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Mr. COLEAN. The matter of cost is of course one that is difficult to arrive at. In spite of what Colonel Hackett said, there is a great deal of variation in cost particularly in small structures, as between localities and as between bidders in any one locality. We have estimates on these houses, which we have carefully checked, running all the way from $1,200 to $1,500 on the same specification. We feel confident that this house can be erected within the range referred to. Those are estimates, however, and subject to confirmation.
I may say that these have been referred to as shacks. In order to get the results we have planned here, it would take labor of great skill to do it, labor that knew how to handle materials without waste, labor that was competent to work efficiently. The houses are designed with substantial materials, and is to be put together in a substantial manner, and the cost allowances would provide for that.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you worked out any designs for houses of three or four rooms that could be built at a price somewhat higher than this?
Mr. COLEAN. Yes; our study went further than this original house, which is the only one which has been published.
The next step from this was to separate the heating and cooking facilities from the living room. That step raises the cost of the house approximately $300 to $400.
The next step was to provide similar accommodations on two stories. One principal reason for the two-story house is that it makes for an economical basement in case the basement is required. We carried the study one step further to include a third bedroom, a three-bedroom house on two stories.
The CHAIRMAN. What does that cost?
Mr. COLEAN. The figures we have on that are in the neighborhood of $2,500. Possibly lower than that without a basement.
The CHAIRMAN. I think you have covered the subject as far as the committee desires to inquire.
STATEMENT OF COLEMAN WOODBURY, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION OF HOUSING OFFICIALS
The CHAIRMAN. Your residence, Mr. Woodbury?
The CHAIRMAN. You are Director of the National Association of Housing Officials?
Mr. WOODBURY. I am.
The CHAIRMAN. Have some of the other officers of your association testified?
Mr. WOODBURY. Yes, sir; our president testified on Tuesday, I believe.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you desire to add anything to what he has said?
Mr. WOODBURY. Yes. I would also state that I am a consultant of the Housing Division of P. W. A., and before I took my present job, I was secretary of the Illinois State Housing Board.
Fortunately Senator Wagner's housing bill can be considered in the light of definite facts and experience. Officers of some of the leading Federal, State, and local housing agencies have discussed the bili before this committee. Their work during the last few years in the emergency programs for low-rent housing has a clear and direct bearing on the proposed long-term agency and policy made possible by Senator Wagner's bill.
I wish to say a few things about the corresponding program carried on most vigorously in England since the war. I am sure their bearing on the provisions of the bill will also be clear. English conditions, of course, are not American conditions but, particularly in housing, there are many similarities. Furthermore, English housing since the war has been on a vast scale. Official statistics show that from the armistice to March 31, 1935, 2,655,902 housing units were built in England and Wales. Of these, 1,230,172 units were built with direct financial assistance, i. e., subsidy, from the central Government. The volume of low-rent subsidized housing during this period of slightly more than 15 years was over one-seventh of the total number of dwelling units in the country at the close of the war. An undertaking of this size was certain to accumulate experience of value to us who are now beginning to face frankly some of the facts and problems of providing, in an industrial civilization, decent, healthful housing for all families.
Before going further I probably should mention briefly my chief qualifications for talking about English housing. In addition to considerable study of official and unofficial reports and other published material, I lived for nearly a year in England in 1926 and 1927. I was interested in housing at the time; visited many of the cities particularly active in it and talked with officials responsible for the program, with builders, building society officers, and private citizens. În 1934 my association brought to the United States three distinguished European housing experts of whom two, Sir Raymond Unwin, formerly chief technical adviser on housing to the Ministry of Health, and Miss A. J. Samuel, an experienced housing manager, were English. They visited 14 major American cities in which housing interest was high and in which some start had been made under one or more of the emergency programs of the Federal Government. Finally, last summer I spent almost 3 months in Europe, a large part of it in England, seeing at first hand again the latest housing developments. During this stay I was an official delegate of the United States to two international housing congresses, one of which met in London. My work with the association has kept me in personal touch with current housing thought and practice in this country so that I could readily see the similarities and dissimilarities between problems and procedures in the two countries.
