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The irrigation districts are densely populated, but then there will be wide areas where there is practically no population at all.
When you limit the radius to 50 miles you are putting out of business a good many of our building and loan associations because they cannot operate in an area supported by the business they will have in the small areas covered in this bill.
These telegrams which I have here and would like to submit to the committee outline the situation.
Here is one, for instance, from our United States marshal who was for many years in the real estate business, and who has very close contact also with the building and loan business in our State.
COEUR D'ALENE, IDAHO, May 25, 1934. COMPTON I. WHITE,
Representative in Congress, Washington, D.O.: Regarding Senate bill 3603, title 3, section 306, paragraph C, limiting activity 50-mile radius building and loan associations under housing act, it would be to best interest people in Idaho to have stricken and provide that all members Home Loan Bank be eligible.
GEORGE A. MEFFAN. I will submit these other telegrams to the committee for the record. (The telegrams referred to are as follows :)
WALLACE, IDAHO, June 1, 1934. Hon. COMPTON, I. WHITE,
House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.: This association, on behalf of its hundreds of members, is opposed to several phases of House bill 9620, National Housing Act, particularly title 2, as well as other items as indicated by communication sent you by Idaho Building & Loan League. The enactment of the foregoing bill as introduced would, in our opinion, eventually ruin the original home thrift institutions, such as ours, and approximately 11,000 others in the United States holding the savings of 10,000,000 of our people in the aggregate sum of approximately $8,000,000,000. We are in full accord with bill, H.R. 9750, by Duffey, which is not in opposition to the original proposal but is an attempt to carry out the broad objectives urged upon Congress by the President. Would appreciate your support of the Duffey bill.
STATE BUILDING & LOAN ASSOCIATION, INC.,
G. A. MORTIMER,
for Idaho Building and Loan Associations.
LEWISTON, IDAHO, May 25, 1934. Hon. COMPTON I. WHITE, M.C.,
Washington, D.C. Paragraph C of section 306 of title 3 of Senate bill 3603 prevents many good loan associations in Idaho and throughout Northwest from participating in share insurance because of 50-mile limit. Small towns and scattered population requires larger field of operation in order to serve many small towns which cannot support a local association. Very strongly urge modification of bill to make all members of Federal Home Loan bank eligible for insurance, thus attracting new funds into existing associations which are in a position to immediately loan them on homes in many communities which would otherwise have no financing facilities. Insurance of shares important to attract new funds for financing of homes, but if operations limited to 50 miles volume of loans would not be sufficient to employ such additional funds.
RAY J. WHITE.
WALLACE, IDAHO, June 1, 1934. Hon. COMPTON I. WHITE,
House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.: Being interested in the local building and loan association I am opposed to title 2 of bill H.R. 9620, National Housing Act, as well as to other phases of bill. Believe such legislation would eventually seriously injure home-financing institutions which have been in existence in the country over a hundred years. I am in favor of Duffy bill, H.R. 9759, which proposes to carry out the objectives of our President. Would appreciate your support of the Duffey bill,
H. J. HULL.
SPOKANE, WASH, June 3, 1934. Representative COMPTON I. WHITE,
Deliver Roosevelt Hotel: The Duffey bill, H.R. 9759, includes provisions of great value to this community and we respectfully urge your aid in passing it before Congress adjourns. It is a big improvement over the former housing bill,
R. A. LINDSAY, Secretary The National Savings and Loan Association. Mr. WHITE. I would also like to present to the committee two proposed amendments.
The CHAIRMAN. We will be very glad to have them.
“SEC. 304 (a). Any member of a Federal home-loan bank shall, subject to the provisions of this title, be eligible to insure its accounts under this title."
That will broaden the scope of the bill and bring under its operation many of the existing home loan bank organizations in our State. If you do not broaden its provisions and take those in it will operate against them and put them out of business.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will be glad to consider the amendment.
