Page images
PDF
EPUB

STATEMENT OF PHILIP SCHIFF BEFORE THE HOUSE BANKING AND CURRENCY

COMMITTEE, APRIL 28, 1949 Mr. Chairman, I am appearing on behalf of the American Association of Social Workers, National Association of Jewish Center Workers, and the American Association of Group Workers, whose membership comprises approximately 15,000 social workers throughout the Nation. In particular, the American Associ ation of Social Workers has appeared before the Senate and House Banking and Currency Committees for the past 5 years, urging upon them speedy action in connection with the country's critical housing program.

The membership of these three organizations is drawn from the fields of public and private welfare-case workers, group workers, medical social workers and psychiatric social workers, community organization workers, and settlement workers-thousands of them-located in various parts of the Nation. They have seen and reported through their chapters and to their annual conferences the devastating social effect of poor housing upon our citizenry.

I don't pretend to be an expert on housing matters as they relate to the technical aspects of the bill. Others much more technically equipped than I will cover these aspects of the program.

I am here to set forth on behalf of the outstanding national groups of social workers throughout the Nation, their concern for and with the need for a publichousing program. Their concern is for that part of our people who, unfortunately, cannot help themselves, because of the nature of our complex society, to obtain decent housing conditions and who look to their Government for such aid. It would require all the amphitheaters, stadiums, indoor auditoriums, and so forth, multiplied many times over to accommodate the millions who would line up before you testifying as to their housing needs, if they were in a position to pay their way here and could afford to stay away from their jobs. These millions of Americans have been for too long a period the forgotten slumdwellers, ever-patient but steadfast in their faith as Americans that some day they and their children would be remembered by their Government and brought out of literal darkness into a bit of life's sunshine.

To the social workers, perhaps above everyone else, the need for a declaration of national housing policy as set forth in section 2 of H. R. 4009 is of paramount social importance. For they see daily, hour by hour, the social impact of poor housing. Let us look at the figures of the Bureau of the Census as of April 1947, which tell the story of the 6,100,000 nonfarm houses which do not meet the minimum standards for adequate housing and that in the farm areas about 1,500,000 houses require major repairs. This does not take into consideration the almost primitive conditions of the millions of homes which do not have running water or inside toilet facilities. We see in these figures more than inere statistics put down on paper. Our professional workers have dealt with a goodly percentage of these figures at first-hand and have written them down in terms of actual case histories. We have seen rising out of the case folders, stories of broken homes, juvenile delinquency, and unnecessary death. These cold figures have been the subject of some rather warm debates and indignation at the lack of action by our Government in dealing with the terrible urgency of the problem.

Pictures of the recent senatorial trip into the slum areas of Washington can be repeated over and over again throughout the Nation. Our social-service workers have gone into the back alleys of slum areas and dealt with human misery at its source. We have gone into the subbasements and experienced sights of human degradation. The "dignity of the human being” doesn't have much meaning when we observe the crowded, doubling and tripling up of American families. We have witnessed directly the debilitating effects of slums as we came in contact with the young manhood in our slums who constituted a higher proportion of rejectees by the draft boards than other parts of our population.

May' I quote from the experience of Leah H. Lachenbruch, of Washington, who is the representative of the American Association of Social Workers on the legislative council of the District of Columbia : "The need for more public housing in Washington is brought home every day to practicing social workers who must visit the underprivileged for one reason or another. Thousands of persons in Washington whose eligibility for public housing has been proven are living in wretched dwellings unfit for even animal habitation, with no modern convenience, the rooms of which, in many cases, have been partitioned with cardboard to absorb more tenants. It is not at all unusual to see a family of seven occupying one room or even one bed. In addition to the 18,000 families who have already been approved for NCHA dwellings, thousands more live in 44,000 dwellings equally substandard, but have not even applied for Government housing because they have heard it is hopeless. But one does not need to be a social worker to see these places. In the shadow of this Capitol, in fact, almost around the corner, are some of the worst slums in the city."

Our visits to hospitals and other institutions have graphically proven to us that part of their overcrowding is due to the fact that they must continue to care for patients who would ordinarily be discharged if there were a decent home to which they could return. We can, I believe, substantiate our case that higher municipal, State, and Federal taxes are directly related to excessive costs for sanitation, police, fire, penal, hospital, child-welfare, and mental institutions due to overcrowded slum areas.

It was said during the Senate debate on S. 1070, by one of the opponents of public housing, that it wasn't fair to tax a large segment of the American community for the benefit of a comparatively small part of our citizenry. This is the argument which is often heard in smearing the proponents of public housing with the brush of socialism. And yet we have seen Congress after Congress support to the tune of billions of dollars annually, public roads, air lines, merchant shipping, GI loans and contributions for housing and education, and through FHA, the realestate industry in this country. With it all, the American system of free enterprise still exists. And nothing will prolong its existence on a more substantial basis than a Nation which houses its people in decency and minimum physical comfort.

