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The CHAIRMAN. What is your business or occupation?
Mr. Horowitz. I suppose I can classify myself as an ex-builder. I was for 30 or 35 years head of the Thompson-Starrett Co.
The CHAIRMAN. You are interested in this problem, I presume?
Senator WAGNER. May I say this: I do not suppose there is any. body around New York who has had any greater experience than you have had in the construction industry, is there, and if you want to be immodest for a moment; isn't that true?
Mr. HOROWITZ. I have had a good deal of experience, as I supervised about $600,000,000 worth of building, which, of course, does not directly bear on the social feature of your bill, and I wanted to speak about that.
The CHAIRMAN. Has your experience generally been in the direction of low-price housing?
Mr. Horowitz. I have had something to do with it in an advisory capacity rather than in a contractor's capacity.
I have read Senator Wagner's bill without any effort to attempt to study its details, and I believe that its adequate and proper application necessarily rests upon the personnel of the housing board, who have wide discretion, as, in my judgment, they should have. You cannot legislate specifically and try to meet every problem that is apt to come up in a particular program of this sort.
In a few words, I believe governmental aid to low-cost housing is warranted on two grounds, social and economic, and the aid given from the social standpoint will have its collateral advantage in also aiding the situation from an economic standpoint.
There can be no doubt about the fact that people who cannot afford to pay the rental required under private enterprise for decent living quarters, should still receive such quarters through governmental subsidy, and there is no need for me to give my reasons why, because they are very well known and probably expressed here in better language than I can.
Senator WAGNER. The reason I am interested in your views is because I know your judgment is very highly regarded by those interested in the building industry in New York.
Mr. Horowitz. Yes; I have had some arguments about this matter by people who take the view that there is too much Government interference with private enterprise, but there is a place to draw the line, and I do not believe anyone taking that position can argue any more effectively in this case than if living in a city with a polluted water system there was a ginger-ale concern conducting a successful business who would say that if the water is purified the ginger-ale business will suffer, and this situation is worse, as there is no ginger-ale manufacture and we still have to get along with the polluted water.
Of course we all know a large part of our difficulty and a large part of the unemployment is represented in the idleness of the building industry. Even if this program did not have the effect of partly curing that, it would still be a good program, but it does have the effect of finding employment in an industry which at present represents a very large percentage of the unemployment section.
The aid therefore, as I see it, should take the form of two broad classes, first a subsidy where it is necessary to have a part of the cost absorbed by the taxpayer generally, since, of course, the man who occupies the quarters cannot pay enough rent to merit a return on the value and the investment; and secondly, there are a great many people who have the means of paying for their quarters and are perfectly willing to pay for them if their financing can be arranged on reasonable terms.
I believe there is a place there for the Government either to step in and use its credit for the purpose of lending such money at a low rate of interest amortized over a long period of years, thereby saving the borrower the excessive rates which he is not required to pay, and that will not only help him to get a house at a decent rate but again will stimulate the building industry where it needs to be stimulated.
In this connection, please bear in mind I am an ex-builder, and therefore have no selfish motive in presenting these views at all.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much. The next witness is Colonel Williams.
STATEMENT OF COL. L. KEMPER WILLIAMS, CHAIRMAN OF THE
NEW ORLEANS COMMITTEE ON HOUSING, NEW ORLEANS, LA.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you please state your full name?
Colonel WILLIAMS. I am chairman of the New Orleans Advisory Committee on Housing.
The CHAIRMAN. Is that a public activity or private ?
Colonel WILLIAMS. That is a semipublic activity, I imagine; it is under the appointment of Mr. Ickes, but we have no authoritative standing
The CHAIRMAN. What is your business, Mr. Williams? Colonel WILLIAMS. I am vice president of Williams, Inc., bankersa banker and sugar manufacturer.
The CHAIRMAN. You are a member of the advisory board appointed by Mr. Ickes, with whom he confers on housing problems?
