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Trump administration proposes dramatic cuts to public housing—again

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It’s the fourth time the Trump administration has taken aim at housing subsidies

apartment complexes Corbis via Getty Images

The Trump administration released its budget proposal today for fiscal year 2020, and like its previous budget requests for 2017, 2018, and 2019, the administration is proposing steep cuts to both the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Transportation (DoT).

For HUD, the budget requests $44.1 billion in discretionary funding, a 16.4 percent decrease from 2019 funding levels. For DoT, the budget requests $21.4 billion in discretionary spending, a 22 percent decrease from 2019 funding levels.

With control of Congress now split between the two parties, Trump’s budget is likely dead on arrival, but the drastic proposed cuts would put advocates for government-funding housing assistance on the defensive, instead of fighting for increases that some believe are badly needed.

“With this budget request, President Trump and [HUD] Secretary [Ben] Carson are making clear in no uncertain terms their willingness to increase evictions and homelessness—for the vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities and families with kids who will be unable to manage having to spend more of their very limited incomes to cover rent hikes,” said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a statement. “This is a cruel and unconscionable budget proposal, and it should be soundly rejected by Congress.”

The 2020 budget fight is getting underway on the heels of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, during which President Trump refused to sign the budget Congress passed because it didn’t include $5 billion for a wall along the southern border.

Trump ultimately signed the budget but declared a national emergency in order to bypass Congress to obtain the funds. The emergency declaration was met with immediate legal resistance, and Trump’s 2020 budget increases the request for a wall to $8.6 billion.

Public housing is once again slated for huge cuts in the budget request, which entirely eliminates the Public Housing Capital Fund, used to maintain and improve public housing buildings. It also makes a 38 percent cut to the Public Housing Operating Fund, which is used to fund the basic operations of public housing.

The budget also completely eliminates many popular federal block grant programs that virtually every local municipality depends on for community development funds, including the Community Development Block Grant program, HOME Investment Partnerships, the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity program.

On the transportation front, the budget puts $1 billion into BUILD grants, an Obama-era program under a new name that the Trump administration has directed toward rural areas. It also funds another grant program, INFRA, to the tune of $2 billion. According to the Wall Street Journal, the two grant programs are used to incentivize local governments to raise revenue for their own infrastructure projects.