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to take care of the shortage, but some way should also be found to clear away the slum and substandard units and to replace them with desirable, healthy, modern dwellings.
The problem as outlined herein is especially critical with regard to minority races. Even though the problem was very serious in 1940, it has been greatly intensified as a result of the migration during the war, which brought persons from the rural areas into the metropolitan centers.
A careful reading of the report will also show that private industry, unaided by Government assistance, cannot solve the slum problem. The reason for this is obvious. With the cost of materials, building labor, and transportation charges as high as they are today, no private industry or corporation can undertake to erect a large multiple housing unit and still obtain a fair return on the investment except by charging rentals which are far in excess of the ability to pay of persons who live in the slum areas.
That being true, investment capital naturally goes to the more costly housing units, where, as a result of high rents, it can be expected that the original indebtedness will be paid off and that a fair return can be given to investors.
So the problem comes to us as Members of Congress. Either we must act with decision and speed, or else abandon these persons in the lower income brackets to a continued life spent amid surroundings of squalor, poverty, disease, and suffering. The responsibility is ours. We must face the issue. There can be no shirking or evasion. I sincerely hope and believe that our answer will be one of help and encouragement to these unfortunate people. For them to be told that they are residents of the "richest and greatest republic in the world" must indeed have a hollow and ironic sound when they regard their surroundings.
I realize that many witnesses have appeared before this and other committees who have stated the view that private industry can solve all of our housing problems. However, it is a significant fact that the report of the joint committee shows that the belief that private industry could not meet the need was—and here I quote from the record-shared by more than half of the leaders in the private home building and financing field who responded to the questionnaire."
The argument has been urged that while private industry alone may be unable to solve the low rental housing problem, still it is not a problem to be solved by the Federal Government but rather should be solved through public assistance from the various municipalities and States. Here again I refer to the report of the joint committee, which shows that only in five States are public funds aavilable for the provision of decent living for low-cost families. Nearly all the cities are having financial difficulties, and the most which can be expected from the great majority of them is that a tax exemption will be provided for low-cost multiple housing until the amortization of the original investment.
Certainly I do not believe that the Federal Government should undertake all of the expenses and all of the responsibility in this problem. The bill now before the committee does not so propose. It provides a happy medium for joint participation by the Federal Government, local governmental agencies, and private industry.
I would like to call the attention of the committee, at this time, to the housing problem on a local level as it exists in the city of St. Louis, in which is located the district which I have the honor to represent. A United States Public Health survey found that 24.8 percent of St. Louis households had more than one person per room. Conditions in this regard are growing worse. Between 1940 and 1916, only 6,170 new dwelling units were built in St. Louis, and in the same period 3,203 units were razed, making a net gain of only 2.967 new homes. During the same period, the population of the city of St. Louis increased by about 85,000. To keep pace with the population increase, there should have been built 17,000 new dwelling units. These figures totally ignore the number of dwelling units which during this period have slipped from habitable to obsoles cent. Because of high construction and labor costs, we all know that homes and apartments are not being repaired and are not being maintained so as to avoid obsolescence.
It is not a pleasant picture, gentlemen, and the prospects are that it will become worse and not better in the future, unless we take action.
The municipal government in the city of St. Louis has taken a progressive forward step toward slum clearance, and recently has created the Anti-Slum Commission. This agency would be authorized to acquire a number of blocks of contiguous property in the slum area, the funds to be raised by a public bond issue. Thereafter the existing structures would be razed, the ground would be
cleared, and it would be sold or leased to builders who would erect low-cost multiple housing units which would comply with city specifications. This is precisely where such legislation as that which is now being considered by this committee is needed, because without such legislation the project would be financially unattractive to private builders.
One group of Americans with which I am especially concerned and which has suffered greatly from the housing shortage is our veterans of World War II. Because they are the ones who, more than any other group, have insured the continuance of our Republic and our democratic form of government, I believe that they are entitled to raise their families in a healthy, decent environment.
The housing director of the St. Louis Veterans' Service Center has provided me with some interesting information. The Veterans' Service Center of St. Louis was established on January 1, 1946. Since that date, a total of 14,297 applications from World War II veterans have been received. During the same period, only 8,847 units have been registered with this office, and the vast majority of these accommodations are mere rooms or light housekeeping quarters. Of 126 listings received during last month, only 35 would accept children. Of this total, 119 units were furnished rooms. There has not been a single listing in more than 5 months which contained a private bath. In other words, the housing director of the veterans' service center has been unable to provide a single veteran with an apartment or a flat during 1948.
