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Although the seriousness of the Nation's housing situation has been high-lighted since the end of the war by the urgent housing problems of returning veterans, the basic problem itself is not a new one. It has been building up over several decades. It results from the fact that over the years we have never been able to produce enough housing at prices which a large proportion of the American people can afford. Consequently, housing has never been replaced as rapidly as it should, and many families have been obliged to live in wholly inadequate and unsuitable accommodations.
Unfortunately, the effects of poor housing leave their heaviest imprint upon the millions of children who are being obliged to spend their formative years either in dreary, unhealthful slums, or in overcrowded dwellings in which normal family life cannot be achieved. The maintenance of our way of life and our aspirations as a people and a democracy depend to a large extent upon these children whose attitudes and minds are being formed for the future in the homes of today.
In attempting to get some measure of the magnitude of our present and prospective housing requirements, your committee had available to it the comprehensive studies and investigation of the Joint Committee on Housing. This data and other material made available to your committee leads to the conclusion that the Nation must be prepared to build or rehabilitate at least 1,300,000 nonfarm dwelling units and between 200,000 and 300,000 farm units a year each year from now to 1960, if substantial progress is to be made in bettering our housing conditions,
The latest Census Bureau reports show that, in April of 1947, after deducting seasonal accommodations and houses held off the market for one or another reason, effective nonfarm-housing inventory for year-round use was about 32,729,000 dwelling units. When allowance is made for the fact that about 2,100,000 new and converted units were added to the supply since April 1947, the effective nonfarmhousing inventory at the beginning of 1949 is estimated at 34,829,000 units (table 1).
Looking ahead to 1960, the Bureau of the Census estimate that there will be approximately 397 million nonfarm families which will require separate housing. When allowance is made for a sufficient number of vacancies to provide for reasonable freedom of choice in the selection of the size and type of home desired, this means there will be need for an effective housing supply of approximately 41,100,000 nonfarm dwellings in 1960. Just to keep up with the increase in the rate of family formation, therefore, we will require 6,300,000 additional nonfarm units to our inventory between now and 1960.
If no more than this is accomplished, the quality of our housing supply would be worse in 1960 than it is today. No progress would have been made in eliminating the substantial number of units which fail to come up to any decent American standard. Nor would anything have been done to cope with those currently adequate units which will deteriorate during the years ahead.
Currently available data does not permit a full statistical measurement of all deficiencies in the housing inventory. However, a conservative measure of the number of substandard nonfarm units which need to be replaced or rehabilitated is the number of nonfarm units which the Census Bureau data indicates need major repairs, together
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with those units in urban areas which, although not needing major repairs, lacked inside private bath and flush toilet. In April 1947 approximately 5,600,000 units, both occupied and vacant, were in these two categories.
This figure fails to take into account, however, substandard or inadequate housing in the densely populated suburban communities which surround most of our large cities but which are not included in the Census Bureau statistics for urban places.
It also fails to include the effects of continued use upon old houses which today are in satisfactory condition. In this connection, your committee calls attention to the fact that the Joint Committee on Housing concluded that an allowance of 2,000,000 units is a conservative estimate of the additional replacement or rehabilitation needed to cover these two categories
Allowance should also be made for the replacement of housing lost as a result of disaster or similar causes, and of temporary war and veterans' housing units not a part of the permanent housing supply. The replacement of these units, together with the rehabilitation and replacement of substandard housing, brings up to some 14,725,000 units (or an average of slightly more than 1,300,000 units a year) the total job that would have to be done in nonfarm areas by 1960 to make substantial progress in meeting the housing problem.
Your committee appreciates the fact that the problem is not limited to nonfarm areas, and that a distressingly large proportion of farm housing fails to measure up to minimum standards for health and decency. Some of the worst overcrowding occurs in farm housing. Some of the most dilapidated housing is to be found in rural communities.
