Constrained Communities: Black Cleveland's Experience with World War II Public Housing
Abstract

The World War II - era housing shortage in Cleveland, Ohio was severe, and particularly so for African Americans. Black Clevelanders encountered discrimination in the private housing market and race-based tenanting policies in the city's public and so-called temporary war housing. As a result of racial discrimination— which was not only government-sanctioned but actually encouraged by the conversion of properties to multi-family occupancy with Home Owners Loan Corporation funding—African Americans faced substandard housing conditions that led to the further deterioration of housing stock in Cleveland's traditional "ghetto" section, Cedar-Central,—and in an adjacent neighborhood, Hough. However, race—based planning by the city's housing officials did have one beneficial, if unintended consequence. By siting one temporary war housing project on the southeastern outskirts of the city, adjacent to a preexisting semi-rural black enclave, the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority helped to enable subsequent African American migration into Southeast Cleveland, which became the city's preeminent black middleclass stronghold in the postwar decades. The understudied World War II era thus holds the key to understanding subsequent patterns of black population expansion in Cleveland after the war, and also helps to explain the divergent fortunes of middle- and working-class African Americans there.