Surely this great Nation of ours can do a better job of social planning in housing for its present and future citizens who will have to contend with great national and international problems in a world torn asunder by conflicting ideologies. Surely, as a Nation we can help bring the blessings of health and longer life and better community living through a well-integrated housing program which would help meet the housing needs of millions of low-income American families.

I'm sure there is no need to burden you with tables, graphs, and charts concerning the effects of poor housing upon our people. The committee's records are full of them. However, the chart of rising disappointment and indignation is one which is constantly on the increase and is constantly being pushed up by all segments of the population which we serve. Furthermore, we are somewhat frightened by additional figures of the Bureau of the Census which indicate that 7,000,000 more nonfarm families will require housing by 1960 over and above the 6,000,000 already indicated in April 1947, and that an additional 2 to 3 million farm houses will have to be built by 1960 over and above the 1947 figure.

As professional organizations concerned with social-welfare programs we affirm in a most positive manner the declaration of policy of H. R. 4009 which calls for the realization of decent and proper housing for every American family. Our immediate concern, however, is for the passage of H. R. 4009, particularly as it relates to the public-housing features as set forth in title II. We are fulls cognizant of the fact that this feature has been the source of considerable debate and argument since 1937. However, the time for further procrastination is past and immediate action is required.

There is one section in title II which ought to be dispensed with. I refer to the 20-percent gap division. This makes it almost impossible for a segment of our population, particularly of the low-middle income group which cannot afford to purchase a home and yet would not be in a position to qualify for low-rent housing, to obtain decent dwellings.

May I say a word, too, concerning the need for direct loan aids to promote home building for those in the low-income brackets who would not be eligible for low-rent housing and who are not in a financial situation whereby they can purchase homes without some form of Government aid, in the form of low interest rates. Occupancy would be open to those who come within well-defined income levels.

Gentlemen, this Congress has an opportunity-a glorious opportunity--to make history. By providing the minimum of 1.050,000 dwellings over the next 7 years, you will bring millions of Americans in the lowest rungs of the economic ladder the kind of happiness and joyful living which exceeds the bounds of one's imagination. If I may be pardoned with the personal reference, I am fully aware of what I say. I was one of those who was born in a slum tenement on the lower East Side of New York City. I encountered first as a slum dweller, and later as a social worker in the same area, all of the evils of slums. I could tell you of my experiences by the hundreds-with the people with whom I lived and worked

of crime and the electric chair, divorce, sexual promiscuity, lasciviousness, dirt and filth, infant mortality. I'm certain that millions, like myself, could tell similar stories.

While we are concerned with the ramifications of the financial program involved in H. R. 4009, we are of the firm belief that it is well within the economic capacity of this Nation to adopt such a program. From the moral and social stand-point we fail to understand how anyone can find sufficient reason to object to providing decent homes for our Americah families. I can't believe that we, in this great country, have succumbed to what our critics abroad have been saying about us that we are a nation steeped in a materialistic culture without any regard for the souls of men.

You and I know that never before has this world witnessed such a struggle for the minds of men. Whether we like it or not, the fact remains that great portions of the world's surface have already succumbed to ideologies which are foreign to our nature and our way of life. As social-welfare people we struggle daily with those conditions which breed and spew forth nazism and communism. Our defense against such inroads will never succeed unless we build our fortifications around a citizenry which can rear its children under conditions of good, normal, healthy living. And housing is the furthermost outpost in this line of battle. The victorious dividends which will accrue to us will far outweigh any financial advances we may make under this program.

Generally speaking, 40 years in the life of a nation is a relatively short period of time in which to measure the civilized status of its people. But a 40-year housing investment by government in the welfare of its people will mean generations of progress which will to a large extent set the tone of our future way of life. As welfare workers, I believe we have a deep insight into human needs. We are saying to you, today, that these needs on the part of millions of your and our American brethren cry out for solution. These are days when men's souls are searched and challenged. We try our level best, on a day-to-day basis, to meet these needs through amelioration of one kind or another. But you have it in your power to provide the moral and financial sinews on a permanent basis to lighten the mental and physical loads of millions of our people.

For these and other reasons we would urge you to keep the public-housing figure at the 1,000,000 minimum. Furthermore, because of the failure of private industry to provide decent housing facilities for the one-third of our Nation which is ill-housed and because we have seen building materials going into the higherpriced homes at an ever-increasing pace as well as into bars and race tracks, we feel it is incumbent upon the committee and the Congress to give preference to the building of low-rent dwellings and homes. We are fully in accord with the declaration of policy as set forth in H. R. 4009 that private enterprise shall be encouraged to serve as large a part of the total need as it can. However, study after study has shown that private enterprise simply cannot meet the need of low-rent housing for the lowest economic groupings and that Government, therefore, must step in and help do this job.

It is our earnest hope and desire that this great housing emergency will bring forth a housing bill which in its final form will retain the essence of bipartisanship around which the public-interest groups of the Nation can rally.

