Federal Government Aid for the Homeless - A Timeline Of Government Involvement
housing act low income
Since 1860 the federal government has been actively involved with the housing industry, specifically the low-income housing industry. In 1860 the government conducted the first partial census of housing—by counting slave dwellings. Twenty years later the U.S. census focused on the living quarters of the rest of the population, conducting a full housing census. Since then the federal government has played an increasingly larger role in combating housing problems in the United States:
- 1892—Congress designated $20,000 for a Labor Department study on slum conditions in Baltimore, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, the four cities with populations over 200,000 at that time. The study revealed that 14% of the cities' populations, mostly immigrants, lived in slums under crowded conditions. Most of these people spent one-third or more of their income on rent.
- 1908—President Theodore Roosevelt appointed a Housing Commission to study the problems in American slums; among the suggestions made by the panel were broad federal acquisition of slum properties and direct loans from the federal government to finance the renovation and construction of decent, sanitary housing that the poor could buy or occupy at low interest rates or rents.
- 1925—Borrowing and mortgaging properties reached their highest levels ever to that date. The rate of foreclosures also started to rise, leading to increased homelessness. Although no one knew it at the time, the debts that Americans had run up for their housing would be a major problem just a few years later.
- 1929—Stocks trading at the New York Stock Exchange suffered a tremendous crash in prices. The Great Depression had begun.
- 1932—As many Americans lost their jobs and failing banks called in their loans, homelessness sky-rocketed. The Emergency Relief and Construction Act authorized the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to lend government money to corporations to build housing for low-income families.
- 1933—The National Industrial Recovery Act allowed the Public Works Administration (a government-sponsored work program) to use federal funds for slum clearance, the construction of low-cost housing, and subsistence homesteads; close to 40,000 units were produced that year.
- 1937—The United States Housing Act of 1937 established the Public Housing Administration (which was later merged into the Federal Housing Administration [FHA] and the Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD]) to create low-rent housing programs across the country through the establishment of local public housing agencies.
- 1938—The National Housing Act Amendments were implemented. They allowed the FHA to insure low-income rental projects built for profit.
- 1940—The U.S. Census, reporting on the first comprehensive survey of the nation's housing stock,
showed that 18% of housing units needed major repairs, 31% lacked running water, 44% had neither a bathtub nor a shower, and 35% lacked a flush toilet. The worst conditions generally were found in inner-city slums and in the South, where many sharecroppers lived in shacks.
- 1941—The United States entered World War II (1939-45). The economy surged to meet wartime needs, and millions of young men entered the military. As a result, the Great Depression came to a close.
- 1946—The Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) was created under the Department of Agriculture to provide low-income housing assistance in rural areas.
- 1949—The Housing Act of 1949 set the goals of "a decent home and a suitable environment" for every family and authorized an 810,000-unit public housing program over the next six years. Title I of the Act created the Urban Renewal program; Title V created the basic rural housing program under the FmHA, which put the federal government directly into the mortgage business.
- 1961—President John F. Kennedy made decent housing for all Americans a national objective. He wanted to accelerate urban renewal projects to make more mortgage funds available to homebuyers and to provide decent housing for low-income and minority households. Congress responded by passing the Housing Act of 1961, creating a new program for FHA-insured, low-income rental housing. This was the FHA's first direct subsidy program.
- 1965—Congress established the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Its goal was to create a new rent supplement program for low-income households in private housing.
- 1968—The Housing and Urban Development Act was passed in response to President Johnson's "Message to Congress on Housing and Cities." The president declared that America's cities were in crisis and set a national housing goal of twenty-six million new units (six million targeted to low- and moderate-income households) over the next ten years. Congress provided two new options for low- and moderate-income rent subsidy programs and mortgage insurance for low- and moderate-income families with poor credit histories.
- 1970—A massive reorganization of federal housing organizations was completed. FHA was merged into HUD. With this reorganization, the FHA began to provide support for lower-priced housing and directed home ownership and rental opportunity programs for low-income households in inner cities.
- 1973—President Nixon declared a moratorium on housing and community development assistance, suspending all subsidized housing programs.
- 1974—The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 created a new leased-housing program that included a certificate (voucher) program, expanding housing choices for low-income tenants, and fair-market rent ceilings to control the cost of the program. The voucher program soon became known as Section 8, after the section of the act that established it.
- 1981—The Housing and Community Development Amendments of 1981 required subsidized tenants to pay up to 30% of their income for rent before qualifying for assistance under Section 8 and further limited benefits of public housing programs to the neediest households.
- 1983—The Housing and Urban-Rural Recovery Act of 1983 established rental rehabilitation programs and modified components of the Section 8 program to limit its benefits. Under Section 8, an experimental housing voucher program was established, and new rehabilitation grants and housing development grants were created.
- 1987—The Stewart B. McKinney Homelessness Assistance Act was passed. This was the first federal act aimed directly at helping homeless people. It established new programs and funding for HUD to provide emergency shelter to homeless people and eventually help secure permanent housing for them.
- 1989—The HUD Reform Act of 1989 was enacted. Its intent was to clean up HUD and prevent the misuse of funds that had been plaguing the agency.
- 1990—The National Affordable Housing Act renewed the federal government's commitment to home ownership, tenant-based assistance, and subsidized housing. The Low-Income Housing Preservation and Residential Home Ownership Act demonstrated a federal commitment to permanent preservation of assisted low-income, multi-family housing; the act also repealed the rental rehabilitation grant and the rehabilitation loan program. A special homeless assistance component of the moderate rehabilitation program was retained.
- 1997—The Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998 thoroughly reformed public housing initiatives. It removed disincentives for residents to work, provided rental protection for low-income residents, deregulated the operation of public housing authorities, authorized the creation of mixed-finance public housing projects, and gave more power and flexibility to local governments and communities to operate housing programs.
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