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organized labor throughout this country, we heartily endorse the United States housing bill and promise active Nation-wide support for its immediate passage, for the following reasons:
1. It recognizes housing as a national public responsibility and establishes the fact that public assistance must be given where ordinary private enterprise cannot do the job.
2. It sets up an independent, permanent United States housing authority, with the power to issue bonds. We do, however, ask that one member of the board of five shall represent labor.
3. All moneys appropriated or borrowed under this bill will go directly into the construction of needed low-rent housing of high standard and will draw additional private funds at low interest rates into this vast untouched field.
4. Federal subsidies will bring rents down to about $15 to $30 a month, a field which has never been touched by speculative private enterprise, but which is nevertheless all the rent which the majority of American families can afford to pay.
5. Labor standards are adequately guaranteed.
6. There is no exclusive emphasis on “slum clearance,” which is the most expensive and difficult branch of the housing problem.
7. Local initiative is encouraged. We particularly commend the recognition of public-housing societies, or responsible groups of lowincome families who may sponsor and lease projects constructed by the authority. This will provide a great opportunity for democratic, local initiative and will be a safeguard against bureaucratic or paternalistic management.
Only with the amount of the appropriations and bond-raising powers do we find any fault whatsoever. Under the provisions of this bill about 300,000 or 350,000 low-rent dwellings might be provided within the next 4 years. In view of the extremely bad conditions now prevalent and the acute shortage of all kinds of dwelling which is rapidly approaching, we ask that the immediate appropriation be increased from 51 millions to 100 millions and the first bond issue from 100 millions to 250 millions, with corresponding increases for ensuing years.
Mr. Chairman, we want to point out in closing that all groups and individuals seriously interested in improving the housing conditions of low-income families in this country are behind this bill. There has been a remarkable degree of cooperaton and collaboration, even in its preparation. The press has, moreover, been extraordinarily
, favorable. In view of this united support, we confidently expect its passage at this session of Congress. We are also confident, knowing the President's deep interest in housing and relying on his promises, that he will soon give his open support to this bill. This is the only measure which can begin to fulfill those promises.
(The resolution above referred to follows:)
RESOLUTION ON A PUBLIC-HOUSING PROGRAM UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTED AT THE
ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR, ATLANTIC CITY, OCTOBER 1935
Whereas it is generally recognized that the dwellings available to the majority of workers are substandard, obsolete, and grossly inadequate, particularly when contrasted with our country's vast resources of land, labor, materials, and skill; and
Whereas in spite of an acute impending housing shortage and rising rents, the building industry remains idle and the great majority of building workers are still unemployed; and this paralysis of the building industry, even in face of an acute housing shortage, is largely due to the long-standing inability of private enterprise to supply new or modern dwellings at a price within reach of the average worker; and
Whereas it has been officially recognized by Congress, by the Administration, and by many State legislatures that public and private initiative are necessary if the housing problem is to be attacked effectively, and the Administration has repeatedly promised and even attempted to undertake an extensive program of planned large-scale housing projects; and
Whereas the Government's housing program has thus far been steadily compromised by the lack of a clear-cut long-term policy and legislation to effect it, and by the treatment of housing as a mere adjunct to a temporary emergency relief program; and the entire Public Works program has now been reduced to the vanishing point, while vast funds are allocated to "make-work" projects of no permanent value at less than prevailing wages; and
Whereas an active, unified, and informed demand on the part of workers and consumers, led by organized labor, is the only force which can animate and promote a permanent public-housing policy, and compel the Administration to put its promises into effect: Therefore be it
Resolved, That a long-term public-housing policy must be adopted in order to guarantee a minimum standard of decency in housing for all families; and that by "housing" is meant not merely dwellings but planned neighborhoods, including adequate educational and recreational facilities and suitable meeting halls for community and social life; and be it further
Resolved, That the construction of sufficient low and medium rental housing to meet the present shortage and replace existing unfit habitations, whether on present sites or elsewhere, must be undertaken or assisted by public agencies; and be it further
Resolved, That in locating public-aided housing, preference should be given to communities having a decent labor policy and offering a variety of employment opportunities, to avoid extension of the feudal conditions now prevalent in one-industry towns; and that all public-aided housing must be built by labor working union rates and under union conditions; and be it further
Resolved, That permanent Federal, State, and local housing authorities, implemented with adequate funds and the power to acquire land and to construct and manage large-scale community housing projects, are the first requirements of an effective long-term program; and be it further
Resolved, That there must be a bona-fide labor and consumer representation on all housing authorities, and that sponsoring and management committees of all specific projects must include a majority of representatives from the groups for whom the housing is intended; and be it further
Resolved, That broad Federal, State, and local legislation, establishing workers' housing as a public responsibility, setting up permanent machinery to effectuate the ends herein set forth, and providing adequate sources of funds, must be enacted as quickly as possible; and that all labor organizations should actively sponsor and promote such legislation, and should investigate and publicize the stand on housing of all candidates for office; and be it further
Resolved, That local labor housing committees should be set up to take the lead in developing an active public demand for housing, to initiate suitable projects, and to represent, protect, and promote the interests of labor and consumers in the location, design, construction, and management of public housing projects; and be it further
Resolved. That the American Federation of Labor, in convention assembled, authorize the appointment of a committee to aid, direct, and collaborate with the Labor Housing Conference or other suitable agency in providing information, promoting legislation, developing projects, and protecting the interests of labor and consumers in the housing movement.