STATEMENT ON THE NEED FOR PUBLIC HOUSING IN BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL

FEDERATION OF SETTLEMENTS BY John McDowELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Pursuant to action taken by the annual delegate meeting of the national federation in September 1947 and in April 1948, I respectfully submit the following statement.

During the past 2 years workers in 60 settlements and neighborhood houses in 29 cities have interviewed hundreds of people living in the areas they serve concerning their housing situation. Except for those living in public-housing developments, the stories reveal a critical need for much more low-rent public housing for the lower-income families, both of veterans and nonveterans.

Seen against the American dream of a decent living standard for all its people, stories brought to light by our survey show a tragic inability of parents to find safe and sanitary dwelling places for themselves and their children. This inability is not due in most cases to lack of employment, but to the great gap between the amount of housing at rents they could afford to pay and the need for it.

Settlement- and neighborhood-house workers are primarily concerned with fam. ily and neighborhood life. Children of various ages crowded together with adults

into rooms that make privacy impossible and space for childhood activity nonexistent are not likely to grow into the kind of happy people and democratic citizens we are seeking. The children we know who are being deprived of the kind of home they need will never have an opportunity to recapture the childhood experiences they have lost. We urge that the children now being born be given a better chance for a wholesome childhood in decent surroundings.

Many neighborhoods served by our affiliate houses are made up at least partly of people of the lower middle income group. Many such families have saved from their meager earnings in order to have a home of their own. So far most of them have been unable to secure them because of the inflated prices due to the housing shortage and because FHA insurance aids were not sufficiently liberal. Some of these families would be content to rent but apartments are not available at rents they can afford to pay, even though that amount is higher than is paid by tenants in public-housing developments. We urge that the needs of this group be consid. ered in new housing legislation.

Settlement workers know the devastating effects of slum conditions on individual and family life from over 60 years of experience. The eagerness to see those conditions removed through slum clearance and redevelopment is only heightened by the benefits we have seen come to all too few of our neighbors through public housing. I shall never forget the look on the face of a mother whose family and belongings I helped to move from three crowded rooms for a family of seven—to an apartment in a low-rent public-housing development. She said, “I never thought I'd get to live in a new house." She soon found that her husband's meager earnings as a partly crippled plasterer went further toward feeding her family adequately because, having adequate refrigeration, she could buy more economically. We earnestly desire for more such families an opportunity to escape from slum conditions and respectfully urge that slum clearance be provided for in new housing legislation.

We cannot say too emphatically how important to American families we think is the passage of legislation providing for a minimum of 1,000,000 low-rent public-housing units during the next 5 years, for Federal aid to lower-middle income families through the liberalization of FHA insurance aids, for capital grants and loans to local communities for slum clearance and redevelopment of blighted areas, and for research aimed at reducing costs and speeding the building of housing units.

The CHAIRMAN. That concludes the testimony for this morning. The House will be in session and the members will want to be present. We will reconvene at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

(Whereupon, at 11:30 a. m., the committee recessed, to reconvene on Monday, May 2, 1949, at 10 a. m.)

HOUSING ACT OF 1949

MONDAY, MAY 2, 1949

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON BANKING AND CURRENCY,

Washington, D.C. The committee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10 a. m., the Honorable Brent Spence (chairman) presiding.

Present: Messrs. Spence, Brown, Patman, Monroney, Buchanan, O'Brien, McKinnon, Mitchell, O'Hara, Wolcott, Kunkel, Talle, McMillen, Kilburn, Cole, Hull, and Nicholson.

The CHAIRMAN. The committee will be in order.
We will resume the hearings on H. R. 4009.
Our first witness this morning will Mr. Rodney M. Lockwood.
Mr. Lockwood, identify yourself and proceed.
STATEMENT OF RODNEY M. LOCKWOOD, PRESIDENT OF THE

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF HOME BUILDERS Mr. Lockwood. Gentlemen, my name is Rodney M. Lockwood and I am president of the National Association of Home Builders. I am a builder from Detroit, Mich. I have been engaged in building homes in that city for quite a few years.

The National Association of Home Builders is comprised of a membership of 126 affiliated local builders' organizations in as many cities throughout the country. This membership, with a certain number of builder members in areas where no local home builders organizations exist, totals in excess of 15,000 men. They build by far the largest part of the housing constructed in the urban areas of the country.

We have come before you today as the official spokesman of the majority of the home builders of the Nation to present our recommendations for a constructive national policy on housing and to offer constructive criticism of the policy embodied in, and the provisions of, H. R. 4009.

The position we take on housing legislation is the result of the best thinking of thousands of experienced builders throughout the Nation. Working through their local associations, and particularly through the many standing committees of the national association, the Nation's private home builders' conclusions are the basis of our presentation to yoll.

We call your attention to the fact that, operating in a free economy for the first time in 6 years, this industry produced a million dwelling units in 1948. Incidentally, to give you an idea of what this figure means—this is 500 new houses every working hour during the entire

« PreviousContinue »