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On the House: Trump budget slashes funding for urban housing authorities

Caitlin McCabe, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Home and Consumer News

All presidential budgets are viewed only as a guideline -- one that, historically, Congress ignores.

Yet President Trump's fiscal 2019 budget is even further complicated by a two-year spending deal enacted by Congress on Feb. 9 to avoid a long-term government shutdown. Trump's budget, released just three days after he signed Congress' deal, largely fails to align with the budget caps that lawmakers approved. And when lawmakers proceed with appropriating that money in the weeks ahead, they will proceed with November elections in mind.

Still, analysts say, Trump's budget remains important because it illustrates the administration's priorities and fiscal views. Presidential budgets can influence discussions, spark debates, and lay the groundwork for future policy making, meaning their content cannot be overlooked.

Which is why, when Trump's budget was released this month, analysts, proponents and critics immediately waded in, trying to determine which programs are on the chopping block and which are getting plumped.

According to housing officials, some of the news wasn't good for cities.

In general, Trump's budget aims to expand defense funds, while curtailing social programs. Among his reductions: a $6.8 billion cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, representing a 14.2 percent drop from 2017 funding. If passed, HUD would receive $41.2 billion for 2019.

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In tweets this month, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said Trump's budget represents "a commitment to fiscal restraint," one focused "on moving more people toward self-sufficiency."

But what exactly could the budget, if legitimately considered, mean for HUD -- and where would it leave cities that depend on the agency?

Trump's proposed HUD cuts largely center on the idea that states, cities, and private developers should share more of the affordable-housing cost. At the same time, his budget also maintains funding -- and kicks in cash -- for a handful of programs. According to budget details, the administration proposed maintaining funds for programs that reduce homelessness, while boosting spending for the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which provides resources to convert public housing into public-private ownership. Trump's budget proposal also requests funding for programs that provide employment and social services for tenants, including for the establishment of "EnVision Centers" -- a new Carson initiative that seeks to graduate HUD tenants into the private market.

Yet much of the proposed HUD budget focuses, instead, on eliminating programs that the administration claims are "duplicative or have failed to demonstrate effectiveness," with specific programs pinpointed in particular: the Community Development Block Grant program, the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, the HOME Investment Partnership, and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program. Those programs are focused, HUD says, on transforming neighborhoods, either through infrastructure development, housing rehabilitation, new housing, and more.


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