xt7gqn5z8z4v https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7gqn5z8z4v/data/mets.xml  United States Housing Authority. 1940 11 pages: illustrations; 21 x 9 cm. UK holds archival copy for ASERL Collaborative Federal Depository Program libraries. Call Number FW 3.2:C 76 booklets English Washington, D.C.: Federal Works Agency, United States Housing Authority Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Works Progress Administration Housing Publications Construction industry -- United States -- Costs Bringing Down Construction Costs, 1940 text Bringing Down Construction Costs, 1940 1940 2019 true xt7gqn5z8z4v section xt7gqn5z8z4v ;— "Xe-s" 23 r': t: 3'“ £22 1/ 7 41¢

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Construction costs under the? Nation-wide Iow-
rent housing and slum clearahce program admin-
istered by local housing agencies with aid of the
United States Housing Authority.
the site of Jefferson Homes.

At one end of the huge building site concrete
foundations were still being poured. At the other
the bricklayers were already at work on the first—
story walls. The sharp buzz of an electric saw
split the air. A heavy truck, arriving with materi-
als, screeched to a stop near the large sign that read




At the sidewalk a heated discussion was taking
place among a few of the spectators.

"These Government projects always cost too
much money,” declared A between puffs on his
cigar. "They ought to be stopped."

”You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
countered B, waving his folded newspaper under
the other man’s nose. "Can’t you see it’s being

 built by a private contractor? * costs
the same as any private real estate deve 0pment." g
A shook his head stubbornly. "Private con-
tractor or no private contractor, these public hous- :
ing experiments always cost thousands of dollars "
more than ordinary homes.” 5
“They cost the same thing, I tell you," persisted i
B. "Now look, if . . . r1
/ .
71s.. . i
“m * - 5,!
”For the love of Mike,” interrupted a third fel-
low, who had been following the argument ,
impatiently, "why don’t you get the facts of the i
matter instead of standing around and beefing?" i
“What do you mean ?” demanded B. 1:
“Well, down the next street there’s a row of
typical private houses going up. Why don’t you
go over and get the construction cost figures? -r
Then, you could get the figures for the project and I
compare them."
"Makes sense,” muttered A. i
"Come on," said B, and led the way.
Within a few minutes they were talking with
the construction superintendent at the private 1
housing development. 1
"Construction cost, eh ?” He stroked his chin ,
thoughtfully. “Let me see, including heating, ‘
plumbing, and electricity, it's just about $3,000 a 1
"Of course,” he added, "this figure doesn't in-
clude the land or the architect’s fee or the carry- "
I ”W we; fl 1

 ing charges or tneTi'ceboxes or window shades or
Q things like that. just pure and simple construc-
tion—$3,000 apiece."

Mr. A beamed triumphantly. “That proves it!
You’ll never find a public housing project with a

a construction cost that low.”
"We’ll see,” said B, looking a little worried.
At the construction office of the Jefferson Homes
‘ project they buttonholed one of the architects.

”Hmm,” he said reflectively, after listening to
their arguments. He pulled out a pencil and per-
formed a rapid calculation on his scratch pad.

A moment later a smile broke forth on the archi-
tect’s face. "You think it’s far above $3,000,” he
laughed, nodding at A. "And you”—to B—
”think it’s just about $3,000. Well, you’re both

They looked at him in bewilderment.

"You see,” explained the architect, "it’s much
less than $3,000. The net construction cost on this
project averages only $2,200 a dwelling!"

B whistled incredulously.

‘ "I don’t see how it’s possible!” snorted A.
"I’ll tell yOu how it’s possible,” smiled the archi-
‘ tect.
And while the others drew closer and listened
eagerly, he unfolded the story behind the low costs
‘4” at the Anytown Housing Authority’s project.
' A ’1 ?
"l" i
e [AlllllAlI-MULA

First of all, he pointed out that there are three

separate and distinct kinds of housing costs:

‘ — ..~
Cort of building the hull. Coat of building the heme. Cort of building the home” k
including the not! of plumb- including the out of plumb- including the can at plumb-
ins. Mating. and «Imaul ing, mung. and dmml ins. hunting. and .ncmwl
immliafion installation installation
1- ,0 ~5- .
-~'fi p .. I! v
“(a a! 5' '
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can at dulling (quipment cm at dwelling zqulpmtnt
II- . III .
Mkikcts' (on. local ud- 'Archltcch‘ her, local ud-
ufinith‘ivg “fins“, and. ministrativfi “rum, and
my...“ .9" an...“ a...
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Colt at namdwtllins
Samarafimct 8.": manna. 12‘; stuttzlartztia
its: ikms included in NI: build< CI: of Ilum buildin l h: be turn
in; man." enter ‘m an“ mansoopoo down. eemm’bx: with the
conltnlction Wind E; +0.. Pu no... noon and pet home .i my piano:
U. 5. Department o'_ Lab... Pu Ayala", mm $4.000 largemlmmiamiopmm. ~
Mm at Labor Statutics. luau mm
Putnam ".250
Pa dwelling unit 35.000
The above chart sets forth the three types of _/.
housing costs, and shows the items contained in
each. Confusion can be avoided by using this
chart in making comparisons.
Low Net Construction Costs
The average net construction cost per unit on
projects aided by the USHA is constantly being
lowered—so much so, that in several projects upon
which construction contracts have been awarded,
the average net construction cost per unit is about
$2,000. It is only $1,890 in Daytona Beach, Fla; .
only $2,074 in Charlotte, N. C.; $2,087 in Austin,
Tex.; and $2,074 in Los Angeles, Calif.
(4) .

