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Housing of Grayson Farm Folk

By W. E. Garnett
Assisted by
Mrs. Marion Lucas
Mrs. Mary Lou Delaney
Mrs. C. E. Thomas

Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station
and Agricultural Extension Services cooperating
Blacksburg, Virginia

March 1948 – Rural Sociology Report No. 64

Discussion Questions

What are the consequences of poor housing and the lack of home conveniences?

Does your observation or experience point to any or all of the following results?

  1. Mothers’ work often increased to the point that their having inadequate nerve energy for the proper care and training of children, time to read or take part in community acitivities?
  2. Mothers’ health or that of the family being sometimes affected?
  3. Home Atmosphere tending to suffer?
  4. Good farm labor made more difficult to get and keep?

Why is there so much poor farm housing and lack of home conveniences? Are such conditions due to:

  1. Lack of adequate income?
  2. Lack of appreciation of possible benefits of good contitions?
  3. Lack of appreciation of the consquences of poor conditions?
  4. Widespread failure to make full use of available aids–
    1. Self help in making improvements?
    2. Cooperative efforts between landlords and tenents (where there are tenants?)
    3. Technical assistance from County and Home Agents and the Agricultural College?

In view of the fact that improvements are largely questions of private responsibility, what programs to promote better housing and home conveniences are practical? Where does the responsibility for such programs lie?

Is more concerted effort needed:

To increase awareness of prevailing conditions?
To increase appreciation of the benefits of good housing and home conveniences?
To incrase understanding of the consequences of poor conditions?
To make tenants aware that good care of property increases changes of improvements?
To help landlords appreciate that improved tenant houses aid in securing and keeping higher quality labor, and thus boost production?

How can improvements when needed be secured? — improvements such as putting in electricity and running water, adding bathrooms, installing kitchen sinks, boring wells and puttin in pumps, reparing doors and windows, fixing screens, adding insulation and solid foundations, improving walls, painting, securing refrigeration, washing machines and other electrical appliances, and fix closets, etc.

Can such improvements be promoted through:

More self help?
More assistance of each other by neighbors (as houses were built in pioneer times)?
More cooperative buying and use of credit facilities, etc.?
More join effort by landlords and tenants–landlords furnishing materials, tenants doing work and being paid so much for improvements when they move?
More effort for a larger proportion of increased income expended on improvements?

More encouragement of wider use of technical assistance to be had for the asking from the Agricultural College representatives, especially wide use by those families making use of Farm and Home Agent aid.

In 1940, out of 3,229 occupied farm houses reported for Grayson County —

3078 – 95% lacked bathtub or shower
3188 – 99% lacked central heat
1864 – 58% lacked refrigeration equipment
3199 – 99% of the families did not cook with electricity, gas, gasoline or kerosene.
* A high percent lacked kitchen sinks
** A high percent lacked closets and storage space.

In 1945, out of 3,153 occupied farm houses reported for Grayson County–

2308 – 73% lacked electricity (63 counties made a better showing)
2462 – 78% lacked running water (31 counties made a better showing)
2324 – 74% of the homes had no telephone
1290 – 41% of the homes had no radio
2204 – 70% of the farm operators had no automobile

**Poor housing and lack of home conveniences tend to affect health. The 1941-45 average Grayson infant death rate per 1,000 resident live births was 53; white 50, Negro 133. (69 counties made a better showing in the white infant death rate).

Housing conditions and their improvement are related to education. In 1940, 26 percent of the white men and 54 percent of the Negro men, age 25 years and over, had under a fifth grade education.

There are many more children being reared in Grayson County farm houses valued at $700 or less than in farm houses valued at $3,000 or more. (Estimates based on Va. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bulletin No. 335 and 1940 Population Census and Housing Census.)

Will a fair proportin of the inceased farm income of recent years be used to improve the conditions portrayed?

What are reasonable housing and home convenience standards for farm families? — Fairly prosperous and medium income owners? Subsistence owners and tenants?

How much new business would be created by housing and home equipment improvement to a reasonable level?

Does all the responsibility for poor farm housing and lack of conveniences rest on farm people?

Are other social groups affected by subnormal farm housing conditions? If so, do other groups have improvement responsibilities?

Housing of Grayon Farm Folk

Category 1940 1945 Change
Farm Population 14,756 12,151 -(2,605)
Occupied Residences 3,229 3,153 -(76)

Occupied Rural Dwelling Units: 1940

Population Farm Nonfarm
Number Percent Number Percent
White 3,145 97% 1,659 96%
Negro 84 3% 70 4%
Total 3,229 100% 1,729 100%

Status of Farm Home Occupants

Population Owners Tenants Total
Number Percent Number Percent
White 2,435 97% 710 98% 3,145
Negro 68 3% 16 2% 84
Total 2,503 77.5% 726 22.5% 3,229

Indicators of Farm Housing Conditions – 1940

Number and percent distribution of houses according to number of rooms:

Rooms Number Percent
3 or less 868 26%
4 – 5 1,240 37%
6 – 7 782 32%
8 and up 479 14%

(1574 farm houses had 4 rooms or less –74 counties made a better showing).

Number and percent distribution of farm owner and tenant houses by estimated value:

Population Under $700 $700 – 1499 $1500 – 2999 $3000 – 4999 $5000 up
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
White 1,841 67% 604 22% 244 8.9% 39 1.4% 19 .7%
Negro 68 85% 12 15% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 1,909 67.5% 616 21.8% 244 8.65% 39 1.38% 19 .67%

Values for tenant-occupied residences were calculated by assuming the rent per month to be one percent of the value. The census gives estimated montly rent but not the value of tenant houses.

1438 Farm houses need major repairs. Farm houses frequently lacked insulation as well as solid foundations.

Sources of data: 1940 Population Census and Housing Census unless otherwise indicated. 1945 Agricultral Census, Field Studies and observations; Virginia Hospital Survey.

Little Change in most housing conditions since 1940–Improvements below normal rate. (Electric conections are rapidly being increased in some counties). (War industry areas changed more than other counties).