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
The seed of the modern, low-rent public housing system now taken for granted as part of the social structure of the city of Camden was planted back in the dark days of the depression, in the interim between the first election and inauguration of President Roosevelt, by the Unemployed Union of Camden County. This was an association formed to present the problems of the unemployed collectively and intelligently to those public officials who were responsible for the administration of relief in Camden County
Believing that the relief problem would be a permanent one, the executive board of the union established contact with civic and social organizations in Camden to initiate a Statewide movement for planning lasting civic improvements which simultaneously would provide employment and meet a pressing need for decent housing for the under-privileged.
In the furtherance of this policy, a resolution was adopted by the union and presented to the city commissioners on December 22, 1932 proposing that the city seek a loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation with which to finance construction of homes to be owned and rented by the city. Since public housing was something entirely new for Camden and little understood, an educational program was undertaken by the union. Frank J. Manning, president of the union, and Clarence E. Moulette appeared before various organizations in Camden seeking support for the housing plan.
Mayor Roy R. Stewart on August 3, 1933 convened a meeting of representatives of real estate, insurance, title and mortgage companies, labor and the unemployed to discuss problems arising from vacant properties in the city. Mr. Manning was present and, although the conference originally had been planned to consider a housing project, consideration of that subject was deferred because of the absence of Rabbi Nachman S. Arnoff, who was to have opened a discussion on slum clearance and municipal housing.
A few days later the Mayor held another conference with representatives of the same interests at which architects were present. The conferees discussed the possible condemnation or repair of hundreds of vacant houses which had been reported in a survey by the Police and Fire Departments early in March. Of 2,800 houses found unoccupied, 838 were declared to be absolutely unfit for human habitation owing to lack of repair and deficient sanitation facilities. The representatives of labor and the unemployed and the architects strongly advocated a municipal housing plan for Camden which would be financed in the main by the government under the national recovery program. On August 10, the Camden Board of City Commissioners and the Camden County Board of Freeholders appointed a joint City-County Public Works Survey Committee, the purpose of which was to pass upon all proposed projects for federal aid under the national recovery program. The committee consisted of 17 men prominent in business, labor, and political life appointed by Mayor Stewart and Dr. Leslie H. Ewing, Director of the Board of Freeholders. The members were Mayor Stewart, Dr. Ewing, David Baird Jr., Representative Charles A. Wolverton, J. David Stern, Norman Parker, Edward J. Borden, Harry L. Maloney, Ernest Bartelt, Ernest R. Lewis, Dr. Thomas B. Lee, former State Senator William T. Read, Albert S. Woodruff, Wilfred W. Fry, J. William Markham, Grover C. Richman and William H. Dobbins.
Before the committee had organized, 16 projects for federal aid were proposed. At the organization meeting the Camden Society of Architects offered to make a slum-elimination survey without cost to the city, and the offer was accepted on September 5 by a committee which was an outgrowth of the Mayor’s conferences. This committee was headed by William S. Abbott, president of the Camden County Real Estate Board. On the same day Representative Wolverton, head of a sub-committee of the City-County Committee, outlined to the Mayor’s committee steps that had been taken for better housing and told of visits he had made to the slum areas and of the evil conditions there. The Mayor’s committee then went on record as favoring slum elimination, but opposed any new housing projects, according to Carl R. Evered, a member of the committee and chairman of the housing projects committee of the County Real Estate Board. A preliminary report by the architects recommended that the city request federal loans for new housing to accommodate poor families.
The City-County Committee on September 20, 1933 asked the City Commissioners to apply immediately for $2,000,000 of federal funds for slum-elimination and housing.
After the compilation of the ERA’s State-wide Real Property Inventory in 1934 disclosed how people in Camden lived, there was formed in 1935 a committee composed of labor and consumer’s organizations which sought better housing for the city. From this group was chosen a committee of five consisting of Charles Hollopeter, president; Horace R. Dixon, vice-president; Joseph Reed, Francis Hunter, and Joseph Mitten. This was known as the Action Committee and was sent to Washington to convince the PWA of the need for housing projects in Camden.
The Action Committee, following the earmarking by PWA of $3,500,000 to finance a housing project, was disbanded in 1936.
With the passage of the U.S. Housing act of 1937, the Municipal Low Cost Housing Committee sponsored legislation providing for the creation of housing authorities in New Jersey. After many conferences with other agencies and representatives of the United States Housing Authority, bills were introduced in the New Jersey Assembly.
To the Camden Municipal Low Cost Housing Committee should go a large share of the credit for arranging thee conferences and the work in the legislature that resulted in the passage of these bills.
The Housing Authority of the City of Camden was established by an ordinance adopted by the Board of City Commissioners on April 20, 1938. To its non-salaried membership were appointed the members of the Municipal Low Cost Housing Committee, which had been in existence since October of 1937. They were Charles F. Hollopeter, William H. White, John Green, Dr. M.F. Wheatland, and Horace R. Dixon, who were appointed for terms of one, two, three, four, and five years, respectively.
The Authority held its first meeting on April 27, 1938 and on May 11 of that year, discussed with the USHA plans for earmarking $2,500,000 for a Camden project which would furnish a decent domicile for the South Camden Negroes and for the leasing of Westfield Acres, the PWA project.
