Monday, August 19, 2013

A carload of plaster and a bit of screen: Dark days for South Florida builders during WWII

By Jane Feehan

One carload of plaster, and screening for five houses was available in Florida to build houses in 1945 when the U.S. was still at war with Japan. Supplies were few throughout the nation but the problem was acute in South Florida, which was fast becoming a tourist destination in need of hotels. It was also growing in year-round population looking for permanent homes.

At a chamber of commerce meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Aug. 1, 1945, the North Florida director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), M.M. Parrish, told an anxious crowd of 200 prospective home builders that it was going to be tough to get a “priority” (a word of war time ration culture) for permits to build until the war was over.  It was impossible to guarantee enough materials.

He warned the builders that one should not buy a lot or hire an architect until assured of obtaining one of the 100 priorities available.

Families of permanent citizenship status with several children would be given priority if they used masonry construction and planned to live in the homes themselves.  Parrish dictated other rules for builders: 
  • They could not spend less than $3,500 on construction;
  • Houses could not be sold for more than $7,500, even if $15,000 was spent on construction;
  • FHA would have final say over types of materials, rental, sale and even the layout of a home;
  • FHA would maintain control until the end of the war.

The FHA was formed during in the 1930s during the Great Depression with the purpose of providing lenders sufficient insurance. During World War II they kept strict control over home building. Today, the FHA assists those who cannot afford a down payment on a home.

By August of 1945, the City of Fort Lauderdale collected the highest taxes of its history: $656,000. U.S. unemployment rate was 1.9 percent. Japan surrendered August 14, 1945.
Miami News, Aug. 2 1945

Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Fort Lauderdale during World War II, Florida during WWII, Fort Lauderdale during the 1940s, historical researcher

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