FRANK S. KRISTOF
Except for New York, the direct participation of states in meeting the housing needs of their citizens has been minimal until recently. This sector of public action has been assumed primarily by the federal government, with resources channeled directly to private beneficiaries or municipal public agencies. Housing became the subject of national public policy during the historic transitional years of the 1930s. By persistently reelecting President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American public demonstrated its acceptance of a new political premise that the state of the economy was a legitimate area of public action. Housing became a leading contender for government attention for several mutually reinforcing reasons. First, shelter is a fundamental human need. Second, areas of housing blight are highly visible and disturbing symbols of individual or community poverty. Third, the nation's economic health is linked to the level of residential construction, which accounts, directly or indirectly, for about a tenth of the gross national product.
Thus, directing public resources toward new or improved housing for families who would not normally be in the market serves the dual objectives of meeting social needs while stimulating the nation's economy. Until recently, this duality of objectives had a powerful political constituency that, in the past decade, comanded an unprecedented flow of federal resources into publicly assisted housing.
In less than a decade, there has been a complete reversal of state non‐ participation in housing activities. Between 1966 and 1973, the num