Housing and Urban Development

“Three-quarters of a century after the farmers had been given a voice at the Cabinet table,” President Lyndon Johnson said, explaining why he endorsed an elevated role for the federal government’s housing work, “the cities still had none.”  On September 9, 1965, Johnson signed legislation creating the Cabinet-level Department of Housing and Urban Development.1 

But contrary to Johnson’s best intentions of forty five years ago, Barack Obama’s priority for health insurance reform over unemployment has also coincided with a growing number of homeless people in the United States.  In New York City, for example, the number of homeless single adults increased 16.8% during the fourteen months that Obama focused on health care legislation, according to The Coalition for the Homeless (Figure 1).2 

Figure 1. Barack Obama's focus on health care legislation coincided with a 16.8% increase in homelessness.

The number of homeless adults in New York City is now at a level last seen at the beginning of 2005, when President George W. Bush‘s compassionate conservative policies decreased the homeless population more than 21%, through the worst of the 2008 financial crisis (Figure 2).3 

Figure 2. Homelessness decreased more than 21% during President George W. Bush's second term in the White House.

With the federal deficit detracting from government funding for homeless programs in the wake of Obama’s massive health care legislation, it might be necessary and expedient for Congress to revisit Bush’s successful policies for volunteerism, in order to effect safety and happiness for the most fragile links uniting our American society on this anniversary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.4 

References 

1.  Lyndon Baines Johnson, The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963-69 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972), 329.  Craig Bledsoe and Leslie Rigby, “The Cabinet and Executive Departments,” in Guide to the Presidency, Second Edition, ed. Michael Nelson (Washington: CQ Press, 1996), 1185-1189. 

2.  Advocacy Department, “New York City Homeless Municipal Shelter Population, 1983-Present,” The Coalition for the Homeless, http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/page/-/NYCHomelessShelterPopulationWorksheet05312010.pdf

3.  Ibid.  Kelly Wallace, “Bush to Announce $1 billion in Grants for Homeless,” CNN, http://articles.cnn.com/2001-11-20/us/bush.homeless_1_grants-laura-bush-president-bush?_s=PM:US

4.  Shira Poliak, “Deficit Worries Slow Funding of Obama Homeless Programs,” The Hill, July 21, 2010, House.

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