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However, we feel it necessary to view that record realistically to find out how far it has contributed toward meeting today's acute housing shortage. Upon examination, it develops that the 1,019,000 homes built in 1949 is only slightly higher than the number constructed in 1925, a year when our population was smaller by more than 35,000,000.
Compared with the 1920–29 decade, production of housing has in-creased much less than production of automobiles or other consumer goods. Indeed, the 1949 record still represents only two-thirds of the level that is necessary if we are to lick the housing shortage within the next decade.
Not only has the 1949 level of construction failed to meet the overall need, but it has particularly failed to meet the needs of moderateincome families, including, in particular, the majority of American workers. The average wage of factory employees today is about $55 a week. According to recognized standards, these workers cannot afford to pay more than 25 percent of their income or $60 a month for housing purposes. Last year, however, under the existing FHA private housing program, rentals of new apartments averaged $90 a inonth and prices of new homes for sale averaged about $8,000, involving a monthly housing cost upward of $80. Clearly the housing needs of American workers and their families are not being met.
The real-estate interests point to the fact that moderate-income families are moving into these high-rent apartments and are buying these high-priced houses. The fact that some moderate-income families may have somehow managed to pay far more than they can afford for privately built homes and apartments, in many cases at the expense of their health and well-being, does not indicate in any way that the real need of hundreds of thousands of middle-income families for decent homes at a price they can afford is being met under existing programs.
The crying need among American families today is a middle-income housing program. Such a program is now before Congress.
In the Senate, the Banking and Currency Committee is considering S. 2246 introduced by Senator John Sparkman, as modified by an amendment introduced by Senator Burnet Maybank. In the House, a similar bill has been offered by Congressman Brent Spence.
These bills would make possible private financing of long-term low-interest loans for cooperative-housing projects for middle-income families. We estimate that under the terms of this bill rents for an average 412-room apartment would be reduced to $55-$65 a month. This corresponds with rents of similar dwellings offered by private builders of $80 a month or more.
This program offers a practical means of obtaining decent homes for thousands of middle-income families at prices they can afford to pay. We urge its immediate enactment so that we can begin to meet the acute housing shortage of our moderate-income families.
However, we recognize that at the present time the housing shortage is still with us. Until the middle-income housing program enacted last summer greatly increases our supply of homes an effective rent-control program must be continued. We can safely remove rent controls in only one way-by building an adequate supply of homes that fit the pocketbooks of the millions of families who are without decent housing today.
(Appendixes B and C, referred to, are as follows:)
Housing started in Washington, D. C., Metropolitan area, July to September 1949
Source: Characteristics of Homebuilding in the Washington Metropolitan Area, Third Quarter of 1949, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor, Dec. 24, 1949.
Comparison of minimum space requirements, Federal Housing Administration
and Public Housing Administration, Washington, D. C.
Source: Minimum Physical Standards and Criteria for Planning and Designing PHA-Aided Low-Rent Houses, December 13, 1949, Public Housing Administration. Minimum Property Requirements for Properties of Three or More Living Units, August 1948, Federal Housing Administration, p. 24.
Mr. GREEN. There has been considerable criticism of the financing plan provided for in this bill. Some Members of Congres, I have
. noticed, have classified it as being socialistic. It is based upon objection to the creation of cooperative organizations for the purpose of financing the program.
I do not feel that such criticism is justifiable because the cooperative movement in America has made a wonderful record and it has been an agency sponsored by progressive and forward-looking farmers and working people and others throughout the Nation.
The success of the cooperative movement among the farmers of the Nation has challenged our imagination. It has served in a wonderful way to develop productivity among the farmers. It has raised farm production to a high and high and still higher level, because through these cooperatives farmers have been able to mechanize their farms to acquire the machinery necessary to increase and develop production to a high and higher standard.
A study of the record they have made shows that it has been a wonderful, wonderful record. It is not socialistic. Instead, it is capitalistic and cooperative, because they all put their money into it.
Another thing about this housing plan, it is not socialistic because it does not provide for Government financing. It provides that it will be financed through the establishment of these wonderful, wellequipped cooperatives. The part the Government plays in it is psychological because its service is designed to create confidence in the movement and guaranteeing the bondholders' confidence in the movement. The rate of interest is 3 percent.
There are a number of people criticizing because of that rate of interest, but when you take all things into account, you are bound to admit that that is a fair and just and reasonable rate of interest at the present time.
I want to make this little statement regarding the cooperatives as an answer to some of this criticism that is so strongly directed against the plan incorporated in this bill to promote housing through the establishment of the cooperatives.
Because the farm cooperatives are more than 80 percent in farm areas, it is easy for people to feel that there are not very many of them. It comes as a surprise to most people to know that there are more than 10,000,000 members of cooperatives in America. In the face of intense competition from the well-established chain stores, cooperative food stores have grown very slowly. Today, there are less than 1,000 cooperative food stores with a retail business of under $100,000,000 a year.
That would be substantial if it were concentrated in one area, but scattered over 30 States it has no dramatic impact on the American economy. Petroleum cooperatives, on the other hand, have cut gas and oil prices, brought new methods of service and provided a basis for international trade.
