Celebrating 75 Years of Housing Excellence!
Before the onset of World War II, it became apparent that the nation would be drawn into the war and housing would be required for the defense workers, thus came into being the Defense Housing Program. It was during this time that the Alabama Association was formed. A group of seven Housing Authority Commissioners and Executive Directors (from Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, Phenix City, Anniston and Gadsden) met in Montgomery on January 15, 1940.
And so the Alabama Association of Housing & Redevelopment Authorities was formed and has grown into one of the largest and most respected housing associations in the country!
The History of AAHRA
The first low-rent housing programs in Alabama were carried out by the Federal Government under the Public Works Administration as part of the National Recovery Act. These early-day authorities were advisory groups to the Federal Government. In 1935 and '36, several housing authorities were created as non-profit corporations. With the experience gained under the PWA program, the Housing Act of 1937 was enacted by the U. S. Congress.
One of the authors of the original Housing Act was an Alabamian. He was Congressman Henry B. Steagall of Ozark, who was Chairman of the Banking and Currency Committee of the House of Representatives. His counterpart in the Senate was Robert E. Wagner and the bill was known as the Wagner-Steagall Bill. In addition, in 1937, the Alabama Legislature adopted the Housing Authority Law, which set out methods that cities could organize and apply for a charter from the Secretary of State. Many of the housing developments in Alabama were developed under this Act, which was PL 412.
Before the onset of World War II, it became apparent that the nation would be drawn into the war and housing would be required for the defense workers, thus came into being the Defense Housing Program. It was during this time that the Alabama Association was formed. A group of seven Housing Authority Commissioners and Executive Directors met in Montgomery on January 15, 1940. There were representatives from Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, Phenix City, Anniston and Gadsden.
Also present were officials of USHA and members of the Georgia and Florida Associations. At this meeting the Association was formally organized and officers elected. The first president was a commissioner from Birmingham, Frank E. Spain. Vice-president was John Hodgson from Montgomery and Secretary-Treasurer was George Fearn of Mobile.
As we all know, on December 7, 1941, the country was drawn into World War II and housing authority work was primarily directed toward housing war workers. During this period the Lanham Act, PL-671, was enacted. Projects developed under this Act were of permanent construction and on sites that would lend themselves to conversion for housing low-rent families at the end of the war.
In 1944, it was apparent that when the war came to an end, it would be necessary to have programs of public works and industrial expansion to provide employment for the millions who had been recruited and migrated to war industries; that there would be thousands of persons living in temporary accommodations to be relocated, that many new families were doubled up in existing housing, service men would be returning to join their families, and housing would have to be provided.
Again, as in 1937, housing authorities were asked to assist in the evaluation of the problem and make recommendations. So on April 20, 1944, a meeting of the Alabama Association was held in Montgomery and the new officers were elected. The second President was Charles P. Rogers, Montgomery; Vice-president, J. D. DeHoll, Birmingham; and Secretary-Treasurer, Charles G. Norris of Montgomery. By this time, the Association had grown to ten authorities.
The next recorded meeting was March 16, 1945, when Leo Dennis of Phenix City was elected president. Shortly after election, he became ill and was unable to carry out his duties. In March 1946, a committee was appointed to reorganize the Association, at which seven persons were again present: two from Birmingham, two from Montgomery, one from Tarrant, one from Gadsden and one from Sylacauga.
Annual meetings were held in 1947 and 1948. In 1949, a joint meeting was held with the Mississippi Association; this was the first meeting at which suppliers and manufacturers were invited to buy exhibit space. Walter Mills was President and from then on, he was known as "that nice guy who gave away all the prizes."
Congress enacted the Housing Act of 1949 as a result of the study began in 1944. Again, the state of Alabama played one of the principal parts in this legislation. Senator John Sparkman of Huntsville was Chairman of the Housing Subcommittee, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives was Congressman Albert Raines of Gadsden. Senator Sparkman and Congressman Raines, with assistance from many of their constituents, pushed through their respective committees the bill, which became the Housing Act of 1949.
This Act for the first time allowed local authorities to choose sites for their projects that were not slum sites. They were permitted to sell tax-exempt bonds for construction financing. The Housing and Home Finance Agency was created as an umbrella agency for housing and urban renewal programs.
The Alabama Association changed its name and organization at the 1949 meeting to include urban redevelopment and urban renewal.
The Association did not meet again until 1951 when it met in conjunction with the Southeastern Regional Council of NAHRO in Edgewater Park, Mississippi. The 1952 meeting was also in conjunction with SERC and held in Asheville, North Carolina. The Association met in 1953, '54, and '55, but did not meet in '56. It was in 1956, that for the first time, housing specifically designed for the elderly was permitted in the low-rent programs. From 1957 on, we have held annual meetings.
In 1965 on our Silver Anniversary, Alabama ranked third in the nation in number of localities with low-rent housing. The Housing Act of 1965 was enacted and President Johnson established a new cabinet-level department; the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which replaced agencies that had formerly administered our programs. This act placed much emphasis on planning and redevelopment, which is evidenced by programs presented at our annual meetings in the late 60's.
One program change in 1969 may well have had more impact than any other – passage of the Brooke Amendment I, followed by Brooke II in 1970 and by Brooke III in 1972. These amendments made public housing a deficit operation, whereas, before we had managed without "operating subsidies."
Next came the Act of 1974, which eliminated the categorical grants and established "block grants" for which there have been limited funds, restrictive regulations and intense competition (cities need these funds for streets, sewer expansion, police and fire protection), putting housing at the bottom of the list. Under these regulations public housing became much more expensive to operate than originally and the low-rent public housing programs, have, largely, been replaced by various Section 8 programs.
Legislation in the '80's concerned itself mainly with operating subsidies, modernization (CIAP) was born in 1981, and through the 90's the housing authorities have struggled to change our image to, once again, a respectable one by ridding our developments of drugs and criminal activities.
Legislation passed in the 90's gave authorities the tools to evict residents for illegal activities. The "One Strike" policy has been instrumental in helping housing authorities remove those who would bring illegal drug activity into housing developments.
Through all of the changes, the Alabama Association has provided the expertise and leadership to assist those in this profession. The Alabama Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities has been in the forefront pushing for decent, safe and sanitary housing for the low-income citizens of Alabama.
Leadership. Progressive. Concerned. Professional...AAHRA!