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the opportunities of children to grow normally and happily, and hampers the development of sound family life.
The association is therefore in accord with the objectives sought to be accomplished in this bill and urges its careful and favorable consideration.
Now, I would like to give you one illustration that came to my attention a few days ago as an executive of a family welfare agency. It was a family of four. The mother came in to see us and stated that her difficulty was that she had to pay too high a rent. Of course we wanted to get right down to the details of the situation as we wished to help her out if it were possible to do so.
When we got into the situation we found that she had a family consisting of herself, her husband, and two children, one 14 and one 18. The husband was working and one of the children was working. The rent they were paying-well, I better say first that they were living in three rooms, those four people. That space was considered adequate for three persons. In other words, there was one more person in there than there was space for. They were paying $45 a month as rent, which represented one-third of their income. They did not have enough money left from their budget to take care of their food and clothing requirements or to provide for housing supplies, or anything for medicine.
As we got into the situation further, the mother announced to me that within a week she expected her son to come home from the Army. I asked her the question, "Where are you going to put that son?" Her answer was, "He will live with us."
Then when we got into the discussion still further I found that the son was about to be married and expected to bring his wife home to live with them.
So the immediate prospect there, because they could not find anything else to occupy, was that six people would live in a house that should not be occupied by more than three. I cite that case to you as not an unusual situation.
I thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. And we thank you very much for your statement. (Thereupon Mr. Mock left the committee table.)
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Maslen, we will now be glad to hear you. I believe you represent the American Association of Social Workers, and I have forgotten just what office you hold.
Mr. MASLEN. I happen to be the chairman of the housing committee. The CHAIRMAN. All right. I know that you know a good deal about this subject.
Mr. MASLEN. I thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. You may proceed with your statement.
STATEMENT OF SYDNEY MASLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSING COMMITTEE, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS, NEW YORK, N. Y.
Mr. MASLEN. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, the statement which I am going to present is based on a platform statement that has been prepared by the housing committee of our association, which has been approved by the national board at its last meeting a month ago, and will come before the national membership
next year. I just want to make it clear that I am, therefore, speaking on behalf of the board and not for our total membership, which has not had an opportunity to speak on the subject.
I want to limit my remarks to the objectives of the proposed legislation, so well brought out in the hearing this morning by one of the members of the committee. And to say, further, that while we have waited a long time for the development of this bill, I think any fairminded person examining the proposed legislation will agree that the time spent in the development of the bill has been well spent. I think it can only be measured by the patience of the members of this committee in listening to the testimony as you have done.
Our organization approves the main provisions of the bill, including what I want to state, but we do have a few suggestions we would like to present for modification from the standpoint of making the bill more workable, not in any sense a critical appraisal of the legislation. We approve the establishment of a permanent national housing agency to consolidate within it the main housing functions of the Government. And we are enthusiastic about title X of the bill, which provides for an annual reporting to the Congress, and we hope thereby you will get an evaluation of the way the housing program is working out, and we hope it will provide an annual opportunity for making the bill more workable.
We approve title II of the bill, providing for encouragement of local research, market analysis, local planning, and strengthening of housing and building codes.
We are very much interested in title III of the bill, with special reference to the warranty provisions, because our membership has run into situations in various parts of the country where the individual home owner is at a loss because of defective construction, which apparently cannot be remedied at the present time under the regular FHA procedure. The warranty provision, apparently, would meet a real problem.
We welcome the provisions in the bill for lowering the interest rate, perhaps even lower than the bill provides, as I think Mayor LaGuardia pointed out. And also for longer amortization periods, and for higher coverage. I think we recognize that FHA has made a very real contribution in developing the amortization mortgage, and when it was begun it was the pioneer in providing a mortgage for the lower and the middle income groups.
We believe under present conditions it is possible to refinance FHA mortgages because banking practices have now caught up with FHA, and therefore we welcome the provision in the bill for further development of FHA procedure to meet the needs of a lower income range, which we think is probably a good calculated risk. Even though families may have lower incomes than heretofore, that does not necessarily mean they will not be stable incomes. I refer to civil-service groups in cities, Federal employees, and others with stable incomes.
We approve the yield-insurance provisions of the bill to channel into investment in housing the tremendous amount of funds now lying idle in the hands of insurance companies. And if we may judge from the demonstrations of houses and apartments that have been built, they certainly give us some real hope that the yieldinsurance plan will approach the objectives desired.
We are in accord with the plan for land reclamation provided in the bill, for Federal aid for reclamation of blighted areas and redevelopment at fair-use values by private enterprise or public bodies. We understand that that is an experimental approach to a difficult problem, but we think the problem can be solved, not only by attempting to solve it as provided in the bill, but on the basis of experience modifying the legislation to meet the need.
Finally, we are in accord with title VII of the bill, which provides for a public housing program of some 500,000 low-rent dwelling units which, according to the testimony of the National Housing Administrator, would appear to be the absolute minimum.
Now, I want to turn to points in the bill where we ask consideration for modification. I mean, in order to make the provisions of the bill more workable in their application.
In the letter I received giving me an opportunity to testify, I think the hope was expressed that our organization would point to any portions of the bill that we thought might need to be modified in order to make it more workable.
I have five points to present:
1. Amendment of title VII to assure in public housing that there will be sufficient provision for large families, for the aged, for persons living alone, for those who require more than normal sunlight and air, and for urban migratory workers.
