The Evolution Of Federalism And Housing Policy

1454 words - 6 pages

When James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay drafted the Federalist Papers to persuade the state of New York to ratify the newly drafted United States Constitution, they could never have envisioned the controversy that the political theory of Federalism would generate, and the subsequent evolution of federalism that would follow. The Framers of the Constitution never planned for the federal government to be directly involved with the general welfare of people living within the United States beyond ensuring for a national defense and the creation of a national economy (Wills, 1982). As debatable as this issue was in 1787 and 1788, the subject is still controversial today, and has spawned political factions that have called for a return to those Constitutional fundamentals grounded in federalism. In his introduction for the Federalist Papers, Wills (1982) defined federalism as a basic political tenet of the United States Constitution which recognized that the post-Revolutionary colonies could best be governed by a mix of local and central government decision-making. Today, states are called upon to address issues of social welfare such as abortion, gay marriage and public housing; yet, federal agencies and federal dollars are caught in the political crosshairs for legislative resolution to these issues. This essay will examine this evolution of Federalism and discuss the significance of it, as it relates to the current state of intergovernmental relations for public agencies involved in housing.
Structure of Federalism
The American concept of federalism implies balance. Consequently, a system of checks and balances created by a division of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the national government was established to thwart a corruption of power by any single branch. Further, power to govern was to be disseminated to state and local governments who could more efficiently deal with expanding domestic issues (Nivola, 2007). To that end, the purpose of the United States Constitution established this division of power so that the national government could focus on “primary public obligations” such as national defense, while lower tiers of state and local administration could be concerned with “secondary affairs” (Nivola, 2007, p. 2). The impact of this horizontal and vertical division of power created a form of dual federalism that resulted in strong state governments with minimal federal infringement in domestic policy (Nathan, 2006). This period of “dualism where states and the central government had comparable responsibilities” would last until the Civil War (Inman and Rubinfeld, 1997, p. 43).
Government Involvement in Housing
In the twentieth century, the government became directly involved in domestic policy as a result of the Depression and New Deal legislation. During this time, citizens looked to the national government to alleviate substandard housing conditions, primarily in rental units. Home...

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