New York City's public housing was America's first and a product of the Depression, a way to put people to work as much as to provide homes. Its origins lay in Europe, particularly Vienna, though the practice of providing public shelter to the needy goes back on American soil to Puritan New England.
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) was founded in 1934 to implement the scheme and would be around to celebrate its 80th birthday in 2014. It quickly made a success of the effort, growing to eventually house hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in projects lasting long after other American cities demolished their respective enterprises. Many factors account for New York's singular success; perhaps the most important, the triple level of support by the federal, state, and city governments.
For the Living, a 1949 NYC film produced for NYCHA, tells the origin story. Note the relief from housing discrimination offered to not only New Yorkers of color, but also to Jewish citizens, the poor, and children.