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The CHAIRMAN. You never paid the amount the Rent Commission fixed ?
Mrs. PEARSON. No, we had a lease for a year; why should we? The CHAIRMAN. It makes no difference about that lease.
Mrs. PEARSON. And they told us not to do it. We had a lease for a year. Why should we pay the raise that they asked us.
The CHAIRMAN. Suppose that lease had been for $60 instead of $42.50 and the Rent Commission had fixed it at $15 or $50. Would you have paid the $60 because you had the lease?
Mrs. PEARSON. I do not know. My husband was living then, and he has passed away since.
The CHAIRMAN. The act provides that it makes no difference whether the rent is lowered or raised by the commission; that fixes the amount.
Mrs. PEARSON. The Rent Commissioners told us not to pay it and told us they were getting enough at $42.50.
The CHAIRMAN. Whatever the Rent Commission fixed the rent at. whether it was $45 or $42, was the rent on that property according to the law ?
Mrs. PEARSON. Senator, would you pay more if you had a lease for $42.50 and the Rent Commissioners told you to not pay it?
The CHAIRMAN. If the Rent Commissioners told you that, after fixing the rate at a higher rental, they should have been put out of office.
Mrs. PEARSON. That, I do not know anything about; I am not fully up on the law, but when they told us that, I think you would have done the same. Any man would.
Representative HAMMER. You had your contract for $42.50, and then the Rent Commissioners told you to pay no more than that and you thought you were pretty well fortified?
Mrs. PEARSON. Wouldn't you? I should say any man would.
The CHAIRMAN. I want to ask you a question frankly. If your contract had been for $60, and the Rent Commission had fixed it at $45, would you have continued to pay the lease price because the lease called for $60?
Mrs. PEARSON. That is some years ago; I do not know.
The CHAIRMAN. I want everybody to understand that this rent law was supposed to act either way. When the Rent Commission fixed the rent, whether it was above or below the amount paid, that was the rent that the people should pay and they could collect from you if you paid a different amount.
Mrs. Pearson. Well, let me ask you a question, now. If the Rent Commissioners would have come to you if you had been paying $12.50 and they set it at $47.50, and when your landlord went and wanted to make us pay $47.50 and they would not do it, would you have paid it?
The CHAIRMAN. I would have gone to the President and asked him to appoint a new Rent Commission.
Mrs. PEARSON. Well, you are different from most men, then.
I was put out of the apartment when I had gone through a very severe operation and was not really able to move. I was out in Ohio three months where I had expected to stay but two weeks. I had
taken my husband's body out there to be laid at rest at Marion, Ohio, our old home, and I underwent a very severe operation out there, and got home, and was not able to do much and have not been since, and when Mr. Berry got the apartment he raised on all the rents.
Representative HAMMER. What apartment was that?
Mrs. PEARSON. No. 1410 Euclid, apartment 6, the third floor, and I could only go up and down stairs after I had been home a month once a day.
Mr. Berry came and served notice on me then, after my husband had passed away two years, to get out, that he wanted the apartment for his son. I knew that was not so. His son would not live there; he lived at home with him in this great big stone house, and his wife, who was in the hospital then and never was able to go up and down steps, would not have lived in that apartment. But he served notice on me, and I said that I could not get out. I invited him to the house and told him my condition, that I was not able to move then and that I could not move, that I was not able to attend to the moving and packing and everything, and he said it did not make any difference, he would have to have it for his son and I would have to get out.
I said, “Indeed, I could not get out; if you leave me in for a while, until I am able to move, I will go." He served notice on me then, and I said I could not get out, and he went to law about it.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you recall which one of the members of the Rent Commission it was who told you not to pay any more?
Mrs. PEARSON. My husband attended to that; I do not know. He passed away two years ago last July, and I do not know much about that, only I know that he saw the Rent Commissioners there, and Mrs. Berry was very angry when they told her she was getting enough, that $12.50 was enough. I know that to be a fact; I am on my oath here, and I have never been caught in a story yet, and I can tell the truth.
Senator JONES of Washington. You were just getting up to the point where they put you out.