I mention these points, not in criticism of the public-housing program, realizing the shortage has been so acute that decent-sized housing necessarily made them focus their attention on the family with several small children, but because other families also should be considered and should not be rendered in our judgment ineligible for public housing just because a family happens to be a large family. Aged persons are another group that are not now included in publichousing developments. The reason usually given is that it is because aged persons are either couples or single. For instance, we find in our cities aged people who have to carry coal to heat cold-water flats up on a fifth or sixth story, living in areas which have been demolished for slum-clearance purposes, but who are not eligible for public housing. I submit to you gentlemen of the committee that that is a problem which cannot be overlooked. And I think the indications are that we will have more aged persons in the population as time goes on, perhaps 1 out of 6. Our committee believes that more consideration should be given to including this group.
Our point is that the legislation should specifically provide for those families who have particular needs, not to require that they should all be rehoused, but give the housing authority leeway to include them in housing development rather than as they now do, when they have to exclude them.
2. I want to stress the need of families of low income, and to qualify them for public housing, people who do not live in slums. Those are families who now pay a disproportionate part of their income for rent. They are families with high standards, families that refuse to live in slums, and for that reason live in better neighborhoods, where they believe their children have better opportunities. And they may be spending even more than 33% percent of their income for rent.
Senator TAFT. What makes you think they are not eligible now? Mr. MASLEN. Because the bill-and I think it is on page 77, line 23-limits admission to public housing to those who have lived in
unsafe, insanitary, or overcrowded dwellings. The families I am now talking about have low incomes, but they may not live either in an unsafe or an insanitary or an overcrowded dwelling. And they are paying a large proportion of their income for rent.
As an illustration: When the Red Hook housing project was developed in Brooklyn for longshoremen, one longshoreman approached the manager of the development, and he was very much angered because he was told he was not eligible for public housing when a man doing the same job and with the same size family, was eligible. He said to the manager of the development, "Those fellows are willing to live in slums, but I live on the other side of Brooklyn, and because I am living in a decent house, paying more money for rent incidentally, I am ineligible." He could not understand why those other people were eligible.
Then, too, we have cases such as an illustration I will give you: A mother works in a New York department store, receiving $35 a week. She has three children, no husband, and she pays $52 a month rent to live in a fairly decent house, a tremendous drain on her income. But she is ruled out under the provisions of this particular section of the bill, and we would like to have consideration given to that point.
Furthermore, just before leaving New York City, I had a note from one of the family welfare associations pointing out that during the war it has been possible to include in public housing families of servicemen, who come into the category I am talking about, and that was because the requirement that they must come from bad housing was waived. The feeling was that by including in housing those families of good living standards, you tended to raise the level of living in public housing.
I think the problem of stratification of families from slums in public housing is a very difficult one to face, but we will have to face it sooner or later, and this would be a move in that direction. But under the policies laid down by law, the effect of the program now is that you go into a slum area and tear it down, and 80 percent of the families in that slum area are ineligible for the new housing. The consequence is that where, say, a family is living at a certain point, and they have a mother in a separate household across the street, they have to choose as to whether they want to live close to their parents or want to have the benefits of public housing. I believe public housing will be successful if it will recreate a state of social balance, so that the natural ties of the community are maintained. If it does not do that, I think we will run into some very great difficulties by this concentration in public housing of the lower-income families from the worst houses.
3. Our third point is this: We would like to see consideration given to amending the bill by reenacting the provisions of section 604, on pages 64 and 65, title VI, as subsection (9) of title VII on page 78.
As you know, these provisions relate to rehousing of families living on the sites of buildings that have been demolished. I want to commend the traditions of the legislation, especially the provisions of lines 8 and 9 on page 65, which gets to the very heart of the displacedfamily problem, requiring that new housing be provided before the old houses are demolished.
I realize that from an engineering or an architectural point of view that will present difficulties, but it seems to our association that the terrific housing shortage we now have in the country, and
with this bill enacted, it would be self-defeating to adopt any other policy than as you propose on page 65, lines 8 and 9, to require that houses for displaced families be built before the old homes are torn down.
And we would go further than that. We recommend that consideration be given to making it a matter of public policy that wherever families are displaced by any type of public improvements, for highways, for parkways, and so forth, or by large-scale private improvements, that before that takes place there should be assurance, as you have provided in this one section of the bill, for the rehousing of those families before the homes are torn down.
4. Our fourth suggestion is relatively minor, but it struck some members of our committee as important. That is, that there should be consideration given in the bill for eliminating restrictive agreements between builders and supply houses and unions, which apparently have tended to raise the cost of construction, and raise difficulties in construction. It may be possible that it would not be good policy to bluntly put a provision of that kind in the legislation, and we do not know as to that, but we would recommend that if that is the case then the National Housing Administrator be authorized to give consideration to this particular problem.
5. The final suggestion that we have to offer for your consideration is that title VII of the bill be amended to permit the making of annual grants and the giving of other aids, to be available for demonstration projects that have been built by cooperatives, foundations, social, and philanthropic agencies.
We realize that that would represent a very real change in policy. However, we would like to point out in defense of that recommendation that great strides have been made in the development of public housing policies and programs in Great Britain through aid extended to housing societies in that country, comparable in form but not in extent to its aid to local authorities there. This proposed amendment is intended to encourage similar demonstration projects here.
Now, gentlemen of the committee, if you have any questions I would be glad to try to answer them.
The CHAIRMAN. I will say that I saw some of that housing when I was in London in 1936. It was a great job. I mean, the slum housing eliminated and the new housing. The new housing seemed to be very simple but very sanitary. And it is said that there has been a tremendous difference in the matter of the health of the people, I mean after they were transported from the old to the new. I think it has helped a good deal there. You have heard that statement, have you not?
Mr. MASLEN. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. And they have now had it for about 7 years. Mr. MASLEN. I was there in 1935 and had the opportunity to look over some of the private as well as public developments.
The CHAIRMAN. They were the public developments that I looked
Are there any questions by members of the committee?
Senator TAYLOR. I have none.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much.
Mr. MASLEN. And I thank you.
(Thereupon the witness left the committee table.)