Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Housing and Urban Development Act

August 10, 1965

Mr. Vice President, distinguished Speaker McCormack, Senator Mansfield, Senator Sparkman, Congressman Patman, distinguished Members of the Congress, distinguished Governors and mayors, and friends:

This is a very proud and very gratifying occasion. I am very proud and I am very privileged to welcome you today to the first house of the land--the house that belongs to all of the American people. I am gratified, as you are, that we could come together to sign into law a measure which will take us many long strides nearer the goal that has been the dream and the vision of every generation of Americans. That is the goal of honoring what a very great President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 21 years ago expressed as "the right of every family to a decent home."

From Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound, the first priority of the men and women who settled this vast and this blessed continent was, first of all, to put a roof over the heads of their family. And that priority has never, and can never, change.

I am so happy this morning to see the great and distinguished Mayor of New York here because it was his father who pioneered the housing legislation in this country. And here on the platform with me is one of those who joined with him--the very able and distinguished Senator from Louisiana. It took a lot of courage for him to stand on some of those bills. He got in with Bob Wagner and Bob Taft and he got in the middle between those two, and it did take courage to stand there.

Many elements mattered to the success and the stability of our great American society. Education matters a great deal. Health matters. Jobs matter. Equality of opportunity and individual dignity matter very much.

But legislation and labors in all of these fields can never succeed unless and until every family has the shelter and the security, the integrity and the independence, and the dignity and the decency of a proper home.

For me, this is not a belief that comes recently. It is a conviction, and it is a passion, to which I was born 57 years ago this month in a humble home on the banks of a small river in Central Texas.

Men may forget many memories of their childhood. But many of you know--as I know--that no man and no woman ever grows too old or too successful to forget the memory of a childhood home that was without lights, and that was without water, and that was without covering on the floor. And I have never forgotten.

The first great effort, the first great reward of my public service was to secure for my little congressional district, as a young Congressman, the Nation's first public housing project that President Roosevelt signed in the 1930's. And Bob's father was there at that allocation. What I sought then for the people of one city--Austin, Texas-I am determined as President that we shall seek and we shall obtain for all the people of all the Nation.

We have the resources in this country. We have the ingenuity. We have the courage. We have the compassion. And we must, in this decade, bring all of these strengths to bear effectively so that we can lift off the conscience of our affluent Nation the shame of slums and squalor, and the blight of deterioration and decay.

We must make sure that every family in America lives in a home of dignity and a neighborhood of pride, a community of opportunity and a city of promise and hope.

This legislation represents the single most important breakthrough in the last 40 years.

Only the Housing Act of 1949 approaches the significance of this measure. And in years to come, I believe this act will become known as the single most valuable housing legislation in our history.

The Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965 retains, and expands, and improves the best of the tested programs of the past.

It extends and gives new thrust to the FHA mortgage insurance program so that millions of Americans can come toward attainment of new homes in the future, as millions already have under that program in the past.

It opens the way for a more orderly and cohesive development of all of our suburbs; and it opens the door to thousands of our veterans who have been unable to obtain the benefits of a Federal housing program.

It extends and enlarges and improves the urban renewal program so that we can more effectively challenge and defeat the enemy of decay that exists in our cities.

It faces the changing challenge of rural housing. It continues the loan programs to assure the needed dormitories on our college campuses, and decent housing at decent costs for the elderly and the handicapped and those of lower income.

But the importance of the bill is not only that it retains and improves the best of good and traditional programs; it is a landmark bill because of its new ideas.

Foremost and uppermost of these is the program of assistance for the construction and the rehabilitation of housing for the elderly and for families of low income--the people who live in the most wretched conditions in our slums and our blighted neighborhoods.

The conception of this fine program, endorsed by this fine Congress, calls for the best in cooperation between Government and free enterprise. I am so happy to see so many members of the building industry and the trade unions and our free enterprise system--that has made us the strongest nation in all the world--here to honor us with their presence this morning.

This imperative housing will be built under the sponsorship of private organizations. It will make use of private money, and it will be managed by private groups. With supplements paid by their Government, the private builders will be able to move into the low-income housing field which they have not been able to penetrate or to serve effectively in the past.

Furthermore, this legislation responds to the urgent needs of our cities. It offers Federal assistance to the cities and communities of our Nation to help pay the cost of essential public works.

And finally, this legislation meets our compelling responsibility for giving attention to the environment in which Americans live. Grants are provided for the acquisition of open spaces, for the development of parks, for the construction of recreational facilities, and for the beautification of urban areas.

This measure votes "no" on "America the Ugly"--and it votes "yes" on preserving, for our posterity, "America the Beautiful."

The promise and the portent of this legislation cannot be justly described in the limited time we have this morning. But there is embodied in this legislation that generosity of vision, that breadth of approach, that magnitude of effort, with which we must meet all of our challenges here in America.

So, I am very proud to congratulate and to salute those outstanding Members of Congress whose influence and whose leadership have helped to achieve this landmark today. There is Senator John Sparkman--the son of a tenant farmer, and still the tenant farmers' friend, as this bill reflects--who has done perhaps as much or more in America than any living legislator.

There are others whose study and understanding of housing has helped us much. I would like to name all of them but that would take too long. But I must not overlook Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois who is here, Senator Edmund Muskie from Maine, Senator George Aiken of Vermont. On the House side there was the great leader of my delegation in the Congress, my longtime friend and the cherished friend of my father ahead of me, Congressman Wright Patman. He has always been a champion and always been faithful to the people. There is Congressman Barrett, whose services have meant so much. There is Congressman Widnall, who has worked now years in a row with Congressmen Patman and Barrett to try to give this Nation good bills.

I would like to express my appreciation to the Governors and the mayors, especially the great mayor of New York, Bob Wagner; the great mayor of Chicago, Dick Daley; and all of the others who have been of so much help to me.

And I just cannot overlook being grateful to the constructive role of the Nation's home builders, under the leadership of the patriot, Bernie Boutin.

And last, but certainly not least, foremost is the leader of us all in this field--the modest, retiring, and able administrator, Bob Weaver, who finds not much satisfaction in the compliments paid him, or even the recognition accorded him by his superiors, but who finds ample satisfaction in the achievements that come his way. And, this bill is a monument to him.

Now, this is not the last housing bill that we shall need and it is not going to be the last that we shall pass.

For I pledge to you that we shall do all that must be done to fulfill our commitment-and the Vice President and I have made it in every State in this Union. And he is going to stand by my side here and throughout the States of the Union to see that we do our best to try to get every American in every family living his life not with the haunted memory of a dilapidated and degraded hovel that he must call home, but with a happy memory of a decent and a dignified home worthy of a free and just society, where a man can enjoy the privacy of his family and can help to build a stronger America, a more profitable and peaceful America, and, finally, something we all want--a more beautiful America.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:02 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Representative John W. McCormack of Massachusetts, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, majority leader of the Senate, Senator John Sparkman of Alabama, and Representative Wright Patman of Texas.

During his remarks the President referred to, among others, Mayor Robert F. Wagner of New York City and his father, Robert F. Wagner, Senator from New York 1927-1949, Senator Allen J. Ellender of Louisiana, Robert A. Taft, Senator from Ohio 1939-1953, Representative William A. Barrett of Pennsylvania, Representative William B. Widnall of New Jersey, Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, Bernard L. Boutin, Executive Vice President of the National Association of Home Builders and former Administrator of the General Services Administration, and Robert C. Weaver, Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency.

As enacted, the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965 is Public Law 89-117 (79 Stat. 451).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Housing and Urban Development Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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