My colleague, Karen Paup stays up to date on all the Austin housing issues and she has pointed out an alarming change of direction at the City of Austin’s Neighborhood Housing Department.
The City is cutting direct funding for housing low-income families, youth, elders, tenants and day care vouchers while beefing up consultants, studies and city staff budgets.
Karen’s analysis of the housing department’s 2009 budget has found that it:
- Eliminates the City’s $1 million Housing Trust Fund;
- Reduces 8 of 11 housing programs;
- Reduces funding for housing overall by over $6 million;
- Adds a $1/2 million for hiring consultants to the department to study housing policy; and
- Cuts community services performed by outside agencies.
This is a change of direction for a department that for years has expanded direct services for the poor and especially housing. It comes after the recent departure of long-time department director Paul Hilgers. We sometimes disagreed with Paul on the details but he always successfully defended funding for housing the poor in the City budget process.
The 2009 budget is the responsibility of newly appointed Neighborhood Housing Director Margret Shaw. This budget is a very disappointing start for her tenure.