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The CHAIRMAN. You also estimated the amount of money to remove the slums in New York would be about $1,500,000,000.
Mr. Post. Yes; and that, I would like to say, is conservative.
Has New York City itself entered into the housing problem to the extent of building houses?
And you answered
Mr. Post. It is located at Avenue A and Third Street, Manhattan,
The CHAIRMAN. Can you give us the rentals received, and how it is managed ?
Mr. Post. Yes; I was going to do it, because you asked the question, and I wanted to tell you.
The CHAIRMAN. I was afraid we did not have time, and I wanted in the record some of these experiences of the New York City Housing Authority.
Mr. Post. The actual cost has not been figured out as we still have a few units in the project to complete. However, I would like to say that the cost of this particular project is going to be high in comparison to the cost under private building. It was built with relief labor.
The CHAIRMAN. You also have some joint projects, I think you testified, between the city and the Work Relief Administration?
Mr. Post. That is one of the Work Relief Administration, the small one.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there another project in addition to that one?
Mr. Post. The P. W. A. Housing Division has two under way, one in Harlem and one in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
The CHAIRMAN. Those would be the two referred to in Senator Wagner's testimony?
Mr. Post. That is correct.
The CHAIRMAN. Then the project the city itself has undertaken cannot be taken as a fair criterion to follow as to the extent of cost, as you say it has been done by relief workers.
Mr. Post. Yes; it has been done by relief workers.
The CHAIRMAN. Any information you can give us as to the amount of rentals you expect to raise and the result of your experience, we would like to have it.
Mr. Post. I would like very much to give that to you. The rentals are $6 a room per
month. The CHAIRMAN. Are the tenants already moving in?
Mr. Post. Tenants have moved in; at the present moment we have about 75 tenants in there.
The CHAIRMAN. How are you able to select your tenants from the great number of people that must have made application ?
Mr. Post. Yes; I would like to bring that out, because that is one of the great problems we are going to have to face, and this small project has given us a good deal of experience.
We opened up and announced an office for applications March 1, 1935. The following morning when the office manager came down there was a line three blocks long waiting, and we had to have some 11 or 12 policemen to keep order, and had to move into a bigger place.
In 2 weeks we had 4,000 applications and were forced to close down because of the size. We then weeded them out automatically on certain grounds. First, the project being small, we confined the
. eligible people to a certain area in that community, which automatically ruled out people from other sections of the city. Then we weeded out those who gave their income as being higher than would permit them to be accepted in that project. Then weeded out those whose needs were larger than we could supply. A great many of our apartments are three rooms, and with the very large families we were unable to supply them.
The CHAIRMAN. Can you come back tomorrow morning, Mr. Post? Mr. Post. Yes, indeed.
The CHAIRMAN. Then we will now adjourn until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning in this room.
(Thereupon, at 12:05 p. m., the committee recessed until tomorrow, Tuesday, Apr. 21, 1936, at 10 a. m.)
UNITED STATES HOUSING ACT OF 1936
TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 1936
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to adjournment at 10 a. m., in room 318 Senate Office Building, Senator David I. Walsh presiding.
Present: Senators Walsh (chairman), La Follette, and Davis.
Mr. Post, will you come forward, please? Do you care to make further observations?
Mr. Post. Yes; I would like to, if I may.
STATEMENT OF LANGDON W. POST—Resumed
Mr. Post. When we left off yesterday we were discussing the development in the lower East Side of the First Houses. I brought up for the committee, and perhaps if it is possible to have it embodied in the record, I will not have to read it, and then we can discuss this publication of the New York City Housing Authority entitled “First Houses."
You were asking particularly how we chose the tenants, and what the reaction has been of the tenants toward the project, and I think if you will look at page 31 of this publication it gives a pretty complete summary.
The CHAIRMAN. The pages are 29, 30, and 31.
Mr. Post. That is right. The description of how the tenants were chosen starts on page 29, but their make-up starts on page 31.
The CHAIRMAN. The reporter will insert into the record under the subtitle, "How tenants were chosen", pages 29, 30, and 31 of a document issued by the New York City Housing Authority, 1935, entitled "First Houses.!"