Mr. WHITE. I also desire to offer this amendment: On page 29, line 1, before the semicolon, insert a comma and the following: except that it may continue to make loans beyond such territorial limit in any territory which it has heretofore served."
That is, cover the 50-mile radius proposition and to broaden it. It is my understanding that they would like to broaden the scope of the act and let them take in new business, and where they are now having more of the business in certain communities it will permit them to continue.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will be glad to consider your amendment.
Mr. WHITE. I would like to call attention to two things: First, that in my State the business interests of the State are behind this bill. I have received numerous communications in support of the measure, but the people in the building and loan business in my State are favorable to the Duffy bill as being an improvement over this bill. I have here a telegram from Mr. H. J. Hull, which I have already inserted in the record, in which he says he is favorable to the Duffy bill as being probably a more liberal measure and more workable than the bill you have under consideration.
The CHAIRMAN. We thank you for your statement, Mr. White.
STATEMENT OF CHARLES E. BENTLEY, CHEVERLY CIRCLE,
The CHAIRMAN. Give your name to the stenographer and whom you represent.
Mr. BENTLEY. My name is Charles E. Bentley. I appear first as a citizen interested in the home owner, actual and potential. What I may say are my own thoughts and conclusions, uncensored and unsponsored by any organization, economic, social, or political. I shall also represent in a limited way the Home Community Builders National Association, of which I am a vice president and member of the executive committee.
The testimony of those who have appeared and the discriminating questions and discussions of the members of this committee have covered the technical features of this bill so thoroughly that I shall make only brief reference to the technique of the bill, but rather to matters related to the effective operation of any agency for home financing. Opinion is now unanimously in favor of home repairs, renovizing, remodeling, and new-home construction, both as a means of increasing employment and benefiting the home owner. Building operations, more especially home building, was the chief factor in the recovery from the last depression, and, in my opinion, is now essential to national recovery. The determining factor in restoring the home-building industry, as is generally acknowledged, is readily available first-mortgage money in adequate amounts at low rates of interest, both limited as to time and amortized over a period of years, 10 to 15, or better still, 15 to 20. I believe such financing, so far as may be possible, should be divorced from the possibility of exploitation for private gain.
The home, from the standpoint of its owner or occupant, and the viewpoint of normal social welfare, is not an investment and should be financed at the lowest possible cost, as a matter of social welfare. In my opinion, the total cost of home financing need not, even under present conditions, exceed 6 percent annual charge to cover interest, loan expenses, insurance, and amortization, not including taxes, and that such cooperative nonprofit loaning should be readily available for financing owner-occupied homes. It appears to me, after several days of attendance at this hearing, that some modified form of this act, or some similar act, covering this ground is to be enacted at this session. The committee is better qualified to write such a bill than I am to make suggestions. I will, therefore, confine my remarks to a discussion of some of the things which I believe will handicap the operation of any housing bill enacted into law, some of which can be removed and all of which should be taken into account in the framing and in the operation of this bill.
The need of repairs, renovizing, remodeling, and new construction is now generally acknowledged. From the beginning of my active efforts in home financing dating from the first of last December and extending through January and February, I spent practically all of my time delving into the various departments of the Government which have to do with home building in any fashion, and, to my surprise, found in every one of them denial of the need of new-home
construction, a strong emphasis upon slum clearance, and an insistance upon the necessity of first disposing of existing vacant homes before undertaking a new home-building program.
Mr. Brown. Have you any figures showing how many such homes there are fit for habitation ?
Mr. BENTLEY. The Home and Community Builders National Association, with which I am connected, gathered data last December and January and presented it to a hearing held before the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, at which Mr. Newton presided, in which we showed that there was a positive need at that time of not less than a million new homes in the United States, but there is no reliable information as to the habitable unoccupied homes.
Mr. CAVICCHIA. In what part of the country?
There are some exceptions, a few localities which do not need new homes, but most of them do.