 Moreover, net construction costs are lower than
for comparable private housing. In Jacksonville,
Fla., for instance, the first USHA-assisted project
had a net construction cost of $2,667 a dwelling.
According to figures gathered from local building

‘ permits by the United States Department of Labor,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, the net construction cost

‘ of private homes built in Jacksonville during the
same period averaged about $3,98 5, a difference of
more than $1,300.

In Buffalo, where the net construction cost of
private homes was around $4,000 a dwelling, the
local housing authority has built projects averaging
$800 less.

On the first two New York City projects under
the USHA program the difference was about $380
and $775 a dwelling less than the net construction
cost of private construction.

In Austin, Tex., net costs on one of the first
projects was abOut $740 less than private costs, and
in Allentown, Pa., more than $1,900 less.

In 81 cities where early USHA-aided projects
were put under construction, data gathered by the

~ Bureau of Labor Statistics show that net construc-
tion costs for private homes averaged about $3,460.
The average net construction cost of the low-rent
_‘ housing projects built in these cities averaged only
’ about $2,856.

It should be pointed out, however, that if the
comparison were on a more equitable basis, costs on
USHA-aided projects probably w0uld make an
even better showing. Although both sets of fig-
ures include the same items, most privately built
homes are constructed under labor standards con-
siderably lower than those maintained on projects
aided by the USHA. Many private homes are
jerry-built structures that are substandard almost

. before they are occupied. Few are built durably
enough to last for 60 years or more, as are all the

1 projects under the USHA program.

_ (5)

 It is obvious that public housing under the
USHA program has lived up to the requirement
in the United States Housing Act that the net con-
struction cost be no greater than "the average con-
struction costs of dwelling units currently produced
by private enterprise in the locality or metropolitan ‘j
area concerned . . .” , 1
Low Dwelling Facilities Costs )J'

But when Congress drafted the United States
Housing Act, it inserted still another restriction
upon costs.

Under the Act, on no project assisted by the
USHA may the cost of dwelling facilitieswthat is,
the net construction cost plus the cost of dwelling
equipment, and the applicable portion of archi-
tects’ fees, administrative expenses, and carrying
charges—exceed $4,000 a dwelling or $1,000 a
room. For cities with a population over 500,000,
however, the maximum dwelling facilities cost was
set at $5,000 a dwelling and $1,250 a room.

At the time when the United States Housing
Act was passed, many friends of public housing
were afraid that these cost limitations could not be ,
met. They felt that more leeway would have to be i
given if slum clearance and low—rent housing were
ever to get under way in the United States. i

Today, however, all such fears have been laid at

In the first 116 projects built in cities of less than
500,000 population, the cost of dwelling facilities
averages about $3,339 a dwelling—or about $661
less than the $4,000 maximum. In the first 26
projects built in the larger cities, dwelling facilities
average about $3,700 a dwelling—or about $1,300
below the $5,000 maximum.

Accordingly, it can easily be seen that both net
construction and dwelling facilities costs have been
well below the requirements set forth in the Act.

' (6)

 Low Over-o” Cos’rs
But how about other costs? What is the cost
of community facilities, such as wading pools and
playgrounds and recreation rooms? What is the
cost of land? It is especially significant that the
I. over-all costs, which include net construction costs,
, ‘ dwelling equipment, administrative expenses, car-
gj rying charges, architects’ fees, non—dwelling facili-
ties, and land—are also low. At the very begin-
ning of the USHA program over-all costs ex-
ceeded $5,000 a dwelling. Since then, however,
they have fallen steadily. Recent loan contracts
provide for a large number of projects with over-
all costs as low as $3,600 and $3,200 per dwelling.
Over-all costs are down to $2,839 in Charlotte,
N. C., $2,754 in Miami, Fla, and $3,250 in Los
Angeles, Calif.
On the first 142 projects assisted by the USHA,
over-all costs averaged about $4,507 a dwelling.
An interesting comparison may be made between
this figure and the over-all costs on the large-scale
rental developments constructed by private builders.
On 165 of these projects completed as of May 31,
1939, over-all costs averaged $5,024 per dwelling
v unit.Jl
ii At times unfair comparisons have been made
j between the costs of public and private housing.
Mathematical hocus-pocus has been resorted to in
an effort to discredit public housing and foist upon
the general public the notion that public housing is
The formula which is usually followed is this:
“Take the over-all cost of a housing project and
compare it with the net construction cost of pri-
vately built homes.”
The dishonesty of this approach is apparent.
When you include land costs, for instance, in your
figure for a public project and exclude them in your
IThese large-scale private rental developments were
financed under the Federal Housing Administration plan.

 figure for private housing, the result is distortion
of the worst sort. You might just as well compare
the cost of a full suit of clothes in one store with
the cost of only a coat in the other.

