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Building the American Way: Public Subsidy, Private Space

Redlining was an approach that divided areas with nonwhite residents from others by highlighting them with signs or red lines on maps. The establishment of Home Owners Load Corporation (HOLC) improved real estate and made it more affordable, however, the practice of “redlining” to rate neighborhoods caused issues in the society (Jackson, 1980). The grades were based on the ecological and socioeconomic factors, and the latter coincided with the racial division because areas where the nonwhite people lived, were less wealthy (Jackson, 1980). Redlining made the neighborhoods with a high percentage of nonwhite residents undesirable and increased the discrimination inside these areas because the minority groups’ representatives blamed the lack of benefits.

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The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) had their purposes for utilizing the new urbanization standards because of the employment opportunities. It helped HOLC provide citizens with better mortgage conditions and make buying houses affordable for the average American families. FHA impacted racial segregation because of the evaluation they applied to determine mortgage risks and insurance requirements (Jackson, 1980). Jackson (1980) states that “FHA allowed personal and agency bias in favor of all-white subdivisions in the suburbs to affect the kinds of loans it guaranteed” (p. 252). Moreover, the neighborhoods’ standardization made some suburbs so unpleasant to live in that their inner economy was in danger, and the prosperity for non-while groups to improve their lives was almost eliminated.

Multiple subdivisions with dozens of thousands of inhabitants established suburbs in the postwar period with governmental assistance in building the private housing structure. Levittown, located in New York, is an example of an area with 80,000 inhabitants built by a construction company Levitt and Sons, in the 1950s (Hayden, 2006). Public spaces were forgotten or illogically placed in these towns because their constructors did not consider factors like logistics, buildings placement, schools, and public health facilities.

The article “Building the American Way: Public Subsidy, Private Space” is written by Dolores Hayden and was published in The Politics of Public Space book in 2006. Hayden is an architect professor and urban historian, thus their works provide historical evidence to construction decisions in American towns and cities. In the studied article, the author explains how the postwar suburbs were formed and explains why they often had illogical planning or lacked essential facilities. The main idea of “Building the American Way…” highlights that constructing entire towns without urban structuring and only to help real estate business grow leads to severe economic and physical challenges (Hayden, 2006). The work includes multiple historical, political, and economic references that support the author’s statement.

The article contains a brief history of three postwar-developed towns – Levittown, Lakewood, and Park Forest, to identify how private urban construction influenced these areas’ quality of life. Each section includes the story of the places’ establishers and the approaches they used for building more houses, malls, and other commercial facilities while forgetting to leave proper space for schools or hospitals (Hayden, 2006). These explanations determine the article’s key point: towns and suburbs must be adequately planned, and private developers who worked for their benefit failed to build prosperous areas. Then, the author mentions car availability and affordability of houses in such towns as the key reasons these unstructured suburbs grew (Hayden, 2006). These supporting statements are related to the side-factors that made people move from large cities to the new-built places.

The article’s most significant point is related to the devastating consequences of the postwar urban housing area’s appearance. Hayden (2006) states that “few decades of subsidies for greenfield growth reversed centuries of concentrated, locally regulated urban development” (p. 45). That conclusion highlights the importance of considering any governmental decision’s outcomes and applying practices dedicated to improving the whole nation’s quality of life instead of lobbying specific industries’ commercial interests.


Hayden, D. (2006). Building the American way: public subsidy, private space. The Politics of Public Space, 38, 35-48. Web.

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Jackson, K. T. (1980). Race, ethnicity, and real estate appraisal: The homeowners loan corporation and the federal housing administration. Journal of Urban History, 6(4), 419-452. Web.

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