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The CHAIRMAN. Our witnesses for next Tuesday, December 4, 1945, will be William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor; Harry C. Bates, chairman, committee on housing, American Federation of Labor; and Boris Shishkin, secretary, committee on housing, American Federation of Labor.
The committee will now recess until 10:30 a. m. next Tuesday, December 4, 1945.
(Thereupon, at 2:55 p. m., Friday, November 30, 1945, the committee recessed until 10:30 a. m., Tuesday, December 4, 1945.)
GENERAL HOUSING ACT OF 1945
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1945
UNITED STATES SENATE,
COMMITTEE ON BANKING AND CURRENCY,
Washington, D. C.
The committee met at 10:30 a. m., pursuant to adjournment on Friday, November 30, 1945, in room 301, Senate Office Building, Senator Robert F. Wagner, chairman, presiding.
Present: Senators Wagner (chairman), Bankhead, Radcliffe, Murdock, Mitchell, and Carville.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order. We have the great privilege of having as our first witness again the distinguished president of the American Federation of Labor, whom we have heard very frequently and always with credit, too.
Will you proceed, Mr. Green?
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM GREEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN
Mr. GREEN. Thank you, Senator Wagner.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, the American Federation of Labor is grateful for the opportunity to place before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee its views in support of S. 1592.
The general housing bill is indispensable to the assurance of full employment after the war. Housing lies at the core of our whole economy. Housing provides the very foundation for our standard. of living. No matter what is done, if we fail to launch a comprehensive attack on postwar housing, an attack against a repetition of past failures, an attack toward a clearly stated objective of assuring a decent home for every family, we cannot escape large-scale unemployment, we cannot avoid another destructive and disastrous depression. This objective of developing a housing program which would enable the home construction industry to make its full contribution toward an economy of full production and full employment is written into this bill and is an essential part of its policy. Yet, even entirely apart from this objective, there is an obligation upon Congress to find at last the long-delayed solution to America's housing problem, the problem of the desperate housing shortage which can and must be met. S. 1592 offers a solution which is sound, workable, and thoroughly consistent with every principle of American enterprise in a competitive economy.
History has given the American people the unique opportunity, the opportunity created by the war, of launching a program which is
truly comprehensive and which would enable all elements of industry and of the community to make a fresh start and work in concert toward a common goal. It is a consolidated program, which for the first time brings in the field of American housing unity of purpose and method.
Lack of good housing for a major portion of the American people is not a new problem. It has long been a chronic problem. For decades and generations millions of American families-families of wage earners of low incomes and moderate incomes-were forced to live in homes that were substandard. A large portion of our housing has consistently failed to meet the minimum standard for decent shelter, has lacked the most elementary sanitary facilities, and has lacked space and equipment essential for healthy living.
War has brought this problem to a head. The housing crisis is upon us. Servicemen are returning from overseas. Every week 50,000 or more veterans come back to their homeland. Our fighters returning to civilian life are home seekers. Most of them, when they reach their home town, find that there is no home for them. Reports from every American city show that the housing shortage has already become desperate. The available housing facilities are bursting at their seams. From hundreds of communities from coast to coast come reports of veterans sleeping on cots in hallways, of veterans sleeping on floors, and even putting up tents in parks and on vacant lots until living accommodations can be found for them.
The rate of demobilization is accelerating. In addition to the veterans returning from overseas, millions more are being released from military camps and establishments within our own land. It is reported that 1,500,000 servicemen are newly married. These new families are insistent on their right to start a new home in livable quarters. A further estimate shows that a million and a half more veterans expect to marry within a year. Thus at least 3,000,000 families of veterans will be in immediate need of adequate housing accommodations.
To men who endured hardships of war, who spent months in the stifling heat and tropical rains of the jungle, who slept in the frozen foxholes in Belgium, a good home is the most desired, most precious. thing of all. A good, clean, warm, and comfortable home has been the dream of most soldiers during their years of sordid fighting, privation, and sacrifice. A good American home has become a symbol of what Americans have fought for and what they have won. To provide that good home is one promise which America must not fail to fulfill.
It is for Congress to decide now upon its answer to the servicemen. Is it prepared to tell the returning servicemen that his inability to live in a good home is none of Congress' business and none of the business of us for whom they fought? Is that the answer to 3,000,000 veterans who are in immediate need of establishing new homes and setting up new families? Will Congress give this answer to over 6,000,000 of the 12,000,000 veterans who will be in dire need of housing within a year? Labor is confident that this will not be the answer Congress will give to the veteran soldiers and sailors who fought this war.
Nor will labor accept any temporary or makeshift program for the provision of housing to meet the immediate emergency as the real answer to the veterans' demand for permanent homes. Stopgap hous
ing must be provided at once on a temporary basis to relieve the immediate pressure for dwelling accommodations. But let me impress upon this committee that the real solution is the long-term solution, that it is the bold and comprehensive solution which S. 1592 provides. Housing will continue to be a perennial and permanent problem for the families of veterans, for their children, for those for whom they fought-housing which is not makeshift, but durable, livable, and within the reach of the incomes these families will earn.
The need to answer the veterans' demand for postwar housing is urgent and pressing. Let us make quick provision of needed temporary housing for the veteran. But let us not fall into the error of stopping at a temporary solution for what is patently a permanent problem. As servicemen become civilians they share in the need for housing with all other civilians. The homes they need are not for themselves alone but also for their families, relatives, and dependents. The homes they now ask for are homes which are adequate to serve them over many years. They are homes which should be good enough. to bring up their children in.
This demand for a large-scale long-range housing program isAmerica's order of the day. Let us not fulfill that order by stopgap measures alone. Let us not respond to the emergency of today by adding new slums to our cities and sowing the seeds of another emergency for tomorrow. If we answer the present emergency with a quick partial solution of temporary shelter alone, we shall forever foreclose the opportunity which is ours today of building a better America. We shall fail not only in our trust to the servicemen but also in our responsibility for the future of all Americans.
This is the time for action, and it is also the time for planning. Long-range planning which fits squarely the pattern of the demo-cratic process and the structure of competitive enterprise is woven. into the very fabric of the Wagner-Ellender-Taft bill. The pattern of this bill is made of the elements of private initiative, local selfreliance, and the democratic assertion of the community responsibility for the welfare of all. It provides a truly American method to deal effectively with the foremost problem of America's future.
The Wagner-Ellender-Taft bill would achieve this purpose by establishing for the first time the housing objectives on which all Americans are bound to agree and by stating clearly the policy for the attainment of these objectives. The bill gives encouragement to private enterprise to serve as large a part of the total housing need as it possible can. It provides for a system of aids to private enterprise which would enable it to serve more of the total need. It makes provision for Government aid to local communities to enable them, through their own local housing authorities, to clear slums and to provide adequate housing for families of low income whose needs have not been met and cannot be currently met through reliance on privateenterprise alone. It provides for the unification and consolidation of the various activities of the Federal Government in housing and related community development in order to promote efficiency and economy in government and to make possible a concerted drive toward a common goal.
Let me place special emphasis on some of the most vital provisions of S. 1592. Labor is especially concerned in the enactment of