At least two other facts besides the tremendous amount of housing construction in England justify further examination of the English program at this time. The English, unlike the Americans, have a strong tradition and belief in local government but in housing they have combined successfully local initiative and responsibility with a large measure of central government finance and guidance. Second, direct government assistance to low-rent housing has become in England a recognized part of the national economic life. Different housing policies are, of course, supported by different classes and groups of the population. The discussion of specific measures is often very sharp. Practically all intelligent Englishmen, however, now admit that decent housing for a considerable proportion of the country' population can be achieved only with some direct financial aid from the government.
This agreement is a matter of common observation by those who have studied English housing in recent years. It is also shown by the record of major housing legislation since 1918. In that period five main acts have been passed affecting the terms of the Central Government's subsidy policy in low-rent housing. Of these, the first was passed by the Coalition Government that prosecuted the latter years of the war under Mr. Lloyd George; two acts, those of 1924 and 1930, were prepared and passed by Labour Government; one, the Chamberlain Act of 1923, was the work of a Conservative Government, and one, the act of 1935, was passed by the so-called National Government under Mr. Stanley Baldwin, which was, of course, in effect a conservative government.
Without burdening the committee with details of the various English housing acts, I would like to point out what seem to me to be the chief applications of English experience to the program made possible by the Wagner bill.
1. English experience has shown conclusively that it is possible in practice to separate the housing of families needing some subsidy to supplement their inadequate rent-paying ability from the housing market that can be served satisfactorily by private builders. Senator Wagner's bill specifically defines families of low income as "families who cannot afford to pay enough to induce private enterprise in their locality to build an adequate supply of decent, safe and sanitary dwellings for their use." It limits the activities of the proposed United States Housing Authority to the housing of these families. The corresponding phrase in English legislation has been housing of the working classes. Working through local authorities, the central government has limited its subsidy to housing for families who cannot pay enough to make them a market for private building enterprise.
Similarly the standards of the housing provided, although considerably different from what would be accepted here, have made possible well-constructed, well-ventilated, sanitary houses, nearly all of them in large neighborhood developments with plenty of open space.
These standards have not discouraged private builders. Rather they have to some extent raised the standard of demand in middle-class housing and have thus contributed to the remarkable private-building boom now going on in England.
The bugaboo of subsidized housing ruining private builders and developers has been thoroughly exposed in England. This simply has not happened. As building costs declined somewhat during the late twenties, and particularly when the cost of mortgage money decreased sharply after the British debt was refunded in 1932, English buildings, far from having been crushed beneath a juggernaut of public housing, were able to take over an increasing proportion of the total housing production of the country. Whereas in 1926 unsubsidized private enterprise provided only 30 percent of the total housing output and only 25 percent in 1927—the high point in the total number of public-housing units built-private builders in 1934 provided over 85 percent of the total number of housing units built. Last summer the private boom was still under way, although slowing down somewhat. It was entirely unaffected by the fact that a new housing bill was before Parliament increasing considerably the payments that might be made by the Central Government under certain circumstances to aid slum clearance and rehousing undertakings.
The CHAIRMAN. Where did you get this information—this very interesting information from?
Mr. WOODBURY. I was in England last summer, and I have watched what was going on there for some time past. I lived in England in 1926 and 1927 for about a year.
The CHAIRMAN. So that you have been making a special study of their activities and progress in this field in England?
Mr. WOODBURY. I have. The CHAIRMAN. It is very interesting. Mr. WOODBURY. It is true that between 1927 and 1934 some types of housing subsidy were reduced and some were abandoned entirely. Some writers in popular magazines have said that abandoning subsidy caused the building boom which began in 1932 and '33. This explanation is clearly incorrect. It neglects the fact that at no time were all subsidies discontinued. More important, it overlooks the fact that the reason for the reduction and abandonment of certain kinds of subsidies was that building costs had decreased to such an extent during the period of the subsidy that the subsidy was not needed to attain the rentals for which it had been originally enacted. These facts were established by official investigation, were discussed in Parliament, and were reported at considerable length in many English papers prior to the changes in the subsidy policy. As building costs decreased, the original subsidies were reduced and finally replaced by others designed to reach still further down the income scale.
