Prepared Testimony of U.S. Senator Richard Bryan (D-NV)

Hearing on S.462 - "The Public Housing Reform and Responsibility Act"

April 9, 1997

Mr. Chairman, I commend you for holding this hearing today on the Public Housing Reform and Responsibility Act and for inviting Secretary Andrew Cuomo, David Morton and the other distinguished panelists to testify on public housing. I am pleased that the Committee has made this legislation a priority this Congress.

Major reforms in HUD's housing programs must be made not only to ensure appropriate housing for low-income Americans, but to also ensure taxpayer funds used to provide such housing are wisely expended. This legislation is a good start toward that end.

The Public Housing bill would consolidate current programs into two public housing block grants providing local authorities with the flexibility needed to provide affordable housing to low- income families. In addition, S.462 would repeal federal preferences, reduce the disincentives for work by public housing residents and improve intervention with troubled housing authorities.

I support the provision in the legislation that would allow housing agencies to require everyone living in public housing to pay a minimum amount of rent. We all seem to take more care of something when we have a stake in it. However, I have concern about making the minimum rent $25 and would like to hear from the panelists their view on this provision.

I am pleased to see that S.462 contains language to require the establishment of cooperation agreements between Public Housing Authorities and state and local welfare agencies and the sharing of information between them to ensure a greater linkage with the new welfare law.

Housing Authority directors in my state of Nevada have indicated the importance to attract higher income people to live in public housing. Clearly, the concentration of very poor people with few working adults in dense housing is not healthy for the families that live there or for the larger community. Watching your neighbor go to work everyday and make his or her way can have a positive impact on the next person.

If housing authorities are to continue to serve the housing needs of poor families, they need the flexibility to increase the income mix of its residents. The proposal on income targeting in S.462 would address their concern and would encourage a wider mix of incomes in a housing project. However, finding the right balance in income targeting is key to this issue.

Mr. Chairman, Nevada continues to be the fastest growing state in the nation, and it continues to draw people of all income levels. Consequently, it has a very high turnover in its public housing units. I am interested to learn how this legislation will specifically affect public housing in my state.

Mr. Chairman, once again, I want to thank you for introducing this important legislation and for holding this hearing. While it was unfortunate that the House and Senate could not work out a compromise last year on the Public Housing bill, I believe S.462 is an improvement over last year's legislation. I look forward to hearing from the panelist on this important issue.

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