Mr. Dixon was elected chairman and Mr. Hollopeter secretary. Joseph N. Hettel was appointed to serve as technical adviser, a post he had held on the Municipal Low Cost Housing Committee. In June 1939, the city commissioners appointed Mr. Dixon executive secretary and treasurer of the Authority and named Charles Anderson to take his place as a member. At that time the Authority moved into the permanent and commodious quarters assigned to it on the ninth floor of the City Hall.
Upon resignation of the commissioners, late in 1940, a new Authority was appointed. Former Commissioners Dobbins and Primas were reappointed to their un-expired terms, and the new Authority was completed with the designations of Samuel D. Shields, Frank J. Suttill, and Bartholomew A. Sheehan. Mr. Sheehan was elected chairman.
How People In Camden Live
|CAMDEN COURIER-POST - FEBRUARY 14, 1936|
NIEDA OPPOSES NEW CITY SCHOOL
to the city burdening itself
with any more school expenses, was voiced yesterday by Mayor Frederick
von Nieda at a meeting of the Mayor's Housing Committee.
mayor's viewpoint was made clear to members of the committee who met in
his office to map out a plan to be submitted to Washington which would
make possible a 100 percent grant by the government for the proposed
school to be erected at the .$3,000,000 "Westfield Acres"
mayor declared his objection to any additional school burden after it was
brought out that the office of W.P.A. Administrator Harold L. Ickes had
notified the committee the city's proposal for a 30-room school has been
held up because there are no available government funds.
am opposed to any additional school expense on the city because of this
project," Mayor von Nieda said. "If the housing project is to
come here, the government must meet its share.
want another school and not a shack. There is already a temporary school
on Thirty-second street between Hayes and River avenues, and we don't want
any more of that. I am against any more spending so far as the city is
concerned. The board of education has all it can stand. There will be no
more spending, only over my dead body."
the mayor's statement, James W.
Burnison, chairman of the committee, named
a subcommittee to confer with the board of education and other local
educational officials in an effort to map out some plan acceptable to
Washington. The subcommittee consists of A. J. Rosenfeld, Charles F.
Hollopeter and Joseph N. Hettel.
von Nieda told the group that a 30-room school would cost at least
$250,000, and that approximately 400 families would be housed at the
development, with at least one child to every family.
urged passage of federal legislation which would give the city definite
assurance that it would be paid all service charges, such as sewer and
water, in lieu of taxes.
A dedication committee was named to arrange for exercises at such time as the project gets under way. The committee includes George V. Walsh, project manager, Hollopeter and Burnison. Other members of the housing committee are James V. Moran, Joseph Mitton and Rosenfeld.
August 10, 1936
Camden Courier-Post - February 4, 1938
GROUP WINS HOUSING BILLS GOAL
A long and hard-fought campaign to obtain housing bills which will enable New Jersey municipalities to secure Federal funds for slum clearance and low-cost housing resulted in a moral victory for members of the Camden Municipal Low-Cost Housing Committee yesterday.
The local group, which several weeks ago inaugurated a statewide movement to obtain the legislation and to eliminate political chicanery in the legislation, returned last night from Newark after attending a stormy session that lasted more than four hours.
S. Raymond Dobbs, executive secretary of the Camden committee and acting secretary of the state conference of low cost housing committees, said the members of the local and state groups are satisfied with several amendments to be made to the present bills.
Four Housing bills will be presented in the Assembly next Monday night, Dobbs said. They will be introduced by Assemblyman Jennie A. Pilch, of Morris County, chairman of the Assembly housing committee. Assemblyman Oscar R. Wilensky, of Passaic County, majority leader of the House, will ask for their passage under suspension of rules, Dobbs said.
Publie Hearing Set
Mrs. Pilch has granted a public hearing on the bills to be held in the Assembly chamber next Wednesday at 1 p.m. The public hearing was requested by the Jersey City Chamber of Commerce.
"The members of our local group and those in the state conference feel a good job was done, "said Dobbs. "We didn't get everything we wanted but at the same time we are confident these bills will be adopted and Camden will get its share of Federal money from the U. S. Housing. Authority."
Dobbs said Wilensky agreed to limit the authority of the state director of housing, set up in two of the bills, to municipalities under 50,000. In the original bills Camden and other cities would have to get written permission from the director before the City Commission could appoint or elect a housing committee.
Another bill was amended requiring the state director to forward to the U. S. Housing Authority with in 20 days all applications for Federal money for slum clearance and low cost housing.
This amendment, Dobbs said, will prevent the state director from arbitrarily deciding whether or not Camden or any other municipality has the legal right to apply for Federal money.
The bill also designates the State Housing Authority as an advisory agency to the state director. In the opinion of Dobbs the state authority will be shorn of much of its power in the matter of housing matters in the state.
The four bills as amended will give Camden and other municipalities even greater autonomy than when they were first drawn, Dobbs declared.
Frederick Pitett, a retiring building contractor of Bergen County, is named in the bills as state director of housing, Dobbs said. The bills provide for a deputy director to be paid $4000 annually. Pitett's salary will be fixed by the joint appropriations committee of the Legislature, according to Dobbs.
