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Simultaneously, they will launch a campaign of psychological warfare to convince the Congress and the people that those who support a public housing program are dedicated to the belief that the Government owes them housing at half price. And on a third front, they will repeat that public housing is a socialistic concept, a cunning plot by a coalition of radicals devoted to the doctrine of planned economy, who have twisted the facts surrounding the actual housing situation.
I respectfully ask the members of this committee to examine briefly this coming three-pronged attack on the public interest.
The loudest prophecies of the imminent death of incentives have emanated from builders of homes and rental units designed for the pocketbooks of people who would not be in the market for the kinds of dwellings contemplated by public housing legislation. These early mourners, thrown into a shudder whenever a potential purchaser flinches from exorbitant or unreasonable prices, have thus far found it profitable to avoid investment in public education material that would apprise their readers that one of the fundamental concerns of the authors of H. R. 4009 was to establish a program that would carefully avoid impairment of private building interests. Nothing in this bill, as it now stands, can divert fair profits from builders and realtors who are now building, selling, and renting homes and apartments to those who can afford to pay the prices asked. The real estate pages of the Nation's press prove beyond any doubt that ample incentives have existed since the end of World War II, and that they continue to exist now. If private builders are to be shorn of incentives for new construction, H. R. 4009 is not the instrument that will do the shearing. Rather, the shears will be wielded by a willful, destructive few who confuse private enterprise with special privilege.
Examining "operation smear” of this grand offensive, the distortion that H. R. 4009 is designed to satisfy the mythical element of the population that is alleged to want housing at half price, examination of the voluminous library published by the National Association of Real Estate Boards and all its associates fails to reveal so much as one reference to the fact that this bill does not propose a Federal construction program. On the contrary, the realtors' literature contains a myriad of assertions that under this bill the Government will make reckless and wholesale gifts, in the form of subsidies, directly to the people. In the hands of these gentlemen, facts are certainly not stubborn things.
But it is the third and major argument of the bitterest opponents of this bill that is of particular concern to the American veteran. Gentlemen, we of the Jewish War Veterans have expressed our ardent support of such national policies as the European recovery program and the proposed North Atlantic Pact. We were prompt to voice that support because, as veterans, we are perhaps more sensitive to the needs of our Nation's security than the average nonveteran. It requires an unusual degree of astigmatism not to recognize that we are engaged today in a conflict of ideals and principles on a scale at least as huge as the war we finished fighting less than 4 years ago.
Because our Government and all our people provided us with the means, we are able to make our proper contribution to the security and welfare of our country. We veterans know today that we have no less an obligation to maintain our country's liberty and stability in peace
than we had in war. The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, and every other American veterans' organization, is conscious that the “hot” war of 4 years ago has been supplanted by a “cold” war, and that this cold war must be fought with ideas and principles. In this conflict, we of the Jewish War Veterans are convinced that progressive social legislation of the type of H. R. 4009 can be as important to our country's security as the North Atlantic Pact and the European recovery program. For if we cannot show in a time of social crisis that our Government is responsive to the basic human needs of its citizens, then we shall have suffered a major defeat on the field of ideological combat. We shall have permitted to go unrefuted the angry lies of those who slander us in the arena of world opinion and we shall have encouraged the sinister handful within our gates who can only thrive on the frustration and despair that comes with the denial of so basic a human necessity as adequate shelter.
Gentlemen, it is a rare veteran indeed who can recall that any such device as socialistic planning was employed in war to induce him to give his maximum effort for the safety of our country and the preservation of its liberties. It is, therefore, something less than heartening for a veteran to be told today that he is giving in to radical political doctrine when he welcomes the introduction of a bill such as H. R. 4009 as a measure calculated to reaffirm the devotion of this free Government to the welfare of its free citizens. I do not have available the precise figures of how many veterans—and, for that matter, nonveterans, as well—who are living in substandard dwellings or in rooms or apartments inadequate to hold the number of persons that now inhabit them. But if all these Americans who now wait with anxiety for enactment of H. R. 4009 have taken on the political coloration ascribed to them by the literary efforts of the real-estate lobby, then the funds applied to blocking passage of housing legislation have been misspent. They might better have been expended on bolstering the country's internal security machinery.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there any questions?
Mr. MITCHELL. Do you have any specific information with regard to the dollar limitation?
Mr. ARONSON. The $2,600, sir.
Mr. MITCHELL. You say in your statement that the very type of provision was basically responsible years ago for the failure of housing construction projects.
