By Kate Scott, Deputy Director
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (“WLC”) and Equal Rights Center (“ERC”) strongly oppose President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to critical housing programs. The budget proposal will cripple programs that secure affordable housing for working and low-income families, seniors, persons with disabilities, and that provide necessary investments in infrastructure and repairs.
If enacted, the budget will severely curtail public housing funds and entirely eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”) program. The CDBG program is among the oldest and largest of HUD’s grant programs, and it provides critical resources for housing and economic development. Also on the chopping block are the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Choice Neighborhoods program, the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, NeighborWorks America, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and legal aid services. Together, these programs invest in and seek to revitalize low-income neighborhoods, promote affordable housing, encourage homeownership, avert homelessness, heat homes, and fend off evictions.
In total, the budget slashes HUD’s funding by 13.2%, or about $6 billion. WLC Executive Director Jonathan Smith comments, “These reductions will increase rather than help eliminate barriers to fair and equal housing opportunity and prevent tenants who rely on public housing from accessing the full scope and timely provision of maintenance repairs. There is no justification for such cuts particularly when the administration is fully aware that so many cities across the country, including the District of Columbia (“District”), are facing an affordable housing crisis.”
What’s more, various HUD programs currently secure stable housing outcomes and create jobs for households in benefitting local jurisdictions. The cuts to HUD’s programming will thus lead to increased housing instability and greatly harm local economies by limiting the housing and jobs-related opportunities of their constituents.
Among the public housing authorities which will be affected by the proposed cuts is the District’s Housing Authority (“DCHA”). DCHA largely relies on capital funds from HUD to pay for significant renovations and repairs to its housing stock. Further, the DCHA additionally uses a significant amount of federal money to distribute vouchers to low-income tenants who rely on such funds to secure their homes.
Equally disconcerting is the loss of CDBG funding, which is used by local jurisdictions to support fair housing initiatives, including those of the ERC. Racial segregation in housing persists in many communities, violates federal law and the nation’s values, and is a driver of inequality. The proposed loss of CDBG monies could greatly limit the breadth and depth of work local governments and their grantees can undertake to dismantle segregation.
ERC Executive Director Melvina Ford comments, “The Fair Housing Act, a law that has received broad bipartisan support since its passage nearly five decades ago, requires federal and local governments to take steps to dismantle segregation. Ending the CDBG program will make this task all the more herculean and the results are unjustifiable.”
For all of these reasons, the WLC and ERC call on HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Congress to oppose the proposed budget cuts and support full funding of housing related programs in order to ensure the continuation of work to build equitable communities.