Those representing Camden at the conference besides Dobbs were Charles F. Hollopeter, local committee, chairman, and acting chairman of the state group; Commissioner Harold W. Bennett, counsel, and Joseph N. Hettel, technical adviser to the Camden committee, and Horace R. Dixon, committee secretary,
The State Housing Authority was represented by Frederick W. Ehrlich, chairman; Harry I. Luftman, secretary, and Charles H. Ziegler and Mrs. Isora B. Somers.
Maurice Kaltz, solicitor for the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council, also was present. Members of the Assembly housing committee, J. H. Schneider, counsel for the U.S, Housing Authority, and officials from other cities attended the session.
An observer was Albert Reitman, secretary to Senator Charles S. Loizeaux, of Union county, president of the State Senate..
Camden Courier-Post - February 8, 1938
FUND SOUGHT FOR HOUSING
A Federal grant of $8,000,000 for slum clearance and two municipal low-cost housing units will be sought by the city of Camden when the State Legislature approves pending bills providing enabling legislation.
This was made known yesterday by Commissioner Frank J. Hartmann, director of public works, who also announced he will present an ordinance at Thursday's meeting of the City Commission setting up a Camden Municipal Housing Authority.
The ordinance, Hartmann explained, will conform with requirements in one of the Assembly bills. Members of the authority, who will be known as Housing Commissioners, will be named by the City Commission.
Present members of the Camden Municipal Low-cost Housing Committee are Charles F. Hollopeter, chairman; Dr. M. F. Wheatland, William H. White, Horace R. Dixon, secretary, and John Green, president of the United Marine and Shipbuilders' Union of America.
"Camden needs two more low-cost housing units to provide modern, sanitary and adequate housing for its working people," Hartmann said. "Unless present plans are changed the proposed housing authority will seek a grant of $8,000,000 from the U. S. Housing Authority".
"As soon as the legislature passes the enabling legislation the city through this committee will be in a position to go to Washington, present our plans, and make formal request for Federal money.
Hartmann said that neither he nor the members of the housing committee will divulge any contemplated locations of the two proposed projects.
"This committee has studied housing needs from all angles. Neither politics, race or creed will enter into negotiations in connection with the projects."
Camden Courier-Post - February 18, 1938
WHO NEED IT
Rentals at Westfield Acres, Camden's $3,000,000 Federal housing project, are within the means of those most in need of decent, low-cost housing and every effort should be made to see that those are the ones who receive the benefit.
As announced in Washington, the rates will be from $23.60 per month for three-room apartments to $32.80 for five rooms. Since these prices include heat, hot water and electricity for lighting, cooking and refrigeration, it is obvious that the three-room tenant will be paying no more than he paid for sub-standard quarters at $15 a month.
Nathan Straus, Federal housing administrator, has laid down the requirements for eligibility of tenants, providing that first consideration be given families of lowest income. His schedule of "conditions of occupancy" makes clear that the entire idea of low-cost housing will be submerged if every precaution is not taken to keep the "chiselers" out.
At Westfield Acres are modern, up-to-date homes for low-salaried workers. Here is a fulfillment of the New Deal's ambition to improve the living standards of those now "surrounded by dilapidation, primitive conveniences or otherwise unwholesome environment.
To them Westfield Acres belongs. The family of higher income which well can afford commensurate conveniences at regular private rental has no right to live in Westfield Acres and should not be allowed to deprive a needy, deserving family of its right to these advantage.
The Housing Authority successfully completed the new project, known as Clement T. Branch Village. The demand for wartime housing for defense workers gave impetus to the Housing Authority building two more projects, William Stanley Ablett Village and Chelton Terrace.
Up until 1943 Horace R. Dixon was the Executive Director at the Housing Authority of the City of Camden. In 1943 Edward J. Kelleher was named Executive Director, a post he would hold until his resignation in March of 1945. It was during his tenure that Chelton Terrace was completed and dedicated.
|Dedication of Chelton Terrace - April 2, 1944|
Below: 4 page Program
|Click on Images to Enlarge|
When the war ended, the Housing Authority administered the Civic Center homes, built as temporary housing, which were demolished a few years after the war to make way for the "Camden Connection", the Federal Street overpass to Mickle Boulevard and Haddon Avenue. The Housing Authority also administered emergency housing throughout the city into the 1950s when the program ended.
In 1949, the Housing Authority applied for funds to build another low-rent housing project. In the end, two more sites were built, McGuire Gardens in East Camden and Roosevelt Manor in the Centerville section of South Camden, both completed by the mnid-1950s.
It should be noted that many of the pre-war conditions relating to sub-standard housing in Camden still existed in the early 1950s. Many of the homes razed to make way for the new projects were quite old even then, and lacked hot water and/or indoor plumbing.
During this time there were bumps in the road at the Authority. The managers at both Chelton Terrace and Clement T. Branch Village were let go for actions inconsistent with their positions. There were heating problems at Westfield Acres, which eventually were solved. Starting in the a conversion from coal to oil and eventually to gas heat took place at the Authority.