Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks on Signing Into Law the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980

October 08, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Senator Pete Williams and Senator Paul Sarbanes, Congressman Moorhead, Secretary Landrieu, other distinguished members of my administration, and citizens from around the country:

I'm very grateful to be participating this morning in a ceremony that has farreaching impact on the future of our Nation, on individual communities which have been hard-pressed and have benefited from the UDAG and the community block grants.

We have also a great benefit, I think, for people who want to rent and to own reasonably priced homes and to alleviate an unconscionable burden on some of the condominium owners, particularly in the Miami and south Florida area, a project on which I have worked for 3 solid years and where we've finally made some progress.

I'm very happy to be here today to sign this bill. It's a major step forward for housing and for community and urban development programs. I want to give special recognition to the men behind me, particularly to Representative Moorhead and to Representatives Ashley and Reuss, who are not here, Senator Pete Williams and Senator Proxmire for their leadership, and Representative Stanton and Senator Garn who exemplify the bipartisan nature of what has been done with this legislation. Senator Sarbanes provided a special insight into the needs of this kind of change in the laws of our country.

This is the second such reauthorization bill that's been signed during my own administration. The first, in 1977, I believe had historic connotations and benefits because it highlighted our UDAG program, which has been one of the most effective programs that I have ever seen in government, a program that has expanded tremendously, through a multiplication factor, the small investment of Federal funds and efforts and the enormous concentration and cooperation between local and State funds and particularly private investments, a minimum of paperwork, a minimum of delay, a maximum of local participation and control. This has been an outstanding success in attracting private investment to the disturbed or deteriorating areas in our cities, and today with this bill we are building on that good foundation.

First, this bill authorizes funding for up to 290,000 section 8 and public housing units. This is a 30-percent increase in this current fiscal year, which began on October the 1st, a 30-percent increase over 1980 fiscal year. The section 8 program will soon pass the milestone of 1 million families served. To put this into perspective, it took the public housing program 30 years to reach 1 million units.

Secondly, under this bill, we can now respond rapidly to a decline in the housing industry. This bill gives us the powers to avoid a serious housing downturn. We are monitoring conditions very carefully in case this authority needs to be used.

Third, Congress has finally provided the remedy for condominium and cooperative owners burdened by unconscionable long-term leases. Many owners, especially the elderly in Florida, have had their savings consumed by recreation leases. When I campaigned for President in 1976, this was the most burning issue that was brought to me by many distressed homeowners. And we've worked on this issue, as I've said, for 3 solid years. I'm deeply gratified that they'll finally have the chance to seek judicial relief for unfair leases signed by them when they thought they were purchasing a good bargain in a home.

Fourth, this bill reauthorizes for 3 years the community development bloc grant program and provides $675 million for the very successful UDAG program, major tools for neighborhood and for urban revitalization. For example, the first $1 1/2 billion of UDAG funds generated $8 1/2 billion of investment and created over 400,000 jobs—all targeted in our most distressed cities.

Fifth, the Congress has adopted my recommendation that the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act be extended and strengthened. This is a clear reaffirmation of our determination to stem redlining and to secure the lifeline of credit for all neighborhoods.

And finally, I'm pleased with two initiatives. The bill creates a program to modernize 1.2 million units of public housing, to provide energy-efficient homes there, and to revitalize seriously troubled projects. Also, the bill includes my proposal to permit HUD to make payments if a homeowner cannot make the payments because of unemployment or illness.

This bill is an important achievement, but we also must look candidly at our Nation's remaining housing requirements. High home prices and interest rates have Made it increasingly hard for American families to buy homes, and we also nee:l to produce more rental housing. I'm committed to American home ownership. This bill increases the FHA mortgage limits from $67 1/2 thousand to $90 thousand allowing many more American families to buy their own homes.

Lately, there's been a lot of controversy about high interest rates, the interrelationship among my administration, the Congress, the Federal Reserve Board, and also, of course, the individual banks in this country. Right now, increases in mortgage interest and construction financing costs threaten the housing recovery that began in June. I'm deeply concerned about the recent upsurge in interest rates. They reflect in part an overreaction by financial institutions, which are not justified by the state of the economy.

I remain committed to disciplined tax and spending policies to reduce inflationary pressures and to encourage productivity gains. These policies are designed to achieve an objective which is critical to housing and economic growth, and that is lower interest rates.

To deal with our long-term problems, I'm forming an administrative task force on housing to work very intimately with all the elements of my own administration. It will determine what actions are necessary, to assure a steady and affordable flow of mortgage credit and to provide adequate levels of multi-family housing construction. I'm also appointing an advisory committee of distinguished representatives of all segments of the housing industry and its related interests. I'm pleased to announce that this committee will be chaired by Robert Weaver, our first Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

It is with great pleasure that I sign this important legislation. Thank you very much for being here.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

Now I'd like to ask three gentlemen to comment who have been so instrumental in the passage of this legislation, each one representing a large number of others who have also worked very hard for this accomplishment. First, Senator Pete Williams, representing the Senate.

SENATOR WILLIAMS. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Just a moment to say that I think everybody here appreciates-we have a comprehensive response to both our housing needs and our community development needs in this legislation, and your constancy has been of such great importance to us in the Congress to come to this point where we had this program together and signed into law.

