No one has to tell a group of people like yourselves a long list of dreamy statistics reminding you of what you already know - that people in this country generally,
blac working class and poor people particularly, are ill housed in structures over which they have no control, no control over rent, no control over design, no control over location, and no control over maintenance. That is not news to any of you. It ought not [illegible] be news to anyone else. None of you needs to be told that 27 years after the original promise to provide every American family with a healthful and liveable home, one-sixth of our population still lives in dangerous, sub-standard housing. You might want to be re-minded, however, of something your president Richard Nixon said earlier this year.
"Of all the services, facilities or other amenities a community provides, few matter more to the individual and his family than the kind of housing he lives in - the kind of neighborhood of which that housing is a part. Through the ages, men have fought to defend their homes; they have struggled, and often dared the wilderness, in order to secure better homes."
These are wonderful words.
It would be wonderful if he meant them.
Perhaps inspired by those noble & stirring sentiments,
Earlier this year, The Congressional Black Caucus, composed of the thirteen representatives in the United States House of Representatives who represent us all, presented a series of recommendations to President Nixon.
Under the topic "Housing and Urban Development", they asked for: - $150 million in supplemental funds for public housing; - Implementation of the Uniform Rehabilitation Act to insure an adequate stock of moderate and low income housing for displaced persons; - A uniform policy of site selection for HUD, to avoid reinforcement of housing segregation, and the amendment of Executive Order 11512 to assure that all residential communites are open to all economic and racial groups as a condition of eligibility for location of federal installations.
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The president's response was long in coming, and when it did come, evasive and to say the least, disappointing to those who waited for it. and vastly different from his earlier call to struggle No extra monies would be available in supplemental funds. Words, not actions, met the request for housing for displaced low and moderate income Americans. HUD estimated that only 25,000 dwelling units would be available in 1972, or feeer than one city, Washington D.C. could use today.
"...The current state of the nation", the Caucus said, "which may be mildly inconvenient to the majority of white America, is for the black brown, red, and poor... A true crisis which approaches the intolerable. Given this situation, business as usual, bureaucracy as usual, is simply not good enough." *
Given that statement, it is interesting to note that the history of tenant agitation and organization parallels the history and
*Report to the Nation, The Congressional Black Caucus, May 24, 1971
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development of agitation and organization of black people in this country through the '60s.
As the early sixties saw the birth in the rural South of a new kind of aggressiveness among the people America had thought were too servile and too subdued to protest against their condition in life, the northern urban poor, living in vertical prisons of concrete and glass, began through tenant organizations, rent strikes, and tenant unions to put flesh on a drive that had been building for many years, the desire of tenants to have something to say about their homes, their rents, their very lives.
Now these two movements - the southern drive which has turned in the late sixties and the beginning of the '70s, toward concerted political action, the movement which gave both the direction and the directors of the National Movement of Poor and Black People, and the growing