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Will the House Kill Funding for Homeless Vets?

UPDATE 7/29/10 7:56 p.m. (ET): This housing amendment has been withdrawn.

The 2011 transportation-housing appropriations bill that the House is now considering cuts $1.3 billion in funding that President Obama requested — and now four Democratic representatives (Peters of Michigan, Adler of New Jersey, Himes of Connecticut, and Welch of Vermont) plan to offer an amendment to make substantially deeper cuts, including $500 million in cuts to low-income housing programs.

While Congress will need to address large projected budget deficits that could adversely affect the economy after the economy recovers, proposals like this are the wrong way to go about it. Many of the proposed cuts would fall on low-income veterans and other poor and vulnerable citizens, including many people who are elderly or have disabilities. Moreover, claims that the amendment simply represents Obama’s budget proposals are wrong.

The amendment would:

  • Eliminate funding for homeless veterans. The amendment would kill funding for the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which provides affordable housing for low-income veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 100,000 veterans were homeless on any given night during 2009. The $75 million that the amendment would cut would provide rental assistance and supportive services for about 10,000 veterans and their families.
  • Eliminate funding to revitalize public housing, in direct contrast with the President’s budget. Since the mid-1990s, the nation has lost about 165,000 units of public housing due to deterioration, and tens of thousands of additional units need revitalization if they are to be preserved. HUD’s HOPE VI program provides grants to public housing agencies to rehabilitate or replace severely distressed public housing projects. The amendment would cut $200 million from HOPE VI, eliminating all funding for the program.Some sponsors of the amendment say this cut is consistent with the Obama budget, but that is false. The President’s budget proposes to replace this HOPE VI money with $250 million for a new program (Choice Neighborhoods) that shares the same goals as HOPE VI. Instead, however, the Appropriations Committee retained HOPE VI and funded it at $200 million. The new amendment would cancel funding for HOPE VI without providing funding for Choice Neighborhoods, so there would be no funding for revitalization — a result directly contrary to the President’s budget.
  • Cut affordable rental housing. The amendment would cut $175 million from the HOME Investment Partnerships program, a critical source of funds for states and localities to rehabilitate and develop affordable housing. Funding for this program has eroded over the past decade, even as the need for affordable housing has markedly increased as a result of the severe economic downturn. Even before the current recession, 6 million low-income families paid more than half of their income for rental housing but received no housing assistance. These numbers have likely risen substantially since then due to the widespread job losses. This is not the time to cut the HOME program.