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in general, living accommodations available for the inhabitants of a community. Throughout the 19th cent., with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, housing as a problem worsened as urban populations expanded. The crowding of cities and factory towns by workers led not only to severe housing shortages but also to the deterioration of existing housing and the growth of slums. The problem was aggravated by the erection of substandard housing for workers and by speculators seeking high profits.

Reforms in Great Britain

Inadequate housing for the increasing urban population led, in the mid-19th cent. in Great Britain, to the development of a reform movement. Humanitarian and philanthropic groups first took up the cause of workers' housing. The Society for Improving the Dwellings of the Labouring Classes was established in 1845 and was followed by similar organizations dedicated to the building of low-rent dwellings. Ultimately, public opinion encouraged Parliament to pass (1851) the Shaftesbury Acts (the Labouring Classes Lodging Houses Acts). They provided for the construction of lodging houses according to certain minimum standards.

Slum clearance began with the Torrens Act of 1868, which provided for the demolition or improvement of unsanitary dwellings. After the turn of the century much was done in Great Britain toward eliminating slums and constructing model tenements; the garden citygarden city,
an ideal, self-contained community of predetermined area and population surrounded by a greenbelt. As formulated by Sir Ebenezer Howard, the garden city was intended to bring together the economic and cultural advantages of both city and country living, with land
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 was one solution offered to the housing problem. The first Housing and Town Planning Act in 1909 granted local governments the power to oversee housing development. The large-scale destruction of housing during World War II resulted in severe shortages after 1945; between 1945 and 1970 about 7 million new dwellings were built in Great Britain.

Reforms in the United States

In the United States, housing problems—in particular the growth of slums—became acute during the 19th cent. in the cities of the eastern seaboard and in the larger Midwestern cities. A leading cause was the heavy immigration from Europe that began in the middle of the 19th cent. and reached a peak at the turn of the century. The first housing law (the 1867 New York City tenement house law) was revised in 1879 to prohibit windowless rooms. The findings of a tenement house commission resulted in a new law in 1901, requiring better provision for light and ventilation, fire protection, and sanitation. Most U.S. city and state housing laws in the following years were based on those of New York City.

Until World War I there was no government housing in the United States. Then temporary dwellings were put up for defense workers. The U.S. government lapsed into almost complete inaction with regard to building housing until the advent of the New Deal. The National Housing Act (1934) created the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to undertake a nationwide system of home loan insurance. It also established, by means of mortgage insurance regulation, minimum standards for construction, for design, and for location.

Low-cost housing projects, including farm-family homes sponsored by the Resettlement Administration, were coordinated in 1937 under the U.S. Housing Authority, which financed urban low-rent and slum clearance developments by making loans at low interest rates. Such loans were later extended to rural housing. The Lanham Act (1940) authorized federal operation of a large-scale housing program for defense workers.

To unify the many federal housing agencies, President Roosevelt created (1942) the National Housing Agency, which included the Federal Public Housing Authority, the Federal Home Loan Bank Administration, and the FHA. But the total wartime construction of permanent homes was far below peacetime levels, while the demand for housing rose sharply with a high marriage rate, migration from farms to cities, greater buying power, and later the return of veterans. Complicated by building codes, union practices, and labor and material shortages, the housing deficiency remained serious after the war, and federal rent controls continued for some time.

A national housing policy began to emerge when Congress passed the Housing Acts of 1949 and 1954, aimed at easing the housing shortage and eliminating slums; their goal was a decent home for every family. The Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965 created a separate cabinet-level Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In 1966 the Model Cities Act coordinated government assistance to selected low-income areas of cities.

Housing since then often has been caught up in debate over rent controls, homelessness, the failure of savings and loan associations, and the buying and selling of political influence by government administrators and building developers. From 1980 to 1987, 2.5 million low-cost housing units were lost, and the federal government reduced its subsidies for construction by 60%. In response, some private groups like Habitat for Humanity have tried to help individuals buy and renovate low-cost housing. Housing advocates have argued for public housing reform, including controls on speculation and on rent (about 36% of occupied U.S. housing units are rentals).

Housing Problems in Other Countries

After World War II, the countries of continental Europe faced acute housing shortages. Most postwar efforts were directed at rebuilding major industries, and house construction suffered as a result. However, once the economies were stable, attention turned to housing. In most countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, urban housing shortages are today particularly severe as a result of population increases, rapid urbanization, and the migration from rural areas to cities. It is estimated that in Latin America alone, four or five million families live in substandard urban dwellings. The depressed economies and social inequities of many governments have worked against development of adequate housing programs.


See J. Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961); P. Wendt, Housing Policy: Search for Solutions, a Comparison of the United Kingdom, Sweden, West Germany, and the United States since World War II (1962); J. B. Cullingworth, Housing and Labour Mobility (1969); R. W. Bolling, Housing Development and Urban Planning (1970); M. Safdie, Beyond Habitat (1970); R. Goodman, After the Planners (1971); M. Pawley, Architecture versus Housing (1971); D. R. Mandelstam and R. Montgomery, Housing in America (1973); O. Newman, Defensible Space: Crime Prevention Through Urban Design (1973); C. Hartman, Housing Issues of the 1990s (1989); M. Wolkoff, Housing New York (1991).

