9:32 AM EDT

Marcy Kaptur, D-OH 9th

Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, I would say to the gentleman from Akron, Ohio (Mr. SAWYER), thank you so very much. The gentleman was mayor of Ohio long before he was elected to this Congress and understands the importance of this program. He took time from a markup in another committee to be here this morning. We thank him so very, very much for his leadership and interest on this issue.

9:43 AM EDT

Sue Kelly, R-NY 19th

Mrs. KELLY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment of the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. KAPTUR) to strike the $200 million from the President's down payment assistance initiative and add it to the drug elimination program.

This amendment would make two changes to this legislation we have at hand. I believe they are both wrong.

The amendment strikes down the President's proposed $200 million down payment assistance initiative. To strike this funding takes the legislation in the wrong direction.

As a member of the Committee on Financial Services' Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, we have held several hearings on the current affordable housing crisis we face in this Nation. We have heard again and again that affordable housing is not available, and many families cannot afford market rents. HUD has declared further that a fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in my area of Westchester County is $1,144 a month. That is higher than in New York City.

What we have to do is to help these families get out of the rentals and into their own homes so they can build equity in their home. To own their own homes means they can also build equity into our communities. That builds stronger communities for America. The President recognizes this need, and that is the purpose of the down payment assistance initiative.

First-time home buyers need all the assistance we can give them. It comes down to the fact that when one owns one's own home, they are vested. They are vested in the interests of the neighborhood, the local schools, and the community.

Unfortunately, this amendment seeks to strike this valuable initiative in order to fund the drug elimination program. In past years, I was a strong supporter of the drug elimination program. I have heard positive programs that are run with drug elimination funds. But this year, I have come to the conclusion that this program should be ended.

Let me just read some of the abuses from the Miami-Dade Housing Agency:

The money was spent before receiving the grant. Overtime money was paid to officers to bowl and play basketball. Janitorial services were done at elderly developments; and that is a good thing, but they bought phones and beepers and copiers, shirts and clocks, recreation equipment, journal vouchers. A lot of money was wasted instead of doing drug elimination.

I believe that it is very important that we try. I think Secretary Martinez has put it best when he testified before our Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity this spring as to problems inherent in the program. He told us HUD does not have the resources to enforce and ensure that these funds are spent properly. He asked us to add additional funding to the public housing capital fund rather than to the drug elimination grant fund.

Since then, I have looked into the use of the drug elimination grants and I have been greatly saddened at the waste, fraud and abuse that has occurred in this program. I have found these funds have been spent on things like trips to Washington, D.C., a board retreat to St. Simon's Island in Georgia, renovations to kitchens that never existed, and consultants that pocketed a lot of money. The list goes on and on.

Worst of all, $800,000 was approved for creative wellness programs that are considered on the outer fringes of alternative medicine. This program involves God-Goddess typing according to an individual's gland activity. It also involves gemstones and colors for each personality type. This is not what the drug elimination program was meant to do. These abuses need to stop. We must ensure that HUD funds are spent on housing, not incense.

How do we start? I think it is very important that we join together in voting against the Kaptur amendment.

One last thing that I think is important to point out, this current appropriations bill has $34,000 new section 8 vouchers. That is twice as many as the Senate has in their bill.

The appropriations bill is a good bill for housing, and it is good for America. My friend, the gentleman from New York, has a good bill; and I ask my colleagues to join together in voting against the Kaptur amendment.

10:02 AM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. I understand that, but if we took some aggressive action with the local police, they have to go where the city council and the leaders of the community tell them. If it is in the city, it is their responsibility.

10:03 AM EDT

Marcy Kaptur, D-OH 9th

Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. FATTAH) for bringing up the important point, that in many communities across this country, until this program was enacted, local police were not policing. In fact, in many places in America the local police had no relationship with the authorities. This program has drawn in local policing, whether it is county, State officials, local police, on-site resident management that are trained now in working with the

local residents.

