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GENERAL HOUSING ACT OF 1945
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 1945
UNITED STATES SENATE,
COMMITTEE ON BANKING AND CURRENCY,
Washington, D. C.
The committee met at 10:30 a. m., pursuant to call, in room 301, Senate Office Building, Senator Robert F. Wagner, chairman, presiding.
Present: Senators Wagner (chairman), Radcliffe, McFarland, Mitchell, Carville, Taft, Butler, Capper, and Buck.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will please come to order.
STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT F. WAGNER, SENIOR SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
The CHAIRMAN. The housing shortage throughout the country is now acute. A year from now it will be still more acute. Whenever a situation is acute there are those who want to deal with the problem solely through emergency measures. Generally, these are the same people who, before the situation becomes acute, say there is no need to do anything at all. They say that a long-term housing program is unnecessary when there is no housing emergency; and when there is a housing emergency they say that a long-term program is too late to be useful.
The present bill offers a long-term program for the solution of the housing difficulties in which we now find ourselves. It offers a longterm program for the expansion of investment and employment opportunity through house construction. I agree that we are late with this program, but we cannot turn the clock back by further delay. There is nothing in this bill which could not be gotten under way as soon as the bill becomes law. There are parts of the bill which will require demolition and planning activities before new houses can be built. These activities can be started at once. There are parts of the bill which provide new and necessary plans for getting private enterprise into the middle income mass market. These plans should be enacted into law at once, because the institutions concerned with them will, as we know by experience, take a while to get started under any new plan.
It is certainly not too early for the Congress to recognize that the goal of a decent home for every American family is one of our primary postwar objectives.
While some of the proposals under the bill will take a few months to swing into full operation, there are other proposals which would take full effect immediately. One of these, for example, is the authorization in the bill to make permanent war housing available on a preferential basis for the families of veterans of low income.
I do not think that anyone will come before this committee, favoring this bill as a long-term proposition, but suggesting that we delay action on it. Those who suggest delay will undoubtedly reveal, by their testimony, that they do not want a long-term, well-rounded housing program at any time.
These hearings have been arranged to give full and fair opportunity for every interest to be heard. Nonetheless, I hope that the hearings may proceed expeditiously, and that a report upon the legislation may be obtained before Christmas.
I am glad that this bill is nonpartisan in its sponsorship. The interests of the country make it desirable that it be equally nonpartisan in its consideration by this committee and by the Congress.
The bill, of course, recognizes, and I believe every member of this committee believes, that public housing is a necessary part of any comprehensive housing program. At the same time, most of the bill is directed toward stimulating private enterprise and broadening its opportunities-through the utilization of machinery such as the FHA, with which this committee is thoroughly familiar.
A few weeks ago, the Home Builders Industry Committee left with me for study a bill which represented their views and suggestions. I am going to make available to every member of this committee a copy of a letter which I sent to each member of this Home Builders Industry Committee. This letter indicates how fully and completely the present bill has taken account of their recommendations and included them among its proposals. In fact, in numerous respects the bill goes even further than they have proposed in the direction of stimulating private enterprise.
Since then, I have heard some comment that all of these proposals to stimulate private enterprise are merely a camouflage for the public housing title of the bill. I do not think that any member of this committee will be able to draw that conclusion, upon studying the bill and hearing all the testimony that will be brought before us. I think this committee may conclude that the camouflage is in another quarter. The camouflage is on the part of those who are perfectly willing to advocate and favor governmental assistance in the accomplishment of their own objectives, but who look with disfavor upon governmental assistance to ill-housed families of very low income, including veterans.
I have asked several members of the Education and Labor Committee to participate in these hearings, in recognition of their contribution toward the thorough congressional investigation which culminated in the preparation of this bill by Senator Taft, Senator Ellender, and myself.
The bill we have under consideration is S. 1592, and it will here be made a part of the record.
(The bill is as follows:)
[S. 1592, 79th Cong., 1st sess.]
A BILL To establish a national housing policy and provide for its execution
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the "General Housing Act of 1945".
SEC. 2. The Congress hereby declares that the general welfare and security of the Nation and the health and living standards of its people require a production of residential construction and related community development sufficient to
remedy the serious cumulative housing shortage, to eliminate slums and blighted areas, to realize as soon as feasible the goal of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family, and to develop and redevelop communities so as to advance the growth and wealth of the Nation. The Congress further declares that such production is necessary to enable the construction industry to make its full contribution toward an economy of full production and full employment. The policies to be followed in obtaining these objectives are (1) private enterprise shall be encouraged to serve as large a part of the total need as it can; (2) governmental assistance shall be utilized where feasible to enable private enterprise to serve more of the total need; (3) governmental aid to clear slums and provide adequate housing for groups with incomes so low that they cannot otherwise be served shall be extended only to those localities which estimate their own needs and demonstrate that these needs cannot fully be met through reliance solely upon private enterprise and without such aid; and (4) in order to achieve unified and coordinated activity, and to promote efficiency and economy, the main functions of the Government in housing and related community development shall be consolidated as provided in this Act.
SEC. 3. To effectuate this policy, this Act (1) establishes a National Housing Agency in title I; (2) deals with research, market analysis, and local planning in title II; (3) amends existing aids to privately financed housing in title III; (4) enables private enterprise to serve families of lower income in title IV; (5) enables direct private investment in housing for families of moderate income in title V; (6) enables private enterprise to participate in the development or redevelopment of slum and other areas in title VI; (7) aids localities in slum clearance and low-rent housing in title VII; (8) provides aid for rural housing in title VIII; (9) provides for the disposition of federally owned housing including permanent war housing (with preference to families of servicemen and veterans) in title IX; (10) requires periodic inventory of needs and programs in title X; and (11) contains miscellaneous provisions in title XI.