Information obtained from the housing director shows that with regard to newly constructed apartments and flats, the practice in St. Louis is to demand a 2-year lease, with the last 6 months' rental paid in advance. In many instances, landlords require the tenants' employers to act as cosigners of the lease, thereby making the employer liable in the event the tenant is unable to fulfill the requirements of the lease. The situation is growing worse rather than better with regard to veterans. In St. Louis, GI evictions under the new rent control act are 20 percent higher than they were at this time last year.
I am authorized by the Honorable Aloys P. Kauffman, mayor of the city of St. Louis, to state on his behalf that he has made a detailed study of the housing situation, and that he is unequivocally in favor of passage of S. 866 in its present form.
In conclusion, may I state that I appreciate having had the opportunity of testifying before this committee. Once again, may I urge with all the vigor of which I am capable, that the committee take favorable action on this bill.
Mr. BLAKEWELL. Frankly, gentlemen, I am not concerned with the arguments which state that this is socialism. I think we have a realistic condition in this country which we should face, and that is a critical housing shortage.
Why do we have this housing shortage? It is obvious that for about 10 years prior to the war we were suffering from a very severe depression, during which time there was a very low level of construction. Thereafter we had war years in which there was virtually no private home dwelling construction, and, since the termination of the war, it is obvious that private industry has not been able to meet this critical shortage, this critical demand for housing.
In a situation such as this I think the Federal Government should very definitely meet with private industry in a happy participation of Government and private industry to alleviate a critical condition.
I am particularly impressed by the report of the Joint Committee on Housing, with which all of you gentlemen are familiar, and I will therefore not allude to the particular items of it. However, it is my deduction, after reading the conclusions of that Joint Congressional Committee on Housing, that it showed, on its face, that private industry, unaided by Government assistance, could not solve the slum clearance problem and the problem of substandard housing.
The reason is obvious. With the cost of materials, labor, and transportation charges as high as they are today, no private industry or corporation can undertake to erect a large multiple housing unit
and still obtain a fair return on the investment except by charging rentals which are far in excess of the ability to pay by persons living in those areas.
I think this situation puts the young veteran, who has a modest income, in a difficult situation. The only thing that venture capital is attracted to today is construction from which it will get a substantially large yield. It is not going to get that from the multipledwelling units which will provide accommodations for the persons with modest income.
Investment capital, naturally, goes to the more costly housing units, where, as a result of high rents, it can be expected that the original indebtedness will be paid off and a fair return can be given to investors.
I think it was particularly significant that is this report of the Joint Congressional Committee on Housing more than half of the leaders in the private home building and financing field responded to a questionnaire concurring in the belief that private industry alone could not meet this need.
May I allude for a few minutes to the situation which exists in St. Louis, where my district is located. A United States Public Health survey found that 24.8 percent of St. Louis housholds had more than one person per room. Conditions, of course, are growing worse. Between 1940 and 1946 only 6,170 new dwelling units were built in St. Louis, and, in the same period, 3,203 units were razed, making a net gain of only 2,967 new homes.
During the same period the population of the city of St. Louis increased about 85,000. To keep pace with the population increase there should have been built 17,000 new dwelling units and even these figures ignore the number of units which, during this period, have slipped from habitable to obsolescent.
I noticed an article in Time magazine just last week to the effect that there were less permits issued for new construction in St. Louis than in any city of over 500,000 population in the country. assure you that it is a critical problem in our urban area of Missouri. As a veteran myself, and a member of the Veterans' Committee, I am particularly concerned with the veterans' problem. The Veterans' Service Center for St. Louis was established on January 1, 1946. Since that date a total of 14,297 applications from World War II veterans have been received. During the same period, only 8,847 units have been registered with this office, and the vast majority of these accommodations are mere rooms or light housekeeping quarters.
This is right up to date. Of 126 listings received during last month. only 35 would accept children, and out of this total, 119 units were furnished rooms. There has not been a single listing in more than 5 months which contained a private bath. In other words, the housing director of the veterans' service center has been unable to provide a single veteran with an apartment or a flat during 1948.
Gentlemen, I think these conditions are compelling.
Information obtained from the housing director shows that, with regard to the newly constructed apartments and flats, the practice in St. Louis is to demand a 2-year lease, with the last 6 months rental paid in advance. In many instances, landlords require the tenants' employers to act as cosigners of the lease, thereby making the employer liable in the event the tenant is unable to fulfill the requirements of the lease.
The situation, gentlemen, is growing worse rather than better. I am authorized by the mayor of St. Louis, Aloys P. Kauffman, to state, on his behalf, that he has made a detailed study of the housing situation and that he is unequivocably in favor of passage of Senate bill 866 in its present form.
