The Problem of City Housing



FROM the dry columns of dusty departmental reports I have garnered the text which follows.

Eleven thousand men in Manchester, England, tried to enlist in the army. Eight thousand were rejected, two thousand were accepted for the militia, and one thousand were taken for the army. With that record, and with the possibility of German invasion ever before her eyes, need we marvel that Britain sees the shambling hooligan in her streets with a growing foreboding of the future, or that the nations of Europe, when they seek men to whom their costly tools can be intrusted, look dubiously at the wretched human stuff their cities now produce?

Still more than the armies of war, the armies of peace need men. From recruiting offices of the army, of the workshop, of the factory, and of the forge alike, come tales of rejection and of distrust. A remedy is needed, and that speedily. In a belief that environment may be closely connected with personal efficiency, European leaders of both the peaceful and the militant armies are striving to better the house in which a man is born, in which he lives and dies. They have sought the cause which has produced the defective man behind the gun or machine. They have found that housing has a direct connection with the welfare of every individual in the state.

Scarcely a city but reports a desperate lack of proper housing, hardly a city ward but shows a marvelous upspringing of industries. There is a close relation between these things. I stood with a German on a height crowned by an ancient castle, and looked out over the plain below dotted with tall chimneys. “The old and the new,” he said, pointing backward and forward; “it is the same the empire over. Every year sees thousands more of those spires that mean industrial dominance to us.” That little label “made in Germany” on the ware they send to us is but one battle-cry of modern Germany. Every one of those chimneys means that many hands are busily at work beneath, that many a head must find some lodging for the night. And good lodging is not secured as easily as good chimneys.

The building of houses has by no means kept pace with the building of chimneys. From every side rises the cry of the worker, “Where can we find decent housing within the bounds of our wage? ” Driven by sheer lack of quarters to the slums, many a man, against his will, adds another family to the rabbit-warrens of the tenements, crowding yet more what was already overcrowded almost beyond endurance. For it is the slum only which is elastic. The houses of the well-to-do are not the ones which expand to take in the increase of population. It is the family in two rooms which, driven by necessity, gives up one, or, even when crowded into a single room, takes lodgers in those narrow quarters, to help pay the rent. Thousands of slum-rooms do double duty, night and day. No sooner are the night-sleepers on their way to work than the night-workers appear and fill their places. “Overcrowding" is almost synonymous with “slum.”

Were this crowding in narrow quarters temporary, it might be better borne; but the slum has the tentacles of a devilfish. Once it receives its prey within its walls it is loath to let them go. Suppose a laborer, sickened with the fetid air and seeing his wife and children pine before his eyes, wishes to escape: what opportunities has he to better his condition? Even if his wage allows him better quarters, landlords and agents of better buildings often look askance at newcomers from the slums. And small indeed is the percentage of men whose wages allow them to spend more than the minimum for rent. From one end of Europe to the other, permanency of occupation for unskilled labor is difficult to obtain. The cry of the unemployed is heard on every hand. When a laborer cannot tell from week to week and month to month how many days are to be spent in idleness, and how many days are to return a wage, he is apt to keep his one fixed expenditure, rent, as low as possible. For centuries a minimum of expenditure for shelter could only be found in the slum. It is one of the master achievements of the twentieth century that here and there doors of escape are opening even for the man with the lowest wage.

It has often been proved that the barriers by which the slum holds in its people are not long necessary. By imperceptible but rapid degrees its denizens sink into apathy, and develop that strange malady of the great modern city, the slum-disease. This is an infection productive of infections, a contagion which, as it spreads through the slum, creates new slum-dwellers, and leaves its victims stricken with inertia, drunkenness, and criminality. Marvelous it is and worthy of high praise that so many of the poor escape these characteristics. But let them escape or not, one and all suffer equally in their lack of resistance to physical disease. Malnutrition, bad air, and overcrowding, swell the columns which tell of tuberculosis, pneumonia, diphtheria, and every kindred disease. The slum is the great culture-medium of civilization, wherein huge cultures of disease are growing, ready when ripe to rise and sweep the city streets.

