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Register of the President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership (1931 : Washington, D.C.) Records, 1931-1932 XX396
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Accruals
  • Alternative Form Available
  • Historical Note.
  • Scope and Content

  • Title: President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership (1931 : Washington, D.C.) Records
    Date (inclusive): 1931-1932
    Collection Number: XX396
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 51 manuscript boxes, 2 oversize boxes, 1 oversize photograph (22.8 linear feet)
    Abstract: Memoranda, reports, correspondence, pamphlets, clippings, press releases, and expense statements, relating to housing conditions in the United States, and to proposals for improving them, and especially for promoting home ownership through home loan banks.
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
    Creator: President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership (1931 : Washington, D.C.)


    Microfilm use only.
    Collection is open for research.
    The Hoover Institution Archives only allows access to copies of audiovisual items. To listen to sound recordings or to view videos or films during your visit, please contact the Archives at least two working days before your arrival. We will then advise you of the accessibility of the material you wish to see or hear. Please note that not all audiovisual material is immediately accessible.

    Publication Rights

    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership (1931 : Washington, D.C.) Records, [Box no.], Hoover Institution Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Materials were acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives.


    Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. To determine if this has occurred, find the collection in Stanford University's online catalog at http://searchworks.stanford.edu/ . Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in the online catalog is larger than the number of boxes listed in this finding aid.

    Alternative Form Available

    Also available on microfilm (49 reels).

    Historical Note.

    The Conference on Home Building and Home ownership was announced by President Hoover on August 30, 1930. It followed the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection as the second in the series of social studies to be undertaken by the administration. Its primary purpose was to bring together facts concerning housing throughout the United States; to determine the factors that influence housing, favorably or unfavorably, and how they are inter-related in cities, in smaller communities, and in rural areas; to focus attention upon the problems of home ownership and to suggest means of meeting them.
    The President named Secretary of Commerce Robert P. Lamont and Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur as co-chairmen of the Conference. Dr. John M. Gries, who had organized and for several years headed the Division of Building and Housing in the Department of Commerce, was appointed Executive Secretary. A planning Committee was set up to advise and help with the organization.
    The President and his advisers believed that the best way to get at the facts was to organize into study committees outstanding individuals engaged in one way or another in activities affecting housing. Thirty-one committees were formed and set to work in the course of 1931; of the 31, twenty-five were fact-finding committees, and six were correlating committees assigned the task of drawing from the 25 main committee reports recommendations related to: Technological Development; Legislation and Administration; Standards and Objectives; Research; Organizations Programs; Education and Service.
    More than 540 individuals served as volunteers on the study committees. Funds for research in preparation for the Conference and for publication of final reports were privately provided. The data collected by each committee and checked against the combined experience of committee members and the recommendations drawn from the reports by the correlating committees were incorporated in tentative reports which were presented to a general Conference held on December 2-5, 1931.
    Some 3600 people from every state in the Union as well as Hawaii and Puerto Rico were invited to Washington by the President to consider the reports and recommendations of the committees. These delegates included a wide range of individuals whose activities affected housing. In addition to the land and construction interests -realtors, sub-dividers, architects, and builders, there were manufacturers and dealers in lumber, brick, stone, concrete, tile, and what-not in the materials field; there were manufacturers of equipment and furnishings; carpenters, masons, plasterers, plumbers, and other trades; there were also the financing interests, including bankers, building and loan executives, and insurance officials; there were landscape architects, home economists, and decorators; city planners, utilities men, traffic authorities, tax experts, building inspectors, and other Government officials -State and municipal; there were, in addition, sociologists, psychologists, doctors, lawyers, educators, and editors; and there were a few -because only a few had the wide experience to be designated -housing experts. The pooling of so much experience to discuss and evaluate fact and opinion is without precedent in the history of housing. It revealed for the first time the immense scope of the subject as well as its organic unity.
    To ease the serious conditions throughout the country affecting home mortgages, the President had asked the Committee on Finance and Taxation for advice on his proposal for the creation of a system of home loan discount banks. In his talk to the Conference at its first general session he explained that the proposal had been "brought forward partially to meet the situation presented by the present emergency, to alleviate the hardships that exist among home owners today, and to revitalize the building of homes as a factor of economic recovery,...in its long distance view it was put forward in the confidence that through the creation of an institution of this character we could gradually work out the problem of systematically promoted home ownership on such terms of sound finance as people who have the home-owning aspiration deserve in our country."
    The Conference by unanimous resolution expressed its support of the legislation proposed by the President to create a Home Loan Bank System and to establish regional Home Loan Banks under a Federal Home Loan Bank Board. The Home Loan Bank Act (H.R. 12280) was passed by the 72nd Congress and signed by the President on July 22, 1932. The Federal Home Loan Bank Board was named on August 5. On August 9 came formal organization of the Board which promptly went to work to put the new system of banks into operations. Its major purpose was to do for institutions which lend on mortgage what the Federal Reserve system does for commercial banks. The plan was not the result of the depression but it was hurried into action by the emergencies of the depression.
    The Conference provided much practical information for the whole field of housing, and Committee reports, combining the various studies, were published promptly in eleven volumes.
    In addition to its specific recommendation for favorable action on the Home Loan Bank System, the Conference urged that the work of the Conference be carried on by a Constitution Committee. To some extent this follow through was handled by Better Homes in America, the staff of which could be pressed into service to handle publication of the reports. The nation-wide volunteer organization of Better Homes in America could and did make considerable effort to stimulate the utilization of the findings of the Conference.

    Scope and Content

    The records in this collection span the years 1926-1947, although the majority falls within the years 1931-1932, and are arranged in five series.
    Most of the collection consists of COMMITTEE files, which deal with the work of the twenty-five fact-finding committees and of the six correlating committees (assigned to draw recommendations for the main committee reports).
    Also important is the OFFICE FILE, related to the organization of the Conference. The areas of particular interest are the speeches of Herbert Hoover at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Conference, and his statements.
    It is important to note that the REPORTS series does not include the reports themselves, but rather correspondence and memoranda related to them, as well as typescripts, galleys, forewords, lists of possible titles, and reviews of the eleven volumes put out by the Conference.
    The PUBLICITY FILE covers the most extensive time-period of 1922-1947. Of special interest are the press releases which reflect the work of the Conference on a daily basis.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Federal home loan banks.
    Home ownership--United States.
    Housing, Rural--United States.
    Housing--United States.
    United States--Politics and government.
    United States--Social conditions.
    Urban policy--United States.