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Committee on Financial Services

United States House of Representatives

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OPENING STATEMENT
CONGRESSMAN LUIS V. GUTIERREZ
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HOUSING AND COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITY
MARCH 11, 1997

Mr. Chairman, I am glad to be here today as this Subcommittee continues its review of your bill, H.R. 2 and the effect it will have on low-income families across this country. This legislation has several major flaws. Flaws that will have a devastating impact on the people public housing is designed to serve.

As I stated many times last year, I believe that public housing must remain available to very low income families. Therefore, I once again disagree with the Chairman's position on targeting in H.R. 2 and will work with my colleagues to make improvements in this section.

If H.R. 2 is enacted in its current form, I am very concerned about the future of our nation's very low-income families. I realize that public housing authorities face very difficult challenges - trying to provide decent housing for increasing numbers of low-income persons with fewer resources. However, public housing is the housing of last resort for our neediest families and in many cases their last chance to avoid homelessness. Public housing must be available for those who need it most. I would hate to see H.R. 2 leave a legacy of increased numbers of homeless because the bill failed to require public housing authorities to serve those in desperate need of housing.

To address this need and avoid the devastating circumstances this bill could bring to many housing authorities, Congress must step up to the plate and encourage and support affordable housing. If we are to rid our cities of the high rises that concentrate our nation's poor and have only served to foster crime and neglect, we must provide the resources, including public-private partnerships, to tear down these projects and build real mixed-income communities that provide decent housing and hope for the future.

In addition, although the bill is beginning to move in the right direction, I believe that we must retain Brooke protections. Tenants should only be required to pay thirty percent of their adjusted income for rent. As Congressman Frank and I advocated in this Committee and on the House floor last year, giving housing authorities the ability to set rents up to 30 percent of income is critical. This will both encourage work and encourage families to stay together.

Many other pieces of this bill are troubling. The lack of Davis Bacon protections for tenant workers and the changes in the grievance procedures are extremely worrisome examples. I do not believe this Subcommittee should be in the business of restricting the basic rights of tenants. I also have concerns about the Home Rule Flexible grant. I am very worried that up until today, no witness has ever endorsed this program as a constructive solution to this nation's public housing problems.

Mr. Chairman, I believe the real solution to the problems we face in public housing is that the members of this Committee must begin fighting for an adequate HUD budget. Otherwise, what this Subcommittee decides to do regarding public housing will matter very little because there will be no way that housing authorities, large or small, will have the ability to provide decent and safe housing for low-income persons.

I want to welcome our witnesses and I look forward to hearing from them this afternoon.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



 

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