Resettlement Administration

On May 17, 1938, Representative Steagall introduced an amendment to the United States Housing Act of 1937. The bill proposed that: (a) the 10 per cent local contribution should be suspended for the current year; (b) annual contributions should be increased to $40,000,000 a year, and should be acceptable as security for loans; (c) the amount of obligations issuable by the Authority should be increased to $800,000,000. The measure was not passed, but the provisions, with two exceptions, were incorporated in Title IV of the Work Relief and Public Works Appropriation Act of 1938.

Suspension of the 10 per cent local contribution was not included, and power was granted to make $28,000,000 instead of $40,000,000 a year annual contributions. (Fisher, 1959) Delivery The decentralized program which was planned to be carried out under the United States Housing Authority started with a considerable heritage from the five-year emergency program despite the difficulties encountered in its administration. P. W. A. has developed 51 projects in 36 cities, comprising about 21,500 dwelling units.

(Fisher, 1959, p. 83-7) These were turned over to the new Authority for sale or lease to state or local housing authorities. After sale, they were eligible for loans, grants, or annual contributions under the terms of the United States Housing Act.

The 60 community type projects comprising more than 8000 dwelling units were held by the Resettlement Administration, many of which were started and partially developed by the 1938 defunct Subsistence Homesteads Division of the Department of the Interior and by the F. E. R. A. , may also by presidential decree be turned over to the United States Housing Authority. These projects have provided vastly improved living conditions for thousands of low, if not the lowest, income families. Perhaps more important, they have been the chief means of educating the people of this country to the need for public housing. Opponents of the program have sought to discredit it by insisting that the projects do not demonstrate anything.

They have at least demonstrated to the satisfaction of organized labor that public housing is worth working for and not a mere idea toward which it could afford to continue, as in the beginning, to be indifferent. Every bit as important to the legislation in housing as the demonstration projects and their educational by-product has been the building of a foundation of law and judicial precedent upon which may be reared a sound decentralized administrative structure. (Gelfand, 1975) P. W. A.

assumed leadership in securing most of the 30 state housing authority laws, together with supplementary legislation permitting cities to cooperate with housing authorities in essential ways. Model bills were drafted, submitted to the governors of the various states, and introduced into most of the legislatures by executive request. The models were from time to time revised, and the states themselves made changes. There was, nevertheless, a fairly high degree of uniformity in state housing legislation.

All the authority laws provided for the creation of special ad hoc bodies with power to construct and operate housing projects and to finance them through bonds secured by their property or the revenue from it. All stipulate that these bonds shall not constitute an indebtedness of the local governments. The application of the laws was fairly general, and in a number they applied to counties as well as to towns and cities. The need for an authority is usually determined by the local governing body, with or without public hearing, and appointment of members is usually by the mayor or other chief executive.