Just over 60 years ago in the US, returning G.I.’s made up the bulk of a huge pent-up demand for housing. The government introduced legislation that virtually guaranteed financing to residential developers and making housing loans easily available that .
Developers like Bill Levitt responded with very affordable little houses for under USD8000. And they could be purchased with a low down payment (or none) and low monthly mortgage payments spread out up to 30 years.
Levitt was able to offer these houses so cheaply because he was applying construction methods perfected in the deployment of prefab housing in the armed services during World War II. Bill Levitt had learned the techniques of rapid construction using standardized parts, tightly controlled suppliers of goods and services, and a workforce with highly specialized skills. He took the mass-production assembly line and converted it so that workers moved from site to site doing their specific targeted tasks.
A Simple Plan
The Levitt house combined extreme economy and the promise of an appropriate living space for an American family. Small at first, it could expand with time-- upward, first, then outward. Only the downstairs was finished: a tiny, two-bedroom detached dwelling on a concrete slab, with stairs to an unfinished "expansion attic" which could be converted with ease into a third and perhaps even a fourth bedroom, under the eaves.
These houses were arrayed along curved streets, rather than the rigid grid plans of older towns in the US. The new suburbs became sub-communities. Larger 'distribution' roads, that served to direct traffic around rather than through neighbourhoods, formed one set of boundaries. The parks or larger open areas formed centres of gravity drawing children and, inevitably, parents. This was the locale for tight social connections.
Right from the beginning Levittown and suburbs like it have been criticized for the lack of natural features, cookie-cutter designs, social class homogeneity and racial racial exclusion (in the early years). But these were houses rapidly built to satisfy a desperate demand; housing cheap enough for newly returning GIs; houses that were small enough to be convenient and easily maintained, large and expandable enough to accommodate growth in family and in wealth; houses that drew the family into a common area (often around the built-in TV); a community that embodied the child-centred and optimistic values of the post-war boom.