually amounted to 20 per cent per annum of the cost of the furniture.
One of the properties--an abandoned hospital-was used by the Operating Division of the Housing Corporation for the storage of furniture, and another-612 F Street-was rented to the United States Public Health Service and later to the District of Columbia for use as an influenza hospital. Twenty-two properties were operated by the Housing Corporation as boarding houses for war workers, and each house was put in charge of a salaried matron.
The policy of commandeering vacant properties provided accommodations for war workers much more cheaply and more quickly than they could have been provided by new construction. (See Appendix XVI, p. 312.)
tion was located far from the plant, but the tracks passed close by it. To arrange for the establishment of a substation and stops for the morning and evening trains at the hours when the workmen should arrive at and depart from the factory proved a simple means of meeting the housing problem. In other cases special workmen's express trains from the industrial city to the residential city or suburb made abundant housing accessible at a cost much less than that which would have been entailed by new construction.
The most striking example of this latter practice is offered in the case of the war industries at South Amboy and Morgan, N. J. The industrial community was thoroughly saturated, but at Long Branch and Asbury Park and the vicinity there was abundant housing, which investigation proved to be suitable for all-the-year use. These residential towns were also well equipped with facilities for social and recreational life, which are certain to operate to the advantage of the industrial force. To meet this problem, therefore, special express trains were run to Long Branch and Asbury Park from the Gillespie plant and other war industries of the Amboy district for the use of industrial workers, and a special fare of 30 cents for the round trip was established, the United States Housing Corporation absorbing the differential. Through the Homes Registration Service of these two towns approximately 1,000 houses and several thousand vacant rooms at reasonable prices were listed. Over 2,000 workmen were transported daily.
To meet a similar problem in the Indiana steel towns of Gary, East Chicago, Hammond, and Indiana Harbor, special trains were arranged for at no cost to the Housing Corporation. A thorough canvass of vacancies in the southern part of Chicago for all the districts accessible to the stations of the four railroads running from the Indiana steel towns to Chicago was made by the Homes Registration Division through the local committee. The special trains on these railroads were run at hours which would bring the workmen to the factories in time for their work and from the factories at the close of their day's work. By this means at least eight thousand workmen were daily transported from saturated industrial communities to regions where there were available homes at reasonable rentals.
In other cities negotiations were made with local transit companies for through car service, non-stop cars, and transfers, and for the rearrangement of car schedules so as to reduce the time, cost, and irksomeness of travel from shop to home. Loans were made by the Housing Corporation to local traction companies for the increase of trackage, the repair of existing rolling stock, or the purchase of new roll
SOLVING THE PROBLEM BY TRANSPORTATION. In many of the communities with which the Housing Corporation was concerned the preliminary survey and vacancy canvass showed that the housing problem could be solved, in part or in whole, by the improvement of existing transportation facilities or by the development of new transportation. Though the housing accommodations near the war industries were being utilized to capacity, there were vacant quarters of a suitable type in another part of the city or in the suburbs or in neighboring cities which could be used, provided arrangements could be made to transport the workers. The problem was sometimes one of speed. The industrial worker was, in general, unwilling to spend more than a half hour in transit before and after his 10-hour working-day. The fatigue and annoyance resulting from long rides on crowded cars, from delays, and from changing cars were unquestionably causes of discontent and inefficiency and are reported to have caused numerous skilled workers to leave the employ of plants where their work was essential. High fares for long hauls were also a cause of discontent.
The transportation problem varied widely in the different communities. In one city the railroad sta
ing stock. Altogether $5,834,241.47 was invested by the Housing Corporation in such loans at 5 per cent interest, the period of repayment extending as a rule over five years after appraisal. It proved desirable in some cases to cancel such contracts because of the armistice. This was done at a loss of only $589.95 to the Housing Corporation, though the reduction was from $7,454,104.35 to $5,834,241.47-a saving of $1,619,862.88—and it is expected that fully $4,500,000 will be recovered with interest.
In view of the fact that the Federal Government, through its railroads, actually made a large profit on the service arranged for through the Transportation Division, it would appear that these activities of the Housing Corporation have made more than sufficient to meet the overhead costs of that division. (See Appendix VI.)
ENCOURAGEMENT OF PRIVATE CONSTRUCTION.
Private construction of dwellings had virtually ceased in the eastern cities before the establishment of this bureau. This was due to the high prices of materials, the high cost of labor, the difficulty in securing labor, and the very great difficulty which local builders experienced in their attempts to secure capital for building purposes. The following letter from W. J. Whinery, chairman of the Lake County housing committee to the Secretary of Labor, dated April 17, 1918, outlines the nature of this difficulty in the Indiana steel towns:
The housing conditions of the employees are also so crowded as to result in unwholesome, unsanitary, and immoral conditions. The efficiency of the employees is reduced and the cost of producing war munitions is greatly increased to each factory engaged in the manufacture thereof.
The bankers, building contractors, and real estate men, building and loan associations, loan agents, and trust companies in each of the cities have been and are exceedingly anxious to meet this emergency and provide means with which to build dwelling houses for these additional workmen, but they have reached the point where they realize they are unable to meet the present emergency within the present year.