Lack of fresh air is by no means the least evil. According to many authorities we require as a minimum from eight hundred to a thousand cubic feet of fresh air per hour to keep the bodymachine in efficient working order. A room twelve and a half, by ten, by nine and a half, is a good-sized room for a slum-quarter. Yet the number of cubic feet of air which it contains is less than twice the amount required for health by the average person, even if there is not a stick of furniture on the floor. Add the ordinary amount of furniture, every piece of which subtracts cubic feet from the total air-space, and put four people in the room instead of two. How much chance does each have of getting the minimum amount of fresh air, even provided the air can be completely changed every hour?

As a matter of fact, the average slumhouse abroad is so constructed that such change is quite impossible. Any one who has struggled with the windows in provincial continental houses knows that they are not made to open and shut. They are there for light or for decorative purposes. They are certainly not there for ventilation. Not only are the windows difficult to open and shut, not only are the families of the slums afraid of fresh air by tradition and precedent, but the very buildings of the crowded quarters shut off the possibility of proper ventilation. Make a personal experiment the next lime you walk down a narrow street on a warm day, and notice the window shades. Those on the top floor may be fluttering bravely, while those at the bottom are still. Fortunately for England, many of her slums are still composed of buildings which are from one to three stories in height; but the tall so-called barrack-buildings of the continent, which are more like our tenement-houses, are in many cases as bad as anything New York’s streets can show. Ventilation on the first floor, indeed, is no simple matter in the slum. There the open window means an entrance to the filth of the street, the common dumping-ground of the householders along the way.

Few external things indeed have been more discouraging to the workers in the slum than that same habit of dumping. And yet, if the tenants of the crowded street scatter garbage, they do so chiefly because they have no proper means of disposing of it. Their rooms contain mixtures of food, of clothes, and of refuse; the one thing that cannot be found in them is closets for storage: Their sanitary habits are outrageous, — and no small number of English courts and German alleys provide one privy for seven or more families. Their dishes and persons are unclean. Often one faucet will supply a whole court, or in tall barrack-buildings water will be piped only to the first floor. A long trip for water tends to discourage the morning tub, and darkened rooms where sunlight never falls give little impetus to cleanliness.

Barred from sun, air, and water, those three good gifts, how can the people of the slum produce men and women capable of carrying on the race? One by one the legislatures of the great states of Europe have come to understand the necessity for action. The present paper deals chiefly with the work of Germany and England.1

That there was need of action, a few figures from reports made less than twenty years ago will show. In 1891 Berlin had 367,000 families in 21,000 buildings, an average of seventeen families to each roof. Scarcely one family in six hundred had a house of its own. 117,702 individuals, seven and twothirds per cent of the total population of Berlin, lived in cellars. Hamburg was nearly as badly off in this respect. Breslau, Dresden, and Magdeburg each had nearly one-half of its population in dwellings containing but one room, if we exclude the closet called the zubehör, which is tiny in size, has no means of heating, and but small opportunity for ventilation. German families in general were housed in the barrackbuildings, four or more stories in height, which corresponded fairly closely to our tenement-houses. The common barrack-house of that period was wretchedly deficient in water-supply, its sanitary accommodations were foul and inadequate, and the possibilities of decent family life within its walls were at a minimum. Despite all these things, the cost of rent was great, often averaging as high as one-third of the total wage received.

Recognizing that the first thing to do was to prevent the growth of new slums, the German authorities who first took up the crusade began work by passing stringent ordinances to govern the erection of buildings. They were aided in no small degree in the successful carrying out of these measures by the great police powers possessed by the government. Stringent requirements for strength were followed by equally stringent requirements for fire protection. Believing that the solid building up of areas causes most unhealthy conditions, some of the states allowed only two-thirds of a buildinglot in certain sections to be occupied by buildings. That regulation gave the children of the poor some chance to play, and gave adults and children far greater chance for air and light. The dark interior room was forbidden. A sufficient number of cubic feet for a change of air was demanded for every room. Water-supply, receptacles for garbage and ashes, storage for food and clothes, were brought under control by various ordinances. But all the requirements in the world would not provide fit houses for the poor. At best such laws serve mainly to guard against the building of new unfit houses. Mere ownership of municipal land, and some funds to use in connection with the work, were not sufficient. Constructive methods were needed.

