Although it has been declared by many in Congress as "dead on arrival" the Trump Administration's proposed 2019 budget appears more predicated on another cliché - "If at first you don't succeed..." The budget again goes after many of the cuts in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs it attempted in the FY2018 version.
The budget calls for an overall 18.3 percent cut in HUD funding. The $39.2 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Department is $8.8 billion less than the 2017 enacted level.
The Community Development Block Grant program and the HOME Investment Partnership Program are not funded under the proposal, a suggestion Congress has previously ignored. The proposal also seeks to end the Choice Neighborhoods program as well as the National Housing Trust Fund.
According to the budget's narrative, there is a request for $33.8 billion for HUD's rental assistance programs and continues to support programs to reduce homelessness and remove lead and other hazards from over 9,500 homes. It also states an intention to request "legislative reforms to place these (rental assistance) programs on a more fiscally sound path while encouraging work and self-sufficiency for tenants. The rental program budget request is a decrease of 11.2 percent from the 2017 enacted level.
The budget proposes specific savings in the Housing Voucher and Public Housing programs and eliminates the previous $2 billion in funding for the Public Housing Capital Fund, stating that the provision of affordable housing should be a responsibility more fully shared with State and local governments. The intent, the narrative says, is to support currently assisted households while decreasing the federal footprint of HUD's assistance over time.
Other specific budget requests include:
- $2.4 billion for the Homeless Assistance Grants (HAG) program, equal to the 2017 enacted level. HAG primarily funds the Continuum of Care program, which is designed to be a coordinated community-based network of programs to prevent and address local homelessness.
- $255 million for Emergency Solutions Grants, which would enable municipalities to support emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, and homelessness prevention.
- $145 million, equal to the 2017 enacted level, for the mitigation of lead-based paint and other hazards in low-income homes, especially those in which children reside. This funding level also includes resources for enforcement, education, and research activities to further support this goal.
- Preserves access to sustainable homeownership opportunities for creditworthy borrowers through FHA and Ginnie Mae credit guarantees. The Budget requests an additional $20 million above the 2017 enacted level of $130 million for FHA to upgrade its operations by investing in information technology and contract support. This additional funding is fully offset by a modest new fee on FHA lenders, better aligning the responsibilities for the costs and benefits of this program.
- Eliminates Major Block Grants (of unspecified nature,) and "continues to propose eliminating funding for programs that lack measurable outcomes and are ineffective."
Donna Kimura quotes several housing advocates who are highly critical of the program in an article in Affordable Housing Finance. Among the comments:
David M. Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference: "This budget is bad policy and bad politics. It undermines years of public-private investments in housing and community development that have had broad bipartisan support, like the CDFI Fund and block grant funding for neighborhood redevelopment. It even cuts the Capital Magnet Fund and National Housing Trust Fund, which aren't even paid for by taxpayers."
Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, "We urge Congress to rise to this moment by rejecting these cuts and investing now before another generation of struggling families are forced to pick between housing and food."
National Low Income Housing Coalition: "The request provides about $19.3 billion for tenant-based rental assistance. "This includes $17.514 billion to renew previous contracts, or more than $3 billion less than what is needed to ensure that all contracts are fully renewed." The Coalition estimates more than 330,000 vouchers would be lost.