Mrs. PEARSON. Well, we went to court and my lawyer and I knew we were going to win the case, and we asked for a jury trial, and when he found out there was to be a jury trial-we had been two or three days going back and forth to the court and I got very nervous—he came to me then and asked me if he would let me stayit was in March-until July, whether I would get out then, and I thought I might be better then and would go. My daughter and son-in-law did not want me to do it, but I could not fight it and I did not have the money to fight it, and he said, “I will fight it to the bitter end, because I have plenty of money and you will have to get out.”
That is the kind of a man he was, and the apartments were not in very good condition, and I waited until I could not-I had gotten into the condition where I could not hunt for an apartment and I had to lay off for a while. Then I started to hunt for apartments. Well, I hunted and any thing that I wanted I could not get; that is, at any kind of a price at all. They wanted for two rooms and kitchenette $65, $75, and $80, and on the fourth floors with no
elevators or anything else. I went into all the apartments and I hunted for three or four weeks.
Representative HAMMER. When was that?
Mrs. PEARSON. That was last July. It was in June that I was hunting, last June, and I could not find anything in a good neighborhood or in a clean, nice apartment.
My daughter happened to be at the Fontanet Courts and there happened to be an apartment vacant, so I took that and had to go and it cost me a great deal. There was a great deal of work involved and I had to pay for it all, and the Fidelity Storage Co. moved me and I paid them a good, big price.
I moved over then and I could not get settled for a while on account of my condition, and I have not got over it yet. My physicion wrote me that I should not do another stroke, but I had to do it.
That is Mr. Berry, William D. Berry, 1455 Fairmont Street and University Place. He is right at the corner. He said he was going to put his son in there and he put a stranger in there and he is getting $70 a month. I offered him more rent until I could go, but
, he would not do it because he was afraid to raise me; he was afraid I might go to the Rent Commissioners but I told him I would not. I said, “Mr. Berry, I give you my word and that ends it," but he would not do it. He had raised on all the rents went up to $65 and $70 and some have paid $75.
That is all I think I have.
STATEMENT OF MR, E. F. HARRIS
(The witness was sworn by the Chairman.)
Mr. HARRIS. I am the secretary of the Federated Civic Associations of the District of Columbia, and we are presenting this matter here in toto from the recent meeting of the association held last Friday night. We represent about 60 per cent of the colored population, inasmuch as we comprise 16 of the civic associations of the colored race in the District of Columbia.
At the regular monthly meeting of the Federated Civic Associations of the District of Columbia, held on last Friday evening, January 23, 1925, in the board room at the Municipal Building, upon a unanimous vote of the delegates present, the secretary of the Association was directed to appear before you on this occasion and present to you our views in this matter, either orally or written. The Federated Civic Associations is an organization composed of 16 colored citizens' or civic associations, namely, the Young Men's Southeast Citizens' Association; Bennings, Glendale and Oakland Citizens' Association; Potomac Citizens' Association; Georgetown Civic Association; Deanwood Citizens' Association; Barry Farm Citizens' Association: Southwest Civic Association; Anacostia Citizens' Association: Central Washington Citizens' Association; Northeast Boundary Citizens' Association; Public Interest Citizens' Association of East Washington; Pleasant Plains Citizens' Association; Reno Citizens' Association; Howard Park Citizens' Association; Ivy City Citizens' Association; and Garfield Citizens' Association.
We believe that we represent at least 60% of the colored race in the District of Columbia and are familiar with the rental conditions here. During the recent war the population of our group in
the District of Columbia greatly multiplied and after the signing of the Armistice the reduction in it can barely be noticed. Many who formerly resided in the alleys have been driven to the streets; many who lived in street houses which were dilapidated and condemned by the District officials have had the roofs torn from over their heads before their landlords would render these houses in habitable condition; many have lost their rented homes to make room for the erection of beautiful garages and gasoline stations by the Rockefeller and other multimillionaire interests; many suffer for the want of proper food, clothing, the upkeep of their insurances and other necessaries of life to meet the gouging demands of some of these landlords who apparently have sprung up somewhere from the earth in the past few years.
