Rep Cmte Financial Services
Hensarling Opening Statement at HUD Oversight Hearing
“For whatever good HUD does it clearly has not won the War on Poverty. Only economic growth and equal opportunity can do that”
Washington, Jun 11 -
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As we approach the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, one can’t help but being struck by President Johnson’s boldness as he launched the Great Society with these words: “We have declared unconditional war on poverty. Our objective is total victory.” HUD was established one year later in 1965 to become the war’s main weapon – combatting poverty, rebuilding our cities, and making housing more affordable for all.
Yet by nearly every official measure, poverty and its consequences are as bad as they were fifty years ago. The poverty rate today is essentially unchanged from when HUD was founded. Millions more Americans fall below the poverty line today, including an unbelievable one out of five children. This is shameful.
HUD states that its mission is to “create…quality affordable homes for all.” Yet according to inflation adjusted figures from the Census Bureau, since HUD was established the median price of new homes has doubled and median rents have gone up by more than a third. In other words, it’s not just the poor who find the cost of housing soaring beyond their means, it is almost everyone. This is unacceptable.
To make matters worse, to achieve this unenviable record, HUD has already spent over $1.6 trillion in its history and is asking for a 9 percent budget increase. $1.6 trillion is more than $13,000 for every household in America and is equivalent to the cost of feeding a family of four for an entire year.
Meanwhile, one of the greatest threats to our poor continues to spin out of control, namely the national debt clock.
Given the Obama economy of the last six years, clearly taxpayer rental subsidies for the poor are needed. But it is also an open question whether housing vouchers and public housing projects – HUD’s mainstay – are a long-term solution or are simply helping to create a permanent underclass.
For whatever good HUD does it clearly has not won the War on Poverty. Only economic growth and equal opportunity can do that. In other words, the greatest housing program in America remains a good career path in a growing economy, not a HUD program.
If we truly care about the least of these among us, we can no longer measure success by the number of dollars appropriated to HUD. That should be obvious. Instead, success must be measured in the number of our fellow citizens who rise from lives of poverty and dependency to lives of hope, self-sufficiency, and pride. That’s true success.
It’s time to bring a new focus and new ideas on how to best help the poor in our society. On this purpose, which is a moral purpose, there should be no debate.
I’ve been encouraged to hear our witness Secretary Castro state that he believes “in evidence-based management style” directed to the goal of “giving every person new opportunities to thrive.”
To give these opportunities, again, it is time to think anew; not to reflexibly add 9 percent to programs that have failed again in the words of President Johnson “not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty, but to cure it, and above all, prevent it.”