Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968

August 01, 1968

Secretary Weaver, Mr. Vice President, Senator Sparkman, Congressman Patman, distinguished Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

I am sure that all of you good people that are out here on this delightful sunny day are going to be glad that we have taken action to provide roofs over your heads a little later on.

We come together today in ceremony-and in challenge.

The dreams and the hard work of many men and women have finally brought us here today.

It has been long in coming. The journey began more than three decades ago--with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's conviction that a compassionate and farsighted government cannot ignore the plight of the ill-housed or the ill-fed or the ill-clothed.

Many milestones have marked our progress:

--First, there were the public housing experiments of the 1930's and 1940's, led by that great adventurer, Nathan Strauss, in the Roosevelt administration. I remember back in 1938 when we met on a similar occasion with not quite so many approving citizens in our midst to sign the Wagner Housing Act of 1938. I remember us launching the first low-rent housing project under that act in a section of the country that sometimes you read about.

--Then, there was the beginning of a large-scale urban renewal in 1950.

--Then came the quickening strides of the last few years. We gave the cities, finally, after a long, bitter, difficult struggle, a voice at the Cabinet table--a century after they had really become an integral part of American life. We broke through the neglect of decades with our bold model cities and rent supplement program.

Now, today, all those paths converge. Today, we are going to put on the books of American law what I genuinely believe is the most farsighted, the most comprehensive, the most massive housing program in all American history.

We cannot underwrite what can happen in the future. We already know how we have neglected matters in the past. But I do say that this legislation can be the Magna Carta to liberate our cities. It is vast in scope and vast in promise. With it we now have new means to win new rights for every American in every city and on every country road. That new right is the fundamental and the very precious American right to a roof over your head--a decent home.

I had it vividly impressed upon me more than 35 years ago that the thing that every woman in this world wanted, the thing that was right at the top of her priority list, was a home. And I think it is something that every man and child in America ought to want--a home.

Now, for the first time, the Congress and the Executive are joining in a commitment here today to eliminate substandard housing in America and build homes for families.

Let me cite a specific or two, if I may. Over the 10 years of this program, the production rate of federally subsidized housing will be 10 times higher than it has been in the last decade.

The bill opens the way for the construction of entire new communities, reducing the congestion of the crowded cities.

All of this would be cause for celebration enough, but the bill does a great deal more. --For thousands of poor families, the dream of home ownership can be fulfilled.

--For the businessman and the resident of the inner city, the vital flow of property insurance will be assured.

--For thousands who live in slums and barrios, life will be transformed through the model neighborhoods, through the model cities program, through rent supplements, through revitalized urban renewal.

--An American family of four, with two children, who have an income of only $4,500 per year, if that family wants to make use of home ownership under this act, it can get a $14,000 home. The family would pay $99 a month plus normal maintenance, with a $200 down payment. The Government would help supplement that so that man and his family could become homeowners.

--If that family wanted to take advantage of the new rental program it could get a two-bedroom apartment and pay $94 a month rent and the Government would supplement the rest.

--A family of six with four children having an annual income of $5,500 could buy a home costing $17,500. They would pay $112 a month, plus normal maintenance, with a $200 down payment. The Government would help with the rest.

--An elderly couple with an income of only $3,700, about $300 a month, could rent an apartment under this new bill and they would pay $77 a month. The Government would help make up the rest.

Now you know and I know that never before in all of our lifetime has the American Congress been farsighted enough and has the American administration joined with it to provide as much housing at such modest cost as we are doing in this bill today.

We know that a city is not of brick alone. We know that a home is more than a shelter. Through dozens of other programs we are trying to work to improve the quality of man's life and to better humanity.

But the center of our effort is here--the center of man's life--the place we all call our home.

We do the work of history here today. I believe that history will mark this first day of August 1968, as the day and the time and the moment when farsighted people turned the clock ahead, setting the hands of progress to the tempo of man's racing needs.

Those needs are being partially met. I am proud to come here to this new home, with this new Cabinet office under this new leader to sign more than just a piece of parchment. This law is not stone. It is the rock of our commitment--the commitment of both parties in America--the commitment of all good Americans to raise up a new America in this country and to make this possible for a man who is willing to work and try and save to own his own home--every one of us.

So on this rock, every man may stand in the certainty that his home will be his joy, a place where he and his wife and his children can live in pride and in safety and in pleasure and in dignity.

When we assure that, we will assure the continuance of our leadership in the world and we will insure the continuance of the greatest Government that man has ever devised.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:34 a.m. in the Plaza of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington. In his opening words he referred to Robert C. Weaver, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Senator John Sparkman of Alabama, and Representative Wright Patman of Texas.

As enacted, the bill (S. 3497) is Public Law 90448 (82 Stat. 476).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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