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Letter to Senator Maybank on the Limitation on Public Housing in the Appropriations Bill.

May 22, 1951

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am deeply concerned about the crippling limitation on the public housing program which the House included in H.R. 3880, the Independent Offices Appropriation Bill. This will have an adverse effect on our defense effort. It seems to me of great importance that your subcommittee consider the consequences very carefully and I earnestly hope the limitation can be removed before the Congress completes action on this bill.

As passed by the House, the bill contains an arbitrary limit of 5,000 public housing units which can be started in the next fiscal year and an equally arbitrary limit of 50,000 units for each year thereafter.

To all intents and purposes this means repealing the public housing provisions of the Housing Act of 1949. That was one of the best laws to be passed by any recent Congress. We need it now as much as ever. It would be tragic to have it set aside in this fashion.

Since the Korean outbreak, the public housing program has been directed mainly toward meeting lower-income housing needs in our defense areas. These areas have been given priority in the approval of new projects. All new projects are required to give preference to essential lower-income defense workers. Many of our increasingly crowded defense centers need every spare unit of public housing they can get, to help attract and house these workers. Yet under the House bill, construction of new projects will be virtually halted.

Families of men now in military service and veterans of World War II who meet the income limitation also have preference for public housing. Their needs also are ignored by the provisions of this bill.

Last summer, when it became necessary to curtail total home construction in the interest of the defense effort, plans for building low rent public housing were cut back proportionately. In the January budget, funds were requested for only 75,000 new units in fiscal 1952. This contrasts with the 135,000 units per year authorized by the Housing Act of 1949 and is well in line with the 40 percent over-all reduction which we have been seeking in the pre-Korean volume of new starts.

In reducing the volume of housing starts, our aim has been to spread the remaining supply equitably among all income groups. We certainly do not want to make the lower income families, those hardest pressed for decent housing, bear by far the heaviest share of the cuts in new housing supply. Yet, that is exactly what this bill will do. This is not only unwise and unjust--it is clearly in conflict with the National Housing Policy set forth by the Congress.

A great many communities have made plans and committed funds to start construction of public housing units in the next fiscal year. Sites have already been purchased for nearly 63,000 of these units. If the limitations of the House bill are allowed to stand, virtually none of them could be built next year. The Housing and Home Finance Administrator has a complete report on the status of Municipal programs and the expected effect of the House limitation, city by city. He will be glad to make this available to you.

I feel sure that when all these facts are taken into account, the Congress will agree that the public housing limitations in the Independent Offices Appropriation Bill should be removed and the funds requested in the budget restored for the next fiscal year.

Very sincerely yours,

HARRY S. TRUMAN

[Honorable Burnet R. Maybank, Chairman, Independent Offices Subcommittee, Appropriations Committee, United States Senate]

Note: On August 31, 1951, the President approved the Independent Offices Appropriation Act, 1952 (65 Stat. 268). The act raised the construction restriction for fiscal year 1952 to 50,000 dwelling units and eliminated restrictions for future years.

Harry S. Truman, Letter to Senator Maybank on the Limitation on Public Housing in the Appropriations Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231104

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