Page images
PDF
EPUB

(The editorial referred to is as follows:)

[From the Saturday Evening Post, April 30, 1949)

SOME LANDLORDS Don't LOOK LIKE A "REAL-ESTATE LOBBY"

[ocr errors]

Those Midwest landlords who organized a landlords' strike last winter and threatened to evict all their tenants as a protest against rent control were guilty of bad public relations, if nothing more heinous. Everybody jumped on them for a pack of Scrooges, and President Truman finally got into the act and blamed the real-estate people for the housing shortage. Just the same, it did seem queer that people who depended on rent for income should be compelled to give their services at 1939 rates, when everybody else was getting at least 50 percent more.

For others who feel they are not paid enough, the right to strike, even against the public welfare, even against the Nation's life, is held sacred. But landlords enjoy no such immunity. When some of them talked about striking, the leaders of other striking groups bopped them over the head. The pot called the kettle a bloodsucking leech. Moralists are at liberty to debate the question whether it is more heinous to hold up a tenant for more rent or to cut off his coal supply, deprive him of transport, interfere with the delivery of his children's milk, and picket the cemetery to prevent his burial.

Whether the abortive strike had much to do with it or not, there has developed some improvement in understanding of the rent situation. The possibility that the shortage of rental housing might have a relation to rent control was mentioned even by Mrs. Roosevelt, who wrote in her newspaper column that “it is only fair that property owners get a reasonable return on their money invested.

Otherwise the standard of housing will go down and there will be no incentive to building for rental purposes." The truth is, as the notorious "real-estate lobby" has been pointing out, that incentive hasn't been around for some time. Owners of rental property refuse to rerent it when leases expire. To a considerable extent the housing shortage is the child of rent control.

Mr. PROFFITT. Mr. Chairman, if I may, I would like to show you these photographs. Mr. MONRONEY. You

may Mr. NICHOLSON. Are they the same pictures that were presented to us before, Mr. Chairman?

Mr. MONRONEY. No; these pictures were made right here in Washington.

Mr. PROFFITT. The first one I want to show you is a picture of Schott's Alley. I want to indicate to you what happens when you do not enforce

Mr. NICHOLSON. ill you tell us where that is, whether it is northwest or southeast?

Mr. PROFFITT. This is known as Logan Court, between North Capitol Street and First Street, and between L Street and Pierce Street. That is the exact address, and my reason for showing it is to picture for you what happens when you do not enforce sanitary codes and building codes. To my way of thinking, there is no excuse in the world for a condition existing in the city of Washington such as is pictured here. It simply means that you have people throwing garbage at a can, and if it does not hit the can, it just falls out on the street. And as long as you permit that and I do not know who is responsible for that here in the city of Washington—I imagine there is a Commissioner or somebody who should be held responsible for it--you are going to have that condition. And if sanitary codes were enforced, that would be eliminated over night.

Mr. MULTER. Is that picture typical of the Washington slum areas?

do so.

Mr. PROFFITT. I do not know, but this is certainly a typical slum area. My purpose in showing you that picture is to indicate what does happen when you do not enforce the sanitary codes you have.

Back of this superstructure here-and I do not know why that is up there. It would seem the building codes of the District could eliminate that-but back of this brick construction which you see here, there is brick construction similar to that shown in this next photograph.

Right behind that you can see the Senate Office Building, and yet you have this situation.

Mr. MITCHELL. What is that-is that a building?
Mr. PROFFITT. Yes, sir.
Mr. MULTER. Are people living there?
Mr. PROFFITT. Yes, sir.

Now, here is one very close to this same building, and if you will note, the cornice and everything is exactly the same constructionbut there is one which has been improved, with very little cost.

Mr. MONRONEY. How much per unit?

Mr. PROFFITT. I do not have that figure, sir. I will be glad to get the information for the committee.

Mr. NICHOLSON. It is just painted, is it not?

Mr. PROFFITT. It has been a little further renovated, the interiors have been gone over:

Mr. NICHOLSON. You cannot see the interior.

Mr. PROFFITT. There has been more than a paint job done there, but the point I am trying to make here is why tear that down and move these tenants out into expensive public housing when, with a great deal less cost, you can produce a perfectly sanitary dwelling?

