At a time when many low income families are having a difficult time finding safe, affordable housing, the administration FY05 budget for housing and community development programs proposes some significant cuts and structural changes. While domestic programs overall are increased by .5% from FY04 levels, the overall HUD budget request is for a .8% increase leading to cuts and in some cases elimination of housing programs that many poor families rely on. These programs, while far from perfect and uneven in their quality, should not be undermined even while housing advocates work to improve them.
Here is how some of the programs are affected:
The budget proposes cuts the Housing Choice Voucher program and changes to the structure of the program. The request is at least $1 billion less than what is needed to fund all currently authorized vouchers, necessitating a reduction of about 250,000 vouchers. Additionally the proposal restructures the Housing Choice Voucher program by turning it into a block grant to public housing agencies. The administrative fees that housing authorities would receive are below FY04 appropriations. The Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program that provides for job training, child care, and other supportive services is unfunded.
The capital fund for public housing is funded below the FY04 appropriation level. This fund also provides new resources for the Resident Opportunity and Self Sufficiency Program (ROSS) and an emergency capital needs fund for emergencies and/or natural disasters.
The Public Housing Operating Fund, used to cover operating expenses including utility payments and maintenance costs, is funded at a level less than last years budget.
Once again, the FY05 budget proposes to zero out the HOPE VI program which revitalizes severely distressed public housing. Congress opposed the Presidents request to eliminate the program in FY04 and reauthorized the program.
The HOME program would receive a small increase but some of those funds would be diverted to the new American Dream down payment initiative.
The Community Development Fund, which includes the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), would receive less money than last year. Urban empowerment zones are unfunded.
Funds for the existing Homeless Assistance programs would decrease from FY04 even though all expiring Shelter Plus Care contracts must be fully funded and at least 30% of the funds must be used for permanent housing. The budget also includes, again, a proposal to consolidate homeless assistance programs into a single program, which the Congress has rejected.
There is an increase in the McKinney program for the Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative cited in the Presidents State of the Union. HUD has indicated that it would simply serve as the pass through for these funds which are administrated by the Department of Labor.
The President also proposed, as he did in FY04, that the Emergency Food and Shelter program be transferred to HUD from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Other HUD Programs
Funding for housing for people with disabilities, Section 811, Housing Opportunities for People With Aids (HOPWA); and for seniors, Section 202, would be flat funded. The Lead Hazard Reduction fund is cut. The Brownfields Redevelopment program, which is intended to redevelop contaminated sites and provide jobs to low income people, is unfunded.
The Catholic bishops support a national housing policy that includes: preservation and production of quality housing for low-income families, the elderly and other vulnerable people; as well as the participation and partnership of residents, nonprofit community groups, and churches to build and preserve affordable housing. Churches, community groups, the private sector, and state and local government must all do more to meet our common responsibility for housing. However, there is no substitute for an involved, competent, and committed federal government.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a number of programs and services it offers to communities throughout the United States. Many Catholic parishes, Dioceses, and Agencies are involved in a variety of these HUD programs. While the Conference does not have a policy position on every change in the department budget, it is focusing on the proposed changes to the Housing Choice Voucher program.
Contact your Representative and Senators and urge them to support full funding of the Housing Choice Voucher program. Tell them that the proposed funding level for and changes to the voucher program are unacceptable. Members of Congress need to hear from people in local communities about the need to provide low income families with access to affordable housing.
For more information:
Thom Shellabarger at the USCCB, 202 541 3189 or firstname.lastname@example.org Douglas Rice, Catholic Charities USA 703 549 1390 X195 or drice@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org