Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter to Several Governors on the Adoption of Housing Legislation.

March 01, 1938

My dear Governor Stanford:It is urgent that action should be taken now to stimulate the construction industry, particularly in the field of residential building which has lagged far behind other forms of business activity. An extensive housing program would provide direct and indirect employment at the very point in our economic structure where re-employment seems to have been most retarded.

Both public and private housing construction should be accelerated. In addition to relieving unemployment, a public low rent housing and slum-clearance program would provide decent homes for which there is a distressing need among the one-third of our population which is ill-housed. Millions today are living in urban and rural habitations which fail to comply with minimum standards of health, safety and decency. The continued existence of these conditions breeds disease and crime and impairs the health and vitality of our present and future generations.

There is a serious obstacle to public housing construction in your State and it is for this reason that I am writing to you. The United States Housing Act of 1937 provides for a program of Federal loans and subsidies to public agencies to aid in the development of a low-rent housing and slum-clearance program. Before any state can participate in this program, it must have legislation authorizing public agencies to undertake low-rent housing projects. Thirty states have already enacted such legislation, but none has been passed in the State of Arizona. The $500,000,000 available for expenditure by the United States Housing Authority could be spent in the states that now have adequate housing legislation. However, I would like to see the State of Arizona participate in this program and I am sure that you, too, desire your State to obtain its share of these funds. This will not be possible unless legislation is enacted at an early date enabling the development of housing projects by local public agencies in Arizona.

If you will write me that, in connection with any contemplated special session of your Legislature, you are interested in public housing legislation under which your State can qualify for Federal aid, I shall be glad to request the United States Housing Authority to make suggestions to you regarding the type of legislation which appears desirable. The proposed legislation would permit the creation of a public housing authority in a municipality or county, with power to construct low-rent housing projects and to issue bonds payable only from the revenues of such projects without any recourse to the taxing power. This legislation would also authorize these municipalities and counties to cooperate with their housing authorities in the undertaking of such projects. However, the legislation would be purely of an enabling character, so that it would not become effective in any community until its governing body so elected. Of course, the public housing projects constructed under this state legislation would not be competitive with private business, since these projects would not be open to families who could afford to live in decent privately-owned dwellings.

I hope that you will give serious consideration to the early enactment of public housing legislation in your State. Such legislation would make it possible for Arizona to join the other states in a nation-wide public program to relieve unemployment through the eradication of unsafe or insanitary housing and the provision of decent housing for families in the lowest income group.

Very sincerely yours,

Honorable R. C. Stanford,

Governor of Arizona,

Phoenix, Arizona

(Identical letters also sent to the Governors of the following States: California, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.)

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter to Several Governors on the Adoption of Housing Legislation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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