Mr. MULTER. What are the sanitary facilities in those buildings?
Mr. PROFFITT. They have inside sanitary facilties.
Mr. MULTER. Cold water? No hot water facilities?

Mr. PROFFITT. I do not know whether they have hot and cold water, sir. But the point I would like to make is that when you build public housing-you say you want to build public housing for the low-income group of people, and that would mean the people living in here. But that will not help. When you build public housing, these people stay there and the slums stay there. You do not eliminate slums. And these people remain right there. But if you produce a livable unit out of it, the tenants remain there.

Mr. MONRONEY. Are those white houses rented to the former slum dwellers?

Mr. PROFFITT. The tenants that are living in these slum dwellings, Mr. Chairman, would remain.' And I would like to point this out to you

Mr. MITCHELL. Before you get away from that, what is the difference in the rent?

Mr. PROFFITT. That is what I want to come to. Under the Baltimore plan, when the city officials enforced these sanitary building codes and produced an improved dwelling such as shown in this photograph, then, the city officials assist the owners of these properties to increase their rent to a point where they will get a fair rent, but not exorbitant rent.

Further than that, the Baltimore plan has accomplished this: they eliminate the slums, and after they have eliminated all the superstructures, wooden fences, and everything, through enforcement of the codes, they have a vacant area, and they have been able to get civic clubs to provide playgrounds for children, and the same tenants who live in those places remain there. They do not move out. They remain there.

Mr. MULTER. Coming back to Mr. Monroney's question, can you supply us with the rentals before and after the improvements? Mr. PROFFITT. I will be glad to supply them. (The information referred to has not been submitted.) Mr. O'HARA. I do not see any difference in those two pictures except a little white paint on one of the buildings. Is there anything back of those walls?

Mr. PROFFITT. I do not have pictures of the interiors.

Mr. O'HARA. How does that white paint make the place more livable?

Mr. PROFFITT. Well, Mr. O'Hara, if you will take a close look at this picture, you can see that there has been more done to the building than just putting some white paint on it. The woodwork has been fixed.

Mr. O'HARA. All I see is the shell, the outside of a building. How does that prove anything?

Mr. PROFFITT. I will be very glad to get the figures to indicate what has been done in transforming one into the other.

Mr. O'HARA. That is what I would be interested in, where the people live.

Mr. PROFFITT. I will be glad to get it for you.
Mr. MONRONEY. Have the sanitary facilities been improved ?

Mr. NICHOLSON. It makes you feel better to walk in one kind of a door rather than the other.

Mr. MITCHELL. If they can afford to do it.

Mr. PROFFITT. I live in Baltimore and I have seen that right on the ground and they do go inside the buildings and improve them inside as well as outside, and inside there has been a comparable improvement. Then the rent director allows the owner of the property a small increase in rent and the tenants who formerly lived there stay there and live happily.

Mr. O'HARA. I want to believe that that is true, but these pictures do not show that.

Mr. PROFFITT. They do not show it; no.
Mr. O'HARA. And they do not illustrate anything.
Mr. PROFFITT. Except the interior.
Mr. MONRONEY. You may continue with your statement.

Mr. PROFFITT. Aside from the small expenditures required to accomplish these results, in comparison to the tremendous expenditure of public funds to accomplish similar results through public housing, there is another important factor in the cheaper method and that is that the tenants now living in these properties will continue to live in the same housing after it has been cleaned up and made livable, while history of public housing up to this date shows us that tenants formerly occupying slums are never admitted to public housing units. And so we build public housing to clear slums, and the slums remain

with us.

Who are the tenants of public housing, where the taxpayer is required to subsidize their rents? We have a number of public housing projects right here in Washington. Their rents are being

subsidized by public money. It might be interesting to examine these projects to determine whether or not their function is to house families in the low-income groups, as is the stated intention of the bill this committee is now considering.

Recently the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Washington made a survey of these public housing projects around Washington. They found, among other things, that there was a great concentration of television installations in these public housing, rent-subsidized projects. From a check among dealers in this equipment, they estimated that there are only approximately 36,500 television sets in the Washington area.

Thus, only a very small percentage of Washington families have decided television is within their means and have purchased a set. Not so in the case of public housing tenants. Six television antennas were discovered in two buildings alone in the Fort Dupont public housing project in southeast Washington, and I have a photograph showing the six antennas on the two buildings in question. That is in one public housing project in Washington.

