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Statement by the President on the Rent Supplement Program Upon Signing the Independent Offices Appropriation Bill.

September 07, 1966

I HAVE WAITED for this moment for 35 years. There are many provisions in the appropriations bill we are signing today. But the most far-reaching, and the one which gives the most satisfaction to me, is the provision of funds for our rent supplements program.

As a young Congressman from Texas, I helped to secure the Nation's first public housing project for my neighbors back home. President Roosevelt signed that bill into law almost 30 years ago--and it was a proud moment in my life.

But this is a prouder moment. What we then sought for poor families in Austin, Texas, we now seek for poor families all over America, and this bill gives us power to act.

I believe that this program represents the single most important breakthrough in the history of public housing. No housing program ever devised by this Government has been so well suited to a nation dedicated to free enterprise.

The rent supplement program will encourage hundreds of private organizations and hundreds of private builders to provide housing for the poor. Its success will be a tribute to the economic system which has made us the richest, most powerful nation within the memory of man.

--Our conscience tells us that the wealthiest nation on earth must help its elderly, its handicapped, and its poor to live with decency, and dignity, and hope--not with a handout but with a helping hand.

--Our experience tells us that the most efficient way to do this is by tapping the resources of the same free enterprise which made us great.

That is what this rent supplement program is all about, and the Congress agreed with our goals. But when the time came to provide the funds for this program, some of the old voices of doubt and misunderstanding that greeted Franklin Roosevelt and me 30 years ago were raised once again in the land.

There were allegations. There were insinuations. There were doubts. And so, for many, many months, we had the acceptance, we had the authority--we had everything but the money. And in government, as everyone in this room well knows, the difference between a good idea and a program is the dollar sign. We persisted and we persevered. We finally got that signed last May. We got $12 million.

Let me tell you what we've done. In just 3 months we have already set aside more than $6 1/2 million to create homes for 10,600 families in 87 cities and 32 States.

I am especially pleased that we are able to release today the names of rent supplement projects in 22 cities not previously announced. These new programs literally span the country from Falmouth, Mass., to Kalamazoo, Mich., to Mesquite, Texas, and San Diego, Calif. People will be helped in small towns and big cities, alike, and by sponsors ranging from commercial builders to religious groups, fraternal organizations, and labor unions.

With this bill the Congress has increased our power to enlarge this promise to the amount of $32 million. This means that not 10,000 but 53,000 families can now give their children a rain-free roof and a rat-proof bedroom. It means that more than 50,000 city children can come off the streets at night, because they have a decent home to come to.

I call this an investment in America's future. Those children are going to grow up. They are going to become the citizens and the leaders of tomorrow. And more of them are going to carry hope in their hearts, instead of hate and frustration, because of what we do today.

I call this an investment because we get back far more than we put in. If the Congress gives us the money it has already authorized us to spend, we will have $150 million to use for this program over the next 4 years. And $150 million of tax money should bring over $3 billion of private capital into the construction of homes and apartments for underprivileged families. Thus, for every dollar of the taxpayer's money, we will be getting $20 of private investment, to help solve an acute social problem.

If there is any more American way for dealing with the American problem I do not know what it might be.

--We are going to have homes built by private builders.

--We are going to encourage poor families to better themselves, instead of penalizing them for success.

--We are going to give our old people a chance to decide where they want to live.

I have never signed a bill which gives me more satisfaction. It represents everything I have believed in during all my 35 years in public office. It is a clear-eyed but compassionate solution to a pressing national problem.

Because it is all those things--and because our Nation has waited so long for just this action--I am both proud and humble to sign this measure into law.

Note: As enacted, the independent offices appropriation bill (H.R. 14921) is Public Law 89-555 (80 Stat. 663).

The list of 22 rent supplement projects, not previously announced, to which the President referred, is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 2, p. 1238).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President on the Rent Supplement Program Upon Signing the Independent Offices Appropriation Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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