Michael Hendrix testified before the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services in a hearing entitled, "Preserving a Lifeline: Examining Public Housing in a Pandemic."
Chairman Cleaver, Ranking Member Stivers, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to participate in today’s hearing. My name is Michael Hendrix, and I serve as the director of state and local policy at the Manhattan Institute. Along with my colleagues, we seek to advance freedom and opportunity across America’s communities.
The pandemic showed us the failed reality of public housing in America—and the need for a better deal for Americans in need of a safe place to call home.
Nowhere is this clearer than with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the nation’s oldest and largest public housing system, and long held as the greatest example of what government-led housing can achieve. “A new day is dawning, a new life, a new America,” declared then-New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at the 1936 launch of a campaign of development and slum clearance that would set the tone for public housing across this country.
That “new dawn” is now long past. The “new life” turned into a dead end for millions of Americans. Through the example of NYCHA, we must see how poorly run local housing authorities are (1) failing to care for the well-being of their tenants, (2) actively harming the health and safety of those under their roof, (3) and doing little to integrate residents into the broader economy or community. These are not failures of funding alone, but inescapable flaws of public housing itself, which robs Americans of safe and equitable choice in shelter.
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