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The National Housing Conference
The National Housing Conference, Inc. (NHC) was founded at the Public Housing Conference in New York City on March 22, 1932. A major contributor in founding the Public Housing Conference (PHC) was Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, social worker, reformer and founder of Greenwich House settlement in New York City in 1902.
In 1907 Mary K. Simkhovitch was chairman of the Congestion Committee in New York City and she became an active advocate of housing reform, including low cost and public housing, and an early supporter of slum clearance. She was soon recognized as a national authority on public housing and elected president of the Public Housing Conference from about 1932 until 1943.
The purpose of the PHC as to bring together social workers and housing experts to lobby on the state and federal level for housing legislation. Some of the early members were: Helen Alfred, a social worker; Edith Elmer Wood, a consultant to the housing division of the federal Public Works Administration (PWA); Louis H. Pink, a member of the New York State Board of Housing; Paul Blanchard, an ordained Congregationalist minister who served as field secretary of the League for Industrial Democracy (LID); and Father John O’Grady, secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Charities.
The stated goal of the PHC was: “To Promote Slum Clearance and Low Rent Housing Through An Established Federal-Local Service.” On the state level, they lobbied for an extension of the New York State housing laws that would permit the financing of cooperative building projects through the issuance of state bonds. At the federal level, the PHC pressed to have housing constructed as part of the public works program incorporated into the Federal Relief and Reconstruction Act of 1932.
In July 1933, the PHC changed its name to the National Public Housing Conference (NPHC) in order to meet the need for a national housing program that was being proposed by U.S. Senator Robert Wagner of New York. Now, the organization’s long range goal was to support the construction of low-cost housing through slum clearance.
After the passage of the Wagner-Steagal Housing Act of 1937 and the housing amendment to the New York State constitution that permitted the contracting of a state dept up to $300 million for housing loans and the granting of state subsidies to local housing authorities, the nature of the organization changed again.
From the 1940s to the 1960s, NHC consisted of a coalition of public housing advocates, social workers, labor unions, and local housing authorities who pushed for housing reforms. However, by the 1970s, NHC became an ally of the federal housing bureaucracy because its membership included primary builders, construction unions, and real estate developers.
NHC’s research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, specializes in developing solutions through research. In partnership with NHC and its members, the Center works to broaden understanding of the nation’s housing challenges and to examine the impact of policies and programs developed to address these needs.
NHC has earned its strong reputation as the United Voice for Housing by actively engaging and convening its membership in nonpartisan advocacy for effective housing policy solutions at the local, state and national levels.
Sources: National Housing Conference, Inc. Records, 1935-1991. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Social Welfare History Archives. Minneapolis, MN: https://www.lib.umn.edu/swha
Social Service Organizations Editor-in-Chief Peter Romanofsky, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, (1978) pp. 554-555.
For More Information, contact: National Housing Conference: http://nhc.org
How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Hansan, J.E. (2013). The National Housing Conference. Retrieved [date accessed] from /?p=9013.