Opening Statements of Committee Members

Opening Statement of Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Hearing on the Department of Housing & Urban Development's Community Builder's Program
9:30 a.m., Thursday, February 24, 2000

Mr. Chairman, I want to express my support for today's hearing because I believe HUD's resource allocation is an important subject.

Approximately 800 of HUD's 9,000 current employees are Community Builders, whose job responsibilities appear to range from helping citizens and local governments identify funding, to representing the Agency at public events, and dealing with the media. My understanding is that about half of the Community Builders are HUD career civil servants and the other half have been recruited from outside of the Agency. As Chairman Allard mentioned, the external Community Builder Program was terminated as of September of this year by the Fiscal Year 2000 VA-HUD appropriations bill.

Please allow me to state for the record that I believe there is a role for community outreach. Finding appropriate programs and funding streams is extremely difficult for the average citizen. I don't doubt that many of the Community Builders care about their communities and have made good faith efforts to serve the Agency. I know that there are many Community Builders in Pennsylvania who are good, compassionate people, and I thank them for their service.

But the question before this Subcommittee is, "How much outreach is enough?" While it is important to educate the public about assistance that is available, we as overseers must acknowledge that HUD has some very complicated and historically troubled programs. During our hearings last year, this Subcommittee heard time and again that one of HUD's lingering problems is having an insufficient mix of staff with the proper skills in the appropriate positions. We must ensure that this historically troubled agency, which is making efforts to reform its operations, has properly trained and experienced staff in place to enable HUD to perform its statutory mission of providing safe, decent, and sanitary housing.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I would like to acknowledge and welcome one of my constituents who is here today to share her personal observations of the Community Builders Program. Irene Facha, of Philadelphia, is a trial attorney at HUD who specializes in financial litigation. She has been with the Agency for more than 18 years. For the last 3 years, she has served as Regional Vice President of the HUD Council of Locals, representing HUD employees in PA, MD, VA, WV, and DE. Ms. Facha has been President of Local 2032 for 5 years. She is an outspoken advocate for her members. Irene has had the benefit of working in a very large, diversified HUD office that has single family and multifamily responsibilities, fair housing programs, and CDBG administration. Finally, she has received a note of thanks from former Secretary Henry Cisernos for making the public and the Hill better informed about HUD programs and their impact on communities. Once again, I would like to welcome Ms. Facha and any other Pennsylvanians who may be in attendance.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.