Saturday, March 18, 2017
Trump Proposes Cutting Billions to Urban Areas He Vowed to Help
This post by Jane C. Timm originally appeared on The NBC News page on March 16, 2017.
President Donald Trump is proposing slashing billions in federal funding that helps heavily minority urban communities — just months after appealing on the campaign trail to residents of cities like Detroit, asking, "What the hell do you have to lose?"
Released Thursday, the budget calls for $6.2 billion of cuts to the nation's Housing and Urban Development agency, putting the already strapped federal housing authority under even bigger strain.
The reductions come in a spending plan designed specifically to keep the president's many promises — "if he said it on the campaign, it's in the budget," Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Wednesday — and one that advocates say will have disastrous effects in the largely African-American communities that Trump promised he'd "fix."
The administration's "America First" budget blueprint is quick to note that there's still $35 billion left for HUD's other programs, and argues that local governments and private groups need to handle their own urban development programs.
"The impact of this budget is there's going to be more people who are homeless, who are living in substandard housing, or struggling to pay rent," Mary Cunningham, co-director of the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Center, told NBC News. "This budget does not outline a plan to fix the inner cities — it does the opposite. It cuts money that cities rely on."
Trump's budget also eliminates the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which lets communities allocate federal funds toward housing and community projects that bolster and create affordable housing and jobs. It's designed to help the low and moderate-income families, and prevent blight in cities like Detroit, which will see $33 million less funding next if the cut is approved. In the past, those funds have been used to repair or demolish blighted homes and pay for homeless shelters.
Consider an old, boarded up former Masonic Moose lodge in southwest Detroit: The Urban Neighborhood Initiative is redeveloping the 7,000 square foot space into a community center to house youth employment and apprenticeship programs, a legal aid office office, and more. A CDBG grant paid for roughly a quarter of the project, the Lawndale Center, according to the group.
Perhaps more importantly, UNI's Executive Director Christine Bell said that federal investment and support attracted other funds for the project, which is on a walking path to a local elementary school. It will serve the 6,000 Detroit residents under 18 who live near the center.
"This money is essential to ensuring that these neighborhoods don't fall apart," Bell said. "If you take away safe places [for children] to stay while parents have to work two jobs, you're creating more trauma."
Bell said she wants to ask Trump how he intends to boost the communities he campaigned on fixing.
"If this is your strategy, what next?" she asked. "How are you going to ensure that states are able to do this?"
The administration argues the CDBG program "is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results" and calls for the state and local government to take over such funding.
To slash an additional 1.1 billion from the HUD budget, Trump's proposal eliminates the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Choice Neighborhoods program, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity program, SHOP. The administration calls these "lower priority programs."
HOME is the largest federal block grant creating affordable housing, by funneling grants to states and local nonprofits to help low-income families rent, buy, or repair affordable homes in the community, offering up aid like loans and security deposits.
A signature urban development program from the Obama administration, Choice Neighborhoods, redevelops properties and distressed housing to turn around troubled neighborhoods by developing high-quality mixed-income housing and rehabilitating low-income housing.
SHOP awards grants to non-profits like that buy home sites to be developed into affordable housing, allowing low-income individuals to invest sweat equity in building and repairing low-income homes.
Also on the chopping block?
The Low Income Heating Assistance program that helps heats the homes of the disabled, elderly and families with young children, which the administration argues hasn't demonstrated its efficacy. In the 2011 fiscal year, at peak funding of the program, nearly 9 million homes — 23 million people — received assistance, including 1.8 million veteran homes.
Section 4 Community Development will also see 35 million less in funding, meaning there's less block grants for nonprofits that do affordable housing and economic development like Habitat for Humanity.
"This program is duplicative," the administration's budget proposal writes.
at 8:54 AM