THE HOUSING PROGRAM ADOPTED BY REPRESENTATIVES OF THE BUILDING TRADES
ORGANIZATIONS AND APPROVED BY THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR
The time has come when the frequent pledges of the administration to develop a clear-cut, permanent, national public-housing program, designed to improve workers' living conditions, reemploy building workers at fair wages in productive work, and broaden and stabilize the potential market of the building industry, must be fulfilled.
The housing problem, as we see it, comes down to one simple question: How can an adequate supply of decent new housing be built for families with annual incomes of $1,500, $1,000, and less? This group comprises from half to twothirds of the population today, and even in 1929 the vast majority of skilled industrial workers earned less. Bad living conditions will continue, the residential building industry will remain a speculative "luxury trade”, and an extreme housing shortage will be unavoidable unless this question is answered in the near future.
Private enterprise cannot do this job. It has not done it in the past-and it is not doing it today, even with the aid of Government-guaranteed mortgages.
Local governments cannot do it alone. Their financial condition is too weak, and their resources too restricted, to permit them to raise any of the necessary subsidies for low-rent housing. The establishment of local housing authori. ties capable of initiating, constructing, and operating housing projects, even if the subsidies are provided by the Federal Government, cannot be accomplished all at once. Federal demonstrations of proper standards and efficient large-scale planning technique, will in most cases have to be done first.
The Federal Government cannot provide real leadership or concrete achievements, as long as its housing agencies are on a temporary, emergency, workrelief basis. There will be very few efficient local housing authorities until there is a permanent Federal housing authority, equipped with the necessary powers and funds.
In view of these obvious facts, the administration should not delay in pushing forward an adequate legislative program for housing. This responsibility has already been assumed, although in a very small way, in the work of the Public Works Administration, Housing Division, and of Suburban Resettlement. And the responsibility of protecting the interests of owners and private financial agencies in middle-class and upper-class housing has been taken over by the Federal Government, in a very large way indeed. The Home Owners' Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Administration have together about $4,000,000,000 worth of commitments in this class of residential property.
Is it too much to ask that the Federal Government should do something, even though not on such a herculean scale, for the actual construction of much-needed dwellings for that half of our population who cannot hope for improved housing conditions by any other means?
The American Federation of Labor at its last convention unanimously adopted a resolution on a public-housing program. It is now the duty of the American Federation of Labor, as the only organized representatives not only of the building trades workers but also of millions of families in need of better homes, to present this program in more concrete terms. Following are recommendations for immediate Federal legislation and a national housing policy and program:
A NATIONAL PUBLIC HOUSING AUTHORITY-PREMISES AND GENERAL POLICIES
1. There must be a definite long-term program for the provision of an adequate supply of low-rent housing, available to families who cannot secure decent housing through ordinary private initiative.
2. This program should be entrusted to a new, permanent National Public Housing Authority, set up in corporate form, with a three- or five-man board on which labor and consumers are represented.
3. All Government-aided large-scale housing activities should be carried out through this authority, except strictly rural housing and rural resettlement, which properly belong to the field of agricultural planning.
4. The National Public Housing Authority must be independent of any agency such as F. H. A., primarily concerned with the financing and refinancing of individual middle-class and upper-class homes. Such agencies, and the
interests with which they are naturally allied, have too often proven themselves to be hostile to the purposes and procedure of a public-housing program.
5. In view of the need for immediate and effective action, and also in consideration of the impending acute shortage of homes, Federal aid must not be limited to the direct reconstruction of central slum areas.
6. On the other hand, housing for industrial workers must in general be located within easy reach of a variety of work opportunities, and projects must not be set up on the basis of "part-time industry" and compulsory gardening. In isolated areas "subsistence homesteads” merely extend the feudal conditions already existing in many one-industry and company towns. In the suburbs of larger cities they will only serve to keep the level of cash wages down.
7. The National Public Housing Authority should work through local public housing authorities, and cooperative or other nonprofit private agencies representing labor or consumers. Such local agencies should, wherever and whenever possible, initiate, construct, own, and manage housing projects.
STANDARDS TO BE MAINTAINED IN ALL PUBLIC-AIDED HOUSING PROJECTS
1. Prevailing union wage rates and union working conditions must be maintained in the design, construction, and operation of all housing projects receiving public aid. In general, all public-aided housing should be constructed by pre-qualified contractors.
2. There must be bona fide labor and consumer representation on both the National Public Housing Authority and on all local public-housing authorities eligible to receive Federal aid,
3. Projects should be large enough to be planned as complete neighborhood units, including recreational and social facilities and meeting-halls.