In justice to the banks and trust companies of these cities it should be said that this is a comparatively new community, and the industrial growth of it has been so rapid and continuous that the banks and trust companies are required to furnish a great amount of money daily for use in the industrial and commercial life of the cities, and for this reason they are not in position to finance a building campaign as might be the case in other communities where the industrial and commercial growth has not been so rapid. Moreover, the national banks are not permitted to loan money on real estate. The State banks and trust companies are willing to loan and have loaned money for building purposes until they have practically reached the limit allowed by law for loans.
The building and loan associations in the several cities have in stituted a campaign for additional stockholders as investors in their
several associations with a view to raising additional money which might be used for building purposes, and to aid in this regard they have restricted the class of loans which they would make to new building construction only, in this way aiding the building of new houses.
It is believed that through the building and loan associations, banks, and trust companies approximately $400,000 will be furnished through such agencies for building purposes during the year 1918 in the city of Hammond; that a similat amount will be raised through the same agencies in the city of East Chicago-Indiana Harbor, and also a similar amount in the city of Gary; but such an amount in each of the cities is wholly inadequate to meet the demand for dwelling houses made necessary by the great number of additional employees brought to each of the cities to aid in the manufacture of munitions. In fact, such an amount is not equal to meet the demands for the natural growth of these cities, as compared with former years, not considering the present emergency which has been created by the munition work.
In some places it was probably true that builders who could have secured capital failed to build because of threatened competition of the Federal Government in this field, but it does not appear that this attitude was at all general.
The Bureau of Industrial Housing at first intended to loan money to local companies for house construction, but for reasons noted earlier (see p. 23) it was decided that the Government should purchase land and design and erect the houses thereon. Incidentally, however, private construction to meet the needs of war workers was encouraged by the bureau wherever manufacturers, builders, or local housing corporations could be induced to build. The field agents of the Preliminary Investigations Division and of the Homes Registration Service, as well as the executive officers in Washington, were able in many instances to promote house building, and several of the local homes registration committees established subcommittees for this purpose.
When the rules of the War Industries Board made it necessary for private builders to secure priority orders in order to get material for construction and to have it transported, it soon became manifest that a competent authority should pass upon all applications to determine their relative urgency. By an agreement made with the War Industries Board, about September 1, 1918, all such requests were referred to the United States Housing Corporation, and the manager of the Requirements Division was charged with examining these requests and certifying as to their urgency. Requests were received from many cities and prior to the signing of the armistice Federal licenses to build had been issued to local committees for approximately 13,552 houses to cost about $43,000,000 and for other residential buildings for 2,100 persons to cost $2,500,000.
STATISTICS OF ACCOMMODATIONS PROVIDED WITHOUT
BUILDING BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
In its efforts to prevent needless construction by the Guvernment the Housing Corporation provided housing accommodation for over 70,000 workers through the Homes Registration Service; for approximately 2,500 war workers through the commandeering of vacant properties in Washington and elsewhere; for about 8,000 war workers through special train service; for over 30,000 1 workers through the promotion of private building. Altogether therefore, homes for 110,000 workers were secured through the Housing Corporation without the expenditure of any money by the Government for construction.
In addition, the volume of housing accommodations available for war workers was materially increased by the rent-a-room campaign, by appeals through the churches, through posters, newspaper publicity, and otherwise. Cooperation with the War Industries Board for the transfer of workers from less essential to essential industries and for the letting of new war contracts in cities which had abundant housing provided for the improvement of the housing conditions of tens of thousands of additional war workers. (See Appendices IV and V.)
i Allowing two war workers to each private dwelling not operated as a rooming house,
ACQUISITION OF LAND, PLANNING HOUSES AND SITES, CONSTRUCTION.
The problem-Choice of site-Appraisals as safeguards-Acquisition of land by purchase--Requisition-Closing
production and reduce costs—Fiscal record-Summary of construction operations.
sand, gravel, brick, lumber, and other building After every available means had been utilized to
materials. The engineer took up with the municipalsolve the housing problem of the war industries by
ities and the utility companies the layout and type saturation and transportation, certain communities
of existing water, sewerage, gas and electric systems, required immediate construction of houses. This
and gauged the cost of their extension. meant suitable land must be found and acquired
The town planner figured the most economical quickly and at reasonable prices. Houses, dormi
manner of planning each available site for streets, tories, and apartments, and often other necessary
blocks, lots, walks, open spaces, civic center, etc. buildings, such as schools, stores, etc., must be planned;
The realtor got hold of local assessments, previous streets, blocks, and lots must be laid out, contracts sales prices of the sites under consideration and of let, houses built, and utilities-gas, electric, water,
the adjoining sites, and arranged for appraisals by sewerage systems-provided.
the mayor, the tax assessor, the chamber of commerce,
the board of trade, the Rotary Club, and the real CHOICE OF SITE.