It has appeared to me that in the general discussion of the housing problem one important factor has been overlooked. There are 135,000 communities in the United States, large enough to have post offices, of which about 15 to 20 large cities are a problem unto themselves, and about 50 to 75 others which have similar, but lesser problems, leaving about 130,000 communities which I have not heard mentioned in all this hearing.
The CHAIRMAN. We have a great many men, some of them in public life, who think that a post office, a commodious building for postal service, should only be afforded in the larger cities. Congress has turned over the construction program to the departments of the Government that are keeping their hands on it.
Mr. BENTLEY. I mentioned post offices only to indicate that the communities have some size. My private opinion is that any post office should be built as a business matter and the cost limited to the necessities of the case, and that excessive expenditures for post offices should be prohibited.
The CHAIRMAN. I have an old-fashioned idea that the people might decide their policy through their chosen representatives who are responsible to them. That has been my view and I voted that view when Congress surrendered its right in that connection. did not agree to the proposition that it should surrender and I do not now.
Mr. Brown. Are there any considerable number of suitable homes throughout the country vacant now?
Mr. BENTLEY. My observation and study has convinced me that the usual estimate of vacant homes in the greater part of the United States is grossly exaggerated, and that a large percentage of those unoccupied are not decently habitable. The suggestion of first taking care of the vacant homes of the country before building new ones is, in my opinion, ill-advised. I recognize the importance of repairing, remodeling, and modernizing many of them, but the major problem urgently insistent is new-home construction.
Home financing, from the viewpoint of the home owner, should be on a noninvestment basis, and be handled as a matter of public welfare, and there should be no exploitation of home owners in the financing of their homes. I have had some experience in home
finding in the country. The urban and suburban home, as an institution, is divorced from the owner's business. The rural home, as an institution, is both a home and a business. One member of the committee raised the question of the probable success of this legislation for home financing in view of the failure of the Federal farm loan agencies for financing farm homes.
Mr. WILLIAMS. The joint-stock land banks.
Mr. BENTLEY. Yes, the joint-stock land banks. I was interested in rural home finding at the time I opposed that legislation and predicted what would happen to it. In my opinion, the effort to shift the responsibility from the individual citizen to the shoulders of the Government is always a defect in legislation and in the end defeats its purpose.
Mr. CAVICCHIA. Isn't that what the bill aims to do?
Mr. BENTLEY. It looks so to me. As I have listened to the proponents of this legislation, I have been reminded of a comment on prayer once made by a minister who said one listening to the prayers of most people, would have to conclude that the common conception of God is that he is an Almighty crank turner for every man with an ax to grind. The discussion of the proponents of his bill gives me the feeling that Uncle Sam must be an almighty almoner. I do not mean to charge that for I am not making charges; I want simply to speak out of my actual convictions, the product of 20 to 30 years' experience in home finding, and of a study of human welfare as related to home and community life, of community welfare as affected by the status of the home, and national welfare and progress as affected by local community life.
The vital feature of American civilization, in my opinion, is a highly cultivated, localized community, in which the home is carefully protected from exploitation and from excessive costs and from injurious moral influences. Contrary to some philosophies, the individual, in my opinion, is not the unit of society. The home and family is the social unit, and the community, with its interacting agencies is the unit of national life and anything that gets us away from that fundamental concept, whether in home financing or whatnot, is inimical to the real American spirit.
Now, there are some obstacles to the successful handling of the problem this committee is considering. I have enjoyed listening to the discussions, observing the efforts of the committee to find out who devised this bill; why they did it, what they expect to get out of it, and to find the actual purpose of the whole matter.
This banking and currency committee, in my opinion, is one of the most important in the entire Government machinery; and its evident intention to get at the real gist of this bill leads one to speak with assured confidence.
Mr. Brown. Mr. Williams says he is ready to admit the charge for the committee, without any proof.
Mr. BENTLEY. The two things it is proposed to foster by this bill are reemployment, and nothing will hasten that as much as the building of new homes; and financial assistance to the home owner. To these one can appropriately add the protection of the United States Treasury and of the taxpayers.