The plans of campaign pursued by the progressive German towns may be summarized under four heads: Townplanning, the use of foresight in determining the inevitable development of the cities; the building of model tenements that should take care of deficiencies in housing, serve as models, supply needed balance-wheels to speculation, or stimulate activity in private building; the encouragement of private builders and coöperative buildingsocieties; the demolition of the slum, either by destroying old buildings and replacing them by new model tenements, business offices, or parks, or by such repairs of existing dwellings as would make the old houses fit for sanitary use.

Town-planning is by no means a new conception. As far back as 1668, just after the great fire, Sir Christopher Wren proposed a town plan for London. In its provision of means of communication, and in general excellence, many details of his general scheme are not excelled to-day. He proposed that “all trades that use great fires or yield noisome smells be placed out of the town.” The modern scheme sets down such removal as a primary necessity. Means of communication, by the Wren plan, were to be considered of the greatest importance, and there were provisions for streets of three different widths, all yielding easy access to the centre of the city where stood the Exchange. The modern plans lay great stress on rapid transit to and from the centre of the city, believing in general that the place where workmen should live is in garden suburbs encircling a town containing manufactories, stores, and warehouses. Wren differentiated his roads by separating them into traffic ways and residential streets. The first were to be wide, costly, and strongly built to stand heavy wear and tear, the second narrower, less costly, and built for less arduous service. The new methods divide streets into three classes. First the wide, expensive street, through which traffic is to pass; second, the narrow and comparatively inexpensive street; and third, what may be called the undetermined street, which may in time become a traffic-route, but which is intended to be used primarily for residences. This third type of street may be built inexpensively, may be narrow, and can be enlarged at a minimum of expense because of the foresight shown in its construction. This type of street is laid out with gardens in front of all houses. The garden-space can be added to widen the thoroughfare to the proper width whenever it becomes necessary to expand. Compare this method with the costly American habit of building up narrow streets, with the enforced result of buying both buildings and land, when residential streets are turned to traffic purposes.

Nowhere does Wren’s foresight seem more prophetic than in his plans for redistricting his ideal city. Even two centuries and a half ago men were able to understand that the close relation between cost of land and cost of rent per room of any building on that land made it inevitable that dwellings, where offices should be, would call for officerents. The European workman is housed to-day in many cities on land worth from twenty thousand to eighty thousand dollars an acre. Only by building on every possible foot of such land, only by crowding human beings into every available inch of space, can tenements for the poor pay upon such property. It is the general experience of foreign cities that it is wiser to replace demolished slums by model tenements on less expensive land outside the business or manufacturing section. That this seems wise, not only on financial but on hygienic grounds, it is hardly necessary to dispute.

Few things are more wastefully expensive, or more naturally disorderly, than a large proportion of the great cities. Huddled together without rhyme or reason are shop and factory, hovel, barrack-house, and mansion. By various plans the Germans are trying to sift out their dwellings from the chaotic mass, sending them into the suburbs, and leaving the industries grouped in the centre of the town. That is the principle behind the plans for the encircling garden-suburb; and such ideas, to be developed by building laws, exist in the “ zone system.” In this system the height of houses, and the portion of a lot which may be occupied by buildings in any section, are limited by distance from the centre of the town. In general, we may say, that the farther a zone is from the centre the smaller the number of houses to an acre, the smaller the number of stories allowed to a house. The zones are by no means mathematical circles, however. Such regulations naturally tend to group the factories. In Cologne, for example, buildings in the centre of the city may be five stories in height with a mansard. In outer portions of the city, delimited by law, no building may rise over three stories in height, or occupy more than forty per cent of its lot. Saxony made such a scheme compulsory for all towns in 1900; and Prussia, before that time, by a suggested plan, which was not completely carried out, endeavored to limit the height and number of houses in the line of the prevailing winds which blow over Berlin, in order to obtain fresh air for every part of the city. Various German communities which have taken up such schemes have developed the placing of houses in such a way as to obtain a maximum amount of sunshine, and have made sure that space should be left for parks, for playgrounds, and especially for the garden which helps to pay the rent.