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Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



one of the principal material conditions of human existence. Housing typologies are determined by the level of development of production forces, nature of social relationships, economy, forms of family life, cultural and domestic traditions, and diversity of natural and geographic environments. The function of housing as a whole and of its particular parts is connected with the social structure of society. In a class society the individual features of the culture and the everyday life of different social strata influence housing.

The simplest types of dwellings were built in the era of the primitive communal system. People in the Paleolithic period lived in caves and constructed subterranean dwellings and crude reed and straw shelters. For building materials they used wood, earth, stone, and sometimes the bones of large animals (for example, mammoths). Shelters against the wind and very simple beehive-shaped huts, similar to those built by the Neolithic hunters and gatherers, were still found in the early 20th century among the Australians, the Indians of Tierra del Fuego, and the Bushmen and Pygmies of Africa. Chumlike, or teepeelike, conical dwellings were typical of many hunting and reindeer-herding peoples of Siberia and the Indians of the forest zone in North America.

These simple dwellings developed further with the transition of the ancient tribes to a settled way of life. Among the farmers in the tropical, subtropical, and temperate belts and among the settled fishermen of Siberia, the Far East, and North America the Neolithic period marked the beginning of the spread of rectangular (or, more rarely, oval or circular) dwellings with high gable and hip roofs and a frame of bamboo or wooden poles lashed by crosspieces at the top. Such dwellings were built on piles in swampy or flooded areas, often directly over bodies of water. These pile structures, according to archaeological data, are known from Neolithic times and are now common in Southeast Asia, Oceania, and certain areas of Africa and South America.

In dry treeless areas as well as in foothill and mountainous regions, various stone, pise, mud brick, adobe, and combined dwellings appeared in the Neolithic period and still exist in Middle and Central Asia, Southwest Asia, the Caucasus, southeastern Europe, North Africa, southwestern North America, Mexico, Yucatan, and the Andes Highland. These dwellings were often adjoining or even built on top each other, forming multilevel stone or earthen structures (for example, the pueblos in southwest North America).

Among the stock breeders of Asia and Africa in the steppe and semidesert zones, wind shelters and reed or straw enclosures were transformed into portable dwellings of two types: tents with animal skins or wool or cotton cloth stretched over poles (among the nomadic groups of Tibetans, Iranians, and Arabs) and yurts (among the Mongolian peoples and the Kazakh, Kirghiz, Turkmen, and other Turkic peoples). Among some ancient nomads (for example, the Scythians) wheeled mobile dwellings of the kibitka type were also common.

In the regions of Europe and Asia rich in conifer forests, from the Pyrenees in the west to the Himalayas in the east, timber-frame houses developed, traces of which date from the second millennium B.C. in the Caucasus and European USSR. In the Far North the shortage of wood and other building materials led to dwellings with frames of whale ribs and jawbones and, among the Eskimos, of snow huts, or igloos.

Dwellings at first consisted of one chamber. In fact, one-room dwellings have been retained by many peoples, particularly the nomads, until recently. Multiroom dwellings have been known since the Neolithic and have gradually become common among settled peoples. In the later stages of the primitive communal system, communal dwellings for large extended families were gradually replaced by individual dwellings for small family groups. Layouts also increased in complexity: rooms with special domestic functions (bedrooms, kitchens, men’s and women’s areas, and so on) were differentiated. During the decline of the clan system and the emergence of a class society, the forms of dwellings began to change. The dwellings of leaders and the tribal nobility could be distinguished by greater size, better-quality building materials, and luxurious decoration.

In ancient times dwellings were heated by a central hearth. Later, the hearth was placed along the wall, and from this developed the fireplace, which became common in Southwest Asia, the Caucasus, and Western Europe. Different types of stoves, from the simplest brick stoves, were very important in the history of housing.

In the slave-owning society of the ancient East the nobility constructed luxurious homes and city and rural villas and palaces with many rooms for different purposes; these existed alongside the primitive dwellings of the poor and the slaves. At the same time, with the appearance and growth of cities, different types of urban housing began to develop.

The dwellings of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and South-west Asia, the Mediterranean, and the Indus and Huang basins had a number of common features which are still partially preserved in these areas. As a rule, the residential buildings had one or two stories. The rooms and dependencies were usually grouped around an open court onto which the windows and doors opened; the walls facing out were blank. The flat roofs were frequently used as terraces. The principal building materials were clay, stone, mud brick, and, less often, wood. Baked brick was sometimes used (for example, in Mohenjo-Daro).

One of the most ancient forms of housing, from the time of the Minoan-Mycenaean culture (second millennium B.C.), was the megaron. It was often included in villa and palace complexes. Homes unearthed in Olynthus (fifth-fourth century B.C.) can serve as examples of Greek city dwellings of the classical period. The nucleus of the house was the court; on the north side was a covered passageway with columns (pastas) onto which the main dwelling rooms opened. The plan of wealthy homes in the Hellenistic period was based on the peristyle. The original building materials in Greece were wood (the frame) and clay (the plastering); later, the major material was sun-dried brick with some stone.

The typical dwelling of ancient Rome had a one-story structure with the rooms arranged around an atrium. Later, a combination of the atrium and the peristyle became common in wealthy homes and also was the model for the villas of the Roman upper classes. The houses were built of stone and mud brick. Later, terra-cotta and concrete came into use. The multistory insulae were massive urban dwellings with tabernae (shops) and artisan workshops on the first floor.

