Jose A. DelReal, Washington Post, March 8, 2017
The Trump administration has considered more than $6 billion in cuts at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to preliminary budget documents obtained by The Washington Post. The plan would squeeze public housing support and end most federally funded community development grants, which provide services such as meal assistance and cleaning up abandoned properties in low-income neighborhoods.
It’s the latest evidence that the administration is following through on President Trump’s goal to cut domestic spending by $54 billion to bolster the defense budget. HUD’s budget would shrink by about 14 percent to $40.5 billion in fiscal 2018, which begins in October.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson has taken a staunchly conservative stance on public assistance in the past, saying dependency on HUD programs could become “a way of life” for recipients. While suggesting significant cuts, the preliminary budget maintains the same level of funding to rental assistance programs and avoids reductions that could directly put families on the streets. Instead, it targets funding for building maintenance and community development projects, although HUD recommends in the budget document that those projects receive funding from another source.
Budgets for public housing authorities — city and state agencies that provide subsidized housing and vouchers to local residents — would be among the hardest hit. Under the preliminary budget, those operational funds would be reduced by $600 million, or 13 percent. Funds for big-ticket repairs at public housing facilities would be cut by an additional $1.3 billion, about 32 percent. That could have a major quality-of-life effects on the low-income families who rely on public housing: Tens of billions of dollars in backlogged repairs already plague the country’s 1.2 million public housing units, according to a 2010 HUD report.
The proposal would also reshape the federal government’s involvement in local community development, potentially eliminating a decades-old program that funnels federal dollars into programs that combat poverty and urban decline, and fund other local improvement efforts.
The Community Development Block Grant Program, which has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress, is budgeted to receive $3 billion this fiscal year, according to the document. The proposal would cut those funds entirely.
The program has been used to develop a pedestrian and bike trail in New Orleans and affordable housing projects in Milwaukee. A Boys and Girls Club in Maryland is applying for CDBG funds to construct a gym next year.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said such cuts would be “devastating and hardhearted,” potentially leading to rent increases for those in subsidized housing.
“These sorts of cuts could . . . increase the number of families and people that are homeless because housing is less affordable,” Morial said. “It’s a slap in the face of working Americans, urban communities, to suggest that you should make all these cuts to buy more tankers, aircraft carriers and missile systems.”