Although every project under the USHA pro-
gram provides not only decent shelter but also
decent, healthful surroundings, the cost of these '
community facilities is always kept to a minimum. I
To cut the cost of playground construction, every '1
attempt is made to locate the projects in neighbor-
hoods where adequate play space is already avail- _
able. Rigid economy is observed in landscaping.
The amount of indoor community space is varied
with the size of the project.

0, A“. 1

Moreover, the local authorities invariably use a V
fine-tooth comb in searching for low-cost sites, both
vacant land and slum land. In order to prevent
speculative rises in land costs, they make a practice
of quietly taking up options upon desired parcels of
land—before it is generally known where they plan
to build. In order to escape speculative increases
in land prices should they occur, they often choose
alternate sites—so that if one turns out to be too
expensive, they can buy the other instead. Yet at
all times the interests of the seller are protected; a
fair market value is always paid.


 rtion Moreover, a sharp distinction must be made be-
pare tween projects built under the USHA program and
with projects built by the old PWA Housing Division
P r 0- Cost Trends Per Dwelling Unit,
USHA-Aided Projects Under Loan Contract
6.000 6.000
hese “um
mm. | . .
ivery I 5000 ”h,‘ //\ Over-all Casi oflVa-w Housing 5.000
bor- f \ I. I“
vail- A g x. I, ‘\
)in _ 4.000 s.- ‘1‘ [Dwell/”7515mm" [703? K I; 4.000
'g q . V\ .\ \
Lrled , .. a" In
3.000 unnuhh 3.000
v V“‘ _ N
Is Illi-
2.000 2,000
moo Looo
l23456 B9|0|||2|3I4l5|6|7|8
in the days before the USHA was created. The
PWA Housing Division projects, which are now
supervised by the USHA, were highly experimental
:e a a and were built in accordance with an entirely dif-
oth ferent plan. Net construction costs on USHA-
ent aided projects average about 25 percent lower than
:ice the costs of the old PWA housing projects.
:of Low construction costs have not been handed to
Ian the local authorities on a silver platter.
568 They have been the result of hard work over in-
ase numerable details rather than the product of some
:00 simple magic formula. They have been the result
at of unceasing vigilance on the part of both the local
; a housing authorities and the USHA.
When the architect of Jefferson Homes sat down

 with a few citizens of Anytown and explained the ~

reasons for low costs, they were in for a long story. , "
In order to do the subject justice, he had to discuss t t]
at least six important factors: P

1. All USHA-aided projects are constructed . 1:
under familiar local building regulations and in c
accordance with local rather than Federal specifi-
cations. ‘ s

2. Construction contracts are awarded only
after public advertisement and only to the lowest tj
responsible bidder. As a consequence, spirited a
and close bidding prevails.

3. All projects are built on a large scale. By 1.
purchasing materials in large quantities lower t
prices are often obtained. It is possible to make 5
more efficient use of labor than can be done in v
small-scale developments. t

4. All the projects are simple in design. r
Frills and excess ornamentation are ruthlessly 1
eliminated. Standards are no higher than is t
necessary for healthful, comfortable living. - I

5. Money-saving techniques and materials are c
used wherever possible. The experience gath- l
ered in the construction of PWA housing proj- ‘ ‘
ects is drawn upon, as well as the knowledge I
gained by experimentation and research carried ’
on during the past few years. 1. i

6. Agreements with the building trades ' a
unions have helped assure construction according
to schedule and have thereby eliminated a large
part of the labor risk which contractors generally
figure upon in drawing up their bids.

as a: * ‘

When the architect had answered all their
queries concerning these points, his listeners ap-
peared satisfied that construction costs under the
USHA program were really low.

"But what I want to know,” demanded A, "is
whether all this will have any effect upon private
construction costs ?”


 ‘ "Undoubtedly," came the quick response.

.7 "After all, 160,000 dwellings are being built under
the present program. There will be about 400
projects in approximately 170 communities. The

. program’s bound to have an effect upon the entire
construction industry.”

"It ought to stimulate more large-scale con-

‘ struction,’_’ offered A.
”That's one of the most important angles,” agreed
the architect. "Besides, it will popularize both
advanced techniques and more simplified design.
“Of course,” he concluded, “the example set by
low-rent public housing will not by itself solve all
the problems that face the private builder. But by
showing him how to reduce construction costs, it
will help him reach a mass market. It will help
him build houses for those families who earn too
_ much to live in a public housing project and too
' little to afford the type of homes generally built

through private enterprise. Even if the USHA

' program didn’t help slash the huge social and eco-

nomic costs resulting from slum conditions—as it

unquestionably does—for this reason alone it
a would be of invaluable service to the entire


Tbi: leaflet is one of a series on variant plum: of the
a United Statex Homing Authority program. For addi-
‘ tional tapie: of t/Jir leaflet, or for copier of other: in t/yix
‘ Jerier, write to tbe:

‘ Washington, D. C.
. \ED 57‘
‘l 125$: 4:21
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* ' .' ' (11)

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