Mr. Chairman, I would like to commend you on your efforts to improve the administration of federal public housing programs and section 8 rental assistance. I believe your bill, S 462, establishes a framework that generally provides public housing authorities (PHAs) with the flexibility to meet the housing needs of their residents and local communities. I also applaud your efforts to maintain and improve the Brooke Amendment to ensure that public housing residents do not pay a disproportionate share of their income in rent.
I am concerned, however, that this bill does not go far enough to address the shortage of affordable housing and, perhaps, may worsen this problem. A provision of the bill that prohibits PHAs from adding housing units is contrary to the principle of devolution, which this bill purportedly embraces, and will prevent PHAs from responding to local housing needs. In Rhode Island, for example, we have seen an increase in homelessness as the number of manufacturing jobs has declined. As a result, the demand for housing assistance has increased. In its present form, this bill could prevent our state's PHAs from responding to this increased demand.
I am also concerned about the implications of this bill in light of welfare reform efforts. We must ensure that this bill does not undermine the basic housing safety net, which is vital to facilitating the transition from welfare to self-sufficiency. We must also recognize that reductions in welfare assistance may increase the demand for public housing and may adversely impact the ability of existing public housing residents to pay rent. I believe the uncertainties of welfare reform require that we move carefully and deliberately on this issue.
Finally, we must maintain our commitment to section 8 housing assistance and we must ensure that those most in need receive that assistance. If effectively implemented, I believe section 8 will be a powerful tool in reducing the concentrated pockets of poverty that currently exist.
As we begin our consideration of this bill, I hope to work with the Chairman and Ranking
Member to see that my concerns are addressed. I am hopeful that our efforts will produce a bill
that will improve the state of public housing in this country.
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