In the age of feudalism social differences in housing were expressed very sharply. The primary type of housing for the feudal lord and his retainers was the fortified castle. Various types of castles were built in Europe, North Africa, South-west Asia, and the Caucasus and in India, Tibet, and other countries. In addition to the residence itself, the castle often included a chapel and dependencies.

The dwellings of feudal lords in Medieval Russia (princes and boyars) were initially made of wood (logs) and later partially or entirely of stone. For the most part peasant dwellings were simply laid out and built of the most elementary available materials. From the 14th to 17th centuries the typical dwellings among the eastern Slavs (Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians) and the neighboring Baltic, Volga, and Kama peoples were log cabins, which in many places were still being used in later periods. In northern Russia the houses had gable roofs made of planks, while in southern Russia, the Ukraine, and Byelorussia they had hip roofs covered with straw or reeds. Later, beginning in the 18th century, roofing of chips became common in the central zone and tile roofing spread in the south. The typical house of the central zone had a slightly raised floor with a shallow crawlspace underneath. In the north two-story houses were built in which the high hearth area served as the first floor. The pise stove without a chimney, which was common until the middle of the 19th century, was gradually replaced by the Russian stove with a chimney. Interior layout also changed. At first it consisted of two areas—the unheated entry passage (sent) and the warm part. Animals were often quartered with people. Later, a three-part layout became common. In the center was the unheated sent with an exit to the outside. On one side of the seni was the heated living chamber (among most Russians it was called the izba, but some southern Russians and the Ukrainians and Byelorussians called it the khata). On the other side was an unheated area for storing furnishings and for sleeping during the hot season (the Russians called it the klet’ or gornitsa and the Ukrainians and Byelorussians, the komora). In the treeless regions of the southern Ukraine frame and adobe houses were most common. The increase in the number of rooms led to the construction of pentagonal timber buildings with a special “front” room.

The peoples of the Baltic area developed unique timber-frame dwellings owing to climatic conditions (abundant rain) and several distinctive features of their economy. In western Lithuania and Latvia special hearth-smokehouses were set up in the heated entry passage (the Lithuanian kdminas). Until the mid-19th century the Estonians typically had special barns (re he tuba) that combined under one roof living quarters and an area for drying sheaves of grain. For a long time some of the Volga and Kama peoples had one-room timber-frame structures with an open hearth which initially served as dwellings but later retained only cultic significance or were used as summer kitchens (kudo among the Mari people, kuala among the Udmurts).

In the Middle Ages various types of timber-frame dwellings were also common in northern, central, and, partially, south-eastern Europe. A three-part layout approximating that of the eastern Slavs predominated. In Finland, Scandinavia, and northern Denmark log (later frame) dwellings developed; they had either unheated or heated entry passages and ovens combined with fireplaces. In mountain regions (the Alps and Pyrenees) large two-story timber or stone and log houses combining numerous living and work quarters under one roof had been built for many years. In northern Germany, the Netherlands, southern Denmark, and Lorraine variants of the northern European type of house (hallenhaus) were typical. This was a large rectangular house, usually frame, with a high roof supported by two rows or columns. It combined work and living areas. The old rural and city dwellings of England are close to the hallenhaus in origin. Various types of stone or frame one- and two-story rural dwellings became common in many regions of France and Belgium and in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and partially, in central and southern Germany.

During the Middle Ages various styles appeared on the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas, in southern France and Switzerland, and in the Danube basin took shape. The nucleus of this southern European dwelling was a chamber with an open hearth. The second part of the dwelling evolved as a result of partitioning or adding a “front” room to the nucleus. The walls were made of brick, stone, clay, adobe, and wattle coated with clay; the roof was sometimes flat. A gallery stretched along the house and was used extensively in everyday life. One variant of the southern European dwelling was a house with a small inner court; it was widespread in Greece, southern Spain, and Italy.

The houses of the settled rural and city populations of North Africa, Southwest and Middle Asia, and, partially, southern Asia resembled the southern European dwelling. They were mostly of pise, of stone, or of mud brick on a lightweight wood frame. The roof was flat or, more rarely, gabled. The rooms were usually arranged around a court that often had a pool (hawd)’, the outside walls were blank, and the windows and doors opened onto the court. The open terrace (iwan) was typical. The structures had one, two, or more stories. The interior was often divided (especially among the Muslims) into the men’s and women’s quarters. In addition to such dwellings, there were the portable yurts and the tents of the nomadic herdsmen in North Africa and Southwest, Middle, and Central Asia.

Among the peoples of the Caucasus, certain unique structures developed in addition to dwellings similar to those described above—for example, the terraced pise and stone sakli of Dagestan and Ossetia; the massive, multistory tower-dwellings with window-embrasures in Upper Dagestan, Svaneti, and Khevsureti; the wooden houses with galleries in western Georgia and Abkhazia; and such structures as the Georgian darbazi the Armenian gikhatuna, and the Azerbaijani karadama. Many of the Caucasian peoples had special quarters for guests and special summer and winter residential structures.

The rural dwellings of the Indian subcontinent, which had evolved in the Middle Ages but still exist today, are extremely varied. In the arid western and central regions, pisé and mud brick (more rarely stone) structures with flat or slightly sloping roofs predominate. In the northern regions near the Himalayas, rich in rainfall and timber, wooden (frame or log) houses with high roofs are encountered. Most of the rural dwellings in the east and south have one room with a bamboo or, more rarely, wooden frame and pise or wattle (sometimes coated with clay) walls and high, often two-tiered roofs covered with straw, reeds, grass, or palm fronds. Bengali rural dwellings are very distinctive; they are one-room huts facing a court and surrounded by a gallery; the kitchen is always a separate building.