It's been rather a long journey, difficult at times, but we know this administration has stayed with the basics of a very fine response to our needs. You mentioned them all, Mr. President. For one, I'm particularly proud to report that the urban development action grants, UDAG, certainly have brought a new spirit, a new hope, a new opportunity for our cities and, indeed, our towns to develop their potential. And we hope that with your task force and other developments that we can even improve and grow on our foundations in housing that's so desperately needed in today's market for housing.

Thank you, Mr. President, very much.

THE PRESIDENT. And now, representing the House, I'd like to ask Congressman Bill Moorhead to make a few remarks. Bill?

REPRESENTATIVE MOORHEAD. Thank you, Mr. President, my colleagues from the Senate. I want to join with Senator Williams, Mr. President, in mentioning the UDAG, urban development action grants. They were the major innovation in housing in your administration. We in the Congress were able to fight back against drastic cuts, because your administration administered those grants so effectively.
Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. And now, representing my administration is Moon Landrieu, who's done such a superb job in carrying out the laws that exist now and who can do a much better job with the new legislation that I've just signed. Moon Landrieu.

SECRETARY LANDRIEU. Thank you. Mr. President, on behalf of the some 16,000 representatives of HUD and the constituent groups across the country, I want to express our appreciation to you for the leadership which you have consistently demonstrated in enacting this legislation. Some 16 years or 15 years, really, since HUD was formed—and it's a great pleasure to have Bob Weaver, our first Secretary, the man who set the pattern for the operation of so many programs that are effectively working today. And it's a great pleasure, Mr. Secretary, that you would accept the chairmanship of this housing task force to assist your Government, once again, in attacking what is a very serious problem for us but one which we know is well within our reach of solution, and that is the housing costs that we're facing today.

Mr. President, I'm happy to report to you that after 3 years of this administration, that while there are still difficulties in America's cities and towns, that enormous progress has been made. One can hardly go into a city or town today without seeing a rebirth of those places-some downtown development, some neighborhood development. And wherever we go, we find people living in housing that was not available to them before, whether that be families or the elderly.

And so I think the Senate, Members of the Congress, members of the administration, particularly you, can take great pride in the progress that's been made in America's cities in both community development and housing. Thank you very much for signing today.

THE PRESIDENT. Since those comments were so pertinent and so brief, I have time to call on an additional speaker. I'd like to ask Dick Hatcher, mayor of one of our great cities, to comment from a recipient's and the partnership point of view. Mayor Dick Hatcher.

MAYOR HATCHER. Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to say on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and all the mayors and city officials, that the signing of this bill this morning represents one more step towards the rebuilding and the rebirth of America's cities.

When you took office, Mr. President, the cities of this country were mired in almost despair, and what has happened in the 3 years or so that you have been in office is nothing short of miraculous. We believe that the cities of America have been turned around as a result of the efforts and the actions of your administration. And we want to express our appreciation for it and to say that this morning's bill and the programs that it represents—particularly UDAG has been referred to already—with the assistance, tremendous assistance of the Congress of the United States, reaffirms once more a statement that you made at the time you first took office, and that is that you would be the best friend that the cities of America have ever had. You've done that, Mr. President. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. I'm glad I called on Dick Hatcher to say a few words. [Laughter]

I think if there has been one bipartisan or nonpartisan achievement in this last 3 1/2 years that has been both exhilarating and also unanimously acclaimed, it is the revitalization of our cities. The urban policy was evolved, based upon consultation and advice and a full partnership with the local and State officials. It didn't add enormous new programs. It provided some incisive elimination of redtape and delay, bureaucratic confusion. It gave a few dollars to stimulate enormous investments from the private sector in rebuilding the downtown areas, and this has been a very gratifying experience.

I'm grateful again that Secretary Weaver will head up our housing task force to give me constant advice on how we can improve this important element in the future. I'm very grateful that we are all harnessing our efforts to hold down unwarranted increase in interest rates. And I would also like to say, with Congressman Bob Garcia here, that there is an additional approach to improving the quality of life—particularly in our urban areas—that's important, and that is the strengthening of our communities.

I've just issued a memorandum to all the agencies and departments in the Federal Government asking them to review every Federal program which affects neighborhoods and community-based organizations to make sure that the cooperation is at a maximum level and to make sure that any impediments to the close working relationship or partnership between the Federal Government and all its agencies and neighborhood-based organizations are absolutely removed. We must have this cooperation. It's a very fine thing.

I've also established a liaison for this purpose, to neighborhoods and community-based organizations, within the White House itself. I'm glad Congressman Garcia's here, because this has been one of his major interests.

Again, let me express my thanks to all of you for participating in this historic event. I think we have a better prospect in the future for stronger cities, better neighborhoods—rural and urban—effective housing programs, a move toward lower interest rates, an end to the unwarranted abuse of those who've signed longterm leases, better efficiency in our existing homes, and a stronger housing program for the entire country.

Thank you again. It's been an honor for me to be with you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:07 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

As enacted, S. 2719 is Public Law 96 399, approved October 8.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Into Law the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250795

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