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Senator Edward M. Kennedy Statement at the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development Public Hearing

Location: Unknown


The Possible Termination of Certain Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Contracts and the Possible Reduction of the Applicable Payment Standard to 100 Percent of the Fair Market Rent

I thank the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development for this opportunity to present my views on the threat posed by anticipated cuts to the Massachusetts Section 8 housing voucher programs.

This should not be a Republican issue or a Democratic issue - it is a matter of basic human decency. The government simply must not cast thousands of Massachusetts families onto the street - or force private landlords to do it by undermining the viability of the Section 8 voucher program. This program is a lifeline for 70,000 Massachusetts families that find themselves in truly desperate circumstances.

We're talking about children. We're talking about the elderly and people with disabilities. We're talking about mothers and fathers and husbands and wives who are struggling to provide the bare necessity of a safe and secure home for their families.

These families should not be facing this crisis. The plain reality is that Congress provided enough funding to renew all existing Section 8 vouchers. In fact, Congress provided an additional $1 billion to make sure that no one would be cast into the street.

But the sad reality is that government policy could cause thousands of our families to lose their homes.

My position is simple: the government has created this problem; the government should solve it.

I have talked to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Our Governor is working on this. And our congressional delegation is working on this. And I hope that the federal government and our state government can come together today to prevent a disaster.

But success is not guaranteed, and that is why we need people to speak out, to draw attention to this crisis that threatens thousands in Massachusetts and tens of thousands across the United States.

In doing so, we should reassert that public housing is an important governmental responsibility. It's wrong to forfeit that responsibility. And it is wrong, as some propose, to replace the current program with a block grant that means less funding and less accountability for the federal low-income housing program. Such proposals should be seen for what they truly are - an effort by the federal government to wash its hands of the needs of the most vulnerable Americans.

While we must fight these cuts and do everything we can to prevent Massachusetts residents from losing their current level of service, we must also do more. Nine thousand people are on the Boston Housing Authority's voucher waiting list, desperate for an opportunity to secure a voucher, find a place to live, and start building independent lives. And there tens
of thousands more on similar waiting lists and in similar situations all across this state.

We must also stand up for what we all know to be true - expanding affordable housing opportunities doesn't just benefit the residents, it benefits entire communities.

In Massachusetts, the cost of affordable housing remains one of the greatest threats to our long-term economic health. Working people are being priced out their communities, a situation that is exacerbating homelessness among the working poor, and undermining the competitiveness of cities across this state.

We must fight for these families, and defend what we know to be just, fair, and right for them and our communities. We must stop these destructive cuts.

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