Summarizing the most enlightened general regulations of Germany which have to do directly with building operations, we may say that their general trend is to do away with speculation, rigidly to control the builder who is building for investment, and to give the greatest possible freedom to the individual who desires to build for himself. The authorities desire to encourage individuality and resourcefulness. They step in to guard the community when it is a question of building in the mass. The limitation of dividends on municipal money loaned for housebuilding; the leasing of lands for periods of years, with the proviso that the buildings to be erected thereon shall become town property at the expiration of the period of lease; the reservation of powers of repurchase, and of powers for the breaking of leases in cases of necessity, have all shown enlightened progress. Most of these projects have already borne fruit in model tenements containing happier and healthier citizens.

All these things cost time and money. Do they pay in human lives? Is the efficiency sought obtained? For answer take the death-rate of one city, Offenbach-am-Main, which has done much for the housing of its citizens. In the ten years from 1870 to 1880 the city death-rate was 23.6 per thousand. From 1880 to 1890 it was 20.8. From 1890 to 1900, it was 18.5. In 1908 it was 14.1. Every year of the last decade has shown increased activity. Every year has seen the death-rate a little lower. In that one German city modern methods are saving from nine to ten more human beings out of every thousand to-day than were saved thirty years ago, while the gain in efficiency, in the possibilities of life which these figures denote, is quite immeasurable.

No nation more than Germany has recognized that the bleakness and barrennessof the tenements form one point in a vicious circle which includes drunkenness, immorality, and gambling, and which makes for disease and death. None has done more in fighting the depressing effect of slum-life by the potent aids of pleasant surroundings, of gardens, music, and incentives to out-of-door life. None has understood so completely that good housing affects each member of a family, down to the tiniest babe, while remission of direct taxes, or state aid of many other sorts given to the poor, is but too likely to result in assistance to the one member of the family who needs it least, to the head of the family, alone.

Much of the work of England has progressed along lines parallel to those followed by Germany. Part one of the English Housing Act (an act which applied also to Scotland and Ireland) provided for the wholesale clearance of slums, and the erection of model municipal dwellings in their place, either on the same spot or on cheaper land in the suburbs. Part two of this act provided for the compulsory setting in order of unfit habitations at the owner’s cost, and for the demolishing of houses where the owners refuse to act. Houses were seldom demolished under this provision. The owners almost invariably became much interested in better housing before their time-limit expired. Part three of the act gave power to English local authorities to buy land, erect houses, lay out open spaces for gardens, playgrounds, and parks, in much the same way as is now being done by the municipalities of Germany.

According to figures given by Nettlefold in his Practical Housing, the cost per head of rehousing under part one of this Housing Act varies from two hun - dred to one thousand dollars, averaging three hundred and seventy-five dollars. His lowest average, taken for purposes of comparison, is given as two hundred and fifty dollars. Against this is placed the cost of work done under part, two by Liverpool and Birmingham, cities which paid less than seven dollars per head for satisfactory rehousing. The average cost, given for purposes of comparison, is taken as fifteen dollars. Part one can provide better houses for a small number of people. Part two can provide fair houses for a vastly greater number. Many of the believers in part two think it safe to state that at least fifteen persons can be healthfully housed by the use of this scheme to one that can be so housed by the use of part one.

At the very time that the Lords were estranging the Commons by their revolutionary rejection of the Budget, they passed a new housing law which previously they had practically declined to enact. This law involves sanitary changes of great interest. Every county council is to appoint a medical officer of health, who is to have general charge of the health of the county. This officer is to care especially for houses unfit for human habitation. As a most important adjunct to this executive, provision is made for a committee on health and housing conditions, which is to hear all matters of this sort coming before the councils.

Far greater powers have been given by this bill to all officials dealing with housing questions, and tens, almost hundreds, of thousands of additional houses have been brought under the law which provides that all contracts for houses at low rents shall imply that they be reasonably fit for human habitation, at the beginning, and through the term of their occupancy. In case houses of this type are found to be unfit, the authorities may make them fit, and recover all costs from the landlord.

Cellar dwellings and back-to-back houses are forbidden. Town-planning schemes of magnitude are provided. Powers of radical action on the part of the authorities are greatly enlarged, and many additional schemes for the betterment of the housing of the people are laid down.

