March 15, 2010
W10-6: The final years of the Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society administration were anything but quiet. Punctuated by riots and assassinations, events seemed to bring America to the brink of chaos. In the midst of national anxieties over the Viet Nam war, civil rights, riots, and the rising cost of living, LBJ brought his housing and urban policy to a rousing crescendo. In 1968, the year Johnson withdrew from the presidential race and seemingly rendered himself the lamest of lame ducks, this master of passing legislation nonetheless managed to achieve two mammoth housing laws. The first, a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which Johnson signed in April of that year in the aftermath of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King, was the long-sought breakthrough against discrimination in housing. We will examine this landmark in the struggle for civil rights in the residential field in a separate section on race and housing in the United States. The second, the Housing Act of 1968, profoundly altered the direction of American housing policy, by shifting production and management of low-income dwellings decisively away from government and toward the use of private companies. It firmly established the idea of “public-private partnerships” in social policy, pointing the way toward the public-private partnerships and “privatization” policies pursued by later presidents, such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who were far more conservative than Johnson...
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