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We know that a jury trial is not always an unmitigated blessing and if the defendant is not allowed to show certain evidence to the jury he will have very little chance whether he is before the judge or a jury. However, that is for him to decide. He should not and cannot be deprived of his constitutional rights. If such civil procedures are being established it is about time that the Congress of the United States would look into the matter and remedy the situation.
There are people on the other side that will probably say that that takes too much timethat it clogs the court, and they are perfectly willing to let the discretion of a bureaucrat take care of the matter and deprive a citizen of his life savings and his property.
We think that this is the greatest possible indictment against all of these control laws because they enter into a lot of petty little transactions and the sum total of these transactions is a tremendous quantity. It would be impossible for any staff of people to administer a law like that and administer it justly.
Now, as to the interests of the public, they will get very little protection out of this process if the property owners are not scared about violating the law because the number of cases that can be possibly tried in court, whether it is by jury or judge, are a very limited number of cases- --they are only a drop in the bucket. The enforcement of this law, the same as any other law, depends upon the willing compliance of the vast majority of the people. Now, we even have difficulty to enforce such laws as “Thou Shalt Not Steal" and "Thou Shalt Not Kill" but there at least we have the vast majority of the people on the side of the law. When it comes to rent control or a price control law, especially when it is administered so ineptly and unjustly as in this case, the number of violations are bound to be so numerous that when a man is caught in the meshes of the law it is purely an accident. It is just as if you got in front of a truck and got run over, and it is on about the same level morally. There is no justification in prosecuting these landlords, for merely charging what the tenant is perfectly willing to pay. Most of the plaintiff tenants, if they were to be put on the stands and state under oath as to whether they thought the rental charge that they paid was reasonable, would admit that it was very reasonable, but they would say, "If the Government says I don't have to pay that much, why should I?”
Incidentally that was exactly the attitude that a tenant took in a court case some years ago. He felt that the property owner was definitely entitled to a certain $5 per month over which they had a dispute but the law gave him an advantage and he took what he could get.
There is nothing more reprehensible than this type of law and all well-meaning citizens, regardless of their economic status, should combine to throw out and make forever impossible the continuation of such tyranny.
Mr. SCHMIDT. It is remarkable how many political superstitions we have in this country--for instance, there is this old saying "Well, you have rent control because there are so many more tenants than landlords.” Let us look at the records—what are the facts? The tenants are in a minority in every city in this country as compared with the home owners, except in the city of Chicago and the city of New York.
Even in these cities the number of tenants is consistently decreasing and more and more of them are becoming either owners of individual homes or of cooperative apartments. The tenants are a vanishing species and yet so many people think that they can gain political support by voting for an unjust law like this.
I would like to call your attention to an opinion poll that Mr. McVey from the fourth district from Illinois conducted in the city of Chicago. He asked the question "do you favor rent control” and the answers were "Yes" 103, "No" 430, 'No opinion" 15. Mr. McVey asked his constituents many other opinions but the results thereof do not affect this particular piece of legislation.
I notice that formerly there used to be several members on this committee that were favoring rent control and now they are politically extinct. I am thinking particularly of former Representative Barrett O'Hara, who was very enthusiastically in favor of rent control and it
evidently was the cause for his elimination from the Congress of the United States.
Gentlemen, I ask you how could it be otherwise- property in the United States is so widely distributed that there are over eight million owners of rental property. The administration in power has for a period of 10 years now consistently deprived these people of their just due. They have put them through emotional and financial stress that is almost beyond endurance. How any political party could enter upon a program of mistreating such a large sector of the population and mistreat them year after year in the manner that has been done by these administrative officials is just too hard to believe. Any party that will do this sort of thing will find itself finally eliminated. To illustrate my point I would like to have your permission to enclose in the record another diagram from our official publication Free Enterprise. This diagram shows a percentage of the party votes for the last 50 years.
