Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Excerpts from the Press Conference

November 01, 1938

Q. Looks like you aren't going to get your little opportunity to go down to Gravelly Point before you go away.

THE PRESIDENT: Not this time. I think it is better to wait, Russell [Young], because we haven't got the dirt ready to fly, but we will, I hope, have it ready to fly by the time we get back. . . .

Q. What has got to be done over there at Gravelly Point before you start? Is there anything important holding it up?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it is the allocation of the work among the different departments that will do it for the Authority [Civil Aeronautics Authority].

Q. Will they have to wait until you go there before they can start?

THE PRESIDENT: I think they are still working on the plans.

Q. They won't start until you go there?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know, they may. This is not going to be a formal opening. I shall drive down and look it over. . . .

Q. Are you in favor of a naval base in the Caribbean?

THE PRESIDENT: We have one.

Q. Are you in favor of expanding that one, sir?

THE PRESIDENT' I cannot answer that question. That is almost like asking, "Are you going to establish any more aviation bases on the West Coast?"

Q. Is it too early to say when you expect to get back from Hyde Park?

THE PRESIDENT: Certainly in time for the eleventh of November, Armistice Day.

Q. Can you comment on the approaching visit of Colonel Batista?

THE PRESIDENT: No, except that he has been invited to come here for the last couple of years and now I am very glad he is coming.

I am having a visit at the present time from an old friend of mine and a good friend of many of you, the former Prime Minister of Belgium, Mr. van Zeeland, who is sitting here behind me. . . .

Q. Mr. President, have you and Mr. van Zeeland come to any conclusions on the state of the world?

THE PRESIDENT: We have always had for a good many years very similar conclusions. The similarity has not changed.

Q. Could you share any of those with us? (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q. Mr. President, has the Treasury informed you of the proposed efforts of the Daladier Government to absorb all the gold held by private investors and have foreign exchange control?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q. With possibly a revision of the Tri-Partite Agreement?

THE PRESIDENT: No; that is a new one on me. I think, Fred[Storm], it was a UP story I read on the ticker.

Q. [Mr. Storm] It ought to be true, Mr. President. (Laughter) . . .

Q. Can you tell us about your conference with these housing officials this morning?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that was a further exploration of a problem that we have had for the last three years. We started in with the HOLC, which saved a very large number of existing homes. The next step was the FHA, which has been very successful in creating homes, new homes, for an income group—to put it in a rather broad statement—that could afford to pay ten dollars or more per room per month. Those figures, of course, are for the more northern part of the country.

That did not do much good, however, for the poorest group of tenants and home owners in the country. So then we started what was at first the Housing Division of the Public Works Administration; and that graduated into the present U.S. Housing Authority. That has been very successful in providing a great many homes for people in the lowest income group. It seeks to take care of people who can afford to pay five dollars or less.

That still leaves in the nation a very large group of people who can afford to pay between five and ten dollars per room per month, who have not been taken care of by any of the existing agencies. This talk this morning was to discuss ways and means of getting cheaper financing for that particular group of the population, so that we could have, for example, in the north, individual homes at a cost of approximately $3,000 which would rent on the basis of between five and ten dollars per room per month.

Those studies are continuing. We have not found a definite way out yet. We are still working on that problem; but it is a very great national need.

Q. Would that involve private capital?

THE PRESIDENT: That is what we are trying to get, private capital.

Q. Did the method of cheaper or mass construction enter into that?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q. That is a part of it?

THE PRESIDENT: That is a part of it, too.

Q. Anything to say on that?

THE PRESIDENT: That part of it is probably a little more easy than the question of getting the money. The problem of getting the money is not that the money is not there. But where the money is put in by the very large investors, where it is put in in great blocks by individuals and corporations, they seek, of course, some additional privilege for the use of that money. For example, many suggestions along the lines of tax exemption have been made for the money—I mean tax exemption in the higher brackets—in order to encourage that money to go in for this type of safe investment. What I am exploring is the fact that we have in this country an enormous pool of money belonging to small investors, who do not come in the upper brackets of the income tax, and who are seeking to find investments that will bring them in a net of somewhere around 3, 3 1/4 or 3 1/2 per cent. The machinery for bringing this type of investment to the small, individual family has never been developed.

I have had studies made in half a dozen communities, which show a surprising amount of potential investments of $1,000, $2,000, $5,000, where the people do not know what to put the money into. They had their fingers burnt in putting it into stocks and debenture bonds and things like that in 1927, 1928 and 1929. They won't go to the brokerage houses any more, and they won't go to the bankers, and the banks won't give them any advice- they used to—where to put the money. They don't know how to get a 3, or 3 1/2 per cent return.

But the actual total of all these families and individuals that have small amounts, leads me to believe that there is a pool waiting for a form of investment such as the particular housing investment would be. Now, that is our problem and we haven't the answer yet. . . .

Q. Has any consideration been given to the question whether the effect of the minimum wage law will diminish the need for rental subsidies for the lowest paid group?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I suppose the applications to go into new U.S.H.A. houses will be five and ten times the number of rooms that we have available; so it will take a long time before that demand is satisfied, in spite of the improvement of wages.

Q. There are 1800 applications for the Langston Housing Units in Washington, which can take care of some 350 families; and they are from $3 to $5 a room, I think.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209320

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