In December 1968, A Decent Home, a report of the President's Committee on Urban Housing, was delivered to President Johnson. Also known as the Kaiser Commission report, after Edgar Kaiser who chaired President Johnson’s Committee on Urban Housing, the report contained the seeds for today’s Section 8 program, which was enacted into law as part of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, the year NLIHC was founded 40 years ago.
A Decent Home suggested that there should be an experiment on “housing allowances,” or monies given to individual households to help them rent private-market units. “Subsidy programs should make better use of the existing housing stock,” the report argued. As R. Allen Hayes writes in The Federal Government and Urban Housing: Ideology and Change in Public Policy, this idea of a housing allowance was subsequently picked up by President Nixon’s housing team, led by HUD Secretary James Lynn. President Nixon recommended a study of housing allowances be included in the Housing Act of 1970 but an amendment by Senator Edward Brooke, III (R-MA) took the Nixon proposal further, mandating an actual experiment be done on what was called the “Experimental Housing Allowance Program.”
Senator Brooke was a champion for low income housing as a United States Senator. Upon leaving the Senate, he became Chairman of the NLIHC Board of Directors.
As Nixon’s second term was eroded by revelations of what became the Watergate scandal, Congress sought more from Nixon for affordable housing policies and Nixon wanted to give them more to keep relationships positive. By the summer of 1974, under the imminent threat of impeachment, Nixon rescinded the moratorium on new public housing, which he had imposed in January 1973, and gave his support for broader legislation, the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, which contained Nixon’s proposal to consolidate community development programs into the Community Development Block Grant as well as the Section 8 tenant- and project-based programs we know today.
Congress rushed to complete the broad legislation, seeing it was already all but consumed with impeachment issues. A compromise between the Senate and House bills was reached on August 6, two days before President Nixon tendered his resignation. It was President Gerald Ford who signed the measure.
NLIHC will mark its 40th anniversary throughout 2014, culminating in commemorative event on Monday, November 17 in Washington, DC. Please save the date.