With the decade of the 1968 housing goals expiring this year, debate and study have begun to determine how any future goals should be structured.
Ten years ago, Congress said that the 1949 goal of providing every citizen with a decent home in a suitable environment would best be met by building 26 million units over the next decade. Included in the projection were 6 million government-subsidized units for low and moderate-income families.
Now, influential members of Congress and executives in the private sector are talking what to do for the next decade. There's disagreement whether the 1968 goals were realistic. Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wisc.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, defends them. They were "set by careful study and supported by the (Johnson) Administration, the university and academic community and the industry," he said in an interview.
Proxmire noted that the goals, particularly for subsidized housing, were "right on target" for the first couple of years, but began to decline radically after the Nixon administration placed a moratorium on subsidized housing in 1973.
Largely because of the moratorium, the nation is about 2.6 million units short of its goal for subsidized housing, Senate figures show.
Proxmire said, was that there would be good years and bad years.
"What we got," Proxmire added, "were very bad years, mediocre years, and no average years."
On the other hand, Rep. Thomas Ashley (D-Ohio), chairman of the House Housing Subcommittee, considers the goals unrealistic, Subcommittee Staff Director Jerry McMurray said. They were a "euphoric statement" at the height of President Johnson's domestic programs, an an "unreal" attempt to spell out numbers," McMurray explained.
In the ninth housing goais report, submitted in January by the Ford administration, HUD, too, criticized numerical targets.
"The department does not believe, however, that these production targets are very useful in formulating and executing housing policy," HUD said, adding that the 1968 targets "ignored the cyclical nature of the housing industry, assuming instead a steady rate of increase in housing production which had never been achieved in previous history, and which has not been realistic in recent years."
The current HUD administration considers the long-term goals unrealistic, too, but doesn't dismiss the possibility of other targets. Duane McGough, director of housing and community analysis for the agency, said the 1968 goals had a worthwhile lesson - to show "what we could do, and what we couldn't." The goal of 26 million units wasn't realistic, but it took the setting of the goal, and the fact it wasn't reached, to prove the point, McGough noted.
HUD Is considering a "general target range" for production, between 1.9 and 2.4 million units per year, including mobile homes, over the length of the goals period. That hasn't been determined yet, and could be as short as a year or as long as four years.
It's not expected that the range would be reached each year, but that production would even out over the course of the goals. McGough added that the problem with "specific, hard" numbers is there are other priorities in the economy, such as fighting inflation, which might interfere with the housing goals. Both houses of Congress are expected to hold hearings on housing goals later this year. But each of the major chairmen involved, Ashley and Proxmire, have different views how the new goals should be structured.
The House subcommittee will consider limiting goals to four years, in an administration-by-administration play, McMurray said. Ashley believes that housing is subject to business cycle fluctuations, and to federal policies that change with each administration.
But Proxmire said he is "very, very strongly in favor" of goals, and will try to persuade Congress to adopt time limits. But he objects to pegging them to administrations.
"It would be a great mistake to feel we ought to have a Carter goal, then be in limbo until whoever is elected in 1980," he says. The goals shouldn't be partisan, said Proxmire, who maintains that Republican HUD Secretary George Romney was "the best secretary we ever had."