estate board. When it was determined that house construction was A joint report was submitted before a staff connecessary in any project city two real estate scouts ference with War and Navy Department representawere sent there and spent from one to four days tives recommending a certain site or sites. Sometimes (not disclosing their mission) getting estimates of
the conference recommended that certain matters values of available vacant tracts. This was done be further investigated. Generally, the report was as a check upon possible future increases in the ask- accepted, and the Real Estate Division was instructed ing price for land, which might follow the announce- to negotiate for the purchase of the land. ment of the Government's intention to build,
APPRAISALS AS SAFEGUARDS. Immediately thereafter a committee on sites, consisting of a realtor, an engineer, an architect, and a When the appraisals above mentioned were returned town planner (armed with information from the pre- to the Real Estate Division they were carefully liminary investigation, from the War and Navy examined, together with the reports of the tax Departments and records of the scout report) went assessors, the real estate scouts, and such other there for detailed study. They considered the cost information as was available. An estimate of the of sites, the cost of providing utilities and the speed real worth of the land was drawn up, which was with which they could be provided on each site, the called the official appraisal. relative accessibility of each to the factory, and the As many of the most prominent men in the comtypes of houses needed for the war emergency with munity had been taken into the confidence of the reference to their ultimate sales value. The archi- bureau as appraisers and had expressed an opinion on tect considered local house types and materials, the the respective values of the several properties under preferences of the workmen's wives as to plan and consideration, they were in a position to follow subequipment, the prevailing method of heating and sequent negotiations with intelligent understanding. lighting, etc., and the cost and available supply of The press of the community was also in touch with
the situation, every move in the program having been made in the light of full publicity and nothing withheld from the public. The fact was made clear to all that the intention of the Government to purchase land is no excuse for an increase in price.
That these community appraisals were a real safeguard to the bureau almost goes without saying. For example, in a New England city an old hotel was officially appraised at some $90,000, the community appraisals ranging from $85,000 to $110,000. The owners of the property, however, demanded, in substance, $150,000 and the project was abandoned by the bureau without recourse to requisition. The people of the city were bitterly disappointed that the bureau did not take over and improve the old hotel and the buildings adjacent to it, but because of the cominunity appraisals no criticism attached to the bureau and its course in the matter could not but be approved.
Community appraisals operate in the interest of good citizenship and against bad. Conspiracy has little hope of success when confronted by honest opinion. In a southern town, community appraisals put it within the power of the Real Estate Division to reduce the asking price of land selected from $2,200 per acre to $250 per acre. It was community appraisals also that enabled the division to purchase the property of a large estate in New England at 10 cents per square foot in the face of a well-supported asking price of 25 cents per square foot.
ACQUISITION OF LAND BY PURCHASE. The corporation after the recommendation of the committee on sites, confirmed in staff conferences, would authorize the acquisition of certain lots or parcels of property in a given community. A negotiator was then sent out to obtain this property. The negotiator, knowing the actual values of the sites in question, went to arrange for the purchase of the selected site at a reasonable price not above the official appraisal. His recommendation was submitted to the president of the Housing Corporation. Great care was exercised to make sure that the negotiator approached his task with a full sense of personal responsibility in carrying to the project the true spirit of the Department of Labor.
Although his instructions provided for many contingencies, the outstanding facts were kept constantly before him that he was expected to acquire property in the exercise of his best judgment “within the established limitations of cost" set out in his memoranda; and that while under his certificate of appointment he was clothed with the fullest authority, “the president of the corporation desires
each negotiator to be reminded that the Department of Labor expects him to exercise his arbitrary power as little as possible and to secure results by negotiation rather than compulsion.'
It was made plain to him, further, that all contracts, leases, or other instruments committing the corporation must be taken subject to the approval of the president of the Housing Corporation.
In so far as practicable, the negotiator was expected to preserve and, if necessary, to create legitimate competition between owners of property and to discourage the conviction on their part that their property had definitely been selected by the corporation. In the beginning the use of options by the negotiator was encouraged, but the practice was later abandoned because of the time required to close options into con
The greater part of the property acquired by negotiation has, therefore, been taken under contracts made subject to the approval and ratification of the corporation.
REQUISITION. The element of speed in the taking over of real property is obviously a controlling factor in any war program, and where it became apparent to a negotiator that certain properties could not be acquired without material delay he was authorized to arrange for their immediate requisition. It has been necessary to resort to this procedure, however, in relatively few cases. The power of requisition was recognized to be a sacred trust, and the Housing Corporation made use of it only after every effort to secure property upon a reasonable basis of price had been exhausted.
Requisition papers were in all cases prepared by the counsel of the Real Estate Division upon the basis of the statements of facts returned by the negotiator and were executed by the Secretary of Labor with full knowledge of the necessitites of each particular
In all cases of actual requisition the negotiator was charged with the duty of assembling by affidavit and appraisal all the available relevant testimony. This precaution in many instances resulted in an immediate adjustment of the requisition as soon as the strength of the Government's testimony became evident. ,
So carefully, indeed, was the power of requisition handled that the Housing Corporation has no knowledge of a single case of requisition unsupported by sound public opinion.
CLOSING OF CONTRACTS AND TAKING OF TITLE.
Upon the completion of his work in the field the negotiator made return of the several contracts for real property that had been taken for a given project,