In April 1947 the Census Bureau survey showed that 1,400,000, or roughly one-fifth of all farm dwellings, were in need of major repairs, and in addition, over half the units not in need of major repairs failed to have running water, bathtubs, or inside toilets. On the basis of the census statistics and testimony presented in the course of the hearings, it appears that between 2 and 3 million farm homes will need to be built or rehabilitated between now and 1960.
All told, the total job, including both nonfarm and farm housing, involves the construction, conversion, or rehabilitation of some seventeen to eighteen million dwelling units (table 2). TABLE 1.—Effective nonfarm housing inventory as of beginning of 1949 (in thousands) Total number of nonfarm dwelling units, April 1947, according to Bureau of Census..
1 34, 248 Subtract: Uninhabitable dwellings
Effective supply of housing to meet nonfarm needs of as April
1947... Add: Estimated additions to supply in 1947 and 1948 through new construction and conversion...
Estimated effective nonfarm supply, beginning of 1949.---40. 8. Bureau of the Census: Current Population Reports, series P-70 No. 1. Housing Characteristics of the United States, April 1947, table 1.
TABLE 2.—Housing needs of the United States in 1960 (in thousands) Number of nonfarm families which will require housing in 1960.. 1 39, 500 Add: Allowance for 4 percent effective vacancy rate for rent or sale.
1, 600 Total effective supply of dwelling units needed in 1960.--
41, 100 Subtract: Estimated effective supply, beginning of 1949 (from table 1)..
Net additional number of units which need to be added to
the supply by 1960 to keep up with rate of family
formation.. Add: Total replacement and rehabilitation need (from table 2)-
6, 271 8, 470
Total nonfarm new construction conversion and rehabili
tation need.. Add: Total farm new construction and rehabilitation need..
14, 741 2, 000–3, 000
16, 741-17, 741
Total United States housing needs to 1960.-Bureau of the Census estimate of nonfarm families.
IV. DECLARATION OF NATIONAL HOUSING POLICY
Since the establishment of the Home Loan Bank System by the Seventy-second Congress in 1932, every successive Congress has given attention to housing, and numerous measures dealing separately with various aspects of the housing problem have been enacted. A great part of this legislation was orginally enacted to deal with acute problems which became apparent during national emergencies, including the economic crisis of the early thirties, the necessity of shelter to meet the production requirements of World War II, and the postwar veterans' housing emergency. It is now well recognized that housing is not a temporary problem which can be solved by emergency measures; that it requires a comprehensive, long-range program.
Some of the programs of strictly emergency or experimental character have been discontinued and have been or are being liquidated. But from a considerable part of this legislation have emerged permanent programs which have been continually revised and improved by the Congress to serve changing needs. These include a system of aids to home financing institutions which is administered by the Home Loan Bank Board; the credit insurance programs of the Federal Housing Administration; and the low-rent public housing program administered by the Public Housing Administration.
Underlying the development of these programs, as well as the establishment of several emergency programs, has been the implied recognition that the well-being and security of the home are matters of national public policy, and that the stability of the home-building industry is essential to the health of the economy.
There has never been, however, a statement by the Congress of the national housing objectives or of basic policies as to the respective spheres of activity for industry, labor, communities, and the Federal Government in the attainment of those objectives.
Your committee believes that such a declaration of national housing goal and policies is needed. It would provide a frame of reference for the use of the Congress, the administrative agencies, the local communities, and industry and labor in appraising housing activities and progress.
The policy declaration in H. R. 4009 reflects the 17 years of experience by the Federal Government in housing activities and the consideration which has been given to basic legislation during the last few years. Your committee notes that such policy declarations were contained in the comprehensive housing bills referred to this committee during the Seventy-ninth Congress and the Eightieth Congress and that a similar declaration was recommended by the Joint Committee on Housing. The statement in H. R. 4009, while it contains certain improvements, is in full accord with those earlier declarations and recommendations.
The policy declaration in H. R. 4009 states that the general welfare and security of the Nation require the realization as soon as feasible of the goal of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family. It recognizes the necessity of attaining a rate of housing production sufficient to overcome the serious housing shortage and to replace slums and other inadequate housing, and to enable the housing industry to make its full contribution to an economy of maximum employment, production, and purchasing power.
