Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Nod to the Leader That Started it All

NHC’s 2010 “Housing Person of the Year” Gala will be held on June 9 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. This year NHC will honor not a person, but a program, the Federal Home Loan Banks’ Affordable Housing Program (AHP) on its 20th anniversary. However, before we tip our hat to the AHP’s successes, we‘d like to take a look back at the leader who pioneered affordable housing advocacy.

Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch was a reformer and social activist. Concerned about the living conditions in New York City's slums, she set out to raise awareness about the need for decent, affordable housing. Simkhovitch believed innovative programs could help to replace slums with suitable housing and, ultimately, revive the spirit of a community.

In 1931, she formed the National Public Housing Conference, which later became the National Housing Conference (NHC), the first non-partisan, independent coalition of national housing leaders and advocates from both the private and public sectors.

NHC also convened a housing conference in 1931 which led to the passage of the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, establishing the Federal Home Bank Board with 12 regional Federal Home Loan Banks.

Seventy-nine years later the Federal Home Loan Banks have created the nation’s largest source of private grant funds for affordable housing through the AHP, a program that has provided $3.7 billion for the creation of more than 670,000 affordable rental and owned homes for American families and individuals.

Simkhovitch’s dedication to providing safe, decent and affordable housing for all is the same mission that NHC strives to uphold, strengthen and advance to this day.

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