DER Documentary

Down The Project: The Crisis of Public Housing


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by Richard Broadman
b&w, 60 min, 1982




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Sixty years ago, the "projects" were considered to be the most desirable housing stock for low-to-low-middle-income Americans. Today, this same housing has become stigmatized, beset by financial and social problems, and may be phased out.

This film, made in the 1980s, remains the classic portrait of a government program besieged on all sides. In two 30-minute sections, the film presents a concise social history of a housing movement and its opponents, then examines the social dilemmas of the developments these forces produced. Spokespeople include residents, public housing advocates from the 1930s, developers, administrators and politicians.

Down The Project: The Crisis of Public Housing presents the story of two projects that housed working families, both white and black, in the 1940s. In later years, crippled by lower budgets and the needs of poorer populations, they came to be regarded as eyesores, as danger zones. How did these changes occur? How did public housing begin? Which forces lobbied for it and against it? How do the people living in this housing see it?

“a compelling portrait of how [the] flowers and grass were flattened out and covered with asphalt.”
— Michael Blowen, The Boston Globe
“ ...an extraordinary film. It provides the sine qua non of public housing and is especially valuable for neighborhoods in transition.” — Judge Paul Garrity, Massachusetts Superior Court Justice

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