The Trailblazers present a Review of Public Housing
Beating the odds and meeting the challenges…..The Dixie Court Story
By Lillian E. Small
(Fourth of Series)
In the early 1960s, Dixie Court as well as the Sunny Land Apartments, another public housing project of a recent origin in the nearby northwest, had assumed a different character. The average “quality” of public housing tenants had de-creased over time with changes in the eligibility requirements.
Local housing agencies were forced by the federal housing agency to enforce income limits, removing some of the better-off tenants in the late 1950s. The pool of potential public housing tenants were also influenced by the Housing Act of 1949 when it liberalized homeowner-ship requirements, thereby reducing the demand for public housing by the working and lower middle class.
This Act also displaced very poor families through Urban Renewal and highway construction, and relocated them into public housing. Congress altered the tenant population further in 1956, by allowing single elderly persons and remaining tenant family members who were previously excluded into public housing.
The rental structure was also influential in changing the rental pool. According to the Housing Act of 1937, rent was set to approximate the cost of operating the unit.
Tenants were limited to those able to pay that amount, but with incomes no greater than five times the rent.
The Housing Act of 1959 changed this, by allowing local housing authorities the right to set their own income limits and rents. Some research suggests that this may have put additional downward pressure on the income and “quality” of public housing tenants throughout the 1960s. The combination of these changes led to notable changes in the predominant character of the tenant population, from the temporarily unemployed and working class, to households on welfare, the otherwise homeless, and the disabled.
The median family income of public housing between 1950 and 1969 fell from 63.5 to 42.4 percent of the national median. Nonwhite residents increased from 38 to 52 percent, and the number of single parent families increased from 19to 3l percent.
The effect of these new policy amendments did not go unnoticed in the Dixie Court and Sunny Land Projects. The nurturing environment was still part and parcel for Dixie Court but not quite the same in Sunny Land. While Dixie Court had its playground area, those residents in Sunny Land were next door to the Carter Park, then known as Sunland Park.
There was a huge difference in the closeness and interaction of the residents. Some residents interviewed from the Sunny Land Project, reported the unfriendliness of people who lived there, and in some instances, not knowing the family who might be living next door.
They had no sense of community. It appeared that the new residents with children, who were labeled the chronic welfare recipients, brought with them a lack of incentive for investing in the upbringing of their children with the spirit and zeal as was noted in the Dixie Court residents of the 1940s and 1950s.
Those tenants who were still in Dixie Court from earlier times, or who had been relocated to Sunny Land Project for more living space, continued to hold fast to their dreams for their families, and their children. They continued to work hard to make their eventual move to homeownership as they instilled values into their children to be motivated into higher education. Most of these families succeeded as did some of the newer families, in spite of the limitations these newer families had. And though in smaller numbers, the children of these new families had motivation to further their education.
By the early 1960’s as the early residents of Dixie Court continued to move into new communities which included communities vacated by “white flight” Dixie Court maintained a courageous stance on Northwest Fourth Street.
Plantation and Lauderhill, two younger communities in the county, as well as an unincorporated area west of Broward Boulevard known as St. George Community and Broward Estates, were subdivisions vacated by whites through “block busting” and “white flight” as they sought their refuge in suburbia.
Melrose Park and Melrose Manors were also two older communities that succumbed to these tactics Golden Heights, Golden Ridge and Lake Aire were new communities that be-came favorites and were designed to be purchased by Blacks, many who were young working professionals, semi professionals, and skilled laborers.
The large homes and manicured lawns were tell-tale signs of their progress and upward mobility. Our people were beating the odds and meeting challenges for living better live and making their dreams a reality.
Fifth of series: Celebrating our Dixie Court Roots
DON’T FORGET!!! The Old Dixie Court Reunion Free Community Event– Aug. 8-12, 2012
Pre-registration applications to attend this event are available at the Old Dillard Museum, The New Dixie Court, and the African American Research Library and Culture Center. Please return completed pre-registration forms without delay.