Gentlemen, I appreciate very much the opportunity of appearing before you.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Bakewell.
Are there any questions of Congressman Bakewell?
If not, thank you very much, Congressman.
Mr. MONRONEY. Mr. Chairman, while we are waiting for the next witness I wonder if I could ask a question with regard to committee plans and procedu on the bill? Could we agree on a date on which we will close the hearings and go into executive session for the consideration of this bill?
In other words, if we have a target date on which we are going to close the hearings, then we can work toward that date and the members can be advised to be on hand when the final bill is being drafted for presentation to the House.
The CHAIRMAN. There will be ample notice to the members as to when we will go into executive session on the bill.
We have to get along here. We are having a terrific time in scheduling witnesses. We are reducing the witnesses to the irreducible witnesses. There are something like 60 people who wanted to be heard on this bill. There have been no hearings on this bill in the Senate to speak of. The witnesses have come to me and have come to the clerk and have complained that in the Senate they had no opportunity to be heard, either for or against the bill, and have stated that they wanted an opportunity to be heard on the bill in this committee.
We have cut out all of the cumulative evidence that we possibly could cut out. We have had two mayors. We notified the association of mayors that if they would send a representative down we would be glad to have him. There are a lot of mayors whom we have not been able to hear.
The veterans' organizations, of course, could not get together-as they do in the cities and counties-as a council, and for that reason we have had to hear all of the veterans' organizations.
As to the women's organizations and other national organizations, we have not heard all of them. We have not been able to hear all of them.
I think there is only one more organization which wants to testify for the bill. But we have got to give the opposition a reasonable length of time. I would suggest that we go ahead for 2 or 3 days and see what we come up with before we set a definite date.
I think both sides should be given an opportunity to be heard on this bill. I do not think that at the present time we can set a definite date for the closing of the hearings and go into executive session. But I will say this: I think we should, in all fairness to the opposition, if we are not going to report out this bill, give them notice soon enough so that those who desire to get a petition to discharge the bill will have a reasonable opportunity to do so.
Mr. MONRONEY. The committee itself, however, will have an opportunity to vote on whether we desire to report a bill or not, in executive
session, before the time has run out, before it will be impossible to place it on the calendar.
The CHAIRMAN. I am not in a position to state at this moment what the procedure is going to be because I do not know myself.
Mr. SPENCE. How many witnesses have indicated that they would like to be heard in opposition to the bill?
The CHAIRMAN. Well, they are scheduled up through the first week
Mr. MONRONEY. Could we not shorten that by having night sessions? The CHAIRMAN. Yes; and we can meet earlier in the morning, if you wish. We cannot meet while the House is in session. We cannot obtain unanimous consent to meet while the House is in session. Mr. MONRONEY. How about starting at 9 o'clock in the morning? The CHAIRMAN. If you would be here I would be here. But we usually have to wait around until a quarter of 10 until we have a quorum. As to these afternoon sessions, I will be very honest with you: I am getting very tired of the fact of having these afternoon sessions and staying here until 5 or 5:30. Most of the members leave around 4 o'clock to sign their mail. It leaves about three of us here all afternoon. I just do not intend to do it any more. If the committee wants afternoon sessions, or early morning sessions, we are going to insist that there be a quorum present because I do not think it is fair to those of us who think we have to be here to sit as a sort of a subcommittee and listen to this testimony.
There will be no more afternoon sessions scheduled which will extend beyond 4 o'clock, unless there are enough members here to make it look as though the committee is in session. Twice now we have had afternoon sessions where three of us have stayed around until after 5 o'clock.
Mr. MONRONEY. How many witnesses do we have to be heard? I understand a great many of the proponents who were scheduled as witnesses have yielded their time and have merely submitted
The CHAIRMAN. That is right. We have reduced our schedule to an irreducible minimum. We have two and a half weeks on these hearings up to this time and we have not yet had any opposition testimony. But we have to give the associations which are vitally interested in this bill an opportunity to be heard.
Mr. SMITH. Mr. Chairman, with regard to meeting at 9 o'clock in the morning and having night sessions I want to say that I work 16 hours a day. From my observation of the interest which has been shown in this bill and in these hearings, it seems to me that there would be no occasion for holding night sessions or for meeting early in the morning.
We are coming to the point when the House is going to be in session probably at 10 o'clock in the morning-certainly some days of the week. I think we have a duty and responsibility to be on the floor when the House is in session.
Therefore, I feel that the time we have already given to this subject, and the additional time which we will give to it, under the ordinary procedure of the committee, should be sufficient.
The CHAIRMAN. Here is a list of the witnesses. There were 69 on the list. We have had testimony and statements from 17, not including those heard of this morning.