August 05, 1998

The Origins of American Housing Reform

Alexander von Hoffman

W98-2: Although housing reform is generally associated with government programs enacted in the twentieth century, the concept of the slum--a residential environment that degraded and harmed the poor--and the basic responses to it originated one hundred and fifty years ago. In the mid-nineteenth century, changes in thinking about the formation of individual character, the importance of home life, spiritual redemption, the nature of poverty, the causes of crime and vice, and the sources of disease all converged to produce a moral environmentalist approach to the urban poor. The new concepts encouraged the idea that the physical disorder and dilapidation of the slums determined, or helped to determine, the physical and moral condition of their inhabitants…

Category: Working Papers

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