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Eleanor Roosevelt Liveblogs World War II: January 5, 1944

MY DAY by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 5, 1944:

WASHINGTON, Tuesday—I have a number of letters asking me why I am so interested in Negro housing in Washington when white people find it so difficult to get decent housing, not only in Washington, but in many other places in the United States. The answer is that there are more people to speak for white tenants than there are for colored tenants.

Aside from that, if we allow restriction of areas in any city which has an increasingly large colored population, we shall have, as in Washington, D.C., colored areas where health is bad. Overcrowding will affect the moral conditions for young people as well as old and make the city less safe for all its inhabitants. More police will be needed and the institutions such as prisons, hospitals, etc., will be overcrowded. A heavier tax burden will pile up on the citizens of the community.

Here are some real facts about colored housing in the District of Columbia. These facts could be duplicated in other places. There is a shortage of habitable homes for Negroes all over this country. Private builders in Washington are being urged to construct 2,767 homes for them.

The response of the builders is excellent because they recognize that there is a postwar market for medium and low cost houses, both those built for buying and renting. Builders, however, are meeting with some unfortunate obstacles. In areas which have been long established as Negro, like the Garfield section in southeast Washington, these has been an infiltration of a few white families. Now, citizens' associations and property owners want to take over parts of these established Negro communities for white tenancy alone.

In Bradbury Heights there is opposition to the erection of apartments on an undeveloped site which is in the center of a Negro residential district. Most recent obstacles to the building of 744 units in these two areas are petitions presented to the zoning commissioner asking for re-zoning of special sections of these areas.

This re-zoning will affect the building of 744 garden type apartments by requiring that in one case single family homes be built, and in the other case row houses in groups of three or less be put up. This would raise the cost of each unit and would put them beyond the means of colored war workers. Devious ways can be used to achieve the object in view, namely, pushing the colored residents more and more into a segregated little city of their own. This area will be as far out as possible, where transportation and utilties will be less available.

This proposal to herd our citizens according to race and religion has many serious disadvantages and should be fought, I believe, by all people interested in the future peace and unity of our nation.