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House Committee Discusses the Future of Public Housing

Seth Embry, PHADA Policy Analyst

On February 6, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance held a hearing titled, “A Future Without Public Housing? Examining the Trump Administration’s Efforts to Eliminate Public Housing.” The slate of witnesses included representatives of three housing authorities (HAs), along with an advocate and researcher, all of whom brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the hearing. While the hearing was billed as an examination of harm caused by the policies of the current Administration concerning public housing, all witnesses and Congresspeople in attendance agreed that the challenges of public housing predate the current Administration by decades. While there were several legislative proposals put forward from the Committee’s Democratic majority that would bring fundamental change to the public housing program, the questioning of witnesses and statements by Committee members largely focused attention on the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.

Representing HAs were Ann Gass (Austin, TX), Bobby Collins (Shreveport, LA), and Eugene Jones (Atlanta, GA). All three of these witnesses have extensive experience with public housing revitalization and RAD, and both Gass and Collins have worked to convert the entire portfolios of their respective agencies, mainly through RAD. While all three witnesses discussed how RAD is not a solution for all HAs and went into detail regarding the reasons why, there was not a witness on the panel who could speak from personal experience about the why RAD is not feasible in their local community. Gass and Collins both agreed that RAD would not be needed except for the deferred capital needs of the public housing program, and Jones stated that the public-private partnerships envisioned by RAD “make the best of maybe a bad situation.” Jones also spoke to the ability of the Moving to Work (MTW) program to help agencies of all types to maintain and expand affordable housing in their communities, stating “I think every housing authority should be MTW.” Jones is currently the Executive Director of an MTW agency, and spent five previous years at the Executive Director of the Chicago Housing Authority, another MTW agency.

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