The Domestic Standard: American Homeownership and the State, 1917-1950

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Moulds, Loren, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Balogh, Brian, Department of History, University of Virginia

The preference for and the real possibility of owning one’s own home has required a century of purposive effort by the federal government—in concert with manufacturers, the real estate industry, voluntary and professional groups, and social scientists—both to promote an ideology of homeownership and develop policies that reduced or removed many of the practical barriers to purchasing a home. While the post WWII period is rightly seen as the time when massive homebuilding and buying initiated unprecedented transformations in American life and landscape, government policies beginning in the 1910s are what made the “machine” of mid-century homeownership possible. This dissertation is about the genesis of the partnership formed between the federal government and private enterprises—such as reformers, professional groups, and industry—in service of that mission. It answers, in part, why the government took on a leading role in national homeownership, first as a promoter and later by authoring specific social and economic policies aimed at making homeownership a reality for a larger share of Americans. The government partnered with businesses and reformers in a shared goal of widespread homeownership, and the policies, methods, and ideology they put in place during the 1920s directly informed the interventionist housing policy decisions of the 1930s and 1940s.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Housing, Government Policy, Reform Movements
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