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Opinion

Time for Congress to restore $6 billion in HUD funding
 
Published Tuesday, May 9, 2017
by Charlene Crowell, NNPA

From youth yearning for the time to have their own place to older Americans hoping to age in place, the need to have a home is a shared concern of consumers of all ages and locales. It’s where children are raised and memorable moments dwell. It’s also where many people rest, reflect, and shut out the worries of the day. 

Right now, the future of our country’s commitment to housing is in jeopardy. In the recently-released White House Budget Blueprint, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will not resemble its former self. While some programs are proposed to become smaller, others are identified for extinction. Fortunately, while the president proposes a budget, Congress must hold hearings that offer opportunities to amend what some would deem indefensible.

The irony is that so many HUD programs and services that have enjoyed longstanding, broad and bipartisan support across the country are among those proposed to end.

For example, since 1974, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program has provided local and state officials the flexibility to fund local priorities for services, projects and partnerships. Whether the need was affordable housing, blight removal, community supportive services or a way to leverage capital in redevelopment projects, local concerns have guided how to make the best use of federal funds.  

According to the White House Budget Blueprint, CDBG would absorb $3 billion of HUD’s proposed $6.2 billion agency cut. Reaction from municipal leaders and organizations was swift.

“From CDBG block grants to Community-Oriented Policing Services, the programs targeted for cuts provide support for millions of working Americans and help cities invest in public-good projects like police stations, food banks and domestic violence shelters,” said Matt Zone, a Cleveland city councilmember and president of the National League of Cities, an organization that advocates for 19,000 cities, towns and villages. “These unprecedented cuts would be devastating to all our nation’s cities – with the worst impacts felt in small towns and rural communities.”

“In housing, the proposed budget would end some of HUD’s most successful programs that help underserved communities, including Community Development Block Grants, the HOME Investment Partnerships and Choice Neighborhoods,” noted Yana Miles, a policy counsel with the Center for Responsible Lending. 

Two of the HUD programs that Miles cites are the focus of another proposed $1.1 billion in cuts: Choice Neighborhoods and the HOME Investment partnerships program.

Choice Neighborhoods provides funding and technical assistance to support local community efforts to improve struggling neighborhoods dotted with distressed public or HUD-assisted housing.  Like CDBG, eligibility is formula-based and requires a formal revitalization strategy or Transformational Plan.

The HOME Investment Partnerships program focuses exclusively on creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income families. Until now, it has also been the single-largest block grant dedicated to expanding this housing sector. Formula grants for states and local communities are often awarded in partnership with local nonprofit organizations to build, buy and/or rehabilitate affordable housing for either rent or homeownership. 

For the nation’s 1.2 million families who live in public housing, the proposed budget blueprint will take $1.3 million from facility improvements and another $600 million in operational costs.

Since post-World War II, FHA-backed mortgage loans have provided funding for millions of Americans. With down payments as low as 3.5 percent, families who cannot afford a large down payment for a conventional loan can make that important transition from renter to homeowner.  In recent years, FHA-backed loans are the most used by black and Latino consumers. 

 

Charlene Crowell is communications deputy director for the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org. 

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