In a brief “personal reminiscence” about the first decade of NLIHC, NLIHC founder Cushing Dolbeare writes about the first advocacy campaign of the “no-name housing coalition” that gathered in the winter of 1974. President Nixon Richard had placed a moratorium on all low income housing programs the previous year. The group of about 25 organizations chose public housing as its first advocacy issue and drafted a proposal for an improved and expanded public housing program.
Cushing observes that she and the others were “such outsiders” that House committee staff were too busy to meet with them, and when meetings did happen, the advocates’ proposals were dismissed as completely unrealistic. As the coalition grew in numbers, they decided it would be useful to have a letterhead, so Cushing dubbed the group the Ad Hoc Low Income Housing Coalition and printed stationary.
Eventually, Representative Parren Mitchell (D-MD) of Baltimore became their champion. On April 4, 1974, Mr. Mitchell and 17 co-sponsors introduced H.R. 13985 to improve and expand the public housing program. In the Congressional Record of April 8,1974, Mr. Mitchell articulated nine basic features of H.R. 13985 including: authorizing 750,000 new public housing units over two years; instituting public housing operating funds so residents would not experience undue rent burdens; and requiring that at least 20% of new admissions have incomes below 20% of the area median income (AMI), and at least 50% would have incomes below 50% AMI, while allowing existing residents to remain if their incomes exceeded the limit.
H.R. 13985 never became law, but the fledgling coalition had gained important experience as advocates for housing for low income people.
NLIHC will mark its 40th anniversary throughout 2014, culminating in commemorative event on Monday, November 17 in Washington, DC. Please save the date.