For those who long for “the whole sky,” and trust in its beneficence, it is a pleasant duty to record some few details which deal with “Garden Cities” swiftly springing up outside the smoke and grime of English towns. Underlying these various projects are basic ideas worthy of citizens of Altruria. They require that the property be highly restricted, that the number of houses built on each acre be sufficiently limited to give each householder pleasant and healthful surroundings, and that these houses be placed among greenswards where children may play, and old people dream. They demand that all the services necessary to community life shall be rationally and wisely developed, that all building and planning shall consider both the hygienic and the æsthetic possibilities, and that the joys of country life shall be combined with the advantages of the city. Ealing, Bournville, Port Sunlight, the Letchworth Garden City, Harborne, Hampstead, each of these settlements contains many of the elements of the ideal garden city. Of this list, two, Bournville and Port Sunlight, owe their existence to the public spirit of two men, Bournville to Mr. George Cadbury, Port Sunlight to Mr. W. H. Lever. Rivals in a worthy strife, the cottages at both Port Sunlight and Bournville are models of architecture and sanitation. Plenty of sun, air, and water, gardens and garden allotments, gymnasia, children’s playgrounds, open-air swimming-baths, social clubs, good schools, and neat, well-ordered shops managed by employees on coöperative lines make both these villages models of their kind.

In 1909 the outlay on Port Sunlight was stated to have been something more than two millions and a half of dollars. It would have been no slight task, with that enormous expense, to make the village a self-supporting financial success, but this has not been attempted. As the houses are intended to supply homes for the workers in the Lever Brothers Company, rents have been fixed only to cover taxes, repairs, and upkeep. The annual cost to the firm of the maintenance of the village is many thousands of dollars a year, but it is the firm belief of the employers that their expenditures here are returned manifold in the better conditions of the employees, the permanency of the staff, and the attraction of many excellent workers to the plant because of the possibilities of life in the town.

Bournville, made over to a board of trustees as an absolute gift by Mr. Cadbury, is increasing the scope of its original work by means of the surplus revenue in the trustees’ hands. Open to workers outside the Cadbury Cocoa Works, Bournville has, for considerably more than half its householders, men who work in other places, and who are entirely independent of the cocoa factory. From six shillings and sixpence a week to seven shillings and sixpence will house a worker well. Detached houses can be hired at rentals ranging from thirty to forty pounds, and every tenant, is a landed man, for every cottage has a private garden. This is all planted before it is turned over to a tenant’s care. Two expert gardeners with a staff of employees care for the general garden-work of the village, and stand ready to advise each individual householder. Is it any wonder that no tenant leaves unless he is obliged to do so, and that there is a permanent waiting-list large enough to occupy every house, were all suddenly vacated? Mr. Cadbury himself states that “nothing pays the manufacturer better.” And he goes on to say that the great work of the future must be to enable the poor “to remove from the squalor and temptations of city life and settle amid the wholesome, helpful sights and sounds of country life. In a word, the people must be brought back to the land.”

The policy of the Lever Brothers, of building houses for their employees to be rented at practically nominal rents, attractive as it is in many ways, is open to serious objections. Some of these are met in this particular case by Mr. Lever’s partnership plans. Others are basic. We have seen, in no very distant time, newspapers filled with the account of homeless men, women, and children driven into the winter cold by general eviction from corporation-owned houses. One of the evils which has stirred England most, of recent years, has been the complaint of agricultural laborers of “lose your work, lose your house.” Few things make more directly for self-respecting independence than a man’s ownership of his own domicile. If a man’s house belongs to his employer, and the same hour sees the loss of work and of home, the independence of the worker is sapped. Mr. Cadbury, of cocoa fame, has adopted a wiser course. From the first he has insisted on making his houses produce a fair return in rentals, but he has released all personal claims to Bournville, and has turned the houses over to a board of trustees. If corporations are to enter upon the building of houses to better the condition of their employees, they can scarcely do more wisely than to adopt the Bournville plan. If they cannot follow the great philanthropy of Mr. Cadbury, let them invest their money in sanitary houses, rent them at such rates as will bring them in a fair return, and then give the control of the houses over to an absolutely disinterested board of trustees.

The possibilities for us of corporation-building on such a scale as Bournville and Port Sunlight are not large. Municipal action may do much, but, in the end, few lessons are more vitally necessary to the United States than those which may be drawn from some of the European coöperative societies, such as the Berlin Savings and Buildings Society which operates in and around Berlin, and the Ealing Tenants, Limited, now a part of t he Co-Partnership Tenants Societies at Ealing, just outside of London.

