Thank you Chairman Allard. I want to thank both you and Senator Reed for holding this hearing this morning and I also want to welcome and thank the witnesses who are here today to testify before the committee, most notably HUD Secretary Martinez. Welcome.
As many know, The Department of Housing and Urban Development was an agency once considered to be terminally ill. It had been a poster child for mismanagement, abuse and scandal, and it struggled mightily to meet its important mission of providing decent, safe, affordable housing to all Americans and the economic development and revitalization of American communities.
But today, HUD has begun to improve. HUD has sought to transform itself to more closely resemble the agency that President Kennedy, who upon establishing HUD in the1960's envisioned would
"provide a focal point for thought and innovation and imagination about the problems of our cities."
With the help of Congress and the Clinton administration, HUD has sought to restore its credibility by remaining singularly focused on improving services for the poor, low-income and working-class families, the disabled and senior citizens. It has transformed itself by launching new-market initiatives; integrating lower-income communities into the free market and creating renewal initiatives that spur private sector investment in both urban and rural communities. HUD has also helped America reach its highest homeownership rate ever - 67.7 percent - and in the process helped African-American and Latino households attain record levels of homeownership.
Let's be clear, there is still a great of work to do, administrative oversight, management issues and incidences of fraud - most notably in the FHA 203(k) program and in the Officer and Teacher Next Door program have made recent news. But I personally believe that, overall, HUD has begun to turn the corner -
But I fear now that we may be reverting back to the type of policy and budget making decisions HUD which led to its ineffectiveness back in the 80's. A period when the agency, and its resources, where used as spare parts to fund other priorities of those administrations.
The fiscal year 2002 HUD budget - while conservative - is totally lacking in compassion and will do harm to 2.8 million low-income American families. While I have problems with several elements contained in this budget, including the cut to what I believe is an underfunded Capital Fund, what I find most disconcerting is the plan to eliminate the Public Housing Drug Elimination Program (PHDEP).
This program has provided much-needed resources to bolster safety in public housing through crime prevention, law enforcement, security, intervention programs, resident patrols, treatment and other related activities. Just last week I visited a housing authority in Atlantic City and heard, and more importantly witnessed, why we must not allow this program to be eliminated.
The Drug Elimination Program has worked - and it has helped change the quality of life for the residents of our nation's public housing.
To that end, I plan on introducing a resolution to Congress that will seek to keep the Drug Elimination program fully funded. This program has historically been supported in a bipartisan manner and I feel strongly that we as a Congress must affirm our commitment to reducing crime and drug use and ensure that public housing residents and their children are not left behind.
Mr. Secretary, the cuts to the Capital Fund and elimination of Drug Elimination Program will cost my state of New Jersey $32 million dollars. And they will adversely affect 80 housing agencies, 45,235 public housing units and 110,000 low-income and elderly households that rely upon them. These cuts are flat-out wrong.
I urge you to revisit these flawed elements of your budget plan and continue the work of restoring the credibility of this agency.
I thank you Mr. Chairman.