Colonel WILLIAMS. Yes; housing problems in New Orleans.
Colonel WILLIAMS. We had two projects very close to the beginning stages and they were discontinued or suspended about 6 or 8 months ago
The CHAIRMAN. What views on this subject do you desire to present?
Colonel WILLIAMS. Most particularly on the subject of a need for some slum clearance in New Orleans, and the approach to the problem as far as we are concerned locally.
The CHAIRMAN. I think we will agree with you that there is need of slum clearance in New Orleans, as every large city.
Colonel WILLIAMS. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. What are your suggestions as to how we can handle the problem?
Colonel WILLIAMS. We feel there is only one way it can be handled, and that is through some aid similar to that proposed in the Wagner bill.
The CHAIRMAN. So, you want to be on record as in favor of this measure?
Colonel WILLIAMS. Yes; I want to be on record as in favor of it, and we want to be on record as in favor of some sort of demonstration project in New Orleans similar to those that have been undertaken in other parts of the country.
The CHAIRMAN. Your associates on this committee entertain the same views
Colonel WILLIAMS. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. All right, Colonel Williams, we thank you for having your views. Mr. White, we will hear you now.
STATEMENT OF WALTER WHITE, SECRETARY OF THE NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, NEW YORK CITY
The CHAIRMAN. Will you state your full name?
Mr. WHITE. Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The CHAIRMAN. Where is your association located ?
Mr. WHITE. Because I am not an expert in any sense of the word I shall not attempt to treat technically the provisions of S. 4424. I shall later offer four specific recommendations of amendments for the consideration of this committee. With the exception of these suggestions, I wish to express on behalf of the association I represent approval of the Wagner bill and to urge favorable action upon it by this committee and by the Congress.
I wish today to speak particularly for 10 percent of our national population—12 million American Negroes—which is in greatest need of decent housing. It is necessary for me to do more than mention here the reasons for this greater need. Various forms of race prejudice have in large measure kept the Negro American in the ranks of marginal laborers, usually last hired and first fired, whatever his training, ambition, or ability may be. This discrimination by unen
. lightened employers and labör unions has resulted for many American Negroes in a standard of living appallingly low and far beneath decent levels of subsistence. The result has been inevitable—a disproportionate incidence of disease and death, especially from pulmonary diseases which inevitably follow poor housing, clothing, and nutrition; a higher crime and juvenile-delinquency rate, and all the other concomitants of such conditions. Recent studies made in New York, Detroit, Cleveland, and Philadelphia, where there are large concentrations of underprivileged Negro Americans, more than bear out these assertions.
In Detroit, for example, an east-side slum area of 50 blocks produced in 1933 seven and one-half times the city average of crime, ten and four-tenths times the city average of juvenile delinquency, six and one-half times the city average for tuberculosis, eight times the average for pneumonia, and one and one-half times the city average for infant mortality. What else can be expected when the average family income in this area in 1933 had sunk to $300 per family against an average in the preceding year of $446 and in 1929 of $1,193 per family!
In Cleveland a ghetto, into which Negroes and foreign born were crowded by race prejudice and economic conditions, covering an area of approximately three-fourths of 1 percent of the city, supplied in 1934, 21 percent of the murders, 26 percent of the houses of prostitution, 7 percent of the delinquency, 10 percent of illegitimacy, and 13 percent of tuberculosis in Cleveland.
These two examples are but the duplicates of similar conditions in most of our large urban areas. Race has little, if anything, to do with these conditions. If you forced purest Aryan stocks to live under such conditions you would get precisely the same results. I have seen this at first hand in New York City, where I have the honor of serving as chairman of the advisory committee of Harlem River Houses, now under construction.
But I wish most vigorously to emphasize that I do not make this plea for favorable action on the Wagner bill on any narrow racial basis. I do so on the ground that immediate aid should be given to those who are most underprivileged. The bill under consideration has rightly been called by a writer in the New York Times on last Sunday acompromise." We assume that it is the most that can be expected to be enacted by the Congress in an election year.
