Rosemary Holmes has lived in Newark’s Terrell Holmes for the better part of 60 years. She, like many others, has raised children in its courtyards and hallways, and forged a tight-knit community of friends and neighbors. At the age of 68, she has been forced to band with other tenants to fight local efforts to closing the facility. Now, as the Trump administration weighs plans to gut the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she has a new battle on her hands.
WHAT SHE THINKS
“Any time they move a person to someplace they don’t want to live, it’s imprisonment,” she said, “I am a human being, and I deserve to live where I want to live. Us, the ones who really want to be here, we are going to be uprooted because of the sabotage of HUD and the Housing Authority.”
Horsley is one of uncountable public housing residents across the country directly impacted by news that the Trump administration is considering whether to slash HUD’s budget by at least $6 billion, or 14% in the 2018 fiscal year. The proposed cuts were revealed Wednesday by Washington Post reporter Jose A. DelReal, who cited “preliminary budget documents” that he had obtained. If executed, the decreases will hit a federal agency that is already unable to meet the level of human need, thanks to systematic defunding over the course of decades.
Douglas Rice, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C., think tank, reports that the proposed cuts would, in fact, amount to $7.7 billion dollars, or a 16% reduction, in 2018. He arrives at this number by evaluating expected funding levels for 2017, writing: “it’s reasonable to presume that the final budget will be close to the average of the bills the House Appropriations Committee and the full Senate approved last summer.” By contrast, the reporter wrote his story based on 2016 funding levels.
Either way, the cuts are composed to be dramatic. Rice told the Washington Post that 20,000 renters will lose their assistance for every 1 percent slash to the budget of HUD. “The reality is that we’ve been living under these austere budget caps, and budgets like HUD’s have already been pretty much cut to the bone,” Rice said, pointing to the sequestration cuts of 2011. “And when you try to cut below that, you really end up with harmful impacts.”
The proposed cuts would go deep. “Budgets for public housing authorities—city and state agencies that provide subsidized housing and vouchers to local residents—would be among the hardest hit,” writes DelReal. “Under the preliminary budget, those operational funds would be reduced by $600 million, or 13 percent. Funds for big-ticket repairs at public housing facilities would be cut by an additional $1.3 billion, about 32 percent.”
Public housing in the United States already faces a backlog of $26 billion in repairs, according to a 2010 report commissioned by HUD.
The Community Development Block Grant Program, which was budgeted to receive $3 billion this fiscal year, would be entirely slashed if the proposed changes were implemented. While the budget document reportedly suggests that funds for the program “could come from outside the HUD budget as part of a separate White House bill,” it is not immediately clear where exactly such dollars would come from and whether they would be guaranteed. The HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which helps fund local affordable housing, would also be eliminated.
The gutting of HUD would take money directly out of the hands of renters in need. The Post story notes,
“Under the proposal, direct rental assistance payments—including Section 8 Housing and housing vouchers for homeless veterans—would be cut by at least $300 million, to $19.3 billion. Additionally, housing for the elderly—known as the Section 202 program—would be cut by $42 million, nearly 10%. Section 811 housing for people with disabilities would be cut by $29 million, nearly 20%. Money available for Native American housing block grants would fall by $150 million, more than 20 %.”