(The matter referred to is as follows:) The task of choosing tenants for First Houses presented problems which do not ordinarily present themselves to commercial management bureaus. To begin with, in the face of the enormous housing need in New York City, all that the authority could offer was a mere 120 apartments. For example, when it was announced that applications would be received, hundreds of applicants stood in the rain and sleet for hours waiting for the office on the site of the project to open. Within 2 weeks, more than 3,000 applications had been received and it was necessary to discontinue taking them.
Here the authority was concerned with a social problem rather than a purely commercial one. Tenants were not in this case chosen because of their mere ability to pay rent. Was the applicant's need for low-rental housing truly pressing? Was his earning ability great enough to continue paying the low rental necessary to cover the expenses of operation and financing? How was political influence in securing apartments to be combated? These were but a few problems which immediately called for solution.
The authority's management committee, consisting of Mrs. Simkhovitch and Father Moore, together with members of the management division, decided on the following procedure: The applications were distributed to prospective tenants and were returned, after being filled out at home, through the mail. Those living or working in the district and earning from four to five times the rent and having families of size suited to the project (most of the apartments were three rooms) were marked for investigation, the remainder being held ineligible and were to be investigated for future projects when time permitted. Eight investigators carefully selected on the basis of previous experience in handling people tactfully and sympathetically were chosen to conduct the investigations of applicants.
Factors to be considered in rating tenants were: Gross income not to exceed four to five times the amount of rent, general reliability, and the absence of debts :
The successful applicant had more than $1,000 insurance but not more than $3,000 and a savings account of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 he had been steadily employed for 1 year or more and had a more or less stable income. His family, at the time of the investigation, was living in a substand. ard house without heat or bath and lived below Fourteenth Street on the lower East Side and paid a rental too high for the family budget. All things considered, those who formerly lived on the site of the project were given preference. Naturally, American citizenship was a prerequisite.
After the investigations were made and ratings established, the applicants were passed upon by a committee of selection which included Mrs. Simkhovitch; Mrs. Ida Oppenheimer, of the Lower East Side Community Council of New York; Mr. Herbert Biele, of the Lower East Side Community Council; and Miss Lillian D. Robbins. Mr. Post and other members of the authority took part in these hearings from time to time.
Of the 120 families finally chosen to be New York's first low-rental housing tenants, 81 were living in tenement houses which had toilet accommodations in the hall. One applicant, a typical East Side young mother, expressed fears to Mr. Post for her two young daughters, aged 5 and 7, who were growing up in a typical old-law tenement house in one of the worst sections of the lower East Side.
We can somehow manage to live without conveniences, she said, "and a little elbow grease and soap takes care of the dirt, but I am continually worried about the toilet arrangements in our house. You see, my two little daughters have to share toilet accommodations with five other families."
Twenty of the families selected had windowless rooms, and one applicant explained to the committee in a listless voice that her young son had died 2 years ago, vainly fighting a severe attack of pneumonia in an airless room.
All but one family among the successful applicants were residents of the lower East Side, and only six formerly lived on the site of the project; that is explained, however, by the fact that the old buildings were so dilapidated that except for two or three houses they were practically untenanted.
Statistics showing the former living conditions, income, occupations, and other information pertaining to the tenants follows:
1 Per room.
Previous living conditions Families paying rent.
116 Janitors' rent free_
4 Doubling up
11 Rental per month, average
$21. 25 No heat'.
81 No bathrooms
91 No toilet (in apartment)
81 1 Number would be larger except that families doubling up had better, if crowded, quarters.
Income Average per family per week...
$23. 20 Employed
130 Seasonal Steady
Mr. Post. You will find from tables which have been inserted into the record that the argument that low-rent housing will not reach the people for whom it is intended is pretty well answered.
We have 120 families, of which 91, before they moved in, were without bathrooms; 81 without heat; 81 with no toilets in the apartments whatsoever.
That would be higher except for two facts: One, we find families doubled up in a very highly congested manner, thereby getting perhaps some of the advantages but living in a manner which is hardly conducive to either their good or the good of the community, so we took them out and put them in the First Houses.