Mr. BUCHANAN. What are the rentals in that project?
Mr. PROFFITT. I do not know, Mr. Buchanan.

Mr. MONRONEY. You do not know whether those parties who own those television sets are the over-income people or whether they are the people for whom these projects were constructed?

Mr. PROFFITT. I imagine they are over-income people.
Mr. MONRONEY. That we have not been able to evict?
Mr. PROFFITT. That is right.

Mr. MONRONEY. You are not charging that the people who are paying the subsidized rent are the owners of the television ?

Mr. PROFFITT. I do not know who owns them?
Mr. MONRONEY. This is on the outside, where many people live?
Mr. PROFFITT. That is right.
Mr. BUCHANAN. Is that a white or colored project?
Mr. PROFFITT. That is Fort Dupont, in southeast Washington.

Mr. MULTER. Do you know how many of the tenants pooled their resources to buy the sets for joint use?

Mr. PROFFITT. I would not know that.

The announced objective of public housing has always been to house the low-income groups and, therefore, such projects have been afforded the benefits of annual Federal subsidies and local tax exemptions. It seems strange then that these people who need assistance from the taxpayers to provide their housing consider themselves in such favorable financial circumstances as to be able to afford a television set.

Inasmuch as the installation of television is not a simple or inexpensive operation, it looks as if these high-income tenants intend to remain indefinitely in this charity housing.

What it actually amounts to is that home owners and tenants of privately owned dwellings are paying for the television sets in public housing. Perhaps more home owners would purchase television sets if they were relieved of the burden of paying public housing's share of real estate taxes. How many Americans realize that a portion of of the huge income tax which they pay goes to subsidize the rents of charity housing tenants who can afford television sets?

Thus we come to the problem of who shall occupy the public housing proposed under the bill now under consideration. Washington's public housing project with its high concentration of television sets is not unusual in public housing generally. In other States of this country where we have public housing, we find tenants occupying these subsidized units whose incomes run as high as $10,000 per year. Suppose under this bill we built 810,000 housing units for persons with less than $2,000 annual income. These will provide for only 7 percent of the 12,000,000 families in this income group. The only answer, then, would be enough units for the other 93 percent. Then the folks with the $2,100 annual income start noting this “cushy" deal and they set up their clamor. So we ask, where does it all stop and who is to pay the bill?

To inject a personal observation in this statement, I might say that I am a tenant. I provide for my family reasonably good housing accommodations. I am trying to educate my two boys. In doing this, I cannot afford either an automobile or a television set. A check of the public housing projects in the Baltimore and Washington area discloses that a great number of the tenants of these projects own automobiles, and we have shown you pictures of a high concentration of television sets in public housing units. I feel, then, that I personally have a right to object to any part of the tax I pay being used to subsidize the rent of other tenants who can and do afford the luxury of both.

I have a letter from one of our members in Louisville who points out that the same condition exists in public housing around Louisville as I have described for Washington.

We believe it is and we do not hesitate to label this proposed legislation as purely socialistic. We believe it is a major step toward the complete socialization of housing in this country. We also believe it is necessary to oppose the further extension of existing trends in the Federal-State financial relationship, realizing that the Federal Government has the right to regulate the functions of the agencies which it subsidizes, as evidenced by the decision rendered by the Supreme Court of the United States at its October term, 1942, in the case of Wickard v. Filburn (317 U. S. 11). We ask this Congress to oppose any further extension of Federal controls over local fiscal affairs and any further extension of Federal aid in the form of subsidies to the several States and political subdivisions thereof, because we realize that the financial status of our Federal Government calls for a tightening of the purse strings and a reduction in the cost of government. The trend we are now following on the Federal level, in our opinion, will produce the same results as it has produced in other countries, and we will awake to find our traditional form of government supplanted by a socialistic government.

Some members of this committee will very probably disagree with the opinion just expressed. However, I would like to point out that there are many Members of this Congress who are of the same opinion. Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia is quoted in the Baltimore Sun of Friday morning, April 22, 1949, as saying, and I quote: "If the rapid trend toward a more powerful Central Government is not halted, we are headed for regimentation equal to that which is now suffered by the English, if not worse.” When speaking of the tremendous Federal

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »