Housing as Moral Code

This lecture is part of three lectures organized by Peter Macapia which included Jerrod Delaine and Meta Brunzema exploring the historical exploitation of race and poverty in relation to property ownership (Jerrod Delaine), public housing (Peter Macapia), and community organization (Meta Brunzema).

Macapia’s lecture discussed the evolution of low-income housing from a primarily white to a primarily colored tenancy as part of a larger political struggle to manage demographic shifts related to the Great Migration and the developing urban population of primarily northern cities as well as continue to sustain the practice of making property ownership economic opportunity extremely difficult if not generally impossible for the colored community . As a result, and in view of the policies that eventually slated low-income housing for minorities, low-income housing essentially became the site of residence and community in many large scale urban environments. It may seem that this entire redistribution of populations in urban space was merely a coincidence and that historically such drastic transformation of public housing is merely the consequence of improper planning, but the facts point in a different direction when considered from the point of view of human rights — adequate access to education, social services, food, etc. This category of spatial distribution would lie somewhat more closely to incarceration on the spectrum of space and occupation than it would to home ownership in the traditional sense of that word in the American context. Where, at one point in history, housing was the State’s concern with the economic well being of its citizens and for which certain moral codes applied, among which was marriage and employment, low income housing eventually became the de-facto moral code that distinguished one population from another in terms of race and economy.

Lecture presented to GAUD Housing Studio, fall 2021.