Alexander Hoffman

Historian Alexander von Hoffman is a fellow at Harvard University's Joint
Center for Housing Studies.

Recent Articles

High-Rise Hellholes

In the category of good intentions gone awry, it is hard to beat the American public housing program. Public housing was born in the 1930s when liberal pressure groups helped start a quintessential New Deal program that was intended not just to help the poor but to put the construction industry back to work. After a couple of decades of fairly smooth sailing, however, delinquency and social problems began to appear among residents in the housing projects. By the 1980s, conditions had gone from bad to worse, and public housing had become synonymous with the social pathologies of the underclass. Today public housing faces an uncertain future, and it behooves us to try to understand what went wrong. Two recent books from Harvard University Press are vital to the task. American Project by Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh is a history of Chicago's notorious Robert Taylor Homes; From the Puritans to the Projects by Lawrence J. Vale is the saga of public housing in the city of Boston. These works...