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We have some general suggestions which I have included in the data, and I would like to discuss them with you for a few minutes. But the only thing of concrete substance that has come forth in the legislation is section 221, in which you have a home which can be financed for 40 years with no downpayment, except for small settlement costs.
As you know, the president of the National Mortgage Association is a Philadelphian, William Clarke, and I think he knows the Philadelphia situation extremely well.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. He testified here.
Mr. RAFSKY. He indicated that to you; that is right. We don't know of private home builders who are in a position to build at that price of $7,000. Even our 2-bedroom homes run at $8,000, at the very bottom.
So, we fear that for Philadelphia, and for possibly other large cities, that that is not the answer. What worries us even more is that the income levels of families living in blighted areas, according to the 1950 census, and as we adjust it upward according to the wage and income data available to us, is in that range of $2,000 to $2,500. We wonder if what we are talking about is even available for that particular group:
These are the kinds of things that we have thought about, and I have listed them on page 10 of our statement.
We say that a fresh approach is needed, and that perhaps the extension of existing approaches far beyond their present limits might help as well.
We think that both financial incentives and subsidies have to be explored.
No. 1, we ask: What about the possibility of reducing downpayments by encouraging direct loans to home purchasers? We have in Philadelphia, for example, what is known as a lease-purchase contract in which, instead of the rent going to take care of merely the landlord's responsibilities and his profit margin, it is to be somewhat a part of a downpayment, and when it reaches a certain point, which might be the normal downpayment, financing on a regular mortgage is then provided. It is subject to abuses which we are trying to cope with, but it is one of the possibilities.
The CHAIRMAN. A gentleman was in from Indiana a couple of days ago with a plan similar to that. Were you here? Mr. RAFSKY. No; I was not.
The CHAIRMAN. His idea is that manufacturers and groups of businessmen, and individuals, for that matter, would build homes and, if FHA would finance them, they in turn would make their own deals with the purchasers, with maybe no downpayment, maybe for 2 or 3 years, but they and the manufacturers and those groups would guarantee the mortgages to FHA.
Of course, at the moment FHA will not finance houses on that basis, unless they are occupied by the owner or the purchaser. I believe your plan is a little bit similar.
Mr. RAFSKY. I am interested in your suggestion, because the spokesmen for the home builders in Philadelphia have told me they would be willing to set up a nonprofit corporation to do just that kind of building, provided they could get the type of mortgage terms you are talking about now. I think there is a lot of room for exploring in that direction.
The CHAIRMAN. Take a manufacturer, he might be interested in half a dozen houses for maybe a half a dozen of his employees, and he would make his own terms. The worst that could happen to him would be that he would end up owning six homes, which he could well afford to own, and he could sell them or rent them or do whatever he wanted to. The advantage that the manufacturer or businessman has is that he doesn't put up any money unless the mortgage comes into default. Then he steps in and buys them.
Mr. RAFSKY. Don't you think it is necessary, as part of that process, in order to avoid the high expenses of small-building operations, tó encourage the pooling of building, so that you can cut costs ?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. This idea could possibly work better in smaller cities of under 500,000, than in larger ones.
Mr. RAFSKY. I think it depends upon the amount of unused land that is available. In Philadelphia we have two large tracts that would lend itself to this kind of home building.
One of the things I have indicated is the need perhaps to encourage home builders to pool their resources and engage in projects of that type wherever possible.
Another suggestion I have listed is that perhaps the Government can do better in terms of guaranteeing construction loans for home builders, insuring them, as well as the mortgages in order to encourage home building and to reduce their costs.
I also wonder about the possibility of what FHA might be able to do, to sort of say, "It is our priority to help finance homes in the $3,000 to $5,000 income bracket." I don't know how much they have explored that, and I think that might be another incentive.
Of course I think it is the responsibility of the local government to keep building standards in such a way so that they are not expensive, and to eliminate those kinds of building practices which incure greater expense and operation.
I believe, too, that in terms of Federal legislation, funds for a research program in this field can be mighty helpful as well. I have not listed in my own testimony certain types of incentives like tas inducements, which might also be applied to this field.
The reason for this indefinite presentation in effect is that we feel that in order to avoid half-baked solutions for people whose money is involved in this venture, it ought to be discussed with the home builders and our mortgage-finance people and our bankers, to find out what are some of the practical approaches along this line. We really have a problem that hasn't been solved.
I have a word about public housing. I recognize it is not before your committee
The CHAIRMAN. It isn't in the bill.
Mr. RAFSKY. We have stated our problem to the House Appropriations Committee, which is handling that. But if you think of an overall package, it has to be part and parcel of it, and I cite the income levels of families living in blighted areas.
The last point I make is on the problem of minorities. We have had a special study made in Philadelphia, which indicates that 46 percent of our dwelling units, which were classed as substandard in the 1950 census, are occupied by nonwhites. And whereas almost half of these
families live in areas certified for redevelopment, only one-eighth of the white families do.
