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Statement Announcing the White House Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership.

September 15, 1931


"I wish to announce that the President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership for which preparations have been in progress for something over a year will be held in Washington, Wednesday, December 2 to Saturday, December 5, inclusive. About 400 persons have assisted in the preparatory work and 1,000 representative citizens from the 48 States, associated with building and housing activities, are expected to participate in the Conference. The Conference has been organized under the chairmanship of Secretary Lamont, of the Department of Commerce. Dr. John M. Gries is the Executive Secretary.

"I decided a year ago after a conference with interested leaders in various parts of the country to undertake the organization of an adequate investigation and study, on a nationwide scale, of the problems presented in homeownership and homebuilding, with the hope of developing the facts and a better understanding of the questions involved and inspiring better organization and the removal of influences which seriously limit the spread of homeownership, both town and country.

"A Planning Committee, comprising representatives of some 20 voluntary associations, was created to make the study and set up a national conference for consideration of the data and recommendations of expert committees. The plan is somewhat similar to that of the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection, held in Washington in November 1930. Funds have been provided privately to cover research and other activities of the committees of the housing conference.

"Among the associations represented in the Planning Committee were the following:

American Civic Association

American Farm Bureau Federation

American Federation of Labor

American Home Economics Association

American Institute of Architects

Associated General Contractors Association of Life Insurance Presidents

Better Homes in America

Chamber of Commerce of the United States

General Federation of Women's Clubs

National Association of Builders' Exchanges

National Association of Real Estate Boards

National Congress of Parents and Teachers

National Farmers Union

National Grange

National Housing Association

Russell Sage Foundation

Savings Bank Division of the American Bankers Association

United States League of Building and Loan Associations

Women's National Farm and Garden Association

"The Conference in December will be the first of its kind on this scale in the United States. It will deal with the whole question of home construction and ownership, and of the home environment. It will embrace finance, design, equipment, city planning, household management, and many other aspects.

"Twenty-five committees headed by men and women of authority and experience in various phases of the question, have been engaged for months in gathering and analyzing available information and in making additional studies and inquiries. Their work is being correlated so that, on the basis of the facts, a collective judgment may be formulated upon the best contemporary experience of leaders who have special knowledge of the subjects. It, obviously, is not our purpose to set up the Federal Government in the building of homes. But the Conference will, I believe, afford a basis for the development of a sound policy and inspire better voluntary organization to cope with the problem.

"Adequate housing goes to the very roots of well-being of the family, and the family is the social unit of the Nation. The question involves important aspects of health, morals, education, and efficiency. Nothing contributes more to social stability and the happiness of our people than the surroundings of their homes. Although we have a larger proportion of adequate housing than any other country, we have not yet reached our ideal of homes for all our people. It should be possible in our country for any person of sound character and industrious habits to provide himself with adequate and suitable housing and preferably to own his own home.

"This principle, I believe, to be sound and controlling at all times. It is unnecessary to point out the beneficial effect which a well-considered nationwide program directed to the extension of homebuilding and homeownership in the immediate future would have upon our current unemployment and economic situation. The forthcoming Conference, however, was initiated to deal with the question under a long-range plan. It will be doubly fortunate if it should result not only in a sounder permanent policy, but in some degree of relief of current unemployment and in stimulation of the industries upon which building depends.

"The question touches many phases of both public and private activity. One of the important questions is finance. The present depression has given emphasis to the fact that the credit system in homebuilding is not as satisfactorily organized as other branches of credit. Commerce, industry, and to a large extent farm mortgages, all have more effective financial reservoirs. In order to enable the purchase of homes on what amounts to the installment plan, it is necessary to place first and, often enough, second mortgages. The building and loan associations have performed a great service in this field, but they cannot without assistance carry the burden. First mortgages, carried so largely by the savings banks and insurance companies, have been affected by competition with bonds and other forms of investment. Second mortgages are also necessary to many people. In the period of expansion preceding the current depression rates for second mortgages, including commissions, discounts, and other charges, rose in many cities to the equivalent of 20 or 25 percent per annum. This not only stifled homeownership, but led to the loss of many homes through foreclosure. The present depression has been marked by unemployment in the trades involved.

"Since a principal object of home construction and homeownership is to provide the best possible environment for the growing child, it is obvious that the work of the women's committees on homemaking and related subjects is a most vital phase of the Conference.

"Special attention is being devoted to the problems of farm and village housing.

