The topic of today’s hearing is how HUD’s Moving-to-Work (MTW) program benefits public and assisted housing residents.
Congress passed the program in 1996 to give Public Housing Authorities the flexibility to innovate and design local strategies to meet local needs, as well as encourage greater housing choice and self-sufficiency for low-income families. And while the program has shown great success in places like Atlanta and Chicago, after 17 years Moving to Work shamefully remains only a ‘demonstration program’ at HUD with a meager 35 participating PHAs out of 3,100 nationwide.
So I hope we can use this hearing to learn more about how to increase the number and successes of MTW participants.
But we need to do more than simply talk about the benefit of the program; fundamentally, we need to re-think public housing. Let’s not lose sight of the most important fact: our system of public housing is failing, and by refusing to reform and innovate, we elected officials are failing the very people that are most in need of our assistance.
Many share the blame. Too many have turned a blind eye to the very real human tragedy of generational cycles of poverty we see in so many communities. Too many others share the blame for thinking that simply spending more and more money on failed programs is an acceptable form of compassion. Particularly, it is not, when it interferes with the downtrodden’s unbillable right to the pursuit of happiness which cannot be separated from earned success.
Consider this: the FY12 gross discretionary budget authority for HUD was $43.26 billion.
And yet advocates for a greater role in housing are just as dissatisfied with the results we get for those dollars as critics of HUD are. How can it be that year after year we can spend so much money to achieve so little and fail so many? The fault, I would argue, is not with good intentions, but rather our inability to recognize that more of the same will not change the fundamental equation.
We need new ideas, bold new ways of approaching the problems of poverty and housing affordability, new strategies that are premised on choice and self-sufficiency. For too long we have defined success in the federal city in housing by how many vouchers we give out.
In the 21st century, we need to define success by how many people we help graduate from federal assistance to lives of dignity, self-sufficiency, and happiness. Every day that we fail to hold ourselves to that high standard is another day that we have failed the very people we claim we want to help.
Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing, I yield back.