Las Vegas Sun

July 21, 2017

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Local housing officials wary of proposed Trump cuts

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Susan Walsh / Associated Press

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks to HUD employees in Washington. D.C., earlier this month. President Donald Trump’s budget released Thursday proposed a 13.2 percent decrease in funding for HUD, prompting local officials to brace for deep reductions to public housing and anti-poverty programs.

Furloughs and reduced services for people in need of housing are some of the concerns of Nevada housing officials ahead of possible federal budget cuts.

President Donald Trump’s budget released Thursday beefs up Defense Department funding by $52 billion while asking for a 13.2 percent decrease in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The budget goes over funding for various federal departments without touching on issues such as tax reform measures.

HUD cuts total about $6.2 billion under Trump’s plan. His budget blueprint would eliminate funds for the Community Development Block Grant program to save $3 billion.

“The federal government has spent over $150 billion on this block grant since its inception in 1974, but the program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results,” the budget says.

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program and several others would also lose funding, saving $1.1 billion.

North Las Vegas spokeswoman Delen Goldberg said “cuts to CDBG and HOME funds would be directly detrimental to the city in terms of housing and development programs.”

“CDBG and HOME funds provide funding for housing rehab, housing development and other housing assistance programs in the city, especially for low- to moderate-income housing,” Goldberg said. “CDBG funds are also used for some infrastructure improvements and public facilities.”

CJ Manthe, administrator for the Nevada Housing Division, said HOME funds account for $3 million annually for Nevada and are one of the largest federal block grants that have allowed the state to expand affordable housing.

“That would be a huge loss to us,” Manthe said. “That would temper our ability to expand affordable housing, and we have a shortage of affordable housing.”

Manthe said Clark County would be among the hardest-hit areas if the budget cuts are approved. She said the county needs a total of 157,355 affordable housing units, but there are only 31,870 available.

“It’s really hard for families to find an affordable unit,” Manthe said.

Manthe said affordable units are hard for families to find, and assistance programs have full or lengthy waiting lists. She said budget reductions would “limit financial resources to help many of the Nevadans who are most vulnerable.”

The good news, Manthe said, is that bond financing is being used to expand affordable housing through a public-private partnership, with project approvals for construction and preservation.

“We just can’t build it fast enough,” she said.

“One of the things that’s really great about Nevada right now is we’re going through an economic rebound,” she said, noting improvements in employment and jobs.

“We do need to make sure that the housing needs are addressed as we go,” Manthe said.

The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority has more than 11,000 housing choice vouchers and 2,700 public housing units, said agency oversight director Amparo Gamazo. She said HUD reductions are not new.

“It’s going to be significant, and it’s going to be very difficult for us to keep up with the maintenance of existing public housing units,” she said.

“Any cut is probably going to represent less services to clients and probably a reduction in force,” Gamazo said.

The agency employs about 250 people. Gamazo said budget cuts led to two years of furloughs that ended in 2016. Employees took an unpaid Friday off every other week.

“A lof federal agencies have no other choice than to do that,” she said. “It’s a day without pay, a day closed. It was significant because we were not there providing services to our clients.”

To save $35 million, the proposed budget ends allocations to the Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing program, which benefits affordable housing and community development organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

The proposed budget says these cuts promote fiscal responsibility and reduce efforts duplicated by groups in the private sector, among others. Funding would increase for mitigating hazards such as lead-based paint in low-income homes, up $20 million to $130 million.

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