Alarms raised about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to HUD pro­grams.

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s vow to re­build Amer­ica’s in­ner cities looks in­creas­ingly sus­pect in light of his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­quest to slash $6.2 bil­lion from Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment to help off­set hefty in­creases in the de­fense bud­get.

The dis­cus­sions thus far raise alarms about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to — and un­der­stand­ing of — HUD’s long-run­ning com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment and af­ford­able hous­ing pro­grams.

The pro­posal, for in­stance, would cut fund­ing for the Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grant pro­gram, es­tab­lished in 1975 to ex­pand hous­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and ad­dress in­fra­struc­ture needs like roads and util­i­ties in low-in­come ar­eas. Gut­ting the pro­gram, which also fos­ters public-pri­vate part­ner­ships in com­mu­ni­ties around the coun­try, con­tra­dicts Trump’s cam­paign pledges to re­build Amer­ica’s in­fra­struc­ture and pro­mote eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and job growth.

An­other tar­get of the cuts is the Choice Neigh­bor­hoods Ini­tia­tive, a suc­cess­ful grant pro­gram started in 2011 to as­sist the trans­for­ma­tion of trou­bled neigh­bor­hoods into mixed-in­come, mixed-use com­mu­ni­ties. For­tu­nately, the cuts wouldn’t af­fect a $30 mil­lion Choice Neigh­bor­hoods grant awarded last year to re­build Sun Val­ley, Den­ver’s poor­est neigh­bor­hood.

The con­tract with HUD has been signed, ac­cord­ing to Stella Madrid, com­mu­nity af­fairs of­fi­cer at the Den­ver Hous­ing Au­thor­ity (DHA). Plans call for cre­ation of 750 hous­ing units, com­mer­cial space, an en­ter­tain­ment district and river­front parks in the longstrug­gling neigh­bor­hood, where 83 per­cent of res­i­dents live in poverty.

But the cuts would jeop­ar­dize sim­i­lar ur­ban re­vi­tal­iza­tion ef­forts na­tion­wide and hurt other crit­i­cal HUD pro­grams al­ready strained by bud­get re­duc­tions pushed by Congress in re­cent years. “There are nearly 1,000 house­holds strug­gling to pay their rent be­cause we can’t is­sue new hous­ing vouch­ers at to­day’s fund­ing lev­els,” DHA ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Is­mael Guer­rero said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posal, which would re­duce HUD’s bud­get by 14 per­cent, would cut even deeper into the na­tion’s rental as­sis­tance pro­grams, in­clud­ing vouch­ers for low-in­come vet­er­ans. Other crit­i­cal pro­grams, in­clud­ing hous­ing for the el­derly and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, would be hit, too.

The pro­posal also fo­cuses on short-term sav­ings that would gen­er­ate long-term costs. The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cuts would re­move $1.3 bil­lion from cap­i­tal funds, de­spite a 2010 HUD re­port that found a back­log of re­pairs to public hous­ing units to­tal­ing tens of bil­lions of dol­lars. Those re­pairs can­not be put off for­ever.

Guer­rero points out the pro­posed cuts run counter to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s push to ad­dress poverty and in­com­ing HUD Sec­re­tary Ben Car­son’s fo­cus on re­vi­tal­iz­ing in­ner cities. “Ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment goals will not suc­ceed if fam­i­lies don’t have a safe, sta­ble, and af­ford­able place to call home,” he said.

The cuts are part of Trump’s plan to re­duce do­mes­tic spend­ing by bil­lions to pay for in­creases in the bud­gets for de­fense and home­land se­cu­rity. The na­tion’s de­fense is cer­tainly para­mount, and the fed­eral bud­get is cer­tainly due for con­trac­tion, but a defter, more thought­ful ap­proach is needed to en­sure that the bud­get ad­dresses the Pen­tagon’s ac­tual needs and that valu­able do­mes­tic pro­grams are not thrown away in the process.

In the weeks ahead, con­gres­sional lead­ers need to de­fend HUD’s suc­cesses and en­sure the ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der­stands that these ini­tia­tives ac­tu­ally serve the pres­i­dent’s stated goals — and the na­tion’s best in­ter­ests.

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