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JANUARY 15, 1913.
Wu. W. CREHORE, 30 Church Street, New York City. HOME CONDITIONS IN NEW YORK CITY.
New YORK, January 30, 1913. Hon. OSCAR W. UNDERWOOI, Chairman Committee on linys and Means,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. DEAR SIR: The East Side Club of the city of New York, organized for the purpose of improving the condition of the residents of that portion of the city known as the "East Side”—which comprises the territory below Fourteenth Street and east of the Bowery-numbering approximately 1,000,000, desires to present the following facts to your honorable body:
Nowhere in the world is there a more industrious, energetic, and frugal body of people, yet, in spite of the fact that they are mainly employed in protected industries, their wages are meager and fall far below the amount necessary for their proper support, and in consequence many of them are badly housed and poorly clothed, a fact plainly visible to anyone who may take a walk through the district; and the records of the philanthropic societies which care for many of them will prove that they are inadeguately fed.
That our brief may be concise we have confined our evidence to but two of the trades in which the residents of the district are engaged—the garment makers, numbering some 50,000, and the shirt-waist makers, numbering about 35,000--and below is a table showing rates of wages, number of hours employed per day, and number of months employed per year.
Nonunion shops work 114 hours per day, and wages are not so high in shirt-waist trade.
We desire to particularly call the attention of the committee to the fact that the periods of employment in these trades are but 7 and 8 months, respectively, per year, and that during the period of nonemployment the operatives are unable to obtain Work in other vocations, and, consequently, at the beginning of each working season, they have a burden of debt which takes the greater portion of the employed season to pay off.
While there are various causes for the high rents which are charged in the district, many of which would not be removed by a reduction of the tariff, nevertheless we subjoin a statement to show your honoraħle body the degree that the tariff on building materials increases the cost of housing.
The houses of this district are mainly of the tenement variety four, five, and six stories high, and subdivided for the use of many families--frequently families of 5 to 10 persons are crowded in 3 or 4 rooms. Most of them were built before the present law went into effect, and are entirely unfit for human occupancy. They are without proper ventilation, contain many dark interior rooms, and have not the fanitary arrangements necessary to preserve health. For apartments in this class of houses tenants are required to pay rents entirely beyond their means, and which in many cases compel them to take boarders, and thus further crowd themselves in accommodations which are insufficient for their own families. The scale of rents
quoted below for apartments described above is the result of a careful investigation made during the present year.
For the purpose of illustrating how the cost of housing accommodations in this district is increased by the tariff, we beg to submit the following figures obtained from a reliable builder: A house 37 feet 6 inches by 88 feet, five stories high and arranged for four families on a floor, and which would be built in compliance with the conditions of the present law would cost, exclusive of the land, about $28,000. Of this amount the materials would cost, approximately, $18,000: A very conservative estimate of the duty on $18,000 of building material, if purchased abroad would be $3,000; or we may say that if $18,000 of domestic material were used, its price would be $1,500 less if no duties were imposed on foreign goods. Thus, the result of the tariff is to increase the cost of the house $1,500, on which $1,500 rental must be collected from the tenants. It also compels the payment annually of a city tax of $27.45, which at the present tax rate in this city is the rate on $1,500. This increased cost of $1,500 must be insured, both of which charges are finally paid by the tenant. If building materials were on the free list, not only would the original $1,500 be saved, but also the amount of the taxes and insurance on this increased cost, which must be paid as long as the building lasts.
THE BUREAU OF LABOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AND LABOR.
In Bulletin No. 108 (H. Doc. No. 925, 620 Cong., 2d sess.) of the Bureau of Labor of the Department of Commerce and Labor, page 14, is a table showing the relative prices of 15 articles of food. This table shows an increase in prices since 1890 of 51 per cent, and that 13 per cent of this increase has taken place from January, 1911. to August, 1912. When it is borne in mind that persons of limited means are compelled to purchase their household supplies in very small quantities, and are therefore, compelled to pay much higher prices than when larger purchases are made, it is self-evident that the great increase in price that has taken place bears with very great severity on wage earners and all people of limited means.