In East Asia frame dwellings have been common since very ancient times. The peasant home in northern China, usually consisting of two or three rooms, was built primarily of mud brick around a frame, with a gable roof that was usually thatch. A typical feature was the k’ang, a heated plank bed which was actually a horizontal flue heated by hot air passing through it. Dwellings in southern China were built of bamboo, sometimes elevated on piles. There were also houses on boats and rafts where the poorest strata of the population would spend their entire lives. Northwestern Chinese dwellings were often dug in the loess bed creating artificial caves. The houses of the Koreans to a large extent resembled northern Chinese ones. In Japan, where earthquakes are frequent, dwellings usually have light frame walls and light movable inside screens. In Indochina, Indonesia, and the Philippines raised frame dwellings with wattled walls and high roofs predominated from ancient times, but houses with packed dirt floors were also found (for example, among the Vietnamese and Javanese).

The houses of artisans and merchants in the European feudal city combined living quarters, workshops, and shops in one building. The dwellings were grouped on streets according to guild. In the early medieval cities of Western Europe most of the homes of simple citizens resembled the rural dwellings. Later, two- and three-story half-timber (fachwerke) and stone townhouses began to be built, with tile or iron roofing; they faced the street with a narrow facade crowned by stepped fronton. The first floor housed the commercial and work quarters and the upper floor, the living quarters. The rooms were heated by fireplaces and stoves. In the cities of northeastern Africa and Asia the residential buildings were usually built separately from the artisan workshops and shops, which were usually set up in the marketplace.

In the medieval Russian city, alongside homes that barely differed from peasant dwellings, there were the wooden and stone residences (palata, khoromy, sometimes multistory) of the boyars and wealthy merchants. Originally the layout of the stone buildings (often with the upper stories made of wood) closely resembled that of the timber-frame structures, which consisted of separate cellular rooms. The houses had the work areas downstairs and the living quarters upstairs.

In the period of late feudalism and the emergence of capitalist relations cities grew rapidly. At this time, beautifully decorated urban and rural palaces were built for the nobility; some of them were remarkable architectural works. Such are the palazzi of the Italian Renaissance cities and the houses of the prominent French nobles of the 17th and 18th centuries. Especially from 1750 through the early 19th century the Russian nobility built, in the cities and on their estates, complexes, often very spacious, of entertainment, living, and work areas. The construction of small private city residences, mostly one- or two-story, by the gentry and merchants also became common. Ordinary citizens, artisans, and small merchants usually built small wooden or stone houses, sometimes with a few rooms to rent. Their houses were often overpopulated and usually lacked the basic conveniences.

With the development of capitalism the typical dwellings of the capitalist age gradaully began supplanting the traditional housing of different peoples. The development of building techniques and the appearance of new construction techniques and materials (metal, reinforced concrete), indoor plumbing, central heating, elevators, electrification, and gasification have radically improved the quality of housing and made possible new types, including convenient multistory, multiapartment buildings of different construction. Under capitalism, as under preceding social systems, enjoyment of the achievements of technological progress in housing depends on class. The dwellings of different social strata, especially the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, vary in size, space per person, conveniences, and decoration. A severe housing crisis is typical of the capitalist period.

The increased demand for housing, which resulted from the influx of the rural population to the cities, led to a rise in the cost of housing; the cost increased even further because of the rise in the cost of urban property. Therefore, many citizens were unable to have their own dwellings in the large cities. In the 19th century the tenement (that is, speculative building) gradually became the principal type of multistory dwelling in the capitalist city. City dwellings in the capitalist period are extremely varied, depending on local conditions (type of development, location of the building, and climatic and other features) but primarily on which social strata the apartments are intended for. However, in many countries houses closely resembling rural dwellings continued to exist in the cities for a long time.

From 1770 to 1830 speculative apartment houses frequently resembled traditional city dwellings in design (for example, in Russia the speculative house for the nobility at first resembled a private noble’s residence that was divided into several separate apartments). In some of the large expensive St. Petersburg apartments, enfilades of rooms characteristic of palace-type buildings were preserved. In the 1830’s and 1840’s clustered apartments became widespread. Efficient arrangement, indoor plumbing (baths and toilets), and elevators promoted the adoption of this layout and the building of identical apartments on each story. The prosperous strata lived in buildings with expensive multiroom apartments provided with all types of domestic conveniences. In speculative houses for the less prosperous middle class, apartments were smaller and had fewer rooms, more modest decoration, and poorer equipment. Speculative houses in mass residential construction (primarily on the outskirts of cities near industrial enterprises and mainly inhabited by workers) were of poor quality; many apartments consisted of only a kitchen and one small room, usually without running water or a bathroom. In addition to clustered apartments, galleried, multistoried, and corridor-type houses also were common. These had primarily small apartments which were usually rented as a whole or by individual room. Striving for maximum profit, building owners would frequently build on as much as 80–95 percent of the land area, which led to the construction of buildings with narrow well-like courts (or even narrower light wells). Many living quarters in these buildings lacked sunlight and ventilation, and some apartments were located in damp semibasements. However, a significant number of the workers were unable to live even in such modest housing because of the high apartment rent and were forced to rent only parts of rooms or beds or to live in basements, barracks, shanties, or worker dormitories where dozens and sometimes even hundreds of people were cramped together in large rooms that were either divided by curtains into compartments for families or had shared beds. Overpopulated and wallowing in filth, the rapidly dilapidating buildings of the worker areas and the clusters of shanties turned into slums. The practices of capitalist city planning have a negative effect on the quality of housing.

