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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

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Location: Washington, DC


TRANSPORTATION, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2010 -- (House of Representatives - July 23, 2009)

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Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I thank my colleague who does an excellent job in chairing the subcommittee.

While the author of this amendment and myself both serve on the Financial Services Committee, I think I can say that on a bipartisan basis over the years, the Financial Services Committee has shown a lot of support for this program and for improving it.

The gentleman cites some unexpended balances, but here's the problem. There's kind of a catch-22 here. If program money is spent too rapidly and it is then spent inefficiently, there is criticism. What has happened with HOPE VI is that in response to some legitimate criticism, some controls were proposed to slow things down. This money ultimately gets spent, but it gets spent in a way that is less likely to be abused.

It is also the case that there is a kind of ``you lose either way'' argument made against public housing. Often the criticism is in that public housing warehouses people in large projects that do not have the capacity to provide a decent living environment. HOPE VI is an effort to preserve the units, because we do have a shortfall for family public housing in many parts in the country, not in all, but by redoing the projects to remove the stigma that has attached. And if you get rid of the HOPE VI program, you then abandon the notion that you are going to go to existing public housing to try to make it more livable and less concentrated.

Now, that's not an easy thing to do. We've been working, again, in a bipartisan way on ways to improve that, to bring in other services, to coordinate how you do it. But to simply shut the program off is, I think, to say to the people who live in the public housing that was built inappropriately--the residents didn't build it, society built it and put them there.

It would say, We are abandoning any effort to improve the liveability of where you are, and also then make them more vulnerable to criticism and build opposition to the whole notion, when the alternative is to make the living conditions better for the people in the surrounding communities.

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Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I thank the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee for his leadership on this issue, which has been sustained.

The question is not whether or not we should be working to see that public housing residents require the skills, et cetera, that will help them, but how to do it.

The community service requirement is a slapdash, honored in the breach. It's a mandate resisted and resented by the people who have to administer it. We have in the bill that we voted out of committee today by a large vote, bipartisan vote, the reform of the voucher system, which both the public housing and for vouchers includes the Moving to Work program, which is a sophisticated and balanced way to do this and provides funding for it.

Those who administer public housing want to do that. They want to help people do this. But imposing on them the requirement to do work, imposing on people who are already underfunded the obligation to mandate whether every public housing resident is doing 8 hours of leaf raking and snow shoveling doesn't help anybody. It advances nothing. And it gets in the way of efficient administration.

We will do this the right way. And this is the wrong way, according to everyone who has been involved in a serious way with it.

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