HUD 2011 Budget: Shifts in Emphasis

The 2011 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs was released on February 1.  According to an article in the Washington Post, the department will receive $41.5 billion for fiscal year 2011.  This represents a 2 percent cut in funding from 2010.  This “cut” may be somewhat misleading as some outlays are offset by the increase in collection of HUD Mortgage Insurance Premiums in 2011.

Programs providing direct housing assistance to low and extremely low income earners will experience healthy gains.  Tenant and Project-Based rental assistance has spending increases of 7 and 8.7 percent respectively.  Homeless Assistance Grant’s allocation is set to rise a significant 10.1 percent.

Community Development Block Grant (formula) funding dipped slightly from last year, but is more than offset by the creation of Catalytic Investment Grants and the continued funding of Sustainable Communities.

Some programs were cut dramatically, especially those which assist protected classes.  Funds for elderly housing (Section 202) fell to $275 million, which equates to one-third of the 2010 allocation.   Housing for people with disabilities (Section 811) fell 70 percent, from $300 million to $90 million.   Native American Block Grants lost $120 million from the previous fiscal year.  The Fair Housing Assistance and Initiatives Programs (FHAP and FHIP) were also cut and the Veterans Supportive Housing Voucher program was completely eliminated.

The HOME Investment Partnership Program and other low income housing improvement programs also sufferd in the request.  Proposed HOME funding fell almost 11% from the 2010 budget.  Revitalization, rehabilitation, and modernization efforts also stumbled, with the allocation for the Public Housing Capital Funding tightening and the HOPE VI Program being cut all together.

It seems that with this new budget, the Obama Administration has shifted emphasis with respect to low income housing.  While the budget has made strides in assisting families both through vouchers and project funding, it seems that project-based funds which are specifically targeted at protected classes have fallen by the wayside.  Some may argue that this is a good thing as vouchers provide more choice and integration than Section 202 or 811 developments.  Moreover, some of the programs have lost popularity among advocacy organizations representing these target populations.  Nevertheless, some sort of assistance which specifically targets protected classes is needed.  If we are to cut funds from project-based Section 811 and 202, we need to offset this loss with voucher programs that are designed for the elderly and people with disabilities.   The 2011 Budget does this in part by adding a Section 811 Voucher program.

The major low point of the Budget would have to be the loss incurred by the HOME program and other low-income housing improvement funds.  There will always be a need for increases in the U.S. affordable housing stock and it will always be necessary to make said stock decent, safe, and inhabitable.  Programs like HOME address these needs and are essential to improving the quality of life of low income individuals seeking affordable housing and those who have attained it.

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