This, however, is a side comment to my main point here. Subsidized housing can be separated, as Senator Wagner has provided, from the market of private building enterprise. This is not a theory; in England it is an accomplished fact.
An editorial in Wednesday's Washington Post commented on the fact that at present only about 15 percent of the houses being constructed in England was subsidized. The editorial further suggested that Senator Wagner's bill was “altogether too oblivious of the 85 percent." This seems to me to be based on a misconception of the purpose of the Wagner bill. In England it is now a settled fact that private and subsidized housing can and should supplement each other. Senator Wagner's bill does not deny this. We have other permanent and effective Federal agencies for assisting private building. This bill merely seeks to put low-rent housing in the same relative position; that is, to establish for it a full-time, permanent agency. Further, unless this step is taken soon, much valuable experience acquired by emergency agencies at considerable cost of time and money will not be properly utilized and improved upon. Further, the bill limits the agency created to a job that none of the other permanent Federal housing agencies are doing or, by their nature and powers, can do. In this respect it is in full accord with what has been learned in England.
2. The English experience from the very beginning of the post-war housing program proved absolutely groundless the fears of those who believed that in some way or other the building of low-rent housing would discourage the thrift of middle-class families and dry up the sources of private mortgage funds. Nothing of the kind has taken place. In fact, building societies, corresponding to what we call building-and-loan or savings-and-loan associations, have experienced wy far the most rapid growth in their existence of more than 100 years.
They are the chief
mortgage lenders on private small-house construction in England. In 1919 they made mortgage loans of approximately £16,000,000, had outstanding balance due on mortgages of, roughly, £58,000,000, and total assets of £77,000,000. In 1933 they made mortgage loans of £103,000,000, had balances due on mortgages of £424,000,000, and total assets of £501,000,000. In short, over a
, period in which almost half of the houses constructed were subsidized to some extent by the Central Government, the business and assets of building societies increased from 600 to 700 percent.
I believe this is a final answer to those alarmists who tell us that a housing program like the one made possible by the Wagner bill will discourage thrift and make mortgage funds scarce and expensive. I have always considered it a libel of middle-class families to imply that those able to save modest amounts out of their incomes would stop doing so and start throwing their money about like drunken sailors, merely because less well-to-do families were to be helped in obtaining better housing than they heretofore have had. English middle-class families have not followed any such short-sighted practice. I am sure that those in America would be equally sane and sensible.
3. English practice shows that low-rent housing does not raise insuperable management problems. There are problems, to be sure, and they go to the very roots of the whole policy, but they can be dealt with successfully. Local housing officials have been able to determine what families needed governmentally aided housing in their localities. This has been done without "snooping" or an undue amount of investigation. Ordinarily simple facts on a prospective tenant's present residence, rental paid, and normal family income are given when he applies for accommodations. After preliminary sorting of applications, eligible families are interviewed before a space is definitely leased. Any effort by more well-to-do families to get into the municipal housing estates is more than offset by the vigilance of the administrative officers and by the need of many more poor families for decent housing. This latter influence is too often overlooked. Some persons have anticipated grave difficulties in keeping out middle-class families. They have not realized the public pressure that would be brought by the great number of poorly housed families if houses were leased to families for whom they were not intended by the terms of the legislation.
The CHAIRMAN. I have indicated that I believe there is grave danger of that.
Mr. HACKETT. On the other hand, rent collections have been excellent, and in general the properties have been well maintained. For the year ending March 31, 1935, the rents not paid and written off as unrecoverable by the London County Council for its 70,000 housing units were 0.116 percent of total net rental.
I have heard some objections to the Wagner bill on the ground that it would create colonies or segregated areas of poor families. This I believe is an unfounded fear. Merely because Federal subsidy is limited to the housing of poor families does not mean that the physical developments might not have space for housing more well-to-do families, their houses to be built by private enterprise. It is true that in the rush of building during the early and middle Twenty's, when England had an acute housing shortage, this possibility was often overlooked. It has been recognized now, however, and the larger