Housing Act of 1949

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Harry S. Truman signing bill

The American Housing Act of 1949 (Pub.L. 81–171) was a landmark, sweeping expansion of the federal role in mortgage insurance and issuance and the construction of public housing. It was part of President Harry Truman's program of domestic legislation, the Fair Deal.[1]


On April 12, 1945 the passing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt propelled Harry S. Truman Vice President into the seat of Presidency as the 33rd U.S. President to serve the United States of America. During the Roosevelt administration The National Housing Act of 1934 was passed, which established the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)[2] and then in 1937 the United States Housing Act was passed which was also referred to as the Wagner Housing Act after Senator Robert Wagner.[3]

In the State of the Union address unveiling the Fair Deal, Truman presented a policy statement on housing:[4] In Truman's State of the Union speech he highlighted four provisions of the bill that were most important to him. Those provisions were Title I, Title III, Title V & Title VI those provisions became the most debated provisions of the Housing Act of 1949 legislation. Truman ended his address by stating the importance of the bill by saying;

"The driving force behind our progress is our faith in our democratic institutions. That faith is embodied in the promise of equal rights and equal opportunities which the founders of our Republic proclaimed to their countrymen and to the whole world.

The fulfillment of this promise is among the highest purposes of government. The civil rights proposals I made to the 80th Congress, I now repeat to the 81st Congress. They should be enacted in order that the Federal Government may assume the leadership and discharge the obligations dearly placed upon it by the Constitution.

I stand squarely behind those proposals."

Creation of the legislation[edit]

[5]In Congress, the bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Robert A. Taft.[6] The act was known as the Taft-Ellender-Wagner (T-E-W) Act for Taft and Democratic backers Allen J. Ellender and Robert F. Wagner.[7]

The Committee on Banking and Currency produced the report on February 25, 1949. The committee described the purpose of the legislation as a bill to establish a national housing objective and the policy to be followed in the attainment thereof, to provide Federal aid to assist slum-clearance projects and low-rent public-housing projects initiated by local agencies, to provide for financial assistance by the Secretary of Agriculture for farm housing, and for other purposes, having considered the same. According to the committee the bill was needed because of the evidence and current testimony presented during the hearings concerning the dimensions of the housing shortage demonstrated increasing recognition of the fact that the housing problem is one of great magnitude and long standing. It also indicates that, in the main, such differences of opinion as still exist concerning the housing problem are concerned, not so much with the size or scope of the problem, or with the fact that further housing legislation is necessary to help meet it, as with the details of the means that should be employed in dealing with the problem. The changes that the committee propose in comparison with the bill that was referred were, Section 2.-Declaration of National Housing Policy, Title 1-Slum Clearance and Community Development and Redevelopment, Title III-Housing Research, and Title IV-Farm Housing. There was not any discussion about contentious votes or minority views. In the committee report they stated this bill contained the best features of several similar bills pending before the Banking and Currency Committee, and of various amendments recommended during the hearings and by members of the subcommittee and of the full committee during their consideration of the bill. After the full committee reached agreement on the legislation to be recommended, a clean bill (S. 1070) embodying that legislation was introduced under bipartisan sponsorship.

Date: Legislative Action:
February 21, 1949 Subcon on Housing & Rents, Committee on Banking & Currency
February 25, 1949 Reported to the Senate
February 25, 1949 Committee on Banking & Currency Senate
April 13, 1949 Debated in Senate
April 21, 1949 Debated, Amended, Passed Senate
April 25, 1949 Referred to Committee House
May 3, 1949 Committee on Appropiations Senate
May 9, 1949 Committee on Banking & Currency House
May 9, 1949 Made special order (H.Res.189) Debated, Amended, Pass House (81 H.R. 2203)
May 16, 1949 Committee on Banking & Currency House
July 6, 1949 Committee of Conference House
July 8, 1949 Conference Report (H.rp.975) Submitted in House & agreed to
July 8, 1949 Conference Report agreed to in Senate
July 14, 1949 Committee on Banking & Currency Senate
July 14, 1949 Presidential Signing Statement


Title I - Slum Clearance & Community Development & Redevelopment

Authorized $1 Billion in loans to help cities acquire slums and blighted land for public or private redevelopment. It also allotted $100 million every year for five years for grants to cover two-thirds of the difference between the cost of the slum land and its reuse value.