At the same time, private residences (mansions) and city and suburban villas were also being built for the bourgeoisie. The formal enfilades of the noble’s mansion and the manor of the country estate were replaced by layouts intended for maximum comfort and the everyday domestic life of the bourgeois family. The cottage has become the private home of the prosperous urban and rural middle class in a number of countries of Western Europe and the United States. It is a comfortable traditional type of English dwelling whose layout, utilities, and method of building have been improved. In the United States methods were developed for building low-rise buildings from an assortment of standard architectural details, construction, and equipment. The use of metal and reinforced-concrete frames made it possible to construct buildings with a free plan, where only the utilities, elevator shafts, and stairwells were permanently fixed within the residential story, and the nonsupporting divider-walls delineating the areas were installed and moved according to functional needs; examples are the buildings on Rue de Turenne in Brussels by the architect V. Horta and on Rue de Franklin in Paris by the architect A. Ferret (both in 1903), and the plan for the Domino Building, prepared in 1914 by the architect Le Corbusier. The construction of such residential buildings—that is, those in which it is possible to change the layout of an individual apartment—became common primarily in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

The struggle of the workers to improve living conditions forced the bourgeoisie to partially satisfy their housing needs. Large industrialists built residential developments for their workers, especially in the 19th century, although such construction dates from an earlier time—for example, the Fuggerei development in Augsburg. Such construction corresponded to the interests of the capitalists because it encouraged the establishment of hereditary cadres of workers dependent on the owner. At the turn of the 20th century, “social” construction—that is, municipal and cooperative construction financed by state subsidies and loans—of housing for workers was begun. This was regulated by legislatively approved codes and requirements, which made it possible to improve the amenities in the apartments (for example, compulsory plumbing, sewage, and separate bathrooms). However, social construction of so-called low-cost apartments for workers became common in Europe only in the 1920’s, when there was a severe housing crisis. It exerted a strong influence on the subsequent development of housing and on 20th-century architecture and city planning as a whole. The development of modern housing in this period was greatly influenced by functionalism. Residential complexes and communities were built with economical multistory (usually not more than four) and low-rise buildings: clustered, galleried, and modular. In social construction housing in Europe the common aim was improvement of sanitary and hygienic conditions. Thoughtful placement of the building on the lot and standardization of apartments ensured the most favorable and uniform ventilation and insulation. Modern indoor plumbing, central heating (not universal), electricity, and built-in furniture and kitchen equipment were introduced. The compact layout of small apartments was subordinated to the efficient organization of domestic processes; special importance was attached to the arrangement of the kitchen and its equipment and access to other rooms. The first attempts to provide a scientific basis for housing design are associated with social construction. Rationalizing equipment and layout made it possible to reduce the dimensions of rooms in the interests of economy. Their height was decreased accordingly; in order to preserve normal illumination, it was necessary to expand window openings, which were extended horizontally. Most buildings were built of brick. However, social construction did not solve the housing problem for middle- and low-income workers. Because of high rent, the “low-cost” housing, which was better organized than speculative housing, was accessible primarily to the petit bourgeois urban population and only the highly paid workers. The construction of speculative houses, which had become unprofitable, decreased. In the United States, where mass housing construction was controlled by private entrepeneurs, individual cottage-like homes constituted most of the residential building during the 1920’s and 1930’s.

In the first decade after World War II, which took a great toll of the housing resources of a number of European countries, mass housing construction was financed primarily with state and municipal capital or with state loans (later, as a result of the bourgeoisie’s nullification of the socioeconomic gains of the workers, increased military expenditures, and many other factors such construction gradually decreased). The cooperative construction of multistory buildings spread, and in many countries state capitalist monopolies (for example, the National Institute of Insurance in Italy—the IN A) were involved in housing construction.

Mass housing construction is regulated by a number of norms that stimulate the search for economical and rationalized building concepts and guarantee a certain quality. Reinforced concrete has become the basic building material and metal, glass, and plastic are being used extensively. A great variety of residential designs and plans are typical of contemporary construction. Clustered apartments are common; in the 1950’s and 1960’s single-unit “tower” buildings and multiunit buildings of different configurations (Y-shaped, cruciform, and others) were also built. In some countries (England and Scandinavia) multistory balconied houses are being built as well as two- and three-story modular houses closely resembling the traditional dwellings of these countries, where apartments have different levels (for example, the duplex houses in England) with the kitchen and living room usually on the first floor and the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. Less common are corridor-access buildings and the galleried and corridor-type buildings with apartments on two levels opening onto a corridor or gallery that is usually set every other floor.