The relationship locally with the authorities was not always a good one. In many cases, and I cited Chicago in particular, which I never forgot after visiting there, the authorities were completely out of control. They were neglected. They neglected areas of our community.

I want to thank the gentleman for pointing out the importance of this program in creating an appropriate bond with local authorities so that now there is security, and crime has gone down all over this country including in these very important neighborhoods.

10:10 AM EDT

Marcy Kaptur, D-OH 9th

Ms. KAPTUR. First of all, I would like to thank the ranking member for his strong support in clarifying why HUD is the proper administering authority for this program and the distinction between the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

I thought I would also like to place on the record a comment made by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. FRANK) a little bit earlier. His time expired, but in other comments that Secretary Martinez made before the Subcommittee on Housing that the gentleman from Massachusetts is the ranking member of, he mentioned that Mr. Martinez said that, in terms of money available to HUD this year, that the Department of Energy estimated that utility costs would be going down; that before the Subcommittee

on Housing he actually stated that the Department of Energy had told him to tell us that utility costs would be going down.

I find that incredible. The operating funds that exist in this bill will not be sufficient if you look at what is happening to utility rates across this country.

So this program is even more necessary in order to keep the cap on crime, keep arrests up, keep neighborhoods more safe and help with the prevention programs that the gentleman from West Virginia has so aptly described.

I thank him for yielding to me and for his support of this program.

10:13 AM EDT

Alan B. Mollohan, D-WV 1st

Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to bring this debate back to where it started. We were in the midst of a very important debate on drug elimination grants. I rise in support of the Kaptur amendment and want to emphasize how important this program has been.

This program provides resources for public housing authorities to fight crime and drug use, an incredibly targeted and flexible program for that purpose. Many will say that that is not the proper role of public housing authorities. And while this may be true in the ideal world, the practical experience shows that local law enforcement authorities are not always up to the job. We know that housing authorities have crime problems that are indigenous, that are rooted, and we need programs which

focus on that and go to those roots.

[Time: 10:15]

Why do we propose reducing funds that they receive to fight crime, to hire law enforcement, to construct fences, to remove debris from alleys and to help residents break drug addiction? If we have problems with how some of the funding has been used, then we should address the inappropriate use of the program. Eliminating the entire program is not the answer. We really should be adequately funding drug elimination grants. This amendment, the Kaptur amendment, is an excellent start.

By supporting this amendment, I do not want to give the impression that the homeownership initiative she seeks to reduce is unworthy. It is not unworthy. It is a good proposal and should be considered. It is a new start, it is a new initiative, it is the President's. It has not gone through the authorizing process per se, but localities are already permitted to undertake downpayment assistance programs with funds that they receive through the normal HOME program allotment process.

This is simply a case of priorities. Drug use in public housing is a problem so great that it merits priority attention. The drug elimination grants program merits support.

I remember when Secretary Martinez appeared before our committee, he did not say, or I do not remember him saying, that this program was a bad program, the drug elimination program. He did not say that there was not the problem in housing authorities. What he said, as I remember it, was that this is not the right jurisdiction, this is not the proper place to fund this program, maybe it should be in the Justice Department.

Mr. Chairman, I serve on the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department. The Justice Department says that they are not into prevention programs, they are into solving crimes. So they say that Justice is not the proper place to fund drug elimination grant programs. So this bill is where the program is. This is where the program has been funded. This is where the program has been successful, however many hiccups it has had.

The problem still remains. We hope that the program has been successful so that the problem is on a downward trend line. But it still remains, the program is still viable, and the program should be funded.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the gentlewoman's amendment and commend her for her efforts in this area.

