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Committee on Financial Services

United States House of Representatives

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Chairman Rick Lazio
Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity

Opening Statement

Helping Build Communities of Opportunity

H.R. 2 The Housing Opportunity and Responsibility Act of 1997

March 11, 1997

The hearing will come to order.

Thank you for being here today at this Subcommittee's third hearing on H.R. 2, The Housing Opportunity and Responsibility Act of 1997. I introduced H.R.2 on January 7th of this year. This legislation is designed to reform our public housing system with the intent to end the isolation of many of our poorest communities ---ultimately, to foster the creation of communities of opportunity rather than tolerating communities of despair.

My goal is to overhaul and refocus our Nation's assisted housing programs so that locally-driven solutions, instead of "one-size fits all" Washington policies, -- become the norm rather than the exception. Our laws must be crafted so that the creative force of local chief executives and community leaders can be unleashed. These are the individuals who are closest to the problems, and who are most able to develop solutions.

The Federal government needs to be supportive of these efforts, not prescriptive or overly restrictive. Flexibility must be built into the system so that we have Twenty-First Century programs - not programs based on old-style, bureaucratic models. We are lucky to have with us here today someone who can speak to this vision.

We also need to rethink how the Federal government - and specifically the Department of Housing and Urban Development, conducts its business. If the Federal government is to serve a supportive role, then HUD cannot just be an issuer of regulations --stifling innovation. Nor for that matter can HUD be just a rubberstamp. This Department, if it is to remain a cabinet-level agency - must be a true resource to communities.

We have individuals with us today who can speak to how HUD conducts it business. Hopefully, they will provide insight as to what we in Congress can do to improve how the Department not only monitors - but how it can encourage and improve, the performance of America's public housing authorities.

I would like to note that several Mayors have indicated that they may wish to submit written testimony for the record, and there have been other groups who have indicated the same. I ask unanimous consent that their testimony once submitted be allowed into the record.

With that, I'll move to introducing our witnesses today.

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