In defining the policy to be followed in attaining this national housing objective, the bill recognizes that primary reliance has been and must continue to be on private enterprise. It provides that private housing enterprise shall be encouraged to serve as large a part of the total need as it can and that governmental assistance should be utilized to the extent feasible to enable private enterprise to serve more of this need. Furthermore, the bill calls for assistance to communities in undertaking positive programs to encourage the production of lower cost housing of good quality.
The definition of national policy also includes the extension of Federal assistance for slum clearance and for the provision of decent housing for low-income families in cities and rural areas, to the extent that those needs cannot be met through reliance upon private enterprise.
To obtain further assurance that all housing activities of the Federal Government, at the regional and local levels as well as in Washington, will be administered within the letter and the spirit of this defined national policy, the policy declaration contains a specific congressional charge and directive to the administrative agencies of the Federal Government to exercise all powers, functions, and duties with respect to housing, so as to encourage and assist the attainment of the following specific objectives:
1. The production of housing of sound standards of design, construction, livability, and size for adequate family life;
2. The reduction of the costs of housing without sacrifice of such sound standards;
3. The use of new designs, materials, techniques, and methods in residential construction, the use of standardized dimensions and methods of assembly of home-building materials and equipment, and the increase of efficiency in residential construction;
4. The development of well-planned, integrated residential neighborhoods and the development and redevelopment of communities; and
5. The stabilization of the housing industry at a high annual volume of residential construction.
Such a declaration of national housing policy can provide the necessary guide lines now lacking for the concerted and sustained efforts
by industry, labor, communities, and the Federal Government which are required to help overcome the national housing problem. It will define our policies and objectives not only for the substantive programs contained in the pending bill, but likewise for existing programs and for the further legislation which the Congress will consider in the future.
V. SLUM CLEARANCE AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND
NEED FOR A SLUM-CLEARANCE PROGRAM
The provisions of this title offer, for the first time, a greatly desired, but long-delayed, program to eliminate the Nation's slums. Today about one-fifth of our city families live in slums and blighted
They obviously do not live there by choice. They live there primarily because only in the slums can they find any sort of housing accommodations at prices and rents which they can afford to pay.
From city after city throughout the country has come evidence of the extravagant wastes of human and other resources arising from slum conditions. Slums and blighted areas foster delinquency, disease, and crime, the effects of which can only be partly measured in the statistics available to your committee. They create demands for welfare, fire, police, and other financial outlays greatly in excess of the revenues which cities receive from them.
Communities have long been aware of the social and economic costs of these areas but have been unable to take effective steps toward their eradication because of their inadequate resources. A few, like Baltimore, have attempted to alleviate these conditions through the exercise of local police power in requiring the compulsory repair or closing of substandard housing. Such efforts frequently have been credited with offering an adequate solution to the problem. While your committee believes that all cities should utilize effectively police powers to mitigate some of the worst effects of slums and to help prevent their spread, it is convinced, from the overwhelming evidence presented by mayors and from many others, that this method alone will eliminate neither the slums nor the conditions which they create. The committee was impressed by the testimony of the mayor of Baltimore as to the limitations of law enforcement as a solution to the slum problem. He stated:
The Baltimore plan might be compared to first aid administered in the temporary absence of a doctor, which would not be necessary if the doctor were present to be. gin with, and which in no way eliminates the eventual need for the doctor's services
Your committee is convinced that the only way by which slums may be effectively eliminated is by the public acquisition and clearance of slum areas and by assuring that they will be redeveloped in accordance with sound plans as to land uses, density, and other factors contributing to good neighborhoods, and be properly related to the growth and development of the city as a whole.
Because of their present intensive use, the prices which must be paid for slum and blighted areas, together with the costs of clearing and preparing them for reuse, will generally exceed the return which will be realized from sale or lease of the land for appropriate redevelopment.