"A committee of representative civic leaders of the Negro race are devoting attention to the problems of Negro housing.

"Twenty-five committees have been charged each with the study of a special field within the general problem covered by the Conference. Six correlating committees deal with questions of aim and method common to the 25 committees. These correlating committees concern themselves with standards and objectives, legislation and administration, education and service, organization programs, local and national and technological developments.

"The scope of the Conference and the quality of leadership upon which it has drawn is indicated by the list of the committees and their chairmen, which is as follows:

1. Types of Dwellings: John Ihlder, executive director, Pittsburgh Housing Association, Pittsburgh, Pa.

2. Fundamental Equipment: Prof. Collins P. Bliss, dean of the College of Engineering, New York University, New York, N.Y.

3. Kitchens and Other Work Centers: Miss Abby L. Marlatt, professor of home economics, director of courses in home economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.

4. Utilities for Houses: Morris Knowles, author of "Industrial Housing," Morris Knowles, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa.

5. Subdivision Layout: Harland Bartholomew, president, National Conference on City Planning, St. Louis, Mo.

6. Business and Housing: Harry A. Wheeler, former president of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, Chicago, Ill.

7. Industrial Decentralization and Housing: Stuart W. Cramer, president-treasurer, Cramerton Mills (provides homes for employees), Cramerton, N.C.

8. Blighted Areas and Slums: Abram Garfield, architect, member of the (National) Commission of Fine Arts, Cleveland, Ohio.

9. Reconditioning, Remodeling and Modernizing: Frederick M. Feiker, Director, Bureau of Foreign & Domestic Commerce (formerly managing director, Associated Business Papers, Inc.), Washington, D.C.

10. Construction: A. P. Greensfelder, president, Associated General Contractors of America, St. Louis, Mo.

11. Design: William Stanley Parker, president, Architect's Small House Service Bureau, Boston, Mass.

12. City Planning and Zoning: Frederic A. Delano, president, American Civic Association; chairman, Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs, Washington, D.C.

13. Finance: Frederick H. Ecker, president, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., New York, N.Y.

14. Taxation: Dr. T. S. Adams, professor, political economy, Yale University, and Economic Advisor, U.S. Treasury Department since 1917, New Haven, Conn.

15. Home Ownership and Leasing: Ernest T. Trigg, president, John Lucas Paint Company (former chairman of Committee of Civic Development Department, Chamber of Commerce of the United States), Philadelphia, Pa.

16. Home Furnishing and Decoration: Miss Ruth Lyle Sparks, Miss Sparks, Inc. (president, Interior Decorators Club of New York), New York, N.Y.

17. Landscape Planning and Planting: Mrs. Junius S. Morgan, Princeton, N.J.

18. Household Management: Miss Effie Raitt, professor and head of department of home economics, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.

19. Housing and the Community: Dr. Joseph Hersey Pratt, past president of the American Climatological and Clinical Association, and of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, Boston, Mass.

20. Farm and Village Housing: Provost A. R. Mann, Cornell University (formerly dean of N.Y. State Colleges of Agriculture and Economics), Ithaca, N.Y.

21. Negro Housing: Miss Nannie H. Burroughs, president, National Training School for Women and Girls, Washington, D.C.

22. Home Information Centers: Miss Pearl Chase, chairman, Plans and Planting Branch of Community Arts Association, Santa Barbara, Calif.

23. Homemaking: Miss Martha Van Rensselaer, director, N.Y. State College of Home Economics, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

24. Large Scale Operations: Alfred K. Stern, Julius Rosenwald Fund, Chicago, Ill.

25. Relationship of Income and the Home: Prof. Niles Carpenter, head of department of sociology, University of Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y.


A. Standards and Objectives: Lawrence Veiller, secretary-director, National Housing Association, New York, N.Y.

B. Research: Prof. James Ford, department of sociology, Harvard University; executive director Better Homes in America, 1653

Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. C. Legislation and Administration: Bernard J. Newman, managing director, Philadelphia Housing Association, Philadelphia, Pa. D. Education and Service: Dr. Albert Shaw, editor, American Review of

Reviews, New York, N.Y. E. Organization Programs, Local and National: Miss Harlean James, executive secretary, American Civic Association, Inc., Washington, D.C. F. Technological Developments: Dr. George K. Burgess, Director, National Bureau of Standards, Washington, D.C.

Herbert Hoover, Statement Announcing the White House Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207591

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