DECENT, SAFE, AND SANITARY? PUBLIC HOUSING AND THE ENVIRONMENT OF EASTERN WASHINGTON, D.C., 1940-1965
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This dissertation examines the relationships between the physical environment and the history of public housing in Washington, D.C. from the 1940s to the 1960s. The environmental features of public housing complexes, as well as those of the landscape around them, significantly shaped the outcomes of the National Capital Housing Authority’s (NCHA) projects. The scale of public housing construction during that period entailed sweeping and dramatic transformations in the landscape. At the same time, the NCHA found itself constrained by material and financial pressures coming from a variety of bureaucratic and institutional sources. Those pressures limited the NCHA’s ability to respond to environmental stresses at various public housing sites. In the absence of adequate responses from the NCHA, the environment played a significant role in determining the outcomes of the District of Columbia’s public housing program. The physical nature of the NCHA’s choice of sites, as well as the materials that it used, turned public housing complexes into sites of environmental injustice rather than the decent, safe, and sanitary housing that the Authority envisioned.