Thursday, March 9, 2017

A message from Chris Estes on the budget outlook for housing

By now, many of you will have seen the leaked budget documents referencing a potential $6 billion cut to HUD. Such a cut would be devastating to housing and community development efforts: elimination of HOME and CDBG, deep cuts to public housing and rental assistance, and near elimination of now-smaller programs like housing for the elderly and people with disabilities.

What this means right now: The leaked documents are not a formal statement from the administration, so President Trump's budget proposal could be different when it arrives. This is also a negotiating process between the White House and Congress on top-line budget numbers and program priorities. Major budget changes like these will require deal making both within and between the two political parties and the House and Senate.

All signals thus far, however, suggest President Trump's budget will propose major cuts to non-defense domestic spending, including housing. We don't know if this year may be similar to past years in that Congress will set the budget timeline and decide funding levels with little reference to the president's proposal or if Congressional leaders give the president more deference in his first proposed budget. We do know that the baseline spending levels Congress is starting with under the sequester and the Budget Control Act also require cuts to spending.

What you should do: Prepare for ongoing, coordinated advocacy for housing and community development. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Most important is to advocate for housing and community development funding overall, rather than defending particular programs in isolation. If legislators hear from each housing advocate, "Cut some other housing program to pay for mine," or, "This program or group is more vital than others," they will know that housing as a field lacks organization, will be fragmented in its defense and is ripe for cuts.

Our strength lies in unity.

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