Arnold Hirsch: Historian interviewed about post-Katrina housing in New Orleans

Historians in the News

As part of a series on post-Katrina housing in New Orleans, NewsHour correspondent Betty Ann Bowser interviewed University of New Orleans history professor Arnold Hirsch about the history of public housing in New Orleans and the rest of the United States.


ARNOLD HIRSCH: I'm a professor of history at the University of New Orleans. My formal title is the Ethel and Hermann L. Midlow Endowed Chair for New Orleans Studies and University Research Professor of History.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Your area of expertise is public housing, right?

ARNOLD HIRSCH: My area of expertise is race and urban development and I've done work on housing policy.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: So when this country decided to build public housing, what was the goal of doing that?

ARNOLD HIRSCH: There were a number of goals in the initial public housing program. One was simply a jobs program to help us get out of the Depression. The second facet of that was the desire to get the construction trades going in the industrial sector. And third, there was housing reform and the attempt to give temporary help to the transient poor -- people who were seen as being down on their luck, through the circumstances beyond their control, and then just needed a helping hand to get back to work and move up the social ladder again.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: So the initial idea was to give people temporary help?

ARNOLD HIRSCH: It was not seen as permanent developments for people to go and live in through the generations. It was generally viewed as a way station where people could take a timeout, get a break on their rent, get a job, save some money, move on and open it up for the next family to follow....
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