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delphia, Bethlehem, Pa., Erie, Pa., and Shelton, Conn., it proved necessary to commandeer such vacant properties, as the owners could not otherwise be induced to place on the market, in order to render them accessible to war workers. In Washington 141 properties were taken over in this manner, and in Bethlehem 143 houses were commandeered. By means of this practice, in Washington 1,340 persons were provided with comfortable homes at a cost much less than that which would have been involved in new construction.
Assistance in private construction of houses. The local housing problem was also met in part by assisting local house building corporations in securing priority orders for the construction of houses. All requests for such assistance were examined by the Priorities Section of the Requirements Division, and where house building was needed to take care of workers in war industries steps were taken to secure priorities for materials, and to license these corporations to build under proper restrictions which would safeguard the worker, both as to rental and sale. By this means licenses were issued through the War Industries Board for about $43,000,000 worth of homes for workers.
Solving the problem through transportation. The saturation of the industrial community was accompanied where possible by providing for the transportation of war workers to accessible neighboring communities, and all vacant addresses in these neighboring communities were listed with the central office of the Homes Registration Service, or else a branch registry was established. Where there was abundant housing in neighboring communities but not available because of poor transportation, the Transportation Division made a survey and recommended a program for solving the housing problem through improved transportation. This was accomplished in some cases by rearrangement of train schedules, in others by loans to transportation companies to increase their rolling stock, trackage, or other facilities. Such loans were made on proper security and bore 5 per cent interest. Altogether loans to the amount of $7,454,104.35 were contracted for, which have been reduced by $1,533,383.88 since the signing of the armistice.
In other cases it proved desirable to run special trains from the war industry to a neighboring city where there was abundant housing. Fourteen such trains were arranged for at no expense to the Housing Corporation. Nine other trains were provided at special fares. Thus the provision of special express trains from shell-loading plants of the Amboy district to Asbury Park and Long Branch was a means of providing excellent housing for approximately 2,000 workers who commuted daily. Though the regular fare for this round trip was 42 cents the corporation arranged to have the fare reduced to 25 cents, absorbing the 17 cents differential.
Measures preceding house construction. After thorough canvasses, comprehensive publicity, and appeals had opened up and utilized fully the available existing housing resources of industrial cities there was still in not less than 94 cities need for construction of housing accommodations for one or more classes of the industrial population.
When it was clear from the reports of the investigators that the problem could not be solved by saturation, transportation, or by any means short of erection of houses, a staff meeting was held, at which representatives of the War and Navy Departments were present, and a tentative allotment of funds was made to such community for the construction of houses. Then a real estate expert was sent to the community to report upon available properties and upon general values. Upon his return there would next go a committee on sites, composed of architect, town planner, engineer, and real estate expert for the purpose of choosing a specific site, taking into consideration all of the various factors affecting its location. The findings of this committee were reported to the staff meeting with recommendations. After the latter had been approved a special architect, town planner, and engineer were appointed for that project, and steps were taken through a real estate negotiator to secure land.
Acquisition of land.—Local appraisals of property were secured through the real estate board, the mayor, the assessor, the chamber of commerce, and the rotary club. The negotiator, armed with this information, undertook to secure the property from the owner at a reasonable price, and this price was submitted for approval to the president of the Housing Corporation. Altogether approximately 19,000,000 feet of platted land and about 2,800 acres of unplatted land were contracted to be purchased by the Housing Corporation, at a total cost of $4,879,700. The corporation did not take advantage of the vendor, but was able to show him that it was informed as to actual values, and was, therefore, able to secure property at a fair price. The corporation tried to establish in the minds of the people the fact that the intention of the Government to purchase land should not be allowed to increase its value.
In 124 cases, to avoid delay in the acquisition of land, the bureau resorted to its power to requisition land. Altogether approximately 5,000,000 feet of platted land and 492 acres of unplatted land were requisitioned.
Planning the houses and environs. The plans drawn by the local architect, town planner, and engineer were submitted to the Architectural, Engineering, and Town Planning Divisions to check with reference to standards established by the Housing Corporation and for suggestion. These three constituted a committee on design and worked in constant collaboration.
As the housing required was in practically every instance for skilled workers and not for day laborers-sufficient numbers of the latter class being available in practically every community-the houses had to be designed with reference to the requirements of skilled operatives and their families. The mode of living of the skilled workers was studied and the needs of their wives were successfully canvassed in order to ascertain what type of house would best meet their needs and wishes.
As local customs with reference to materials, planning, and equipment of houses for industrial workers vary materially throughout the country the types of houses required proved to be quite diverse, but it has been the aim of the Housing Corporation to consider the best prevailing local types and to provide housing which would be of good quality, but which would not deviate too widely from the types of houses to which local people were accustomed. It was possible to devise a relatively small number of house plans which could be duplicated in all the houses of the community. To avoid monotony, quite diverse exteriors were designed for houses of the same house plan in the attempt to design communities which would be attractive to the working man's family, and which would, therefore, increase his health and contentedness, and make it worth his while to stay in the industry for which he was working.
