The untold story of public housing and urban renewal in the American Southwest
The War on Slums in the Southwest
Public Housing and Slum Clearance in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, 1935-1965
Search the full text of this book
Robert B. Fairbanks
In The War on Slums in the Southwest, Robert Fairbanks provides compelling and probing case studies of economic problems and public housing plights in Albuquerque, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and San Antonio. He provides brief histories of each city—all of which expanded dynamically between 1935 and 1965—and how they responded to slums under the Housing Acts of 1937, 1949, and 1954.
Despite being a region where conservative politics has ruled, these Southwestern cities often handled population growth, urban planning, and economic development in ways that closely followed the national account of efforts to eliminate slums and provide public housing for the needy. The War on Slums in the Southwest therefore corrects some misconceptions about the role of slum clearance and public housing in this region as Fairbanks integrates urban policy into the larger understanding of federal and state-based housing policies.
"This thoroughly researched regional study of how five southwestern cities—Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Phoenix, and Albuquerque—approached slum clearance and public housing has value for students interested in regionalism, urbanism, and the politics of social welfare.... Fairbanks provides a unique regional perspective useful for undergraduates and specialists alike. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
"[The book] solidifies Fairbanks' reputation: no one knows more about the fraught connections between housing policy and urban development at the local state and federal levels....a brilliant book."
"[An] excellent study.... Fairbanks shines the brightest when he is discussing one of the three Texas cities. [He] has done his homework with this volume. His sources are extensive.... The War on Slums in the Southwest is a well-written book that should be a great addition to the literature on the public housing movement."
"Robert B. Fairbanks has established himself as one of the leading authorities on the history of public housing in the United States…. [H]e has contributed significantly to our understanding of public housing's shifting role in society.... The War on Slums in the Southwest… is a book that both builds on the foundation of [his] earlier work and incorporates the findings of original research to provide a sophisticated interpretation of public housing's changing fortunes in the mid-twentieth century.… Based upon painstaking archival research…The War on Slums in the Southwest deftly builds its case on an impressive array of primary sources…. [T]his volume [is] an essential and at times provocative contribution to knowledge."
"A key contribution of the book is the detailed account it gives about the important role of the state in enabling or hindering cities to address the social and economic problems that are at the heart of housing debates. At the same time, it highlights how urban redevelopment and urban renewal, slum removal and slum prevention, and the promotion of social welfare and economic health in the five cities are also fundamental reflections of a cultural turn in the discourse of low-income housing. Although the book examines mostly the period 1935-1965, readers will find parallels to current housing discourses in the US and elsewhere, and the need to declare 'Our War on Poverty, Not Yours on Slums,' as the author outlines in the Epilogue."
“Fairbanks emphasizes the role of national debates about slums and slum clearance in the evolution of local programs.... [He] persuasively argues that a waning general interest in public housing permitted the National Association of Home Builders (and others) to thoroughly destroy it.... The War on Slums in the Southwest reconfigures national histories of slum clearance and public housing even as it offers an exhaustively researched regional study of southwestern housing politics.... This book is highly recommended for those interested in the evolution of American cities in the twentieth century.”
"In six well-defined, thematic, and comprehensive chapters, the author analyzes and examines the history of public housing and slum clearance efforts during the economic ups and downs of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.... He offers insightful discussions of the pros and cons of the Housing Acts of 1937, 1949, and 1954.... As Fairbanks explains so convincingly, the federal government brought, not only solutions to the housing and slum clearance problems, but also became the problem itself.... Fairbanks offers well-researched interpretations of how Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas dealt with, and tried to solve, their slum clearance and public housing challenges over a thirty-year period."
"[A] welcome addition to the Temple University Press series on urban history and public policy.... The author's careful and thorough use of city directories, demographic data, and newspaper coverage brings the uniqueness of each city, particularly the three in Texas, into high relief.... The War on Slums in the Southwest convincingly constructs a regional narrative of a changing social philosophy. This careful analytical study bears a close resemblance to present-day controversies over Hope VI projects, making it a must-read text in urban history."
"[A] thoroughly researched and thoughtful study.... The War on Slums in the Southwest is an outstanding book.... The primary research is exceptional.... The book is a great scholarly achievement that should be the definitive work on slum clearance and public housing in the Southwest for years to come."
"In this meticulously researched, comparative survey from the New Deal to the Great Society, Robert Fairbanks examines movements for public housing and central-city redevelopment in Texas's three largest cities, plus Phoenix and Albuquerque..... Fairbanks's work stands as an antidote to ill-founded generalizations about southwestern urban politics."
"Fairbanks' newest work reflects his considerable strengths as an urban historian: exhaustive research and an incisive grasp of public policy and how city hall works.... Fairbanks has opened an important dialogue on a topic that still vexes public policymakers in the Southwest."
Robert B. Fairbanks is a Professor of History at the University of Texas at Arlington. He is the author of Making Better Citizens: Housing Reform and the Community Development Strategy in Cincinnati, 1890-1960, and For the City as a Whole: Planning, Politics, and the Public Interest in Dallas, Texas, 1900-1965.
In the series
Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy, edited by Zane L. Miller, David Stradling, and Larry Bennett.
Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy Series, edited by Zane L. Miller, David Stradling, and Larry Bennett, features books that examine past and contemporary cities, focusing on cultural and social issues. The editors seek proposals that analyze processes of urban change relevant to the future of cities and their metropolitan regions, and that examine urban and regional planning, environmental issues, and urban policy studies, thus contributing to ongoing debates.