Planned Communities / Cookie-Cutter Suburbs

Levitt produced inexpensive homes. He subcontracted building parts of the home to specialists who would do the same work repeatedly, from house to house. His methods reduced costs and increased quality: a standardized parts assembly line for houses.

Levitt’s methods were copied with cookie-cutter style suburbs dotting the US especially, where people have limited choices for houses that are then mass-produced.

Despite that he himself was Jewish, Levitt prohibited Jewish people and African Americans from purchasing homes in his housing developments. A Jewish family eventually bought a Levitt house without disclosing their religion. They then purposefully violated the restrictions by selling their house to a Black family in 1957. Eventually, racial and religious restrictions were ruled illegal in a series of lawsuits throughout the early 1960s.

ITT purchased Levitt’s house factory in July 1962 for $92M ($763M in 2018). $62 million of the purchase price was in stock which went on to decline dramatically in price before Levitt was allowed to sell.

Additionally, Levitt had a non-compete for ten years. To contrast the sales price, top US homebuilder D.R. Horton has a market cap of $15.9B in 2018.

1954 30-minute Levittown advertisement. Sousa music plays in the background when the narrator isn’t speaking and every person is white.

Sample lines:
• “We really are the folks in other nations would like to change places with.”
• “As a civic-minded citizen, you owe it to yourself and your family and to this community to favor your hometown merchants.”

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