So, it seems to me our thinking has to be applied to that particular area of trying to provide accommodations for all, regardless of race, creed, or color, and we feel, again, that the bill, perhaps except for a taken nod to the FNMA provisions authorizing special mortgages under this direction, special mortgage financing, that there it little done to take that into account.
Here again we suggest that special attention by FHA, working with the private home-financing industry, might result in encouraging greater opportunity for housing more minority groups.
I sum up by saying that as far as urban renewal is concerned, the test is money. As far as the liberalization of the mortgage provisions is concerned, we need new and fresh approaches to meet the needs of middle-income groups.
We certainly need a substantial low-rent public-housing program, we believe far in excess of the President's recommended 35,000 units.
Finally, an opportunity for housing, with at least minimum standards, for all groups in our society.
The CHAIRMAN. Let me ask you this question : Changing the name “urban development” to “urban renewal,” will that require a change in the Pennsylvania State law!
Mr. RAFSKY. It does not. Our counsel for the redevolpment authority says it will not.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much. Your statement is very helpful, and we are glad to have this colloquoy with you. I hope we can find the answer. It is not easy.
Mr. Rafsky. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The economic soundness and civic vitality of Philadelphia depend upon renewing the city's physical plant, particularly housing. The social and human cost, together with the sapping of economic strength brought about by substandar housing are, I am sure, well known to the members of this committee. Then President's Advisory Committee on Government Housing Policies and Programs summarized the direct financial burden of slums to a number of cities throughout the country, including Philadelphia.”
The hidden costs, particularly to human beings, are far more devastating, even though they cannot be fully measured by the dollar sign. Indicative of the high price of inferior housing is the fact that in 1953, 65.3 percent of all police arrests were of individuals who resided in Philadelphia's officially certified blighted areas, which contain only 25.3 percent of the city's population (see table 1 attached). Similar statistics on juvenile arrests reveal that unless our slums are removed, significant numbers of our future juveniles from these areas are doomed to a life of crime. Despite the fact that the cause of crime is usually far more complex than physical environment, it would be ostrichlike to ignore the fact that in the third largest city in the country arrests of juveniles residing in deteriorated neighborhoods were 46.4 percent of the total, as compared to the area's juvenile population of 25.2 percent of the entire city (table 1). Similarly, our losses of life and property by fire, our health, our welfare problems are concentrated in districts where substandard housing predominates. From the longer range point of view, Philadelphia's survival depends upon the solution of this problem.
TA Report to the President of the United States, the President's Advisory Committee on Government Housing Policies and Programs, December 1973. Appendix 2 : Report of the Subcommittee on Crban Development. Rehabilitation, and Conservation, exhibit 4. Notes on the cost of Sluns tu Local Governments. pp. 151 154.
Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, we determined to do everything we could locally to eliminate our rundown residential areas and to provide decent shelter for all. The city already has an extensive program under way:
(1) The Philadelphia City Planning Commission maintains high standards which private builders must follow in developing unused land. The commission makes every possible effort to prevent future slums from arising in Philadelphia.
(2) Operating under the authority of the State statute, and with Federal funds provided under title I of the Housing Act of 1949, the Philadelphia Re development Authority has demolished 761 substandard dwelling units. An additional 1,320 such units will be razed in 1954. By the end of this year, 1,003 new dwelling units will have been constructed as a result of the work of the authority. Plans which have already been approved will in the next few years greatly increase this total, including some 12,000 units for one redevelopment area alone, the Eastwick project in southwest Philadelphia.
(3) Although not as great in emphasis, the rehabilitation of existing houses has also been part of the redevelopment authority's program.”
(4) The Philadelphia Housing Authority has completed 4,648 number of lowrent dwelling units since the inception of the Federal program in 1937. By the end of 1954 the total of such units will be 9,157. It now manages 9,336 dwellings constructed under the various Federal programs. Project planning work is continuing with the aid of city funds in anticipation of the resumption of the Federal public housing program.
Nor is the city relying on previous accomplishments and existing levels of programs in its fight against blight. Within the past few months additional programs have been launched and plans made for an all-out comprehensive attack on the problem.
(1) A new position, housing coordinator, has been created directly under the mayor to bring together the various agencies now working in the field in order to supply a unity of purpose and an effective pooling of resources. It was felt that the good work of the different agencies, both city and State, was piecemeal and uncoordinated.
(2) A new housing code, bringing up to date the existing law adopted in 1915, is now pending in the city council and its adoption is expected shortly. It will substantially increase minimum housing standards, eliminating, for example, all outside toilets. In addition, revision of our health, fire, plumbing, and building codes are all under way.
(3) Our zoning ordinance of 1933 is being overhauled. One of its primary objectives is to prevent the type of building activity which tends to downgrade residential areas.