10:17 AM EDT

Marcy Kaptur, D-OH 9th

Ms. KAPTUR. First of all, I would like to thank the ranking member for his strong support in clarifying why HUD is the proper administering authority for this program and the distinction between the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

I thought I would also like to place on the record a comment made by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. FRANK) a little bit earlier. His time expired, but in other comments that Secretary Martinez made before the Subcommittee on Housing that the gentleman from Massachusetts is the ranking member of, he mentioned that Mr. Martinez said that, in terms of money available to HUD this year, that the Department of Energy estimated that utility costs would be going down; that before the Subcommittee

on Housing he actually stated that the Department of Energy had told him to tell us that utility costs would be going down.

I find that incredible. The operating funds that exist in this bill will not be sufficient if you look at what is happening to utility rates across this country.

So this program is even more necessary in order to keep the cap on crime, keep arrests up, keep neighborhoods more safe and help with the prevention programs that the gentleman from West Virginia has so aptly described.

I thank him for yielding to me and for his support of this program.

10:22 AM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. For example, New York City receives in the neighborhood of $40 million a year in drug elimination funds. Half of that money is going to pay salaries for police officers. Under the crime bill and the COPS AHEAD bill, New York City has received a half billion dollars to hire police officers. The drug elimination funds were not a supplement to the budget of the New York City Police Department. These funds were supposed to go for public housing authorities.

So the fact is, Mr. Chairman, there are lots and lots of dollars in the pipeline for drug elimination. If public housing authorities wish to use their operating fund balance to continue these programs, as my public housing authority in Syracuse has chosen to do, they can.

But what we are saying is we are not going to continue to fund this program because the Secretary of HUD, our new Secretary, has asked us to say we want to stick to our core business; we do not want to be in the criminal justice system; let the Justice Department fund this. And they do fund juvenile crime programs into the hundreds of millions of dollars. We think that these funds for the HOME project are far more important and far more in line with the core business of HUD. Let us help Americans

to buy homes with these funds.

10:29 AM EDT

Alan B. Mollohan, D-WV 1st

Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Chairman, I understand what the gentleman is asking. He is asking is there a net increase or decrease of the funds out of which the drug elimination grants could be funded last year, as compared to this year.

10:30 AM EDT

Martin Olav Sabo, D-MN 5th

Mr. SABO. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, that is an actual cut in funding from what is appropriated for this current year, at the same time that these housing agencies are also going to be required to pay significantly higher energy costs?

10:59 AM EDT

Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-OH 11th

Mrs. JONES of Ohio. Mr. Chairman, I failed to mention, and I thank the gentlewoman from California for yielding, that before I came to Congress, our district was represented by the Honorable Lewis Stokes. Congressman Stokes made a huge effort to see that public housing had the funding that it needed.

One of his real reasons for doing so was the fact that both he and his brother, the former mayor, Carl Stokes, former Ambassador Stokes, were both raised in public housing. At the public housing unit in Cuyahoga County, they made a museum to Carl and Lewis Stokes for the work that they had done in that community, where their mother by herself raised two young men.

We have to think about it like this, there may be another Carl and Lewis Stokes actually residing in public housing across this country. If we do not continue to fund a program such as this so that they can be inspired, so they can have an opportunity to live in a community that is free of drugs, we may be in a dilemma that we do not want to find ourselves in.

Again, I plead to my colleagues to listen to what we are saying, to listen to people who have experience and background and knowledge of what is going on in public housing.

The other thing I plead with them is to not get so caught up to say that the people here do not know what they are talking about, or our function is in a different direction, or our assignment is in a different direction. Our assignment as public officials is to do all on behalf of all the residents of the United States.

11:00 AM EDT

David E. Price, D-NC 4th

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I rise for the purpose of engaging in a colloquy with the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH), the chairman of the subcommittee, and also with my friend, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. FATTAH), who is also a member of the subcommittee, on language in the bill that will reduce the defined reserves available to individual public housing authorities for administering their tenant-based section 8 programs.