We therefore respectfully ask that all foodstuffs and all materials that enter into the construction of houses be placed upon the free list in order that the working people and those dependent on them be relieved of the unnecessary burdens which the present tariff imposes upon them.
President East Side Club. We beg to annex hereto a printed copy of an address on "The tariff tax on homes," made by Fred Cyrus Leubuscher, in 1905, at the thirteenth annual meeting of the United States League of Local Building and Loan Associations. This paper was subsequently incorporated in a speech of Hon. John Sharp Williams, and appears in full in the Congressional Record. While the figures are predicated on the Dingley tariff, still the arguments are as cogent to-day as they were in 1905:
THE TARIFF TAX ON HOMES.
“You are quite presumptuous, wrote a famous political economist to whom I had applied for data, “to suppose that, in the compass of a short paper, you can fully cover such a subject as the tariff tax on homes. He was correct in his criticism from his standpoint; for he assumed that I meant to discuss not only the house but
4. 19 1. 06 14.04
75 2. 73 1. 17
0.31 3. 42 1.09 1. 60 1. 62 1. 42 2. 67 5.87
all of its contents—food, clothing, furniture, and bric-a-brac, as well as lumber, brick, stone, and iron. It would not only be presumptuous but it would be impertinent as well for me, as a building association man in a convention of the United States League of Building Associations, to attempt to treat, save incidentally, of anything except the building itself and the materials which enter into the making of it. It would also be impolitic, if I cupect to make any impression, for me to arouse political prejudices, as I surely would do if I introduced a discussion of the questions of protection and free trade that are involved in the tariff on food, clothing, and furniture. I distinctly disavow any such intention in this paper. I claim that a discussion of the question of free raw materials that enter so largely into the construction of houses should not shock the most hidebound protectionist, and that he should join with the free trader in the demand for untaxed lumber, untaxed brick, untaxed iron and steel, untaxed cement, untaxed window glass, etc.
The expense of housing is, next to that of food, the principal item entering into the cost of living
The July, 1904, report of the Bureau of Labor, based upon new estimates for 2,567 families, gives the per cent of expenditures for the principal items entering into the cost of living as follows :
Per cent Pood...
Furniture and utensils. Principal and interest on mortgages on homes 1.58 Books and newspapers.
Amusement and vacation.
Total... If we lump the per cents of rent, interest on mortgages and taxes, which legitimately belong together, we have a total of 15.28, making it the second largest item in the cost of living.
Rent and building materials should be considered together, because the tariff tax on rent is due to the tariff tax on building materials, which greatly increases the cost of building and repairing houses. Those who buy materials and build their own homes pay their tariff tribute on building materials direct to the scores of protected trusts that "guard our homes as a pack of wolves guards a flock of sheep.” Those who rent homes pay their tariff tribute through the landlords, who add enough to the rent bills to cover the tariff cost of constructing the rented homes.
The population of this country probably increased in the year which ended July 1 by over 2,000,000 souls, half of them immigrants, the latter being adults in greater proportion than the native-born population. In order merely to supply shelter for this addition to the population, assigning 5 persons to a group or family, 400,000 dwellings would be required. At an average of only $1,000 for the cost of a dwelling place of 5 persons, the housing of the increased population would require 400,000 dwelling places at $1,000 each, or an expenditure of $400,000,000. In order to meet this demand on the men that must be occupied in cutting timber, on the men in the sawmills, in the carpenters' shops, in the brickyards, in the stone quarries, in the nail factories, etc., and on the men engaged in assembling and putting up the dwellings, 800,000 men must be occupied for one year merely to house the increase of population of a single year. Half this number at least would be employed in the building trades-carpenters, masons, painters, plumbers, and the like. Notwithstanding these stupendous figures the manufacture of homes finds no place in the United States census and there are no data by which the annual cost can be accurately computed. We must therefore get at our figures in another way.
Excluding the lumbermen, the men in the sawmills, in the brickyards, and in the stone quarries, and including, only carpenters, masons, painters, plasterers, and plumbers occupied in the building trades, the number in 1900 exceeded 1,200,000 the largest single body occupied in one art outside of agriculture.