(4) Even prior to the introduction of the present legislation, the city started to draft experimental programs applying our entire enforcement machinery to achieve slum clearing, rehabilitation, and conservation. Within the next few weeks we plan to select pilot neighborhoods in which these procedures will be tested. The overall program will be developed with the aid of private groups, both civic and private, including the Real Estate Board and the Home Builders' Association.
(5) Our Commission on Human Relations is developing a program aimed at providing decent shelter for all groups in the city regardless of race, creed, or color. It is particularly concerned in its preliminary operation in finding out what factors have produced a concentration of minority groups in blighted neighborhoods.
In short, we are marshaling the full force of local government to meet a critical situation.
As a city which is the center of a vast economic area, we believe that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also has an important responsibility in meeting our housing needs. For that reason, a legislative program calling for the State's participation and assistance in the housing field will be submitted to the next session of the legislature in January of 1955, as well as to the candidates who are seeking State office this year. -- Yet in spite of all this concerted activity and these plans to cope realistically with the major problem, we know from both experience and careful review that the city of Philadelphia, like most large urban centers in the country, cannot do the job itself. We just do not have the financial capacity even to make a dent in
2 For details on Philadelphia's rehabilitation activity, see A Report to the President of the United States, op. cit., exhibit 2, Slum Prevention Through Conservation and Rehabilitation, Jack M. Siegel and C. William Brooks.
correcting bad housing because of the heavy fiscal burden we must assume in carrying out the necessary municipal functions affecting safety, health, and welfare, and because our authority to levy taxes is hemmed in by our State constitution. This position, recognized by Congress in 1949, is amply documented in the Report of the President's Advisory Committee on Government Housing Policies and Programs.' Ironically, the city's single largest source of income, real estate, is in danger because of our slum problem. It will take Federal aid to break this vicious cycle.
We welcome the approach used in the proposed Housing Act of 1954 because it recognizes the limitation of cities in providing remedies for inferior shelters. The bill has a number of constructive features, which we hope will be adopted. These provisions, however, do not go far enough in the approaches and methods endorsed.
I. URBAN RENEWAL
The increased emphasis on urban renewal, as including rehabilitation and conservation as well as redevelopment, gains our wholehearted support. Philadelphia took advantage of the language in title I of the Housing Act of 1949 and has already carried out a rehabilitation program in addition to its redevelopment
ork. Yet at the end of 5 years, only a little more than 2 percent of the 103,410 dwelling units in redevelopment areas have been removed at a cost of $3,939,775.
Rehabilitation of existing homes is an important weapon in the arsenal needed to fight deterioration, but it does not add to the new housing supply which is so necessary to meet the condition of overcrowded slum neighborhoods. If the program is not handled with extreme care, there is the danger that the remedy will be patchwork in that it merely postpones the date of obsolescence, thereby making the money used an unsound investment. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, not to substitute rehabilitation for blocks and areas which require redevelopment. The key is the amount of money to be appropriated to carry out what should be an enlargement of an existing program, rather than a shifting of emphasis. The subsidy available is of specific concern in rehabilitation because the monthly housing cost or rent of the existing dwelling will tend to increase,
The President's recommendation to allot $97 million for urban development and redevelopment in 1955 does not in any way come near the necessary wherewithal to work on a problem of the magnitude of substandard shelter. Even without the new stress on rehabilitation and conservation, the Housing Act of 1949 calls for $250 million in loan funds per year, and $100 million annually for capital grants. Unless the appropriations are substantially increased, we can only resign ourselves to having blight continue to outstrip new or rehabilitated homes.
II. LIBERALIZATION OF MORTGAGE INSURANCE TERMS
The increase in the loan-value ratio and maximum amounts of mortgages which may be insured by FHA, as well as the extension of the maximum statutory term to 30 years of all mortgages will undoubtedly be of some help in preventing any significant decline in new housing starts. At this stage of the economy such bolstering of the home construction market will be helpful. Housing Administrator Albert M. Cole estimates that the proposed legislation would result in about 1 million new home starts in the United States, a significant decline from the past few years. When the approximately 200,000 net gain from conversions is added, the total is scarcely sufficient to meet the need created by new households and by replacement of structures demolished or destroyed. Since the funds recommended for urban renewal will merely continue that program at a snail's pace, the families who live in the 10 million substandard nonfarm homes in the United States can neither turn to the Government nor to the private building industry to provide what is universally agreed to be a necessity of lifehousing with minimum standards of decency.
From the point of view of the urban community, the existence of large numbers of substandard housing is not merely another unmet need. Housing cannot be placed in a deep freeze ; continued wear and tear means that neglect results in a growing backlog. Unless checked now, blight will erode the economic base of our large cities.
3 A report to the President of the United States, op. cit. In exhibit 10, A Statement on Problems of Capacities in Local Financing of Slum Clearance.