off the charts
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
President Obama’s 2014 Budget — Holding Ground for HUD in Tight Times
For low-income families that need affordable rental housing, the news from Washington in recent years has been bleak. Yet, while President Obama’s new budget has shortcomings, it achieves the important goal of holding the ground on housing assistance in a very difficult budget environment. For starters, the President and Congress agreed to deep cuts in federal housing assistance and community development programs in 2011 and 2012, and sequestration will slash more than another $2 billion from these programs this year. Because of sequestration, the Housing Choice Voucher program alone will assist as many as 140,000 fewer low-income families by early 2014, we estimate, exacerbating homelessness even as funding for homelessness prevention and re-housing homeless families also shrinks. This represents the largest shortfall in the program’s nearly 40-year history (see chart). The cuts come at a time when the number of low-income families that need housing assistance has been rising substantially, there are long waiting lists for rental assistance in almost every community, and homelessness remains a persistent problem. While sequestration is broadly unpopular, cancelling it will require the President and Congress to agree on deficit-reduction measures with which to replace it — an option that carries risks for safety net programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. Meanwhile, President Obama has released his 2014 budget. The budget achieves the important goal of holding the ground on housing assistance and other safety net programs in this strained budget environment. It does this in three ways:
- It would replace sequestration with a more balanced package of revenue increases and spending cuts that largely protects safety net programs. An approach that relies solely on cuts would devastate housing assistance over time.
- It would prioritize low-income programs, including housing, for scarce discretionary resources. The President would increase funding for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs by $4.3 billion, or 10 percent, above the pre-sequestration funding levels of 2012, and his proposal also prioritizes rental assistance renewals and homeless assistance — areas that have the most significant and immediate impact on low-income families.
- It would adopt program reforms that reduce HUD program costs without harming low-income families. The President’s budget proposes important reforms to streamline rental assistance programs, while largely protecting low-income households. Such reforms are essential to stretching HUD dollars further over the next decade. The budget also funds initiatives that could help to preserve and improve a substantial share of the public housing stock.
Receive the latest news and reports from the Center