Under the influence of Soviet architecture, some innovative Western European architects in the mid-1930’s designed buildings that provided a wide range of public services, even proposing this approach as a method of solving social problems. Under capitalist conditions, however, such buildings cannot use this approach and are usually built as a special type of highly comfortable and expensive urban dwelling. (Only a few plans have been carried out, for example Le Corbusier’s design for Radiant City in Marseille, 1947–52.) Industrial methods of residential construction, which can be used to ensure “low-cost” housing for the workers, have become quite common in some capitalist countries (France, Denmark, and Sweden). Despite the variety of ways to organize housing construction in the capitalist countries, the high cost remains invariable. Apartment rents or mortgage payments are a heavy burden on the budget of the workers. The standardization of housing (especially urban) in the age of capitalism does not exclude the prolonged coexistence of new types of housing alongside traditional ones. This is even true in the developed countries, but more so in the under-developed countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In these countries many cities are ringed by enormous slums, where often more than one-third of the city population lives in dilapidated shanties. Because of rapid urban growth (primarily through population migration from the rural areas), unemployment, and poverty, housing has become one of the most acute social problems.

The class stratification of the peasantry has been clearly reflected in the quality and forms of rural housing in the age of capitalism. In the developed countries in Europe and in America the prosperous rural population builds cottages and other houses, frequently borrowing the architectural forms of urban and suburban (dacha) structures. In prerevolutionary Russia five- or six-walled timber-frame houses with iron roofing (also tile and slate in the south) were common among the kulaks. The middle levels of the peasantry often preserved and developed the traditional housing inherited from the feudal era.

The dwellings of the rural poor are small, with a sharp decrease in the amount of work space and a lack of elementary sanitary and hygienic conveniences. In the capitalist countries the housing situation of agricultural workers (migrant workers) is even worse; they often live with their families in barns and similar structures.

In the underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and, partially, Latin America the traditional types of rural housing described above are preserved. On large cotton, rubber, fruit, and other plantations, barrack-type housing is built for agricultural workers in which the people live in extremely cramped and unsanitary conditions.

The IJSSR As a result of the economic backwardness of tsarist Russia and the poverty and political powerlessness of the popular masses, the housing of the working people was of especially poor quality. In St. Petersburg in 1913 more than 50 percent of the worker families did not even have a separate room for the entire family, while the weavers of Ivanovo, the miners of the Donbas, the petroleum workers of Baku, and others lived in basements, shanties, and semidugouts. After the October Socialist Revolution large-scale private building ownership was abolished, and a mass resettlement of workers (in Moscow and Petrograd alone more than 1 million persons) to comfortable apartments was carried out. This was done by moving bourgeois families into smaller quarters. Settlements of one- and two-story houses for two to four families were already being built in the early 1920’s during the construction of the first electric power stations (for example, the Volkhov Hydroelectric Power Plant). With the development of the economy and Soviet city planning, housing construction became one of the most important aspects of the socialist planned economy.

At different stages in its existence the Soviet state has defined the nature of housing construction through a series of party and government decrees. In the mid-1920’s economical four- and five-story clustered-apartment buildings appeared. By 1925 the design of the first standard section for multistory housing construction in Moscow had been created. The demands of the economy and the acute need for housing determined the type of apartment: predominantly two separate rooms with a total area of 40–45 sq m with modest indoor plumbing (for example, sometimes there was no bath); provision was made for a larder for food, built-in closets for storage, basements for household needs, and self-service laundry rooms. Extensive housing construction was begun in Moscow, Leningrad, and other industrial cities of the RSFSR and in the fraternal Union republics. Climatic and domestic features were taken into account. New comfortable housing developments in Moscow—for example, in the vicinity of Dubrovskie Streets in 1926–27 (architects M. I. Motylev, D. N. Molokov, A. V. luganov, and others)—and Leningrad—on Traktornaia Street and in the Serafimovskii sector of Stachek Prospektin 1925–27 (architects A. S. Nikol’skii, A. I. Gegello, and G. A. Simonov)—were built as complexes of buildings standard in design, of medium height, and varied in volume and systems of landscaped courts. One of the first examples of the extensive use of standardized elements in the construction of a large housing development was the S. Shaumian Community in Baku (1925–28, architect A. V. Samoilov). In this community the residential buildings were designed using combinations of several types of sections (with small apartments) appropriate to the features of the Baku climate.

Children’s preschool institutions and schools, community and domestic service enterprises, and cultural institutions have been built simultaneously with housing in new residential areas. This has become typical of all Soviet housing construction. The desire to create housing that promotes the transformation of everyday life on a socialist scientific basis and on collective principles has led to the development of different plans and to the construction of experimental buildings with public service complexes—the commune-buildings and others: the building on Tchaikovsky Street in Moscow (1928–30; architects M. la. Ginzburg and I. F. Milinis) and the building on Revolution Square in Leningrad (1928–32; architects P. V. Abrosimov, G. A. Simonov, and A. F. Khriakov). In these houses areas for dining halls, kindergartens, laundries, mass cultural work, and other purposes were created along with apartments (or rooms) of minimal size. The construction of commune-buildings did not become widespread.