Mr. BROWN. (Presiding) It may be inserted in the record. (The information referred to is as follows:)
Mr. SCHMIDT. It is not our custom to make any recommendations for amending the present law because it is 100 percent bad. We would like to point out, however, several possible improvements:
First. Restrict the power of the administration to recontrol so that it cannot be done over the protest of the local governing body.
Second. Give a defendant in a suit for overcharges the same legal privileges that a defendant would have in any other lawsuit for monetary damages between two private citizens.
Third. Before a judgment for overcharges shall be rendered give the defendant an opportunity to show in the court that the rental allowed by the Housing Expediter is inequitable.
Fourth. Put in a limitation on the powers of the judges to use contempt charges for the collection of judgments.
While this Democratic Party has been continuously in power since 1932 it has maintained its position by a constantly declining percentage in the popular vote beginning in 1936. At the last election, Mr. Truman was elected with only 49.3 percent of the popular vote and he is, therefore, going down into history as one of the few Presidents elected by a minority of the popular vote.
Gentlemen, we have recently been treated to the spectacle of the President seizing the steel industry. Evidently he feels that the powers of his office are unlimited and that for all practical purposes he is an absolute monarch. I would like to suggest to every Member of the House of Congress that he should search his own soul and consider whether he has at all times thought of the limitations that our Constitution places upon the power of Congress. Congress, likewise, does not have the power of an absolute monarch and many Congressmen have recently taken the attitude that they could pass a law to take the property of citizen A and give it to citizen B entirely, capriciously, and willfully as they please.
If you have any respect for the Constitution of the United States please let this law expire.
The American people have been very patient with those who have whittled away at their constitutional freedoms but I think that in the coming election they are going to awaken completely; and I suggest that you should not be caught with having voted to destroy the freedom of the American people.
If you want to survive the coming upheaval do not vote the freedoms of the American people away.
I thank you.
Mr. Brown (presiding). Does any member desire to interrogate the witness?
If not, you may be excused. We are very glad to have your statement.
Mr. SCHMIDT. Thank you.
Mr. Brown. We have two other witnesses, so we will recess to reconvene at 2:30 p. m.
(Whereupon, at 12:25 p. m., the committee was recessed, to reconvene at 2:30 p. m., the same day.)
(The committee met, pursuant to its recess, at 2:30 p. m.).
Present: Chairman Spence, Messrs. Brown, Addonizio, Dollinger, Fugate, Cole, Nicholson, McDonough, and Betts.
The CHAIRMAN. We will resume the hearings.
The CLERK. Mr. William A. Walters, president of the California State Apartment Conference.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM A. WALTERS, PRESIDENT, ACCOM
PANIED BY PATRICK O'DONOVAN, ASSISTANT SECRETARY. TREASURER, THE CALIFORNIA STATE APARTMENT CONFERENCE
The CHAIRMAN. You may proceed, Mr. Walters.
Mr. WALTERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee.
My name is William A. Walters. I am president of the California State Apartment Conference whose office is located at 3923 West Sixth Street, Los Angeles, Calif. I have with me, today, my assistant, Patrick O'Donovan, who is assistant secretary-treasurer of the conference. In order to conserve the time of this committee, I shall not read the entire text of my presentation. I would like, with your permission, to submit my prepared statement for insertion in the record of these hearings. Each member of the committee has received copies of my statement and, I hope, each has had time to read the remarks contained therein.
The CHAIRMAN. It may be inserted.
April 21, 1952.
Washington, Þ. C. DEAR MR. SPENCE: The California State Apartment Conference is the official trade association of the rental housing industry in California, the second largest and fastest growing State in the Nation.
The association includes 15 groups of apartment owners, in every major city and densely populated area in the State. Its membership totals approximately 40,000 individuals, all of whom have a vital stake in the rental housing business. Through their properties they serve the communities of Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Richmond, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Stockton, Ventura and Alameda and Kern counties:
We speak therefore from close knowledge of and familiarity with the rental housing business. We have lived with it and made it our business for many years. We have tried to be good citizens; and we have tried to be patient through a longer period of more restrictive and more damaging controls than have been inflicted on any other segment of the American economy.
