A home in the suburbs is the hallmark of the American Dream. Homeownership
became a reality for many people after World War II. The demand for housing
increased rapidly as veterans returned from the war and started families.
The federal government subsidized the private building industry's efforts
to supply the enormous demand.
In order to build many houses in a short period of time, builders applied
the techniques of mass production to the construction of houses. The houses
were small, identical to one another, and often poorly constructed, but
most importantly they were affordable. They sold quickly and many Americans
realized the dream of homeownership for the first time.
By 1960, many of these families had improved their financial status and traded up their first home for
a bigger home in a better community. Families sought more individualized housing. Once again, builders responded to the demand.
Only the wealthiest consumers could have a one-of-a-kind home, however.
The average family had to choose among the options it could afford. In
addition to income, race determined the choices that a family could make.
In general, African Americans had to compromise
more than whites when choosing a home. In 1960 Chicago, African Americans were basically
excluded from buying a home in the suburbs.