Extensive housing construction was begun in the prewar five-year plans (1929–41) and especially after the end of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45. During these years the basic principles of standardized planning and the industrialization of construction were formulated, and attempts were made to find economical and convenient apartment planning concepts. However, the development of industrial methods of housing construction was restrained by trends toward ostentation and decorativeness and by the uncritical use of the classical heritage. Most apartments were built with several rooms and were intended for one family; however, in view of the great housing need, several families usually lived in them. In the mid-1950’s the transition to industrial methods and the development of the economy made possible a great increase in housing construction. Thus providing every Soviet family with a private apartment became a realizable goal. Since 1966 the USSR has put an average of more than 100 million sq m of usable housing space per year into use (106 million sq m in 1970). This makes it possible for about 11 million people to improve their housing conditions each year. New model plans have begun to be used for constructing sectioned apartment buildings with a wide variety of apartments for different types of families. For small families and single persons there are dormitories and hotel-type buildings with small rooms and a reduction in the number and size of service areas (some of these buildings have individual elements of public service in the building). Major contributions to the development of housing construction in the USSR have been made by the architects B. N. Blokhin, P. N. Blokhin, L. p. Bumazhnyi, A. K. Burov, A. A. Vesnin, V. A. Vesnin, L. A. Vesnin, M. la. Ginzburg, I. V. Zholtovskii, A. M. Zal’tsman, N. V. Markovnikov, A. G. Mordvinov, M. V. Posokhin, N. P. Rozanov, B. R. Rubanenko, and I. A. Fomin.

Housing quality in the USSR is determined by state norms. The country is broken down into zones that take local climatic conditions into account. Thus, in hot climates provision is made for construction of buildings with cross ventilation, increased ceiling height, and balconies and spacious terraces that improve the apartment’s microclimate. Modern residential buildings are electrified, and in the cities many of them have gas hookups and centralized hot water (or a water heater). Buildings with more than five floors must be equipped with elevators. Each city or settlement apartment includes a living room and one or several bedrooms and a foyer, kitchen, and bathroom.

Housing construction in the rural USSR has undergone substantial changes owing to the socialist restructuring of the economy and the country’s domestic and public life. As a result of collectivization, the peasant dwelling is now clean, bright, and comfortable because it is not necessary to have the work buildings nearby as in private farming. In the izba and other such houses particular rooms have been set aside in accordance with the increased cultural needs of the kolkhoz family; for example, a special area has been assigned to the kitchen. In the Russian izba new types of stoves and ranges are becoming increasingly common along with the traditional Russian stove, which continues to be important. Various kinds of factory-produced furniture are supplanting the old immobile benches and homemade tables and polati (planking fixed between ceiling and stove used as a sleeping place).

The changes have been particularly great in the housing of formerly backward peoples. The nomadic and seminomadic way of life of the hunters and reindeer herdsmen of the north and the stock breeders of Middle Asia has been supplanted by a settled life. In Siberia the temporary chum-type portable dwelling is being replaced by permanent houses of different designs (log, frame, and other). The diagonally framed yurts with thick felt coverings, which have been typical of the Kazakh, Kirghiz, Kara-Kalpak, Turkmen, Buriat, and other stock breeders in the past, are still used, primarily as summer dwellings in mountain pastures. In these rural communities comfortable permanent houses of local building materials are being built. Among the Middle Asian peoples that have been settled since ancient times, the Uzbeks, and the Tadzhiks, dwellings are shedding the closed quality that was imposed for centuries by Islamic beliefs; new buildings face the street with a facade that has windows, and the solid walls separating the dwelling from the street and from neighboring buildings are gradually disappearing. The dwellings of the Caucasian peoples, built of traditional materials—clay-adobe, stone, and wattle plastered with clay—often have many rooms and an improved heating system. The construction of individual and apartment houses nearly as comfortable and well-equipped as those of the cities is expanding everywhere in the rural areas of the USSR. The directives of the Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU on the five-year plan for the development of the USSR national economy during 1971–75 envision further improvement in the living conditions of the population on the basis of the comprehensive development of housing construction and an increase in the comfort of residential buildings and an improvement of their architecture. A transition has been under way since the early 1970’s involving the construction of houses on the basis of new standard designs. The variety of apartments has expanded, the layout has become more convenient, finishing has improved, and the living area and dimensions of the kitchens, foyers, and bathrooms have increased.

Socialist countries Since the first postwar years work has been under way in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia to find economical, well-designed models of apartments and buildings for construction on a mass scale. Primarily two- and three-unit apartment buildings of three and four stories have been built—for example, the building on Attila Street in Budapest (early 1950’s; architect A. Levai); there are also clustered-apartment buildings of six to eight and more stories, primarily in the central sections of large cities. Different types of galleried and corridor-type buildings with small apartments became common—the corridor-type building in Gottwaldov (1947–49; architect M. Drof), and experimental buildings were built with public service complexes—the collective house in Gottwaldov (1948–50; architect J. Vozenilek).

In the first half of the 1950’s the comprehensive construction of residential areas was developed, and the principles of model planning were formulated. Since the late 1950’s the European socialist countries have devoted special attention to industrializing housing construction on the basis of technological progress, the solution of functional layout problems, and an increase in comfort. Various types of model sections have been developed, and interchangeable construction elements are used (in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the German Democratic Republic) that promote flexibility and variation in the layout concepts of housing. Use is made of the best traditions of national housing architecture (for example the dnevna in Bulgaria, a living room joining all the rooms of the apartment, corresponding to national domestic traditions). The expansion of housing construction in a number of European socialist countries in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was accompanied by the use of different layout schemes (clustered-apartment, galleried, hotel-type with services, high-rise and lowrise buildings with duplex apartments) in mass housing construction. By combining buildings differing in length, the number of floors, layout, and size of apartments in a single development, it is possible to satisfy the population’s housing needs more completely.