Twenty-five hundred retail cooperatives own a score of regional wholesales, 20 petroleum refineries, 1,500 oil wells, and over 1,600 miles of pipe line. With the United States cooperatives as its base, the International Cooperative Petroleum Association services co-ops from Sweden and Iceland to Australia and South Africa.
Nine hundred rural electric cooperatives provide power for 2,500,000 United States farm homes. These REA co-ops have increased agricultural production, made life on the farm more livable and have provided a market for hundreds of millions of dollars of electrical appliances.
Farm supply cooperatives with their own feed mills and fertilizer factories handle one-fifth of all the farm supplies for rural America. Cooperative insurance companies have 1,500,000 insurance policyholders for auto, life, and fire insurance. In many States they have cut insurance rates as much as 40 percent.
Thirty thousand families live in cooperative housing projects. Health cooperatives operate 8 hospitals and 80 prepayment medical care plans.
Cooperative credit unions are the largest group of cooperatives in America. Today nearly 10,000 credit unions have nearly 5,000,000 members. They save their members millions of dollars of interest payments every year and keep them out of the hands of the loan sharks.
Our own trade-unions have hundreds of these credit unions and almost every major industrial organization is proud of its own credit union. As most of the members of this committee know, the farmers belonging to cooperatives do a business of more than $3,000,000,000 a year.
These are the major fields of cooperatives. The cooperatives and their 10,000,000 members are quite substantial parts of our family life. They help the people to help themselves through democratic nonprofit organizations. We believe that the cooperatives in the field of housing contemplated in this legislation will do the same effective job.
I am glad to submit this statement, and then I have appendixes A, B, and with some figures which I will file for your records and information. I am very much pleased to submit this statement to you and I can truthfully say that it represents the feeling and the sentiment and the judgment of the 8,000,000 members of the American Federation of Labor.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Green, it is true that nearly all progressive legislation has been enacted by the last administration, and this administration. The Post Office legislation has been called socialistic. The Home Owners Loan Corporation was called socialistic; REA, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Loan Corporation were all designated as “socialistic.” It seems to me that we ought to disregard that argument and meet these questions solely on their merits.
You stressed a point that has not been stressed before, and that is the inadequacy of housing with reference to the available space, and you referred to the District of Columbia. Does that prevail generally throughout the Nation, the new houses that are being built?
Mr. GREEN. We haven't made the same careful examination all over the country as we have made here. I am not able to say that it is universal or generally universal throughout the Nation, but we do know that it is here because it is closer here and we have been able to come in contact with it.
I am inclined to believe, though, that there is much of this same building and construction plan carried out in other sections of the Nation.
On the matter of socialism, Mr. Congressman, I want to tell you that if there is any one great agency in America that stands opposed to all of that, it is the American Federation of Labor, and the same toward communism. It is an effective agency, because communism gains control, first, within the ranks of the workers, and when the workers stand against it and argue against it in workers' language, it can be effected, whereas the favorable interests in the country, the
financial interests, the banking interests, the chambers of commerce and manufacturers' associations and others can talk and talk but it falls on deaf ears.
We wouldn't approve a plan if it were socialistic in character. We are confident that that doesn't have within it even a single element of that. Those charges made against it by reactionary forces are certainly without any basis whatsoever.
The CHAIRMAN. Communism is the offspring of discontent and it seems to me that there is no way to strengthen a free government such as ours that is as effective as making the people happy and contented. As long as the people are contented, as long as they are well-housed, well-fed, and well-clothed, they have no desire to change their government, and in the last analysis the people of the United States are the Government of the United States, and I think it is very essential that we should do what we can to keep the people contented, because the poorest man in America has a vote that is just as effective as the most powerful man, and for that reason I think housing is not only not socialistic in its effect, is not communistic, but is truly American, and it is the best way to strengthen our Government to see that our people are well-housed, so far as we can do so consistent with the principles of our Government. Don't you feel that way!
? Mr. GREEN. Yes, Congressman, that is sound reasoning, and I know of no way by which we can contribute toward the maintenance of our form of government and its permanency than by making the people happy, giving them homes to live in where they can be contented and live in comfort.
That is really the basis for the establishment of a sound psychology, a devoted state of mind toward preservation of our form of government and its institutions, so nobody can adequately appraise the value that will flow from the establishment of a housing program that means decent, comfortable homes for the middle-income groups of the Nation and all classes of people.
The CHAIRMAN. Your great organization extends throughout the whole United States, does it not?
Mr. GREEN. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. And you are generally conversant through your organization with conditions that prevail in all sections of the United States?
Mr. GREEN. Pretty well. I am pretty familiar with it.
The CHAIRMAN. What is your opinion with reference to the housing shortage now generally throughout the United States? Is there adequate housing now?
Mr. GREEN. It is my opinion that that is one cause of discontent in many places throughout the country, the shortage of homes and the high rents, of course, that the workers have been compelled to pay for inadequate homes, high rents for uncomfortable homes, and that ought to be removed through the enactment of legislation of this kind.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you know any way by which lower interest rates can be secured for the construction of homes, other than by direct Government help? Isn't it a fact that money always seeks the highest interest rate it can obtain?
Mr. GREEN. Yes.