The Trump Administration released its proposed FY2018 budget this morning and it’s sending shockwaves throughout the nation’s low-income housing community. If passed by Congress, the proposal would slash federal investments in affordable housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by nearly 17% or $7.7 billion, compared to Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.
The proposed cuts would mean more than 250,000 people could lose their housing vouchers according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). The organization’s President and CEO, Diane Yentel, wrote yesterday, this budget “reflects a cruel indifference to the millions of low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, and other vulnerable people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.”
Here in Austin, we are fortunate to have local resources dedicated to affordable housing. In 2006 and 2013, voters overwhelmingly approved $120 million in general obligation bonds for affordable housing. In addition, we have a Housing Trust Fund that is funded with property tax revenue from previously publicly-owned properties. However, at a time when Austin is struggling to find funding to develop more affordable housing, uncertainty at the federal level has enormous implications.
The City of Austin receives more than $15 million a year in federal housing and community development funding. You can view a breakdown of that funding by program on the Affordable Housing Online website. The most important of these programs is the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG). Created in 1974, the CDBG Program funds a range of programs and services, including affordable housing and anti-poverty programs. Locally, CDBG has been used for services for low-income seniors, childcare for low-income families, home rehabilitation for low-income homeowners, and landlord-tenant counseling services. If the administration’s budget cuts are realized, the City of Austin stands to lose more than $7 million in FY2018.
Another vital federal housing program, the HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME) provides funding for homeownership and rental housing development. Locally, HOME provides more than $2.6 million in funding for affordable housing. These funds are leveraged with additional sources of funding (both public and private) in order to acquire and rehabilitate or build new affordable housing.
In this month’s Keep Austin Affordable feature, we profile one local example of braiding local, state, and federal funding. Accessible Housing Austin! (AHA!) is a local nonprofit, led by members of the disability rights community, dedicated to providing affordable, integrated and accessible housing. AHA! at Briarcliff is a planned 27-unit development that will include both accessible and adaptable one- and two-bedroom units for households at or below 50% median family income. After years of visioning, planning, and predevelopment, AHA! at Briarcliff should break ground this fall.
The project would not be possible without $2.1 million in HOME funding from the City of Austin. In addition to those crucial federal dollars, the project includes funding from the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, the Lola Wright Foundation, Bank of America Community Foundation, Austin Community Foundation, and Frost Bank.
Affordable housing and community development is complicated and deliberate work. It requires numerous public and private partners and braiding multiple sources of funding. The federal government is a crucial and foundational piece of the puzzle. Please join us in urging our legislators and the administration to retain funding for federal housing and community development programs.
Mandy De Mayo