Various factors demonstrated more clearly the problems of domestic life— such as the ordeals of building enough housing and acquiring schools, in the gaming resort. Because all both problems threatened more directly the cornerstone of traditional hometowns— the nuclear family.
The perpetual undersupply of housing between 1940 and 1965 presented a major stumbling block for newcomers in southern Nevada. The crisis was worst during the 1940s because, while the population virtually tripled, the housing stock increased little more than two-fold.
Workers recruited by wartime industry had to live in auto courts, trailers, cars, tents, and even remodeled packing crates. Conditions improved after the war, but the shortage of building supplies and the continuation of wartime controls inhibited residential construction.
A 1947 housing survey estimated that the local vacancy rate stood at the tremendously low figure of 0.2 percent and reported that many people still lived in motels, mobile homes, or substandard structures. Families hoping to build new homes must have found it difficult to lure construction labor away from the more profitable commercial projects under way in Glitter Gulch on the Strip.
The crisis diminished during a housing boom in the 1950s as new residential construction kept pace, barely, with increases in population but shortages remained. Approximately six thousand people yet lived in trailers at mid-decade, more than 13 percent of the city’s inhabitants. Many homeowners built their houses themselves in order to circumvent the rising costs and the labor shortage.
Property values generally soared throughout the 1950s as the demand for real estate grew unabated. Recently cut dirt roads led to raw new subdivisions that began to fill in patches of desert around downtown and the Strip.
By 1960, the many recently completed residential units attested the sudden growth in southern Nevada. Almost two-thirds of the housing stock of Clark County had been completed during the last ten years, and still more was needed to satisfy the continuing influx to the town.
Between 1950 and 1955, the number of students expanded by an average of 21 percent annually, of 2 and a half times over the five-year span. Many students attended schools in double sessions for much of the postwar period, wearing out both their classrooms and their underpaid teachers.
In Nevada, a perennial lack of funds compounded the national shortage of educational facilities. Hoping to maintain its reputation as a tax haven, the state hesitated to raise enough revenue to finance substantial improvements in schools.
Even after the legislature approved a sales tax with proceeds earmarked foe education, children in the resort city continued to attend relatively overcrowded, obsolete, and understaffed schools.
The development of a housing project supply and a public school system typified Las Vegans’ approach to the hometown. They tended to build the residential city in bursts that were inevitable begun long after needs became critical, leaving little time for coordinated planning.
Uncontrolled growth certainly suited the individualism of Las Vegans, but they began to reconsider their priorities when their style of city building seemed to pose threats to the nuclear family.