The magnificent buildings of the Berlin Society, although of the city-block type, possess many striking advantages. Sheltering in their Häsler Street buildings as many as a thousand families, each family can obtain three large rooms for one hundred dollars a year. (The Rixdorf tenements, just outside Berlin, provide four model rooms for one hundred and twenty dollars a year.) In these buildings the problem of keeping the children off the street is solved by providing sunny inner courtyards and playgrounds. Ornamental gardens were first planned, but the authorities in control soon decided that a garden of children is better worth cultivating than a garden of flowers, and the whole space was turned over for play purposes. Flowers are not neglected, however. The balconies are filled with them, and the whole side of the building is gay with bloom. One more point in this connection. The Germans know far more than we do concerning possible economies of space. Take the roof of a model tenement, for example: it may hold baths, lockers, laundries, playgrounds, drying-rooms, and many of the more general offices of the house.

The Ealing Tenants, Limited, is a concrete expression of a belief in cooperative ownership and administration. First shares in the undertaking may be bought by incoming members at £10 each, and every tenant-member must take in the end not less than five shares, an equivalent to the cost of the land on which his house is placed. It is evident that, if coöperative housing is to do good to the people who need it most, money must be brought in from outside. The society, therefore, divides its capital into two parts, the shares just mentioned, and the loan stock which the society has power to issue. How this scheme has resulted is evinced by the fact that five per cent has been paid on shares, and four per cent on loan stock, from the very beginning of active operation. Nor is that all. The company has been able, in addition, to accumulate an undivided surplus to care for unexpected losses and repairs. The ideal of this community, like that of the other associations making up the Co-Partnership Tenants Societies, is to have the tenants say, “This estate is ours,”not “This house is mine.” In other words, they desire to have a general ownership of the whole plant by rent-paying tenants as a body, instead of having each individual family hold the title to its own house. The purposes of the copartnership societies, which follow, are well worth quoting specifically: “To secure suitable sites; to build suitable houses; to let the houses at moderate rents; to pay a moderate rate of interest on the capital invested; to divide the surplus profits among the tenant-members in proportion to the rents paid by them after such charges as maintenance, depreciation, and repairs have been met; to have every tenant-member’s profits paid to him in shares until the total so paid is equal in value to the value of the house in which he resides; to pay the total amount to him in cash when such equalization is secured.” It would be hard to draw up a broader or a sounder programme.

Since the great mass of surplus profits is held as a part of the capital, such a system makes for the safety of capital and for regularity of dividends. Since, by the wholesale buying of building supplies, as high as twenty per cent of the total cost has been secured, the system makes for radical reductions in cost as well. As the cost of interior repairs is chargeable against the individual tenant’s profits, such repairs are kept at a minimum. Since the profit to every tenant depends on the general profit of the whole, each member becomes an ardent agent for the property. Since rents in Ealing are below market value, and the tenants enjoy many of the advantages of the garden city, the task of the amateur real-estate agents is not difficult. Best of all, every member of the society is getting returns from something which costs him time, energy, and a moderate amount of money, all of which things make him value the opportunity presented to him far more than any tenant can value purely philanthropic aid.

In housing, as elsewhere in municipal reform, we are but too likely to forget the personal side. The reducing of flesh and blood to statistics and generalizations too often withers that full course of sympathy necessary in affairs which deal with human lives. The understanding of human nature which shines through the record of the achievements of Miss Octavia Hill is of especial value to the man or woman who wishes to give personal aid.

From small beginnings Miss Hill’s work has spread from house to house, and district to district, until thousands of dwellings owned by many different corporations and individuals have now passed into her governing hand. Invariably those houses have produced satisfactory financial returns, and have provided good homes for the tenants. As an educational policy the system is almost unrivaled. Briefly stated, it is as follows. The slum-houses which pass under Miss Hill’s control are first carefully inspected, to determine whether or not it is possible to put them in a fit condition for use. When a scheme for renovation has been decided upon, certain portions of the most necessary repairs, such as the mending of roofs, and the bettering of the water-supply and drainage, are carried out. The tenants are then given an opportunity to use the benefits thus conferred, with the understanding that those who use them well will be given more, while those whe use them ill will be obliged to leave. When such personal benefits are aided by a bonus for prompt payment of rent, and a tactful, though persistent campaign of education, a swift reformation is likely to result. Thereupon the work of changing wretched dwellings into thoroughly comfortable houses is hurried forward as rapidly as funds will admit. The money for such repairs is obtained by an equalization of the rights of landlord and tenant.

