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Our Homeless Crisis: A timeline of shifting federal philosophies and …

The federal government has been involved in the effort to help poorer Americans stay off the streets for almost a century. But shifts in philosophy and approach — from direct intervention through the construction of public housing projects to rental assistance and grants to local governments — have coincided with shifts in the nation’s homeless population.

Here’s a look at federal efforts over the years, and how the approach has changed over time:

1930s

The Great Depression, which left more than 1 million people homeless, prompts the federal government to get into the housing business.

National Housing Act of 1934: This response to the Great Depression created the Federal Housing Administration, Federal Savings Loan Insurance Corp. and gave federal officials the power to make low-interest, long-term loans to local governments for housing construction.

Housing Act of 1937: Provided grants to help local governments build affordable housing. Limited the amount of new housing built by requiring that for each unit created, an older, substandard unit must be razed.

1940s

World War II results in a building boom and more direct federal involvement to help house returning veterans.

1940: As part of the buildup to World War II, Congress OK’d creation of 20 public housing complexes near private companies manufacturing military supplies.

Housing Act of 1949: This part of President Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal” authorized federal spending to create 810,000 units of public housing.

1950s

Cities and states begin to use urban renewal powers to clear slums, build highways and eliminate “blight.” One result is more economic segregation.

1960s

The shift in who builds affordable housing — government or the private sector? — begins. At the same time, federal housing regulators move to stop urban renewal from creating ghettos.

Housing Act of 1965: Created the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, rent subsidies and federal mortgage insurance for nonprofits that built affordable housing.

Fair Housing Act of 1968: Prohibited construction of high-rise public housing complexes, created a federal agency to buy public housing projects and resell them at market rates, subsidized debt service on private development of affordable housing. Part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, this also prohibited discrimination in the sale or financing of homes.

1970s

The move away from government-created public housing continues with the creation of the Section 8 program.

1973: President Nixon declared a moratorium on public housing in favor of a market-based approach. He lifted the ban 18 months later.

Housing and Community Development Act of 1974: Created the Section 8 voucher program, essentially rent assistance for poor Americans, and the Community Development Block Grants, lump sums of money given on a per capita basis to local governments for housing and community development.

1980s

President Ronald Reagan cuts public housing money and continues the push for private control over affordable housing.

1983: Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency create the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which pays local providers to give low-income Americans emergency food, shelter and economic help, such as paying utility bills.

Tax Reform Act of 1986: The Reagan administration’s effort to simplify the income tax code also continued the federal government’s efforts to get out of the housing business and emphasize home ownership over rentals by creating new incentives for private development.

Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987: The first major legislation focused solely on homelessness by offering states grants to provide emergency shelter, transitional housing, job training, health care and educational support, among other services. This was the beginning of the push for “wrap around” services for homeless men and women, rather than just shelter.

1990s

Under President Clinton, the federal government makes its last big push on public housing and shifts the public-assistance model from welfare to “workfare.”

Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act of 1990: Reiterated government’s commitment to house all Americans, but did not include money to do so.

1992: Faced with the news that America’s public housing stock was rapidly deteriorating, Congress created what would become the Hope VI program, the last major federal public housing program. Hope VI grants could be used to raze old housing projects in favor of newer, less dense communities of public housing. For example, the Housing Authority of Portland used Hope VI money to replace Columbia Villa in North Portland with the New Columbia community.

1996: President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act – also known as welfare reform. This made it harder for poor Americans to receive government assistance if they could not prove they were looking for work.

2000s

More than 300 U.S. cities create 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness, but the recession disrupts the work and creates a new type of homeless population.

2000: Encouraged by successes in Columbus, Ohio, the National Alliance to End Homelessness began championing 10-year plans.

2002: President George Bush re-established the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, first created in the 1980s. The council was an effort to centralize anti-homelessness efforts. Philip Mangano, the first director under Bush, made encouraging and supporting local 10-year plans the centerpiece of the council’s work.

Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008: A response to the recession, this act created the National Housing Trust Fund with a goal of building 1.5 million affordable housing units in a decade. Congress has yet to put any money into the fund, although in December 2014 the Federal Housing Finance Agency did order Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to begin setting aside some funds.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Another recession response, this contained $1.5 billion for homeless prevention and rapid re-housing. Most of that went to rent assistance and other indirect means of support, not construction of new units.

Helping Families Save their Homes Act of 2009: Still another recession response, this provided more tools for homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure and gave local governments additional flexibility in how they spend federal homeless support money. President Obama called for ending homelessness among veterans by 2015, chronic homelessness by 2016 and youth homelessness by 2020.

Article source: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/02/timeline_of_federal_housing_ef.html

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