IN MY MESSAGE to the Congress on urban and rural poverty, I announced my intention to appoint a committee to study this vital question: How can the resources and talents of private industry be directed into the rehabilitation of urban slums?
I said then that I would ask this group "to examine every possible means of establishing the institutions to encourage the development of a large-scale efficient rehabilitation industry."
I am pleased to announce today the formation of that committee, which will draw upon the talents and the experience of a group of distinguished industrialists, bankers, labor leaders, and specialists in urban affairs.
The committee will be headed by Edgar F. Kaiser, president of Kaiser Industries, Inc.
No domestic task facing this Nation today is more demanding or more urgent than reclaiming the corroded core of the American city. A substantial part of that task is the rebuilding of the slums--with their 7 million dilapidated dwellings--which shame this Nation and its cities.
So vast an undertaking represents, as well, an enormous potential market. American industry has sought and developed markets around the globe. This one lies--waiting-at its very doorstep.
To tap this market, and do the job that must be done, the inventive genius of private industry and the creative productivity of American labor must be fused with the support and initiative of State and local governments and the resources of the Federal Government.
We must find the incentives which will stimulate business and labor to apply the most modern techniques, production systems, work practices, and economies of scale to the problem of the city slum.
The committee I am appointing today will explore this complex problem in all of its aspects, and recommend those incentives and the private institutional machinery which it believes will best accomplish the task.
The committee's challenge, in short, is to find the way to harness the productive power of America--which has proved it can master space and create unmatched abundance in the marketplace--to the most pressing unfilled need of our society. That need is to provide the basic necessities of a decent home and healthy surroundings for every poor American family now imprisoned in the squalor of the slum.
A major instrument of progress is already available to us, the model cities program, enacted last year.
The work of this committee can be a major step forward in fulfilling the high purpose of the model cities program--to develop the blueprint for the future of the American city.
I have asked Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Robert Weaver, and other responsible Cabinet officers to work closely with the committee.