During full committee consideration of the bill, the gentleman from Pennsylvania and I expressed some concern that without the cushion of a guaranteed reserve beyond a single month, public housing authorities, when they seek to avoid running out of money before the end of the year, might less aggressively pursue full utilization of their allocation of vouchers.

I understand the committee's intention, through this language, to reduce the amount of unused budget authority that has resided in the section 8 reserve account. I hope to be able to continue talking with the subcommittee chairman between now and conference about ways to accomplish this goal without reducing the ability of public housing authorities to access the funding that is necessary to ensure that housing for families is not put in jeopardy.

In the meantime, I hope we can clarify for the record what is the committee's intent exactly with regard to the language in the bill.

11:05 AM EDT

Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX 18th

Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Chairman, let me join the leadership of the ranking member. I appreciate his leadership on these many, many issues.

Mr. Chairman, I ask this Congress today to make a stand for not taking us back, I do not want to go back, and creating a vision of America that assumes that those who live in public housing developments are our neighbors, as well, and would want to have clean and safe places to live, and want the degradation of drugs to be taken away from them, lifted up from them so children can grow, elderly can be safe, and families can thrive.

I ask my colleagues to envision a future where all of us are united behind a new day, and that we vote for this amendment.

11:11 AM EDT

David E. Price, D-NC 4th

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I rise for the purpose of engaging in a colloquy with the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH), the chairman of the subcommittee, and also with my friend, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. FATTAH), who is also a member of the subcommittee, on language in the bill that will reduce the defined reserves available to individual public housing authorities for administering their tenant-based section 8 programs.

During full committee consideration of the bill, the gentleman from Pennsylvania and I expressed some concern that without the cushion of a guaranteed reserve beyond a single month, public housing authorities, when they seek to avoid running out of money before the end of the year, might less aggressively pursue full utilization of their allocation of vouchers.

I understand the committee's intention, through this language, to reduce the amount of unused budget authority that has resided in the section 8 reserve account. I hope to be able to continue talking with the subcommittee chairman between now and conference about ways to accomplish this goal without reducing the ability of public housing authorities to access the funding that is necessary to ensure that housing for families is not put in jeopardy.

In the meantime, I hope we can clarify for the record what is the committee's intent exactly with regard to the language in the bill.

11:13 AM EDT

Chaka Fattah, D-PA 2nd

Mr. FATTAH. Mr. Chairman, I would also like to thank my chairman and also the gentleman from North Carolina for their interest in this matter, and I also look forward to further discussions as we approach conference on this bill. So I thank the gentleman for yielding.

11:13 AM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. I would be happy to respond to the gentleman, Mr. Chairman.

Certainly it is not the Committee's intent, nor do I believe this action will have any negative impact on the ability of public housing authorities to fully utilize their vouchers. It is my understanding that less than $46 million of the $1.3 billion in reserve funding was used last year.

[Time: 11:15]

I assure the gentleman that it is the Committee's intention that any public housing authority which exhausts its funds be given additional funds to ensure that its legitimate needs are met.

In fact, I have a letter from the Deputy Secretary which indicates that HUD will continue its long-standing policy to provide any public housing authority that has exhausted its funds for legitimate needs with whatever funding is necessary to ensure that all families currently served retain their assistance

11:14 AM EDT

David E. Price, D-NC 4th

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from New York for his helpful clarification of the committee's intent. I, too, have seen that letter from the Deputy Secretary and am somewhat reassured by the commitment that letter makes.

I am still a bit concerned, however, about how the bill's statutory reduction in the amount of reserves available to individual public housing authorities might in practice affect their ability to gain access to additional resources for legitimate needs.

I still hope we can come up with another solution that would provide a firmer guarantee to public housing authorities before the conference bill is finalized. But I do appreciate the gentleman's description of the committee's intent, and I look forward to talking further about this issue with both the gentleman from New York and the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

Whatever we do, we do not want to have our public housing authorities stopping short of providing as much [Page: H4743]

housing as they possibly can to people in need.