It is estimated that the average earnings of these classes is $2 a day for 300 days in the year, or $600 a year. Wages are higher in the cities and lower in the country; but taking a general average of $2 a day for 1,200,000 men their earnings are over $700,000,000 annually.
As the cost of labor in putting up buildings may be computed in a rough and ready way at 30 per cent of the final cost, the annual value of manufactured buildings in the United States must exceed two thousand million dollars.
The manufacture of dwellings in ratio to the population is diminishing. The population of cities is becoming more and more congested. There is greater and greater difficulty in housing the increasing number. The cost of dwellings, and the
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consequent increase of rent, presses harder and harder every year upon persons of moderate and small incomes. There are several reasons for this, and one reason will be found in the taxation of building materials imposed under the present tarifi. Nearly every article that enters into the construction of the dwelling house is heavily taxed, at the expense of those who pay rent or who build their own dwellings, for the sole benefit and profit of a very small number belonging to the privileged class who own the timberlands, stone quarries, marble quarries, and deposits of clay, and of the Steel Trust, Window Glass Trust, Plate Glass Trust, and other members of the privileged class who have perverted the power of public taxation to purposes of private gain. In the matter of timber we are deprived of the abundance of Canada while we are denuding our own hills, thus not only taxing the dwellings but destroying the protection of the water supplies of the country. Bricks and stone which we might derive in abundance from the neighboring Dominion are heavily taxed. Marble is heavily taxed, one of the recipients of the bounty being a Senator of the United States. The makers of every kind of household hardware are taxed on their steel, on their tin plates, on their copper, on their zinc, on their lead. The makers of paint are taxed on the materials which form component parts; and so on throughout the list.
It would be almost beyond possibility to trace out the evil of these influences or to compute the increase of cost on each dwelling place. It can not be less than 20 per cent on the cost of every dwelling house, and is more likely to be in excess of 25 per cent than any other figure. In this way the poor are crowded or unhoused. Persons of small incomes are taxed more heavily than any other class in proportion to their income. The whole community is burdened by taxes from which the Government receives little or no revenue, but of which nearly all the proceeds are conveyed into the pockets of the privileged class at whose instance the power of public taxation is perverted to purposes of private gain.
From the most high protectionist standpoint the tariff tax is unnecessary on the mass of building materials. In the United States duties are levied for two ostensible purposes: First, to raise revenue; second, to protect our manufacturers and wage workers against the lower prices of foreign countries which would otherwise undersell them and thus tend to drive them out of business. Are these two purposes subserved by levying the present tariff on building materials? Let us see. The 1900 census values the principal products that enter into the building of houses as follows: Brick and tile......
$51, 270, 476 Carpentering
316, 101, 758 Gas and lamp fixtures.
12, 577, 806 Gas machines and meters..
4, 392, 730 Glass.....
56, 539, 712 Iron and steel nails and spikes.
14, 777, 299 Iron and steel pipe..
21, 292, 043 Iron work-architectural, etc.
53, 508, 179 Lead, bar, pipe, and sheet..
7, 477, 824 Lime and cement...
28, 689, 135 Lumber, planing-mill products.
168, 343, 003 Mantels, slate and marble.
1, 153, 540 Marble and stone work.
85, 101, 591 Masonry, brick and stone.
203, 593, 634 Oil, linseed..
27, 184, 331 Painting and paper hanging.
88, 396, 852 Paints....
50, 874, 995 Paper hangings.
10, 663, 209 Plumbers' supplies..
14,771, 185 Plumbing, gas, etc., fittings.
131, 852, 567 Pumps, not steam..
1,341, 713 Roofing and roofing materials..
29,916, 592 Steam fittings and heating apparatus.
22, 084, 860 Tin and terne plate.
31, 892, 011 Tinsmithing, sheet iron working, etc..
100, 310, 720 Varnish...
18,687, 240 Wood, turned and carved.
14, 338, 503 Total.......
1,567, 133, 508 These figures were obtained from factories and of course are wholesale prices. I think it is fair to state that at least one-third more is paid by the final consumer after the products have passed through the hands of various middlemen. This brings the figures up to about $2,100,000,000. Mr. Byron W. Holt, the well-known economist,