African American servicemen and World War II veterans used the Veterans Administration (VA) insured mortgage programs to finance homes in new housing developments in Los Angeles. Surveys of returning servicemen indicated a higher proportion of African American veterans planned to buy, build or rent. (Donald W. Wyatt. Social Forces, March 1950) Aided by government programs, minority home ownership in the U.S. increased from 20% (1940) to 36% (1960). The number of nonwhite households living in substandard housing declined by 50% from 1950-1960. With the government programs and new housing opportunities, racial residential patterns changed in the City of Los Angeles.
The Paul R. Williams' designed Carver Manor was a tract of 250 affordable single-family homes intended for African Americans in the Willowbrook area just south of Watts Parkside Manor. Velma Grant was the human dynamo behind this new residential development. Grant, an African American real estate agent, was convinced an untapped market existed for quality, newly-built, single-family, private homes available to middle-class African Americans. Though she had no previous experience in construction, in a three year period Grant would start 640 houses in three subdivisions located in south Los Angeles for African American families. (American Builder, November 1949)
With a $2,290,000 loan from Bank of America, Grant bought 50-acres of undeveloped land in South Los Angeles. She named the subdivision Carver Manor, in honor of the recently deceased scientist, educator and inventor George Washington Carver. To design the master plan and a selection of floor plans for Carver Manor, Grant enlisted Paul Revere Williams. She knew the participation of this "in-demand" architect would add excitement and attract potential buyers. Velma Grant was confident that his small, modern and well-built homes would fulfill the aspirational dreams of her upwardly mobile clients.
Williams wanted his designs for homes in Carver Manor to include unique architectural features. This was unusual for most of the tract units built after W.W.II for either African American or white clients. To create homes that were not cookie cutter in appearance, the architect designed each house with an off-set and broken roof line. Williams and Grant stressed the importance of quality construction. The home exteriors were stucco construction and the interiors featured plaster walls, hardwood floors and double tile sinks. Acknowledging the importance of the car to an emerging middle-class, each home included an attached single garage. All front lawns were landscaped.
In 1946 the first group of single-family homes in Carver Manor went on the market for $11,400. Middle-class African American professionals from across the city lined-up on the first day to view the models. Over 110 units were immediately put under contract. Grant was shocked by the response and "pent-up" demand for housing. Her vision for the subdivision expanded to include a shopping center and 95 additional lots (Time July 25, 1949).