Houses that have rented in the past for between $20 and $30 to members of our group are now renting to them for from $50 to $100 per month. They are forced to accept whatever rent is demanded of them or take whatever may fall to them. While there are few houses being built we dare say that not two out of every thousand are being built for colored renters. It is unquestionable that that 90 per centum of the houses now rented to the colored in the District of Columbia are being rented for very much more than they should be rented for and it is because of the fact that the gouging landlords will take a chance at inflating their rent, feeling within himself that this class of renter is unable to follow a law suit and match money in the fighting of it with him to a termination in the highest courts of the land.
In speaking of our group being deprived of rented property for the erection of gasoline stations and garages, we cannot overlook the fact that just a few months ago and during this great scarcity of rental properties for our group, the Federal Government has deprived us of at least 50 homes in the vicinity of Rock Creek along P Street in Georgetown and on Twenty-sixth Street, between Pennsylvania Avenue and M Street. We believe that the building of the park could have waited until more homes are available for our race, as homes are more important to us than parks.
We shall feel very grateful for a law regulating deeds of trust and particularly the matter of adding or charging usurious interest clothed in the term of "bonus." There is being charged in the District of Columbia bonuses, particularly on second and third deeds of trust, to our personal knowledge as much as 3712 per centum and to which the usual rate of 6 or 7 per centum is added on the face of the notes.
We believe that if the Congress of the United States about the year 1914 had the power to regulate the rate of interest being charged by "loan sharks" lending money on goods and chattels, some of whom were charging as high as 240 per centum and the result being that they all were driven from these parts, we now believe that this Congress has the right and that it will be a Godsending law to regulate rents, deeds of trusts, and “bonuses” in the District of Columbia.
We do not oppose a duly authorized real estate board which would regulate the practices and licensing of the brokers. But we do oppose any real estate board having the power to say within itself
that persons of the colored race might not reside in any particular block regardless of what the owner of that property may say as to the same. They should have no more right to restrict the residence of a person than the Medical Examining Board should have to say as to where a physician of any race should hang his sign.
Representative HAMMER. That is true in law; they have no right to say that you shall be segregated, and I do not think that under the constitution of any State you can be legally segregated, but you take a position there which most colored people do not take, that you want to live alongside of white people. Have you any reason for wanting to do that?
Mr. Harris. No sir; that is not it. The houses generally vacated by the white people who go to other parts of the city generally are better houses than we could possibly rent, but I have in mind a section of the city where a colored hospital is to be erected pretty soon, and a colored man went into that neighborhood to rent a house and he was told that he would not rent that house because of the fact that the Real Estate Board had zoned that particular block, but the owner of the property had given his permission to that man to enter the premises.
Representative HAMMER. Don't you think it is better for you, and for the white people, too, where you can do it, for you to live rather in groups or communities? I do not mean absolutely, in all cases; but don't you think that you would rather, of your own free will, live in communities among yourselves and not mix up so much with the white people? I remember that at the first church I used to go to the colored people were there with the white folks, but the colored people of their own motion have built places of worship for themselves.
Mr. Harris. The thinking colored man would rather be to himself, but we do not wish a licensing board having any authority to
Representative HAMMER. They can not do it under any law. Mr. HARRIS. That is the condition right now. They are doing it whether they have any authority or not.
STATEMENT OF MR. ROBERT FARRAR
(The witness was sworn by the chairman.)
Mr. FARRAR. Well, I am unfortunately a tenant in Washington and have been for some 25 years. I am living in Clifton Terrance and have been for the last eight years.
I am not going to go into detail about personal grievances; I have not very many, but I went into the apartment some eight years ago 1918, 1 think it was during the war when things were high and apartments almost impossible to get.
The house that I had been living in had been sold and I got out to give it to the purchaser. My rent at that time was fixed by a subcontract with a lady by the name of Mrs. Robb, whose contract did not expire until the 1st of October. I paid, I think $55 per month for three rooms, kitchen and bath, good-sized rooms on the third finor.