TITLE I-NATIONAL HOUSING AGENCY
SEC. 101. There is hereby established an agency and instrumentality of the United States, to be known as the "National Housing Agency".
OFFICE OF THE ADMINISTRATOR
SEC. 102. (a) Said Agency shall be headed by a National Housing Administrator appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Said Administrator shall receive compensation at the rate of $12,000 per annum.
(b) In addition to the responsibilities, functions, powers, and duties otherwise vested in the National Housing Administrator by this Act, there are hereby transferred to and vested in said Administrator the functions, powers, and duties of determining general policy, and of making findings of need and of termination of need for housing, under titles I and III, section 401, and title V of Public Law 849, Seventy-sixth Congress, approved October 14, 1940, as amended, Public Law 781, Seventy-sixth Congress, approved September 9, 1940, as amended, and Public Laws 9, 73, and 353, Seventy-seventh Congress, approved, respectively, March 1, 1941, May 24, 1941, and December 17, 1941.
(c) The Administrator shall cause to be prepared for the National Housing Agency an official seal, of such device as he shall approve, and judicial notice shall be taken of said seal.
SEC. 103. There shall be in the National Housing Agency under the National Housing Administrator, who (in his capacity as the main officer within the Agency responsible for executing the policies established by law) shall be responsible for the general supervision of the administration thereof and for the coordination of their functions, activities, and programs
(a) A constituent unit to be known as the "Federal Home Loan Bank Administration", with a Federal Home Loan Bank Commissioner who shall be the head thereof;
(b) A constituent unit to be known as the "Federal Housing Administration", with a Federal Housing Commissioner who shall be the head thereof; and
(c) A constituent unit to be known as the "Federal Public Housing Authority", with a Federal Public Housing Commissioner who shall be the head thereof.
(d) Each such Commissioner shall be appointed hereunder by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and shall, respectively, receive compensation at the rate heretofore provided for the Chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the Federal Housing Administrator, and the Administrator of the United States Housing Authority.
TRANSFERS OF FUNCTIONS TO CONSTITUENT UNITS
SEC. 104. Subject to the provisions of this title relating to the over-all responsibilities of the Administrator, there are hereby transferred to and vested(a) In the Federal Home Loan Bank Commissioner, the functions, powers, and duties of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and its members, the board of trustees of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation, and the board of directors of the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (all of which boards and the offices of the members thereof are hereby abolished) under the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, as amended, title IV of the National Housing Act, as amended, and the Home Owners' Loan Act of 1933, as amended;
(b) In the Federal Housing Commissioner, the functions, powers, and duties of the Federal Housing Administrator (which office is hereby abolished) under the National Housing Act, as amended, together with the functions, powers, and duties of the Federal Loan Administrator with respect to the Federal National Mortgage Association under Reorganization Plan Number I, effective July 1, 1939, and Public Law 4, Seventy-ninth Congress, approved February 24, 1945; (c) In the Federal Public Housing Commissioner, the functions, powers, and duties of the Administrator of the United States Housing Authority (which office is hereby abolished) under the United States Housing Act of 1937, as amended, and under title II of Public Law 671, Seventy-sixth Congress, approved June 28, 1940, as amended; together with the functions, powers, and duties (except those of determining general policy and making findings of need and of termination of need for housing, which are hereinabove transferred to the National Housing Administrator) under titles I and III, section 401, and title V of Public Law 849, Seventy-sixth Congress, approved October 14, 1940, as amended, and of the War and Navy Departments with respect to defense or war housing (except that located on military or naval reservations, posts or bases) under Public Law 781, Seventy-sixth Congress, approved September 9, 1940, as amended, and of all agencies designated to provide temporary shelter in defense areas under Public Laws 9, 73, and 353, Seventy-seventh Congress, approved, respectively, March 1, 1941, May 24, 1941, and December 17, 1941, insofar as such functions, powers, and duties relate to such temporary shelter; together with the functions, powers, and duties of the Federal Loan Administrator with respect to the Defense Homes Corporation (which Corporation shall be administered by said Commissioner who shall receive and hold the capital stock of said Corporation on behalf of the United States of America), and of the Farm Security Administration with respect to housing projects which said Administration has heretofore determined are for families not deriving their principal income from operating or working on a farm.
TRANSFER OF PROPERTY AND PERSONNEL
SEC. 105. All assets, contracts, and property (real or personal, and including office equipment and records) used or held in connection with, and all personnel employed in, the administration of any function, power, or duty transferred by sections 102 and 104 hereof, are hereby transferred with such respective function, power, or duty, and all those used, held, or employed in the performance of supervisory or administrative functions, powers, or duties of the Administrator under Executive Order 9070 of February 24, 1942, are hereby transferred to the National Housing Administrator.
TRANSFER OF FUNDS
SEC. 106. The unexpended balances of appropriations, authorizations, allocations, or other funds (not otherwise transferred hereunder) available for use in the exercise of any function, power, or duty transferred by this title, or for administrative expenses in connection therewith, are hereby transferred for use, respectively, in connection with the exercise of such transferred function, power, or duty and for administrative expenses in connection therewith. Transfers of available funds under this section shall include funds available for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1946.