The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was formed based on a simple premise: Stable housing uplifts all of society.
The department’s history dates back to The Great Depression of the 1930s. Amid the largest economic downturn of the modern world, Congress passed our nation’s first major relief legislation to benefit the general populace — The Emergency Relief and Construction Act of 1932. This created the beginning framework to disseminate government funds to public works projects across the country.
Five years later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt would sign into law the U.S. Housing Act of 1937. It was the first federal act that allowed the government to authorize loans to public housing agencies in order to construct affordable housing developments. The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) was created that same year.
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little,”– Franklin D. Roosevelt.
By the early 1940s, a temporary moratorium on domestic housing construction was put in place as the U.S. entered World War II. Following the war a new veteran’s home loan program would be created. Demographers note many chose to move to suburban areas at this time. To keep urban areas afloat, the U.S. Housing Act of 1949 was passed to spur development.
The U.S. Housing Act of 1954 would amend its predecessor by expanding funding options for rehabilitation and conservation of deteriorating properties. This would ultimately affect how federal money is used and where it’s distributed for decades to come, up and until today.
“This began a gradual shift in emphasis from new construction to conservation, now reflected in current housing policies that encourage rehabilitation,”– HUD Historical Timeline
This matters for several reasons: Firstly, a lack of federal funding geared at new affordable housing construction has led in part to a critical shortage of affordable housing units. Secondly, decreases in funding have created a $26 billion nationwide backlog of what’s called “deferred maintenance.” That’s any type of necessary repairs, upgrades or replacements for public housing projects.
The 1960s was a decade of change for the agency alongside the rest of the nation. President John F. Kennedy issued the Equal Opportunity in Housing executive order in 1962. It marked the beginning of a landslide of legislation that would seek to make housing more fair and equitable by prohibiting distriminiation in the sale, leasing or renting of federally funded properties. The nondiscrimination policies were solidified in Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development became a cabinet level agency in 1965. The act which created the department also initiated a new leasing program to make privately owned housing available to lower-income families.
The Section 8 Voucher program, the rental subsidy program utilized by the Pontiac Housing Commission, was formed in the 1970s. Section 8 Vouchers are a flexible way for the federal government to fund housing subsidies for all types of residences. To learn more, check out our Frequently Asked Questions Page. Other notable programs launched that decade include: Lead-based paint hazard elimination, discouraging geographical discrimination in the mortgage lending industry and the launching of HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research.
The 1980s saw the passing of the Housing and Urban-Rural Recovery Act of 1983. Title I of the act amended a previous law to require that 51% or more of the assistance provided by the federal government under the Community Development Block Grant program benefit low and moderate income areas. That program is still active today, bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars into Pontiac each year for neighborhood development and beautification programs.
The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program was also formed in the ‘80s. The tool is currently being used in Pontiac revitalize Carriage Place Apartments with a $40 million rehabilitation.
By the 1990s, many Section 8 contracts were expiring and properties built decades before began showing serious deterioration. New programs were put in place, such as the Low Income Housing Preservation and Resident Homeownership Act of 1990. The act was meant to help maintain the supply of affordable residences by offering project based incentives to low-income rental properties.
At the turn of the millennium, homeownership in the U.S. stood at 69%. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development looked to significantly expand its partners and programs to increase the amount of available affordable housing. The department also led a consumer advocacy initiative to dispose of outdated or complex regulatory requirements. New programs aimed at those with disabilities, facing homelessnesss or diagnosed with HIV/AIDs were also implemented.
In 2008, the housing market collapsed. New Federal Housing Administration loans were formed for those on the brink of foreclosure. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 strengthened regulations for federal home loans and established the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
The 2010s was a decade of rebuilding for the department and the nation. Housing sales for both single and multi-family homes were stagnant at less than one million per year, well below the 2 million average before the housing crisis. New programs, such as Rental Assistance Demonstration, were put into place to help revitalize existing housing stock. Coordination between federal programs also increased as the digital era grew into what it is today.