BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Trump 2019 Budget Slashes Aid for Families Struggling to Pay Rent
Update, February 22: we’ve updated this post based on more recent information from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
At a time when a historically high number of low-income households are struggling to pay rent and make ends meet, President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposes the most radical retrenchment of federal aid for such families since the U.S. Housing Act was first enacted in 1937.
The Trump budget would slash aid that helps millions of low-income working families with children, seniors, and others afford decent, stable homes. The cuts are particularly striking in light of the new, Republican-driven tax law that will mainly benefit the wealthy and corporations and that’s expected to add $1.5 trillion to deficits over ten years.
Overall, the President requests $41.2 billion for Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs in 2019, $6.8 billion (or 14.2 percent) below the 2017 level, not counting losses due to inflation, and even further below what policymakers will likely approve for 2018. (The figures presented throughout this post include amounts in the Administration’s budget “addendum.”)
Cuts would hit a range of programs that provide critical aid to some of the nation’s most vulnerable people. For instance, the budget would:
- Cancel Housing Choice Vouchers for about 200,000 low-income households, 9 percent of the number the program now serves. The budget requests $18.7 billion to renew vouchers that families are currently using. This is $850 million less than HUD estimates will be needed to renew vouchers in 2018, and $1.8 billion less than will be required in 2019 due to rent inflation and other factors, based on CBPP estimates. The cuts would hit extremely low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and working families with children hard, undercut communities’ efforts to reduce homelessness, and undermine the housing stability that children need to thrive.
- Cut public housing funding by $3.1 billion, or 48 percent, compared to 2017, not counting losses due to inflation. Public housing already faces more than $26 billion in repair needs such as fixing leaky roofs or replacing outdated heating systems and electrical wiring. Rather than proposing a realistic strategy for preserving this critical source of affordable housing — which has been a federal obligation since the program was created in 1937 — the Administration simply directs states and localities to fill the gap. Such massive cuts, which would follow upon deep cuts that have already been made since 2010, would further jeopardize the health and safety of public housing’s 2.2 million residents — a majority of whom are elderly or have disabilities — and sharply accelerate the loss of affordable units.
- Eliminate the HOME Investment Partnerships, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and Choice Neighborhoods programs, which give flexible aid to low-income rural and urban communities. Altogether, low-income communities would lose more than $4.1 billion a year to improve basic infrastructure like streets and water and sewer lines, provide life-enriching services to youth and seniors, build and rehabilitate affordable housing for low-income residents, and promote economic development.
- Eliminate the National Housing Trust Fund, which Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac currently fund through fees and which provided $219 million in 2017 towards state and local efforts to develop affordable rental housing for those who struggle most to pay the rent and make ends meet.
(State-by-state estimates of the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to housing vouchers, public housing, CDBG, and HOME are below.)
The President’s budget proposes to reduce rental aid in other ways, too: it seeks congressional approval to make sweeping policy changes that would, among other things, sharply raise rents on nearly all assisted residents who are not elderly or disabled, and allow work requirements that would put many at risk of eviction and loss of rental assistance, thereby undermining the programs’ core purpose of helping low-income families rent decent housing at an affordable cost. (More on HUD’s rent and work requirement proposal is here and here.)
These devastating cuts and policy changes would be imposed at a time when the number and share of low-income households facing severe challenges remain at historic highs, after more than a decade of unprecedented growth driven in part by the failure of federal aid programs to keep pace with the problem. Since 2001, the number of renter households with what HUD calls “worst-case housing needs” — meaning renters with incomes below half the local median who don’t have housing assistance and pay more than half of their income for rent or live in severely substandard housing — has risen 66 percent, while the number receiving rental aid has grown only marginally.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson has spoken persuasively about the importance of having a stable, affordable home. In speaking about HUD’s efforts to help homeless people move from the street into a home, for example, he said:
We make sure a person gets [a] permanent place to stay — a safe place they won’t have to worry about losing every day. It’s amazing how such a haven can comfort and restore. It lends a sense of control to the individual, rebuilding their dignity and self-worth, which are essential cornerstones to self-improvement.
Under the President’s 2019 budget proposal, however, even fewer people will share the benefits of a stable, affordable home.
|Potential Impact of Selected Trump Budget Proposals in 2019, by State|
|State||Housing Choice Vouchers cut||Public
|District of Columbia||-1,010||-$30,928,589||-$3,881,774||-$13,793,763|