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April 22, 2016
Raising the Standard of Living in Foreign Countries: USAID’s Housing Guarantee Program
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a crucial player in delivering assistance and aid to foreign countries. With a mission to reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help global communities emerge from crisis, USAID has spent the last sixty years implementing a variety of programs and initiatives to achieve such goals. One of the early programs of USAID was the Housing Guarantee Program (HG).
Responsible for providing loans for trade union sponsored projects, HG began with a specific focus on Latin American regions and the establishment of U.S.-style saving and loans associations in foreign countries. While this approach did achieve some success, under the leadership of Peter Kimm USAID’s Housing Guarantee Program developed and expanded significantly.
Beginning his career with USAID in 1966, Kimm first felt a call to action following President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, which inspired him to join the Association for International Development, a volunteer opportunity with a Catholic NGO. From there, he went on to work with the American Institute for Free Labor Development, which would act as his first exposure to USAID and the Housing Guarantee Program. Through leadership, policy change, and the implementation of new legislation, Kimm helped to extend the reach of the program to not only include Latin America, but the entire globe. Simultaneously, Kimm shifted focus to upgrading urban slums into affordable housing for impoverished people in these foreign communities.
Kimm eventually moved away from the Housing Guarantee Program and stepped into other leadership positions within USAID in the early 1990s. By the early 2000s, USAID’s Office of Housing and Urban Programs and specifically the Housing Guarantee Program slowly began to lose traction and lose a significant amount of resources. Nevertheless, USAID funded numerous housing projects that ultimately resulted in an increased standard of living for local communities in locations ranging from Korea to India to various other global regions. In this “Moment” in U.S. diplomatic history, Peter Kimm highlights the evolution of the Housing Guarantee Program, the success he was able to achieve, and the threats the initiative faced that ultimately resulted in its demise.
Peter Kimm’s interview was conducted by Alex Shakow on November 17, 2018.
Read Peter Kimm’s full oral history at https://www.adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Kimm.Peter.pdf.
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