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
President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership (1931 : Washington, D.C.)
51 manuscript boxes, 2 oversize boxes, 1 oversize photograph
(22.8 linear feet)
Hoover Institution Archives
Stanford, California 94305-6010
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
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
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[Identification of item], President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership
(1931 : Washington, D.C.) Records, [Box no.], Hoover Institution Archives.
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
. 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).
Housing, Rural--United States.
Urban policy--United States.
United States--Politics and government.
United States--Social conditions.
Home ownership--United States.
Federal home loan banks.
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
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.