Housing Legislation History

Housing Policy History



Housing Policy History


Before the Great Depression, affordable housing was typically left to private markets and big businesses like Pullman that built company towns.

Bob Silvestri, author of The Best Laid Plans: Our Planning and Affordable Housing Challenges in Marin, describes how a HUD report published in 1991 set the stage for the challenges facing community planners and leaders today.

The report, authored by former Senator Jack Kemp, was entitled Not in My Backyard and introduced the term “NIMBY.” Kemp’s purpose was to eliminate environmental and other local regulations for the benefit of the private, for-profit development and banking interests that had backed his nomination, all under the guise of needing more housing. As Silvestri explains, the history of affordable housing is the context for the situation we find ourselves in today.

A Brief History of Housing Policy in the United States and California

1934Legislation established the National Housing Act, which created the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to protect from foreclosures related to the Great Depression.
1937The U.S. Housing Act introduced the phrase “affordable housing” and initiated subsidized construction of government-owned rental housing for the general public, under Section 8 of the Act.
1949The Housing Act was created to house post WWII vets.
1960sFair Housing laws ensured equal access to housing.
1970sPresident Nixon drastically cut federal housing programs.
1980sPresident Reagan reduced the role of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and created the Section 8 voucher system, whereby individuals were issued rent payment coupons to live in housing built by the private sector.
1980sCA State Housing Element Law passed that requires regional Associations of Governments (ABAG) to determine regional housing needs for persons at all income levels, based on projected state population and household growth. The goal was to use Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) to create balance of jobs and housing by issuing housing “quota” mandates to every city and county.
1989Jack Kemp became Secretary of HUD. Kemp’s goal was to “privatize” the affordable housing business through the use of vouchers, project revenue bonds, leverage debt, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and federal Housing Assistance Payments.
1991HUD published the “NIMBY” Report, which contended that local planning and zoning control was an impediment to affordable housing. In truth, this was a ruse to remove local control over private, for profit development.
1995Congress proposed to shut down HUD; focus on home ownership and no-down payment purchase agreements that enabled bankers to game the system, which ultimately led to the crash and bank bailout of 2008.
2008CA Senator Darrell Steinberg resurrected the NIMBY theme and wove it into the threat of climate change. By combining an Assembly bill intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (AB 32) with a strategy (SB 375) to build high density housing near transit, (called “Sustainable Communities”), private interests were given power to usurp local zoning control, even though claims that the strategy reduced greenhouse gas emissions were actually denied by the bill’s environmental impact report.
2013The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) adopted Plan Bay Area: A Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy for the San Francisco Bay Area 2013-2040.
2017California legislators, many influenced by the big budgets of Silicon Valley, the Bay Area Council, the real estate, building, and banking industries, passed 15 new laws under the promise of creating affordable housing.
2018Without allowing time for the 15 laws to prove themselves, Legislators have flooded the docket with new housing laws that further erode local control, such as SB 827 and SB 828.

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