THE INVISIBLE CITY
James Blue: Those are video cassettes.
There are almost 180 on these shelves—
75 hours of programming. On each one,
someone in Houston has shown us or told
us about an aspect of the city that is invisible to many of us. I thought that if we
could probe through all of this material,
finding the pieces and putting them together somehow, we could make the
invisible city visible. Now let me show
you what I mean. Here is a piece of raw
material from one of the cassettes.
Osci Johnson, Fifth Ward tenant: So you
just can't imagine with 10 or 12 people
living in one house.
Adele Santos: So how many people live
in this house?
Santos: Nine of you live in this house?
Santos: Well, how big is it?
Johnson: Two bedrooms.
Santos: Where do you sleep?
Johnson: On the floor, on couches, on
Blue: Or, for instance, this one.
Hispanic female: No nos han querido ren-
tar una buena casa. (They've not wanted
to rent us a good house.)
Jesse Alaniz, A.C.O.R.N., Second Ward:
This poor lady here. She don't have no
bathroom. She lives in a garage and she
don't have no restroorm She have no
bathtub. And she's a poor lady. And she
pay $17 a week.
HF: $17 dollars a week. No water, no gas,
Alaniz: It's so bad that there's even
people that sleep here in this car. And
sometimes she has to feed some of these
Blue: And now what you've been looking
at are just documents—just the raw mater-
ial-and they don't always tell the whole
story. Quite often you have to look at the
key issues which underlie the situation.
So we asked a number of people who are
skilled at looking at the problems of society to watch these tapes with us and to
sort out what are the key issues. At the
end of this series they will have chosen
one issue of primary importance to Houston on which you, the television audience,
will have a chance to vote. We're attempting an experiment. We're making a documentary about Houston's housing crisis,
but we're not going to present you with a
finished product. Instead, we're going to
show you roughly edited sequences from
the material that we have here. We're asking you to tell us what needs to be add-
Architect Adele Naude Santos and filmmaker James Blue collaborated on a
series of five television programs on Houston's growing housing problem.
Unique was the incorporation of audience reaction to and criticism of each
episode into each succeeding episode. The final program of The Invisible
City, to air October 1st at 7 p.m. on KUHT, will be shown before a live
audience with a dicussion on the issues raised in the films. An edited
transcription from the opening episode follows.
ed—what needs to be changed. And then
your suggestions, as many as possible, will
be incorporated in the following program.
And at the end of the series, we will present a documentary we have all made together about a problem which affects all
of us. (Speaking to the advisors). So this
is a work session. And what you have to
do during this 4-week series is process out
the essential questions. What do we have
to decide? And what are the consequences of those decisions? Now this all began
when Adele Santos came to me and
said . . .
Santos: I perceive a real crisis that exists
here. And a worse crisis, if that is possible,
is going to occur unless something's done
about it. And the affected people are the
low- and moderate-income group, for
whom there seems to be a no-win situation. And then I described to him what
we'd been doing in my studio at Rice
University, where we'd been looking at
the facts and the figures. We'd been driving the neighborhoods. The first thing
that I discovered was that the problem was
endless . . . .which astonished me only because this is a new city. How can we have
such a large inventory of substandard
housing when most of the city is post-
1940? So that is where it really all began.
We spent a semester looking at the
housing problem. We had a lot of facts,
information, etc., which we've used to
back up this film. So we will be visiting
many of these communities in the process
of looking at this film. Approximately
one half the city lives in these areas. It
sounds somewhat alarming and it is.
Indeed, there are people on Navigation
telling us that people are living in automobiles. They're living nine or 10 to a
room. People are living in attics. People
are living in garages. People are living in
tin sheds without any running water.
Alaniz: Yes sir, there's people living in
them damned little old tin sheds. The
landlords, they rent 'em out and they
ain't got no running water or any kind of
photos by Gary Allison Morey
Santos: The housing authority is acom-
modating families. At least one family in
particular, who have been living in their
automobile for three weeks.
Cindy Rheinhardt, Asst. Director, Houston Housing Authority (H.H.A): I had a
call at my house one night about three
weeks ago from a director of a community secvice agency here in town, and he
said, "I'm going crazy, I just found this
family and they've got 10 kids. The guy is
a skilled carpenter, he can't find a job,
he's got tools and everything. Can you
put him up in one of the projects somewhere? They've been sleeping in their car
for three weeks."
Santos: From this, we then moved to a
series of people in positions of authority
in the city who are telling the facts and
Ken Austin, Mayor's Office Planning Coordinator: There are about 190,000
households needing assistance by the
standards of the Housing Assistance Plan
in the city of Houston. People who make
less than, I guess, about +13,500-$14,000
a year for a household of 3 or 4 people or
more. In Houston, that tends to be people who live in the inner city inside the
loop. And they tend to be mostly minorities and the elderly.
Mrs. Willie Shelton, Fidelity home-owner:
I'm scared to use the air conditioner. In
June my bill was $40. July $60. August
it was $80. September it was $12S. For
one unit! And I know I wasn't using that
much electricity. Wasn't nothing I could
do but pay it.
Blue: You haven't got that kind of
Shelton: No sir, I had to miss paying
somebody else to pay the light bill.
Austin: A great many minority households are large. And there is a great shortage of rental units, which, of course, is
the need of a low-income group because
they can't afford the down payments or
the cost of upkeep on it.
Mrs. Saldana, Denver Harbor tenant: The
main problem is that we don't have no
water, no connections to our bathrooms
or to our faucets. We have to get the
water through the window that he put in.
We have just that one faucet outside. We
don't have no hot water neither in the
bathroom or shower. Our roof, when it
rains, it leaks all the water to the floor.
The floor is already falling down-the
whole house, you know, is falling all to
Santos: How much do you pay for this?
Saldana: We pay $50 a week.
Santos: How many of you are there?
Saldana: We got eight kids, me and my
husband. And we're expecting another, so
that'd be 11. So, it's kind of hard. About
four years ago, a rat bit my little girl and
she was in the hospital at Memorial for
about a week. We're here because we
can't find housing. If we could find another place, we'd move.
Joan Edwards, Fair Housing Administrator: We have a whole file of calls from
blacks and Hispanics who tell us they are
paying $70, sometimes $80 a week, for a
unit that, in some cases, we have found
later was substandard.
Minnie Torres, Northside tenant: The
porch broke and I fell down and I had to
go to the hospital. He (the landlord) wasn't going to fix the porch. He just tore it
down more and left it like that so we
could move out.
Santos: Why do you think he doesn't fix
Torres: He thinks he can get the rent anyway. People are so hard up finding houses
-people from Mexico and everywhere.
And they just go in like that. They can't
find no place else to go, so they just move
in like that. That's why they're taking advantage and they don't fix it up. They
know that they rent it anyway.
Maria Martinez, Magnolia resident: You
can see that most of these houses have
garages or utility sheds in the back. They
don't have any tools or anything in the
back. They have nothing but illegal
people staying in the back. See it? Right
there is the house. $55 a week for one
bedroom. And these people are used to
having illegals. They come and they live
about 20 people, you know, in one room.
Well, when somebody from here goes to
look for a house, they expect us to take
the same thing. These people have no
alternative. They have to live in this