This paper will focus on the evolution of federal housing policy, from the first policies in the 1930s to the current policies, with a consideration for the shifting priorities within the programs. The many goals and a brief history of housing policy in the United Stated will be established. With a dilution of goals and many responsibilities, an emphasis will be placed on low-income housing and the role the federal government has played. The many shifts in attitude towards public assistance will be discussed, as the government moved from building and providing the housing towards the demand-side of providing vouchers. Three case studies of individual cities will serve as case studies to demonstrate these principals.
There were some early investigations in the housing sector that the federal government sponsored. The earliest, in 1892, was a report of city slums in four different cities. By 1909, a report by the President’s Housing Commission had recommended that the federal government purchase swellings in slums to then improve or replace so that there would be more healthy homes for the poor. (US House of Representatives 108th Congress, 2004) While these recommendations were not followed through with, it illustrates that the government was aware of the development of slum-like conditions but did not yet take any action on these studies or recommendations.
Meanwhile, the federal government did take action to house workers and soldiers during World War I. In 1918, it was authorized for realty companies to use fedral loans to build housing for shipyard workers. The US Housing Corporation, existing for a short time during World War I, was authorized to build and manage community housing for many different war workers. This stretched across 25 communities; over 5,000 single homes were built, while many dorms and apartments were also built. The US Housing Corporation was then dissolved, and the housing sold off. (US House of Rep 108th Congress, 2004)
The federal government’s involvement in housing became more permanent in the 1930s to help facilitate the process of residential mortgage financing and increase the amount of homeownership across the country. A President’s Conference held in 1931 established the goals of stimulating home ownership and home construction; legislation followed in 1932 with the Emergency Relief and Construction Act (ERFA)and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. While these were the first steps of federal government involvement towards housing policy, it did little affect individuals. The Federal Home Loan Bank Board created loans, but these loans required very short terms, of three to five years and large down payments. This left many in the low income bracket to be left to negotiate for homes with similar down payment costs, or continue renting. It did give access to the working class, whom were put into default and foreclosures; the country was shocked by the rate of foreclosures from the Depression,...