On March 8, The Washington Post reported on considered budget cuts to HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, within the yet to be released 2018 presidential budget proposal. As the Post shared, the Trump administration was in the process of considering “more than $6 billion in cuts” to HUD “according to preliminary budget documents obtained by the [Post]” (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post).
Sourced from said documents, “HUD’s budget would shrink by about 14 percent to $40.5 billion in fiscal 2018” year (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post). Although the preliminary plans maintain the “same level of funding to rental assistance programs and avoids reductions that could directly put families on the street,” many important portions and programs of the department could be squeezed or cut off completely. Primary losses will be seen within building maintenance, community development projects, and the department’s emergency discretionary funding.
Of primary concern, the proposed budget targets the public housing capital fund, cutting funding by $1.3 billion. As the Post describes, big ticket repairs within public housing facilities will essentially be put completely on hold, exacerbating the “tens of billions in backlogged repairs already [plaguing] the country’s 1.2 million public housing units.” Deteriorating conditions within public buildings will surely have a negative quality-of-life impact on families that rely on public housing.
Meanwhile, a complete removal of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is proposed. The CDBG, which has existed for over four decades and has for years has “enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress,” focuses on “[developing] viable urban and rural communities, expanding economic opportunities and improving quality of life, principally for persons of low- and moderate-income” (hud.gov). Providing grants to local governments, the program presents a wide framework in which local governments can easily adapt grant money for housing related community needs, so long as local projects fit within one of the CDBG’s three national objectives of:
- Providing benefit to low- and moderate-income persons
- Eliminating slums or blighting conditions
- Addressing urgent needs to community health and safety
These grants currently impact nearly 12 million Americans yearly. The reach of the program is astounding, each year benefiting 130,000 disabled peoples, 71,000 homeless shelter residents, and 400,000 senior citizens. The grants also provide for homeless, battered spouses, and AIDs patient services, impacting nearly 650,000 people in need in the 2016 fiscal year. In the past grant money has been used for long-term recovery projects in lower Manhattan following 9/11 and disaster relief for natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina (hud.gov).
Recent CDBG projects like the creation of a new bike trail in New Orleans, the construction of affordable housing units in Milwuakee, and other housing and community initiatives will end following the program’s complete loss of funds (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post).
Aside from the CDBG program, the HOME Investment Partnership Program, “which provides block grants for local communities to build affordable housing” and the Choice Neighborhoods program, aimed at investing and redeveloping low income communities, will be fully cut (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post).
Meanwhile, large reductions in funding will be seen elsewhere—housing voucher programs will be cut by “at least $300 million,” housing for the elderly will “be cut by $42 million,” and housing for those with disabilities by $29 million. For Native American communities, the Indian Community Development Block Grants (ICDBG) program will be cut by 20% (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post). This is a major setback for native populations, which witness a 25.9% poverty rate, an 8% overcrowding rate within households, and an average annual per capita income of only $16,716. These figures compare drastically to a national average of 13.4%, 3%, and $27,041, respectively (hud.gov). The reduction in funding to the ICDBG program will heighten already dire housing situations for these communities.
The president released his Budget Blueprint last past week, and it appears that much of the initial considered HUD budget cuts are maintained. Although it remains ambiguous as to whether the public housing capital and operating funds will sustain major cutbacks, given that they fail to be directly addressed in the president’s brief 1 page summary of HUD’s 2018 funding, it is clear that HUD faces dramatic cuts. With a 2018 budget constraint of $40.7 billion, down from $46.9 billion in the current fiscal year, the department faces an overall 13.2% decrease in finances. What remains on the chopping block, as discussed above, includes the totality of the Community Development Block Grant Program, the HOME Investment Partnership Program, the Choice Neighborhood Program, and the Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing Program.
If these cuts are to progress, serious consequences may be felt throughout low-income communities across the US. As it is, and as we have seen in Evicted, this year’s Go Big Read selection, housing affordability and stability, and strong community structure, are key to the success of families throughout the country. However, many low-income Americans cannot attain these needed support systems. According to a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, throughout the US, only 30 affordable housing units are available on average per 100 low-income families. In certain states like Florida, California, and Nevada, this situation is more dire, with only 27, 21, and 15 affordable housing units available per 100 families, respectively (Tanvi Misra, Citylab). An inability to afford housing leads to a cycle of unsuitable living conditions, eviction, homelessness, health consequences, lack of proper education, and much more.
Many of the to-be-cut programs allow for more affordable, properly functioning, and stable housing situations for low-income households, permitting families to set down roots, integrate wholly into the local education system, and create key relationships with neighbors. These processes have lasting positive effects not only on their individual prospects, but on the community as a whole. A loss to HUD funding will slow or reverse many of these key benefits that many low-income and marginalized groups rely on for betterment and upward mobility.
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office