DECEMBER 13, 1944
WASHINGTON, Tuesday—I told you yesterday that I would write more about the Chapel Oaks housing project.
It is built by a private firm and is not as yet quite finished. The architect told me with some pride that they were trying to fill the great need which now exists in Washington for housing for colored people. They told me no land, however, could be obtained anywhere in the District, so this development is outside, in Maryland. The architect told me that a bus ran within two blocks of this development, and that it took only 35 minutes to reach the city. I found, however, that men going to work in Washington allowed as much as an hour and a quarter, but nobody complained of transportation.
The development has water, sewers, electricity and gas. The houses, one story with cellar, are detached. Along certain streets the drainage is bad, and water stands in some of the cellars. The builders assured me that they intended to continue the draining and landscaping of the project, as it is not yet entirely finished.
Such houses as are there have already been filled, clearly indicating the need for housing in Washington for this group. But they agreed that a man should earn $55 weekly to live there. I can well understand, however, that people with children will prefer being there, where they have a little space, than in two rooms in the city, even if these can be obtained.
This is a project where the people may buy their homes, but I hardly think it is suited for the income group to which it is catering. The bank, of course, is the ultimate landlord, and it seems to me that the rents are too high for the people to be sure of retaining their properties. In addition to rent, there is a charge of $1 a month for water and $1 for garbage disposal.
Next door there is another settlement which does not compare to this one, where houses have no plumbing nor any planned space around them. I am afraid I did not feel that the interests of people on the project were being properly safeguarded, nor did I feel convinced that private enterprise could do this housing job at all, even with such government assistance as is available.
Yesterday morning I took the members of my press conference on a tour of the White House. I was glad to have this opportunity, as many of them had never seen the White House in pre-war days.
I had a talk with someone in the morning on the subject of the work done by the Jeanes teachers, and in the afternoon a group of 16 representatives of various organizations came to talk about consumer problems.