Five per cent income only is paid to the owner, no matter what may be the return on the investment. At least four per cent has been steadily returned up to the present time. All money received above this sum, after charges tor insurance, taxes, and maintenance have been met, is applied to the betterment of the houses. The tenant, therefore, has every interest in keeping un with his rent and reducing unnecessary repairs. To obtain such results elsewhere, it might prove necessary to build up a system of control similar to that established by Miss Hill. Her collectors and inspectors are trained women who are required to use that somewhat rare sixth, or common, sense, and who have developed an extraordinary amount of tact in their difficult task of training the tenants to help themselves.

Successful as are many plans for improving houses in the centre of the city, there can be little question that the great possibilities of the future lie in the development of the suburbs. No general misconception has been more insistent or unfortunate than the old one that the workman must live near his work. Of a minority this is undoubtedly true, but of the great majority it is untrue. The chief obstacle to suburban development is now, and will remain, the lack of a cheap and rapid transit which provides a seat for every passenger. Belgium, by its development of a complete system of inexpensive workmen’s trains, has already shown the way in which such cheap and rapid transit can build up a whole countryside. The progression of this kingdom on the theory that the provision of workmen’s trains is as necessary a part of the functions of a railroad as the carrying on of a freight department, has produced a remarkable exodus to the country from the city.

A workman’s round-trip weekly ticket (twelve rides) for a six-mile trip on the Belgian railroads can be obtained for less than twenty-five cents. Thirty cents a week will buy such a ticket to and from a station twelve miles out. Fifty cents a week will take a man back and forth every day from a station thirty miles out. As a result of this policy, a comparative record for ten years showed an increase of the number of these tickets sold from about 1,200,000 to about 4,400,000. According to Professor Mahaim’s figures, one period of two weeks showed 5830 laborers traveling daily to some distance; 9925 came to their work on Mondays. These figures show a large proportion who spend their week-ends at home. Belgian villages by the score act as bedrooms for the workers of the city, for whom the high wages of the city are thus combined with the economic advantages of the country. Speaking of the work already accomplished, Professor Emile Vanderwelder wrote as follows some time ago, in an article in Soziale Praxis:

“Enter Hesbaye or Flanders from whatever side one may, the country is everywhere thickly strewn with white, red-roofed houses, some of them standing alone, others lying close together in populous villages. If, however, one spends a day in one of the villages — I mean one of those in which there is no local industry — one hardly sees a grown-up workman in the place, and almost comes to the conclusion that the population consists entirely of old people and children. But in the evening quite a different picture is seen: we find ourselves, for example, some twelve or thirteen miles from Brussels at a small railway station in Brabant, say Bixensast, Genval, or La Hulpe. A train of inordinate length, consisting almost entirely of third-class carriages, runs in. From the rapidly opened doors stream crowds of workmen, in dusty, dirty clothes, who cover all the platform as they rush to the doors, apparently in feverish eagerness to be the first to reach home where supper awaits them. And every quarter of an hour, from the beginning of dusk till well into the night, trains follow trains, discharge part of their human freight, and at all the villages along the line set down troops of workmen — masons, plasterers, paviors, carpenters with their tool-bags on their backs.”

Gather the skeins together, follow each clue to its end, and the investigator is forced to the conclusion that the housing hope of the future lies outside the city walls. The vision of the time to come shows suburbs circling massed workshops, homes set in green trees, and surrounded by playgrounds and fertile gardens. Costly land is used for business. Cheap land is held for dwellings. Nor is that vision so remote and fanciful that we must consign it with a sigh to a longed-for distant day. There is no fallacy more abominable than the one which declares that “that which is must be.”

  1. The reader who wishes to know the more general details of “ The German Way of Making Better Cities,” cannot do better than to consult Mr. Sylvester Baxter’s illuminating paper on that subject in the Atlantic for July, 1909. In that article he may see how the German, fitting each building into its predestined place, as the Italian fits the individual stone to the mosaic whole, builds up the picture city.