First draft of federal spending bill slashes affordable housing programs

How will affordable housing programs fare as the new Republican Congress and the president wrestle over the 2016 budget?

Not well, if the first draft of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is taken at face value. The bill coming out of the subcommittee takes a $9.7 billion out of the president’s version of the budget.

Some of this is politics, surely. Congressional Republicans continue to budget under the restraints of the sequestration, and whether or not those self-imposed limitations continue through the end of the budget season are yet to be seen. (Several Democrats on the subcommittee made this point bluntly – Rep. Nita Lowey from New York called it a “made up bill,” suggesting she expects it to change dramatically when a new budget framework is agreed upon.)

But if it stands, how would that $9.7 billion cut affect people in Delaware? White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan broke it down state by state. Among many other cuts in education, job training and transit programs necessary to preserve our transportation infrastructure in Delaware, there are two related directly to affordable housing:

  • Reduce Access to Affordable Housing: Compared to the President’s Budget, the House bill funds 100,000 fewer Housing Choice Vouchers, reducing opportunities for low- income households to find decent, safe housing in the private market. … As a result, approximately 60 fewer Delaware families would receive Housing Choice Vouchers in 2016, compared to the previous year, and even more would lose out relative to the President’s Budget. These cuts are even more problematic in light of new research released just last week that found large positive effects of housing vouchers on long-term educational and earnings outcomes for young children.
  • Set Back Efforts to End Homelessness: Compared to the President’s Budget, the Subcommittee bill reduces funding for Homeless Assistance Grants, supporting 15,000 fewer homeless or at-risk families with rapid rehousing and 25,500 fewer units of permanent supportive housing targeted to the chronically homeless. In January 2014, there were 900 homeless individuals in Delaware – including roughly 40 who were unsheltered – but only 600 permanent supportive housing beds. House Republican cuts would further strain states and communities and would set us back in meeting the President’s ambitious goals for ending chronic, family, and youth homelessness, while jeopardizing the progress we have already made in ending homelessness for veterans.

The research that Donovan mentions – research that underscores how important affordable housing can be to families and our communities – is the same work I wrote about here and here. I hope Rep. Lowey is right, and that as the budget process continues, this appropriations bill will be reassessed, and that families will be given the opportunities to relocate to the safe, affordable housing that they deserve.

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