Trump White House proposes even deeper cuts to HUD

Administration now aims to slash the department's funding by 18%

President Donald Trump and Ben Carson
President Donald Trump and Ben Carson

The White House Office of Management and Budget released its 2019 federal budget proposal on Monday, calling for an 18.3 percent reduction in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The $8.8 billion proposed cut to HUD is even deeper than the roughly $7 billion the White House wanted to withhold from the department last year.

The $39.2 billion in total proposed spending for the department would reduce funding for rental assistance programs — which accounts for the majority of HUD’s spending — by 11.2 percent.

This year’s budget also includes another proposal targeting Section 8 rental voucher holders: that they contribute more personal income toward their rent by paying more of their gross income and working full-time if they don’t already.

“The Administration’s reforms require able-bodied individuals to shoulder more of their housing costs and provide an incentive to increase their earnings, while mitigating rent increases for the elderly and people with disabilities,” the report reads.

News that the Trump administration was actively considering work requirements for certain public housing residents first broke last week, when the Intercept received a working document on the matter that was circulating at HUD. That framework described an increase in what voucher holders paid in rent by charging them up to to 30 percent of their gross unadjusted income, instead of up to 30 percent of their income after deductions, as is the current setup. The proposal also called for allowing public housing authorities to impose work requirements of up to 32 hours a week on every adult who is not elderly or disabled.

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The White House’s budget description is not terribly specific, however, and suggests that such reforms would need to come through legislation. In addition to cutting rental assistance, the Trump budget would defund the Public Housing Capital Fund, money that’s used by public authorities like NYCHA for repairs and new housing construction. “The provision of affordable housing should be a responsibility more fully shared with State and local governments,” the budget reads.

In keeping with the bootstrap-budgeting philosophy, the White House also plans to provide an indeterminate amount of funding to Housing Secretary Ben Carson‘s pet project called “EnVision Centers for a Holistic Approach to Self-Sufficiency,” which are designed to encourage people to leave public housing.

The proposed budget would keep Homelessness Assistance Grants funded at the current level of $2.4 billion and request $255 million for “Emergency Solutions Grants,” which would “enable municipalities to support emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, and homelessness prevention.” HUD allocated $270 million in Emergency Solutions Grants during fiscal year 2017, according to a fact sheet on the HUD website.

A program that helps private developers convert public housing to Section 8-accepting private housing would receive $100 million.

As with President Trump’s 2018 budget, the 2019 proposal renews calls to eliminate Community Development Block Grants, a $3 billion a year program with historically bipartisan support that funds everything from building repairs to disaster relief across the country. The new proposal refers to CDBGs as being one of many programs that “lack measureable [sic] outcomes and are ineffective.”

And for the Federal Housing Administration, the agency that provides mortgage financing for first time homebuyers, the budget actually requests an increase in spending of $20 million above 2017 levels to upgrade technology and support.

The federal government is currently operating on a continuing resolution of the previous budget that lasts until March 23, at which time congress will pass another such resolution, or agree to a new new budget for 2019. Since passing a $1.5 trillion federal tax cut in December, Republicans were expected to push for cuts to various social programs, including HUD and Medicare.