Housing Authority of the City of Camden
Welcome to an "un-official" web-site about the Housing Authority of the City of Camden. This site is devoted to people, events, and activities that make up the history of public housing in Camden NJ, from its inception in the 1930s up until about 1990.
The Housing Authority
From the Booklet
How People In Camden Live
The Public Conscience has been stirred in the last decade to support efforts to improve the residential environment of thousands of under-privileged families in the cities of the nation whose sojourn into unsanitary and hazardous tenements and shacks has constituted a social problem of the first magnitude. Susceptible to fire and breeding place of disease, the environment which such dwellings constitute predisposes some of the inhabitants to lives of crime. Public safety and social progress are endangered and retarded by the prevalence of slums and the existence of dwellings below the standards considered compatible with the American way of life.
A slum district has been defined as “an area composed of many dwelling units which are unsafe or unsanitary, which by reason of dilapidation, faulty arrangement or design, lack of proper ventilation, light, heat, or sanitation facilities, or any combination of these factors, is detrimental to the public safety, health, or morals of the community.” The development and administration of projects for the elimination of unsafe and unsanitary dwelling units in the city of Camden will directly benefit the city and all citizens by reducing the expenditures for crime prevention and punishment, public health and safety, fire protection and other related public services set up for the protection of the health, morals and safety of inhabitants.
The designation of various sections of Camden as slum areas was resented by their residents as a humiliation, since they did not grasp the modern concept of the word “slum” and could not dissociate it from the tenements on the East Side of Manhattan. Slums are not tenements merely; they maybe buildings whose construction makes them firetraps or which may be in such a state of neglect or disrepair as to constitute them a menace to life.
The initiation of public housing projects in New Jersey was preceded by the taking of a State-wide Real property Inventory by the State Housing Authority in 1934. This included an exhaustive investigation of residential and business structures of every type in Camden. The census of buildings, financed with funds from the Emergency Relief Administration, was conducted by field workers employed through relief agencies. The returns were classified and analyzed in a comprehensive inventory of all the real property in the city and tabulated by the Statistical and Planning Division of the State Authority. Camden was divided into nine economically homogeneous divisions or units known as housing tracts to facilitate a detailed study of its housing conditions.
Information was obtained regarding the condition of residential structures, the principal materials used in their construction, the sanitary facilities, the number of dwelling units, the number of occupants, heating apparatus, fuel and lighting. The questions asked by door-to-door enumerators were selected in collaboration with experts in the housing field, representatives of the building industry, building material manufacturers, plumbing and heating supply manufacturers, makers of modern household appliances and other experts in the building industry.
The returns showed that there were 12,958 residential structures within the corporate limits of the city, of which 4,339, or 33 percent, were single family houses, 2,434, or 19 percent, row houses; and 2,907, or 22 percent, two-family houses. The remainder of the residential structures were apartment houses, rooming houses, hotels, and buildings of other types. Less than 1 percent of the total number of structures were erected in the five years preceding the survey. In the period 1924-1928 the number erected was 960, or 7 percent, and from 1909 to 1923 about 3,000, or 23 percent of the total, had been built.. During the previous 15 years, 1894-1908, the number was 2,540, or 20 percent, and 6,208 residential structures were found to be more than 40 years old.
The survey revealed that only 3,350, or 26 percent of the structures in Camden, were in good condition; that 6,210, or 48 percent, needed minor repairs; 2,254, or 17 percent, major repairs; and that 1,140,or 9 percent, were unfit for use.
The 1934 survey showed a low average rental for Camden, about 47 percent of the dwelling units renting for less than $20 a month. Twenty-three prevent rented for from $20 to $24.99; 17 percent for from $25 to $29.99; 10 percent for from $30 to $39.99, and only 3 percent for more than $40.
Occupancy and Vacancy
A total of 30,584 dwelling units were reported, of which 28,323, or nearly 93 percent, were occupied at the time the survey was made, giving the city an overall vacancy rate of 7 percent. The survey showed that 11,774 dwelling units, or 38 percent of the total, were occupied by their owners. Extra families sharing dwelling units with usual occupants numbered 2,538. Of the 28,323 units reported occupied, 21 percent had been occupied by their residents for less than one year; 19 percent for from one to two years; 26 percent from three to nine years; and about 34 percent had housed the same families for 10 to 20 years or more.
O the vacant dwelling units, 54 percent had been unoccupied for less than one year, and 46 percent had been vacant from one two two years or more. Vacant units reported n good condition numbered 293, or 13 percent; those in need of minor repairs 809, or 36 percent, and those requiring major repairs 591, or 26 percent. Vacant units classified as unfit for use numbered 568, or about 25 percent.
Living Quarters and Facilities
The majority of the dwelling units had from five to seven or more rooms and, on a basis of the number of persons to a room, the survey showed 13 percent to be crowded or over-crowded.
Hot-air furnaces were used in 39 percent of the structures, steam or vapor in 14 percent, and hot water in 21 percent, while the old-fashioned heating stove was found in 22 percent of the homes. Coal was used for fuel in 95 percent of the residential buildings. about 90 percent of the homes were equipped with electricity for lighting and gas for cooking.
About 18 percent had only cold running water, and only 80 percent were equipped with private water closets, most of the others, or 5,906, having yard closets only.
Real Property Re-check
Partially completed by September of 1941 was a re-check of the Real Property Inventory which indicated a serious aggravation of the housing situation because of the defense program. Manifested chiefly as a housing shortage, the condition gave rise to legitimate fears that the defense program would be hampered. It was pointed out that the private builders constructed homes for sale and not for rent, a luxury and responsibility beyond the pocketbooks of most workingmen.
Between 1934 and 1941 there had been demolished 1,543 dwellings, and in the same period private builders had constructed only 102 new units. Rents had jumped 30 percent despite the fact that 7,472 homes needed major repairs according to the incomplete survey. Of all the dwellings investigated in the latest real property inventory 70.9 percent were substandard. Vacancies have decreased from 1,507 units in 1934 to 192, and, taking advantage of this rental shortage, owners are refusing to re-rent so as to force the tenant to buy. Only 26 of the 182 vacant dwellings were found to be standard.
The large increase in population, estimated at about 12,000 for the entire city, has naturally compelled more families to double up. In one district "extra" families increased by 41 percent, The vacancy rate, which should be about 3 percent, is now only .055 percent.