Mr. ARONSON. Yes; in 1937 we had that sad experience, where projects were approved, and due to a slight raise in the costs of construction at the time we could not go ahead with that construction, sir.
Mr. MITCHELL. How many projects were there?
Mr. Aronson. I only know of seven or eight that were approved in the northeastern part of the United States.
Mr. MITCHELL. Those were projects you knew of specifically, yourself?
Mr. ARONSON. Yes; and construction could not go ahead because the dollar-cost limitation had gone just beyond the authorization.
Mr. MITCHELL. And they were all ready to go except for that one factor?
Mr. ARONSON. Yes, sir.
Mr. WOLCOTT. Are you conscious of the act which we passed last year to remedy that situation? Mr. ARONSON. No, sir; not offhand.
Mr. WOLCOTT. Have any of them gone ahead since we passed the act last year removing that limitation and authorizing the localities to supplement the act by paying the difference between actual construction cost and the limitation in the bill?
Mr. ARONSON. I do not think so, Mr. Wolcott. As a matter of fact, I know of none.
The CHAIRMAN. If there are no other questions, you may stand aside, Mr. Aronson. We are very glad to have your views.
(The statement of Bernard Weitzer, national legislative representative, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, referred to by Mr. Aronson, is as follows:)
TESTIMONY OF BERNARD WEITZER, NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE REPRESENTATIVE, JEWISH
WAR VETERANS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Mr. Chairman and members, I am grateful for the privilege of presenting to you our viewpoint on the housing problem and H. R. 4009 which you are considering as a step toward the solution of that problem.
I understand that your committee will have the testimony presented to the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency before which I testified. At that time I explained that at its fifty-third annual encampment, September 15-19, 1948, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America approved in substance, the provisions of the measure you have before you and authorized its national executive committee and policy committee to take the necessary action to support legislation which will help to meet the housing problem effectively and promptly. In line with that mandate and under instructions of our policy committee, I am here, today, to support essentially the passage of H. R. 4009 and to plead that your committee will consider, as soon as possible, thereafter, further legislative helps to the solution of the housing problem.
I shall not ply you with statistics nor attempt to deal with the bill in detail. That has already been done by the oflicials of the Housing and Home Finance Agency and will probably be done by others.
However, at our encampment, men from all parts of the country spoke of the continuing shortage of housing for the veterans of average and below average incomes and that, of course, applies to all our citizens.
More up-to-date evidence appeared in the Washington Post of April 10, 1949, and the Star of April 9, 1949, in articles by their respective real-estate editors containing comments from the local FHA director, the president of the Home Builders Association and a large contractor. Out of some 10,000 projected dwelling units for which FHA insurance has been approved, half will rent for a minimum of $60 to $72 per month for one- and two-bedroom units. On that basis a family with an income of $3,500 with two children will have a mighty tight financial squeeze and similar families with incomes less than $33,500 just cannot afford that minimum-price housing.
Washington building costs are probably higher than in many parts of the country but so are the incomes. The building now going on represents, I suppose, the best judgment of the builders as to where a profit is to be made and unless they make a profit, they cannot stay in business. But that leaves probably half or more families without a chance at new housing and old housing is filled up.
Of this half, a substantial number are living in slums and many others in housing which is way below any standard which would be considered acceptable. Furthermore, the amount of rent many such families can pay is so far below what would justify private business investment, that low rent subsidized public housing furnishes their only possibility of decent housing. That is why we are supporting H. R. 4009.
Eradication of slums and clean, decent housing to live in, will be a substantial contribution toward clearing up the environment which now produces such a disproportionate part of the crime, disease, and unfit citizens which sap our national strength, our finances, and our manpower resources. Your committee is rightly concerned with the costs which H. R. 4009 involves. But such costs will produce results in decency and citizenship of which we will rightly be proud. The costs of slums and squalid housing are even greater and their product is shame, which we prefer not to mention.
Mr. Foley cited a city where per capita revenues from an area of good housing exceed public expenditures in that area by $108, whereas for a slum area, expenditures exceed revenue by $88. If we figure that these 1,050,000 public housing units provided in H. R. 4009 will house some 4,500,000 people and those per capita revenues and expenditures in the slum area go just half way toward those in the good housing areas the total annual expenditures contemplated in H. R. 4009 will be more than offset. That would seem to be sound practical economyeliminating a huge financial burden which produces nothing but grief and creating a physical environment which results in sound, healthy citizens who will add to, rather than diminish our resources.