While the function of the architect was to design the house, the project town planner was responsible for the plan of roads and walks, subdivision into lots, the arrangement of buildings on the lots, the arrangement of recreation spaces, etc. The project engineer was charged with the provision of sewers, sewage disposal, lighting, water supply, grading of roads, sidewalks, etc.
Letting of contracts. The completed drawings after approval were submitted to the Construction Division, which let the contracts. A list of responsible competing contractors was prepared and invitations to bid on the buildings were sent to those who were found to be reliable efficient, and financially able to handle work of this character. If contractors living within the vicinity answered these qualifications they were given opportunity to bid. The Requirements Division prepared an itemized estimate of the cost of the proposed buildings, which was used as a standard to check the bids. The materials were purchased through the Construction Division of the Army, which fixed prices for the materials entering into construction. The contract was given to the lowest responsible bidder.
A few of the first contracts let were for a fixed price, but it was soon evident that fixed-price contracts could not be let except at exorbitant prices, because the contractor had to make allowances for very rapid increases in costs of materials and labor. It proved more economical, therefore, to apply a modification of the fixed-fee plan under which the Estimating Section of the Requirements Division of the Housing Corporation set a maximum fee which the corporation should pay, but in the contract it was agreed that if the final cost of the work exceeded this estimate the contractor would be penalized to the extent of one-half of his fee. If, on the other hand, he effected a saving under this estimate he could receive 25 cents on each dollar saved up to the limit of one-half of his fee. Some of the contracts did not contain the penalty feature, but all of the fee-basis contracts contained the provision for a fixed fee with a bonus for a saving in cost. The average contractor's fee for contracts over $1,000,000 was only 27 per cent, on contracts of less than $1,000,000 the average was about 34 per cent.
Field organization and procurement of materials.-A works superintendent was appointed to each project, with general authority over the work of the contractor and with the duty of seeing that the work conformed to the specifications. A field auditor and disbursing officer were also appointed. The Materials Procurement Branch of the Construction Division arranged for the acquirement of materials and for priority shipments through the War Industries Board. Labor difficulties on the project were handled through the Industrial Relations Division, which looked after the arbitration of difficulties and arranged for the health and comfort of the laborers. By winning the respect and loyalty of labor, the Housing Corporation was able to maintain its 10-hour day with Sundays off for contract work, although other enterprises had bid against it with a 12-hour day and Sundays included.
Effect of the armistice on the housing program.-During the week of the signing of the armistice, when it became clear that active warfare would probably end, the Housing Corporation ceased to let contracts and immediately abandoned 48 of its projects and curtailed 15 others, 22 being allowed to proceed as planned. The projects which were abandoned were those in which work had not been carried far, and in communities where there would be little probable peace-time demands for the houses which were in contemplation. The projects which were carried to completion were those in which construction work had been carried so far that it seemed probable that there would be less ultimate loss to the Federal Government through their completion than through their cancellation. They lay in communities in which there was a permanent demand for the kind of housing facilities which were being provided and in which there was, therefore a probability that the houses could be disposed of when finished at a price sufficient to warrant their completion. Altogether 5,899 families are provided for by the amended program of the Housing Corporation. Dormitory accommodations were provided for 8,109 persons. The approximate final cost of the projects is $35,000,000.
Rental policy.—The management of houses, apartments, and dormitories is in the hands of the Operating Division. For each project there is appointed an operating representative, who is responsible for the renting and the upkeep of the houses, and for the welfare of their occupants. For the present all houses are being rented. Rental prices have been fixed after careful study of the cost of construction, the prevailing rentals of the city, and the ability of the working men to pay. An attempt has been made to fix a price which will be fair to the working man and to the Federal Government, and a price which will not discourage private building enterprise within that same community, for it is recognized that as the Federal Government has built houses for emergency purposes only it would be poor policy for the Government in managing its properties to charge rents so low that private builders could no longer afford to build. The American working man does not want to be subsidized, and in our experience he has proved willing to pay a just price.
STATISTICS OF OPERATION.
On July 5, 3,515 of the houses and 159 of the apartments were reported occupied.
On the same date, 778 persons were reported as residents in hotels and dormitories constructed by the Housing Corporation at Quincy, Kittery Point, and Vallejo. The Government hotels for women war workers in Washington, authorized by Congress under the war housing act, approved May 16, 1918, are now complete. Before the creation of the House Corporation on July 25, 1918, working plans had been made and the contract was let on August 2. Construction began immediately, but numerous delays occurred, due to difficulties in securing building materials and equipment. The signing of the armistice and the consequent uncertainty of the future of those buildings was responsible for further delay.
In spite of all these obstacles, however, the first unit of 150 rooms was opened on December 19, 1918, four months and 17 days after the contract had been let. The various units for convenience are designated by letters of the alphabet, as A-B Building, C-D Building, etc., each consisting of two wings.
The 12 units are designed to accommodate 1,950 persons, including staff, and by July 15 they were 100 per cent occupied. There are two dining rooms which seat 1,068 persons; there is a central power plant, a laundry, a small infirmary, and a small recreation hall. The dining room in the Plaza group opened on March 8, 1919, and has since been taxed to the limit. The dining room in the Capitol group was opened May 19, 1919, in charge of a trained dietitian, who is expected to provide wholesome, palatable meals suitable for indoor workers. The Government employees who live in the
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