4. Minimum physical standards of construction and dwelling design should be set up for each region, below which no public-aided housing can fall.
5. Projects must be so set up and operated that they will remain permanently within reach of the income groups for whom they are intended. Management must be professional and not political.
POWERS AND APPROPRIATIONS
1. The Federal Government must expect to supply practically all of the subsidy needed to make up the difference between "economic rent” and what lowincome families can pay. For this purpose the Authority must have the power to make capital grants, loans at less than the cost of the money, and clearly defined contractual annual grants.
2. The Authority must have the power to make self-liquidating loans to local agencies. These agencies should be encouraged, however, to raise as much of their capital as possible themselves, and the Authority should have the power to guarantee the obligations of local agencies.
3. Since most local authorities will be inexperienced and unable to take their full share of responsibility at the outset, and since immediate construction and widespread demonstration of modern housing standards are essential, the Authority must itself have the power to construct and manage housing projects.
4. To carry out these purposes, the Authority should receive in this session of Congress an appropriation of $500,000,000, to be expended within the next 2 years. This sum will go for capital and annual grants, interest subsidies, and running expenses. In addition, it should have the power to issue bonds, and to borrow from the Postal Savings Bank and other semipublic sources, in order to provide funds for self-liquidating loans.
This program was sponsored by:
The American Federation of Labor Housing Committee, appointed by President Green in accordance with a resolution on a public-housing program unanimously adopted by the last American Federation of Labor convention. Its members include:
Harry C. Bates, president of the Bricklayers, Masons, and Plasterers International Union, Bowen Building, Washington, D. C.
John Coefield, president of the U. A. Plumbers and Steamfitters, Machinists Building, Washington, D. C.
M. J. Colleran, president of the Operative Plasterers and Cement Finishers International Association, Middletown, Ohio.
Labor Housing Conference, which represents more than 70 local labor housing committees, appointed by central bodies and building trades councils in accordance with the resolution adopted at the American Federation of Labor convention. The executive secretary is Catherine Bauer, 1714 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D. C.
This program was endorsed at a meeting attended by officers of the American Federation of Labor, representatives of 19 building trades internationals, Senator Wagner and Representatives Ellenbogen, Woods, and Curley. The American Federation of Labor Housing Committee has conferred with President Roosevelt on this program.
If you are in agreement with any or all of this program, communicate immediately with Senator Wagner and President Roosevelt !
STATEMENT RELEASED BY AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR The prime objects of a national housing policy must be the following: 1. Employment for building workers at prevailing wages. 2. Decent working standards. 3. Good housing and neighborhood standards. 4. Rents within reach of low-income families.
To accomplish these, we believe that an independent United States Housing Authority should be set up by legislation in this Congress. By “independent” we mean that it should not be tied up or compromised by any connection with such agencies as the Federal Housing Administration.
The Federal Housing Administration does not and cannot fulfill the purposes mentioned above for a national public housing program. It benefits neither lowincome families, who need better housing, nor organized professional buildingtrades workers. Nor does it act as a stabilizing agency in the building industry.
Evidence shows that practically all the construction under its auspices has been built by labor working at far less than prevailing wage rates and under substandard working conditions. (John Locher, president of the Build. ing Trades Council of Washington, D. C., says that he has not heard of one single job under the Federal Housing Authority in Washington which either went to union craftsmen or was paid at prevailing wage rates—this in spite of the fact that the Capital is one of the Federal Housing Authority's most "successful” cities.) Similar reports come from all over the country.
This condition results from the fact that the Federal Housing Authority plays primarily with those very subdivers and small speculative builders who have always tended to be chiselers of labor. The Federal Housing Authority has and can have no labor policy, because it has no means of exercising control in labor matters over its clients.
It is this type of marginal builder who is and always has been responsible for the worst type of jerry-building, and for the chaos in the residential realestate business. He could not compete with accredited contractors and the more respectable elements in the building industry if he did not chisel on labor and also on quality of construction. The Federal Housing Authority itself admitted its lack of control in these matters when the New York di. rector the other day issued a public statement, asking the Federal Housing Authority's own clients to watch out for "gyp" building.
Finally, the Federal Housing Authority has not provided, nor can it provide, any housing for low-income families. It has insured mortgages throughout the whole country on only 640 houses available to families with income of $1,500 or less. Its only complete “large-scale" project (Colonial Village, Washington, D. C.) rents at $12.50 per room per month-in spite of the fact that building labor received about half the prevailing wage rate in its construction. Moreover, even if the Federal Housing Authority were able to provide housing with low initial rentals, it has no means for permanent future control over such rentals.
Any real public housing program must have ideals and standards diametri. cally opposed to the policies of Federal Housing Authority. A public housing program must act through responsible agencies which are subject to proper control. It must guarantee payment of prevailing wage rates and maintenance of adequate standards. It must provide decent housing for low-income groups.