Similar reasoning applies to the titles dealing with farm housing and research.
Our organization would like to see the veterans preferences in the bill written without the 5-year limitation.
I urge that your committee proceed as expeditiously as possible to report and press for the enactment of H. R. 4009 by the House.
I wish to emphasize briefly the need for legislation, after you have disposed of H. R. 4009, along the lines of title V of H. R. 1973, introduced by Representative Javits and the bill S. 724. Through such legislation, hundreds of thousands of families which do not need subsidized low rent housing and can pay their own way would be able to secure decent housing at a price they can afford. Longer amortization periods on the loans, lower interest rates, direct loans and cooperatives would make this possible. As the articles I referred to in the Star and the Post indicate these families whose incomes run from about $10 to $65 per week are not being provided for adequately in current building activities,
The veterans are very numerous in these income brackets and below. Large numbers of them have married recently. They have started families. They need homes where they can raise those families. Of course millions of our citizens are in the same general category but veterans are of the age group in which starting a family is normal and millions of veterans are getting fairly adjusted to civilian home life. Consequently, the veteran is especially aware of the need for housing for rent or purchase at a price that is economically sound for him.
Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Shufelt and Mr. Carlisle represent the Paralyzed War Veterans of America.
Identify yourselves and proceed, gentlemen.
Mr. SHUFELT. We have no prepared statement. I would like Mr. Carlisle to make his statement first.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Carlisle.
STATEMENTS OF BERNARD E. SHUFELT, PRESIDENT, PARALYZED
WAR VETERANS OF AMERICA; AND RUSSELL A. CARLISLE, A PATIENT AT MCGUIRE HOSPITAL, RICHMOND, VA.
Mr. Carlisle. My name is Russell A. Carlisle. I am a patient at McGuire's. Due to the fact that I have to get about in a wheelchair, my interest in coming here today is to ask that some consideration be given those people who are condemned to live the rest of their life in a wheelchair, in the construction of this housing under question, so as to enable them to get about in it and live in it, because the present-day home is entirely inadequate. There is not a great difference in costs.
It is just a difference in construction. This would permit myself and hundreds of others who are now in veterans' hospitals, who would be able to go home and probably supplement their very low income in some manner by working, to do so, provided they could live with their families.
I live in Norfolk and I go down to the apartment where I lived for years, and I stay there 2 or 3 days, but it is impractical for me to live there. Now, I have to find some place where I can live with my wife, on a very low income.
The adaptation of these units, if they are constructed, would only require such things as wider doors, a larger bathroom, and ramps in place of steps. But it seems to me that a house that is built for habitation by normal people cannot be used by paraplegics. And, of course, there are thousands of them in the country, veterans and otherwise, and there will be more, the doctors say.
Mr. COLE. Would it be your idea that a certain number of units in cach public housing program be so adapted, or what is your specific recommendation?
Mr. Carlisle. That would be it. There would be an allocation in each unit, where certain units on the lower floors would have the required modifications. That would solve the problem.
Mr. COLE. Do you think that should be in the legislation?
Mr. Carlisle. I think so. You say “adequate" housing. The word “adequate” would go a long way for normal people, but as soon as you get in a wheel chair, it is inadequate.
The CHAIRMAN. I am sure the Congress will give consideration to your request, Mr. Carlisle.
Mr. CARLISLE. We will appreciate it very much.
Mr. SHUFELT. My name is Bernard E. Shufelt. I am president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
I would like to state first that our organization is very much in favor of this bill, H. R. 4009, or any bill that contains the general basic provisions contained in this bill.
appeared before the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency, subcommittee headed by Senator Sparkman, and proposed an amendment to the bill asking as follows:
As used in this subsection, the term "wheel-chair case” means a person who is permanently disabled due to disease or injury which necessitates the use of a wheel chair for the greater portion of each day.
2. Every contract made pursuant to this act for annual contributions for lowrent-housing project initiated after March 1, 1949, shall provide that in no annual contributions by the Authority shall be made available for such project unless such number of suitable dwellings, together with special features and movable facilities made necessary by the nature of the disability as may be prescribed by the Authority will be provided in the project for wheel-chair casesand so on.
We discussed with that committee having a definite ratio set up. The committee declined to put any provision in the act, and I think justly so.
However, I have a letter here from Senator Sparkman that I would like to read into the record. It is addressed to Mr. Bernard E. Shufelt, president, Paralyzed Veterans of America.