In modern rural housing construction in the European socialist countries extensive use is made of standard designs that are distinguished by a desire to establish comfortable living conditions and that take the features of peasant life into account. With the spread of socialist forms of agricultural production rural housing no longer requires outbuildings and gradually approaches urban-type housing.


Engels, F. K zhilishchnomu voprosu. K. Marx and F. Engels, soch, 2nd ed., vol. 18.
Engels, F. “Predislovie ko vtoromu izdaniiu knigi K zhilishchnomu vorposu.” Ibid., vol. 21.
Engels, F. Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva. Ibid.
Ginzburg, M. la. Zhilishche. Opyt piatiletnei raboty nad problemoi zhilishcha. [Moscow] 1934.
Zasypkin, B. N. Arkhitektura Srednei Azii. Moscow, 1948.
Zhiloidom, fascs. 1–2. Moscow, 1948–50. [Collection of articles.]
Blomkvist, E. E. “Krest’ianskie postroiki russkikh, ukraintsev i belorusov.” In Vostochno-slavianskii etnograficheskii sbornik. Moscow, 1956. [Tr. Instituta etnografii. Novaia seriia, vol. 31.]
Terent’eva, L. N. Osnovnye itogi izucheniia zhilishcha narodov Pribaltiki. Moscow, 1959. [Tr. Pribaltiiskoi ob’edinennoi kompleksnoi ekspeditsii, vol. 1.]
Istoriia sovetskoi arkhitektury 1917–1958. Moscow, 1962. [Teaching aid.]
Morozova, A. “Sovremennoe narodnoe zhilishche SSSR.” Sovetskaia etnografiia, 1963, no. 2.
Ikonnikov, A. V. Esteticheskie problemy massovogo zhilishchnogo stroitelstva. [Leningrad] 1966.
Platonov, G. D., and P. P. Pozdniakov. Osnovy razvitiia zhilishcha. Leningrad, 1968.
Tipy sel’skogo zhilishcha v stranakh zarubezhnoi Evropy. Moscow, 1968. [Collection of articles.]
Zhukov, K.Rasskaz o nashem zhilishche. [Moscow] 1970. Leroux, R. Ekologiia cheloveka. Nauka o zhilishchnom stroitel’stve. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from French.)
Russkie. Istoriko-etnograficheskii atlas. [Vol. l]:Zemledelie. Krest’-ianskoe zhilishche, krest’ianskaia odezhda. (Seredina XIXnachalo XX v.) [Vol. 2]: Iz istorii russkogo narodnogo zhilishcha i kostiuma. (Ukrashenie krest’ianskikh domov i odezhdy.) Seredina XlX-nachalo XX v. Moscow, 1967–70.
Vseobshchaia istoriia iskusstv, vols. 1–6. Moscow, 1956–66. (“Architecture” sections.)
Vseobshchaia istoriia arkhitektury, v 12 tomakh, vols. 1–9. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958–71.
Samoilova, N. A. Novoe v arkhitekture sotsialisticheskikh stran Evropy. Moscow, 1971.
The following books contain sections on settlements and dwellings:
Narody Afriki. Moscow, 1954.
Narody Avstrain i Okeanii. Moscow, 1956.
Narody Sibiri. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Narody Perednei Azii. Moscow, 1957.
Narody Ameriki, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1959.
Narody Kavkaza, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1960–62.
Narody Srednei Azii i Kazakhstana, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1962–63.
Narody Iuzhnoi Azii. Moscow, 1963.
Narody Evropeiskoi chasti SSSR, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1964.
Narody zarubezhnoi Evropy, parts 1–2. Moscow, 1964–65.
Narody Vostochnoi Azii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
Narody lugo-Vostochnoi Azii. Moscow, 1966.

N. N. CHEBOKSAROV (housing in the precapitalist period and rural housing in the capitalist countries and the USSR), K. V. ZHUKOV (urban housing of the capitalist period and urban housing in the USSR), and N. A. SAMOILOVA (housing in the socialist countries)

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A case or enclosure to cover and protect a structure or a mechanical device.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


housing, 1
1. A notch or groove cut in one wood member, usually to receive another wood member, as in a housed joint; also called a trench.
2. A shelter or dwelling place, or a collection of such places.
3. A niche for a statue.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Engineering a part designed to shelter, cover, contain, or support a component, such as a bearing, or a mechanism, such as a pump or wheel
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in classic literature ?
The remains of my poor sister had been brought round by the kitchen door, and, it being a point of Undertaking ceremony that the six bearers must be stifled and blinded under a horrible black velvet housing with a white border, the whole looked like a blind monster with twelve human legs, shuffling and blundering along, under the guidance of two keepers - the postboy and his comrade.
Perhaps he had not sold Wildfire, and was waiting for another chance-- perhaps, on that foggy afternoon, he had preferred housing himself at the Red Lion at Batherley for the night, if the run had kept him in that neighbourhood; for he was not likely to feel much concern about leaving his brother in suspense.
My quarters would have been suitable for housing the greatest of earthly emperors, but to these queer creatures nothing about a building appealed to them but its size and the enormity of its chambers; the larger the building, the more desirable; and so Tal Hajus occupied what must have been an enormous public building, the largest in the city, but entirely unfitted for residence purposes; the next largest was reserved for Lorquas Ptomel, the next for the jed of a lesser rank, and so on to the bottom of the list of five jeds.