Remarks on Signing the Housing and Community Development Act of 1987

 

February 5, 1988

 

Well, see how many it takes to bring about a happening like this. Well, welcome. You know, when I was a kid, my family used to live over the store. Sometimes I feel like I haven't come all that way -- only now, got elevators. [Laughter]

 

Well, again, welcome. And I am pleased today to sign this bill, S. 825, the Housing and Community Development Act of 1987. This comprehensive legislation represents both compromise and cooperation between the administration, the Senate, and the House. Through a concerned effort, the legislation was transformed from a budget buster that would have reversed hard-won housing policy reforms into a rational, cost-effective bill that is fiscally responsible.

 

Thanks are due to many people for producing this compromise. In particular, Senators like Jake Garn, Pete Domenici, Bill Armstrong, Phil Gramm -- the Republican Four Horsemen -- deserve our gratitude for holding the line when an unacceptable version of the legislation came before the Senate. Senators Alan Cranston, and Al D'Amato, Dick Lugar, Pete Wilson, Dave Karnes, plus Chairman St Germain, and Representatives Chalmers Wylie, Marge Roukema, John Hiler, and Steve Bartlett's efforts were instrumental in fashioning out the final compromise with our administration.

 

S. 825 contains several noteworthy provisions. It makes permanent the Federal Housing Administration's insuring authority. That means we will no longer see temporary suspensions of FHA mortgage programs that benefit young families and other first-time buyers.

 

A key feature of this housing bill is the permanent authorization of the housing voucher program that we first proposed in 1982. The housing voucher program exemplifies our commitment to community development through public-private partnerships. Vouchers gave families the dignity of choice -- the opportunity to choose the type and location of their housing and the ability to be near family and friends and schools and churches or jobs. This legislation puts the private market to work in supplying rental housing by enabling the government to help needy families with vouchers so they can afford to rent housing of their own choosing. This legislation is a big step toward our housing goal of a home for every American family.

 

In just the last year, our voucher program has helped 100,000 low-income families find housing of their own choosing. We know flexible housing vouchers serve needy families better at substantially less taxpayer cost. And I'm also pleased that this bill authorizes the availability of vouchers to rural areas, but it's very disappointing that the Congress refused to appropriate the funding for a rural housing voucher program this year.

 

S. 825 provides new opportunities for public housing residents to take control of their own lives by managing or buying their own housing. Joining me are three of our national heroes of the tenant management movement: Kimi Gray, of the Kenilworth-Parkside Resident Management Corporation here in Washington, DC; Bertha Gilkey, of the Cochran Tenant Management Corporation in St. Louis; and Mildred Hailey, the founder of the tenant management movement at the Bromley-Heath Tenant Management Corporation in Boston. And they remind us that ownership or control of one's own residence should be an opportunity for every citizen.

 

S. 825 provides training and technical support for the establishment of new resident management groups and allows them to reinvest savings from resident management to establish small business enterprises. The resident management enterprises of low-income residents have effectively combated crime and poverty and created new pride through self-management in cities around the country.

 

This bill also adopts our proposal for modernization of public housing and gives us new tools to combat fraud and abuse in housing and FHA insurance programs. It also includes authority for the designation of enterprise zones -- part of an initiative that we proposed in 1981. I'm also gratified by another provision of this bill which authorizes HUD to fund local, private organizations that are working to end housing discrimination. Too often -- one case is too many -- families and individuals seeking to buy or rent homes still confront bigotry and discrimination. Well, the fair housing initiative program section of this bill will help ensure that such racism will not be tolerated.

 

Special thanks to Sam Pierce for leading the 3-year fight for this program. Secretary [of Housing and Urban Development] Pierce has been one of the unsung heroes of our administration. His loyalty and hard work, his good sense and commitment can be seen in this bill. Few others could have brought such divergent forces together as Secretary Pierce, and he deserves our appreciation and applause. Thank you, Sam. [Applause]

 

Well now, this housing bill also makes some progress in eliminating ineffective programs, such as the Solar Energy Bank, the Rental Housing Development Grant, and the section 235 subsidy programs. As we work together to reduce the Federal deficit, we need to assure the American people that their tax dollars are being used to meet critical housing and community development needs in a cost-effective way.

 

There are, of course, a number of provisions in this bill that the administration did not support. Previously enacted cost-saving reforms were eroded, and provisions mandating unnecessary cost increases were included. The rights of landlords and owners and the Government's ability to wisely manage subsidized projects are excessively restricted. In the spirit of cooperation, the administration will work with Congress to see if we can correct these features of the bill.

 

But on balance, this is a sound compromise. This bill helps keep a lid on new spending while preserving our key housing reforms. It also includes features that will help ensure that our country can efficiently and effectively meet the challenge of America's changing housing needs. In an earlier day, American pioneers would gather together and help newcomers build their homes. That same spirit of good will and cooperation is what made the passage of this bill possible. And now I'll sign it, which is the easiest part of the process. [Laughter]

 

Note: The President spoke at 11:57 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. S.825, approved February 5, was assigned Public Law No. 100 - 242.