Housing Crisis

A combination of decreased homebuilding during the Depression and World War II coupled with the return of millions of veterans at the end of the war created the worst housing shortage in this country's history. Wilson Wyatt, the federal government's new Housing Expediter, estimated that 3 million houses needed to be built between 1946 and 1947. The demand for most of these homes was among low and middle income families. Many looked to prefabrication as a solution, believing that manufacturing and technical advances generated by the war would result in homes rolling off production lines by the million.

This never happened. In 1946 and 1947, only 37,000 prefabricated houses were put up, 6.3% and 5%, respectively, of all new single home construction. The reasons for these low numbers were varied. For many prospective buyers, prefabricated housing still carried the taint of quick and shoddy prefabs built as emergency housing during the war. Some had aesthetic objections to visible joints between panels, thin plywood walls and the appearance of painted plywood. Building codes and labor union opposition were often obstacles as well.