We believe the time is long overdue for the removal of these controls, not only for the relief of property owners but also for the benefit of our tenants, for business in general and for the Nation as a whole. We appreciate the privilege of setting forth, in this presentation, some of our reasons. We hope it will be genuinely useful to you when you are faced with the task of considering whether to extend the present legislation which is shortly to expire. Sincerely yours,
CALIFORNIA STATE APARTMENT CONFERENCE, By WILLIAM WALTERS, President.
STATEMENT OF William A. WALTERS, PRESIDENT, THE CALIFORNIA STATE
APARTMENT CONFERENCE It has now been more than 10 years since rent controls were placed on America's rental housing
Originally it was intended as a temporary measure, but each expiration date has brought an organized pressure for renewal. Each time the claims, the arguments, the uncertainties and purported fears have been the same. Each time the temporary emergency has been stretched out; through a war completed, a reconversion period, an uneasy peace, a new defense effort, and a resumption of actual armed conflict. Each time the act has been extended only temporarily for another year, or two, or for a few months, but always it has been extended.
Once more strong pressure is being exerted for another renewal. The Banking and Currency Committee of the United States Senate, in fact, has said that this time it will not consider arguments on the merits or lack of merits of rent control itself, but only evidence and suggestions which pertain to maladministration of, inequities in and possible changes of the present law. Fully aware of the difficult task faced by that body, and of the pressures political and otherwise brought against it, we have made certain suggestions for such modification. Those same suggestions are contained in the pages which follow. If controls are to be extended once again, we respectfully urge you to consider them seriously.
However, we in California have watched an interesting situation in the last year and a half or so. With a single exception we have seen our major cities decontrolled by the local action permitted under the current law, and we have been grateful to Congress for making that local action possible. We have seen concerted, strenuous, even frantic efforts by the Office of Rent Stabilization and other organized pressure groups to prevent decontrol. Where control once has been removed, however, we have seen an overwhelming confirmation of the beliefs we have long held and a complete refutation of the claims and wild predictions made by rent control's proponents.
MANY BENEFITS HAVE FOLLOWED RENT DECONTROL
It is a matter of clear record now that in our decontrolled communities the alleged "housing shortages” quickly vanished, a large amount of new or additional housing space has been made available to tenants, there has been an enormous amount of rehabilitation, repair, and renovation, rent rises have been moderate and in many cases nonexistent, a new era of good feeling between owners and tenants has come into being, the much-feared problem of evictions has completely failed to materialize, and a plentiful supply of good rental housing has become available in all rental ranges.
We believe that the California experience has demonstrated beyond question the complete falsity of claims that Federal rent controls are needed. Information which follows shows how decontrolled rents in Los Angeles rose, in 15 months, only half as much as Tighe Woods had offered to allow if only the city council would keep controls in effect in that city.
CONTROL FORCED BACK AGAIN ON SEVERAL AREAS You may wonder why, if so much of our State has been decontrolled, we should be so concerned now with the extension of rent control. The answer is that the fear of recontrol by sudden directive from Washington, regardless of local action or local wishes, still hangs over us like a sword of Damocles. Several of our areas, once removed from controls, have been placed back under them; we believe needlessly and unwisely. In one of them, Ventura, as mentioned in greater detail further on, the city council was required to hold additional hearings in order to decontrol the city again. It did so when many vacancies were shown to exist and many rents were shown to be below the former OPS ceilings. The city had been recontrolled by the Housing Expediter after a presumed "fact-finding” survey, but no one could be found in Ventura who knew of such a survey. As long as that continued threat of recontrol is permitted under the law we cannot plan with assurance, build with confidence, know where or how we stand, or enjoy peace of mind and a real freedom from needless uncertainties.
Information follows which shows that evictions, the much-feared bugaboo of decontrol, were no problem in Los Angeles, and why they were not. Further details show how rent rises have been far behind the rises in other cost-of-living items, even where controls have been removed entirely, These comparisons are made even more graphically by charts which follow.