The final version of HUD's 2012 budget emerged from conference committee this week, hammering pivotal housing programs such as public housing, CDBG, and HOME. The Sustainable Communities Initiative, which has enabled HUD to collaborate with the nation's environmental, transportation and energy departments, was killed entirely. While this budget is indeed a bitter pill, housing advocates can take solace in the fact that homeless programs and Section 8 were protected from cuts.
Here's MHP's analysis. For specific HUD program funding amounts check out this NLIHC spreadsheet.
Most programs for the lowest-income folks were protected
Within the Obama administration and among Republicans and Democrats, there is support for housing assistance for the lowest income folks, at least for some programs. Tenant-based Section 8, Project-Based Section 8, and homeless assistance grants were among the only major housing programs to escape deep cuts for 2012.
While arguably the need for these programs has grown, it's notable that lawmakers chose to leave funding largely intact, or issue small increases, for these programs. Final budgets stand at $18.9 billion, $9.3 billion, and $1.9 billion, respectively, for the three programs.
HUD believes that funding at this level will be adequate to renew all tenant- and project- based Section 8, though final word on this will take time, due to the complexity of calculating these numbers.
The exception? Public Housing
Despite the fact that it serves the same very low-income people as Section 8 and homeless assistance programs, public housing took a beating. Public housing operating funds are down 14% from 2011. 2012 Capital funding, which funds major repairs and needed improvements of this largely aging housing stock, is down 8% from the year before. But this cut doesn't tell the whole story, since the captial budget was also targeted last year. Capital funding is down 25% since 2010.
So why has public housing been a punching bag? We might chalk it up to unfortunate press of public housing scandals and much-maligned public ownership in the eyes of a conservative Congress.
Housing production takes a hit
In the good work of protecting housing programs for the lowest-income folks, what has taken a hit are programs that help increase the supply of affordable housing, such as CDBG and HOME. Does this sound familiar? It very well might to those watching Minnesota's own housing budget take form last year.
As for the federal housing programs, CDBG, or the Community Development Block Grant, was cut by nearly 12% from last year. CDBG, which is awarded by formula, helps communities meet individual development needs in a flexible manner. The HOME program saw a whopping 38% reduction. HOME is another important tool for creating affordable housing, especially in smaller communities. In the past six months, HOME has been cited as a hotbed of scandal by the Washington Post. While the evidence is shaky and HOME has a long history of success, damage has been done.
Sustainability office unsustained
In addition, a few smaller programs were either consolidated or eliminated altogether, including HUD's portion of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. HUD's Sustainable Communities Initiative enabled HUD to collaborate with the EPA, the DOT, and other federal agencies to promote development to meet the social, environmental, and economic needs of communities.
The Partnership, which began in FY 2010, has been considered a flagship program the Obama administration and has been strongly supported by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. Two Minnesota regions have received planning grant awards by the Partnership. While already-awarded funding remains intact and the office itself will remain open, new sustainable planning grants are not to be for 2012.
A bit for housing counseling
In the wake of the now ongoing foreclosure crisis, Housing Counseling was budgeted at $45 million, similar to what was budgeted annually for 2007 through 2010. In 2011, this item was not funded at all, so this small but important pot of money is good news.
Headed for passage
This week, both chambers of Congress will cast a final vote on the bill (H.R. 2112), which Obama is expected to sign thereafter. Included in the bill is a continuing resolution to keep the remainder of the government running through December 16, as Congress continues hammering out 2012 funding for other agencies.
For specific information about funding for HUD's individual programs, see this NLIHC spreadsheet.