United States Housing Authority

United States Housing Authority

United States Housing Authority

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The United States Housing Authority, or USHA, was an agency created during 1937 as part of the New Deal.

It was designed to lend money to the states or communities for low-cost construction. Units for about 650,000 low-income people but mostly homeless were started. Progressives early in the 20th century had argued that improving the physical environment of poorer citizens would improve their quality of life and chances for success (and cause better social behavior). As governor of New York, Al Smith began public housing programs for low income employed workers. New York Senator Robert F. Wagner carried those beliefs into the 1930s, when he was a power in the United States Congress. From 1933-37, the Public Works Administration (PWA) under Harold Ickes razed 10,000 slum units and built 22,000 new units, with the primary goal of providing construction jobs. Ickes was a strong friend of blacks and reserved half the units for them. The courts ruled the PWA lacked eminent domain power to condemn slums, so the Wagner-Steagall bill, the Housing Act of 1937, envisioned a long term federal role under the new agency, the United States Housing Authority.

This Act was strongly influenced by Catherine Bauer. She became its Director of Information and Research, a position she held for two years.

The private sector saw an economic danger in nationalized housing, and insisted that there be a clear differentiation between the main housing industry and welfare programs focused on people...
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