I should like now to offer four specific recommendations:
1. It should be made clear in the act that these housing projects shall be available to all Americans without regard to race, creed, or color. This should be done not only in deference to the American ideal, to which more often than not merely lip service is paid, but because projects segregated on a basis of race or color prejudice are not kept up as are nonsegregated ones. Jewish or Negro or foreign-born projects do not receive the same consideration in the matter of street paving and lighting, police and fire protection, vice conditions, and the like by municipal authorities as do housing projects in areas to which all persons are admitted on a basis of merit instead of race. Whatever certain States may do when confronted with such social problems, the Federal Government should be able to rise above racial, sectional, or other prejudices.
2. On page 18, after line 7, at the end of section 2, it would appear to be desirable to insert a provision substantially as follows:
That the rentals to be charged within each low-rent housing project to be con. structed upon the site of a cleared slum or in conjunction with a slum-clearance project, shall be within the financial reach of the dispossessed inhabitants, and that such dispossessed inhabitants shall be accorded first preference in the selection of tenants for such project.
Such a provision, in conjunction with section 2 on page 18, should help reasonably to assure that adequate provision shall be made for present slum dwellers instead of shunting them away to make room for more favored groups. That is precisely what has happened with
those persons dispossessed on the lower East Side of New York City for the construction of Knickerbocker Village.
3. At page 23 I would recommend that there be inserted at the end of line 22 some such provision as this:
And shall contain such further provisions as the Authority may deem adequate to assure that there shall be no discrimination on account of race, creed, or color in the employment of such laborers and mechanics.
Such a provision is sorely needed to prevent, or at least to lessen, the notorious discrimination by private contractors even in the building of post offices and other Federal buildings financed in toto by Federal moneys for which Americans of all races and creeds and colors are taxed.
4. I wish to express hearty agreement with the statement of the Secretary of the Interior before this committee on April 20 against the provision of the Wagner bill for the setting up of another bureau. The establishment of a new bureau to administer this act is not only an expensive luxury which it seems that the Congress would be wise to avoid at this time but would also be a cumbersome method of administration which might conceivably defeat the laudable purposes of this bill. We believe that the purposes desired in this legislation would be most admirably served through administration by the Department of the Interior.
Finally, we believe that speedy enactment of this bill by the Congress would not only be enlightened action, moving toward the infinitely greater progress in housing which has been made in England, Holland, Denmark, and other countries, but that it is sound business practice. More decent housing, especially for underprivileged groups, would not only lower the present staggering costs of crime, delinquency, and ill health, but it would cause an increase in the buying market, which would help to restore more normal conditions. In substantiation of the first of these points I need only cite one concrete fact brought forth by the Cleveland study.
In the 0.73 of 1 percent in which the slums in Cleveland referred to are located, public expenditures by city, county, and board of education amounted in 1932 to $1,356,998 against taxes assessed of $225,035—a deficit of $1,131,953. If one adds expenditures for visiting nurses, day nurseries, and other welfare services totaling $490,836, the total cost to the community of this bit of territory in 1 year was $1,747,402. This has well been termed an expensive luxury, and we hope that this bill will be passed, as it is the most enlightened plan yet presented toward a curb of such wasteful and harmful conditions.
Senator WAGNER. Thank you very much, Mr. White. Mrs. Wood, we will hear you.
STATEMENT OF MRS. EDITH E. WOOD, FORMER MEMBER OF NEW
JERSEY STATE HOUSING AUTHORITY Senator WAGNER. Mrs. Wood, everybody, of course, knows your qualifications to speak upon the question of housing, but I think, for the record, you should say some little thing about yourself and the books you have written.
Mrs. Wood. My residence is Cape May Court House, N. J. I am a student of housing, and a writer, and university lecturer on the subject,