The 2011 documentary film, “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth,” documents the rapid rise and fall of a housing complex in St. Lous that became a symbol for the failure of public housing policy in the late 20th century. The film tackles the stigmas attached to Pruitt-Igoe as a symbol black poverty and black crime. The black population of these apartment complexes were demonized, unfairly, according to the film, as was the larger social project of public housing for low-income and minority communities in urban settings.
The policy failure described by the film’s telling of the Pruitt-Igoe history is not a failure of the very idea of public housing, as many commentators would have made it out to be. The film locates the failure in the program—building something with no plan for maintenance, planning for deliberate segregation, and failing to identify the trends changing the city. In this way, the St. Louis and the Pruitt-Igoe example is a cautionary tale that applies in many other U.S. cities with similar social policies.
The people interviewed for the film were there at the beginning, when Pruitt-Igoe symbolized a beacon of modern hope, defined by community, and throughout Pruitt-Igoe’s quick disintegration into a den for crime and drugs. In 1976, just over 20 years after Pruitt-Igoe opened its doors to 12,000 residents, the entire complex had been reduced to rubble.
This course is approved for 1 AICP CM credit