Title II - Amendments to National Housing Act

Amended the National Housing Act of 1934 by reauthorizing the FHA for six weeks and raised by $500 million the amount the FHA was allowed to offer as mortgage insurance.

Title III - Low Rent Public Housing

Required that public housing authorities demolish or renovate one slum dwelling unit for every public housing apartment they built.

Title IV - Housing Research

Provided funds and the authority to conduct extensive research into the economics of housing construction, markets, and financing.

Title V - Farm Housing

Addressed the problems of rural housing by reorganizing and expanding the loan program initiated under the Bankhead-Johns Farm Tenant Act of 1937, which allowed farmer to purchase and improve farms.

Title VI - Miscellaneous Provisions


In the years that followed the passage of the Housing Act of 1949 American policy makers and government offices have abandoned the methods prescribed by the Housing Act of 1949. There has been one new housing and redevelopment program after another. The one thing that has remained the same throughout all the transformations is the main theme of "a decent home and suitable living environment for every American family." After more than fifty years since the initial passage of the Housing Act of 1949, it is clear that the search for ways to realize goals to improve housing and redevelopment will continue into the future.

See also[edit]


[9]von Hoffman, Alexander. 1996a. High Ambitions: The Past and Future of American Housing Policy. Housing Policy Debate 7(3):423-46.

[10]Patterson, James. T. 1972. Mr. Republican: A Biography of Robert A. Taft. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

[11]Congressional Quarterly. 1966. Housing a Nation. Washington, D.C. Congressional Quarterly Service.

[12]Foard, A., & Fefferman, H. (1960). Federal Urban Renewal Legislation. Law and contemporary problems, 25, 635-684.

[13]Radford, Gail. 1996. Modern Housing for America: Policy Struggles in the New Era. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • Clement, Bell. "Wagner-Steagall and the DC Alley Dwelling Authority: A Bid for Housing-Centered Urban Redevelopment, 1934–1946." Journal of the American Planning Association 78.4 (2012): 434-448.
  • Heathcott, Joseph. "The strange career of public housing: Policy, planning, and the American metropolis in the twentieth century." Journal of the American Planning Association 78.4 (2012): 360-375.
  • Jenkins, William D. "Before downtown: Cleveland, Ohio, and urban renewal, 1949-1958." Journal of Urban History 27.4 (2001): 471-496.
  • Lang, Robert E., and Rebecca R. Sohmer. "Legacy of the Housing Act of 1949: The past, present, and future of federal housing and urban policy." Housing policy debate (2000): 291-298. online
  • Orlebeke, Charles J. "The evolution of Low‐Income housing policy, 1949 to 1999." Housing policy debate 11.2 (2000): 489-520.
  1. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "Harry S. Truman: "Statement by the President Upon Signing the Housing Act of 1949.," July 15, 1949". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara.
  2. ^ von Hoffman, Alexander. 1996b. Vision Limited: The Political Movement for a U.S. Public Housing Program, 1919-1950. Working Paper Series, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School for Government, Joint Center for Housing Studies, Taubman Center for State and Local Government.
  3. ^ McDonnell, Timothy L. 1957. The Wagner Housing Act: A Case Study of Legislative Process. Chicago: Loyola University Press.
  4. ^ https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/annual-message-the-congress-the-state-the-union-21
  5. ^ "The Housing Act of 1949". Congressional Quarterly Alamac.
  6. ^ http://www.mi.vt.edu/data/files/hpd%2011(2)/hpd%2011(2)_editor's%20introduction.pdf[permanent dead link], 293
  7. ^ "Public Housing" (PDF).
  8. ^ Bailey, James. 1965. The Case History of a Failure. Architectural Forum 123(5):22-25.↵↵Davies, Richard. 1966. Housing Reform during the Truman Administration. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press.
  9. ^ von Hoffman, Alexander. High Ambitions: The Past and Future of American Housing Policy.
  10. ^ Patterson, James, T. (1972). Mr. Republican: A Biography of Robert A Taft. Houghton Mifflin.
  11. ^ Housing a Nation. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly. 1966.
  12. ^ Law and contemporary problems.
  13. ^ Radford, Gail (1996). "Modern Housing for America: Policy Struggles in the New Era". University of Chicago Press.