HUD Budget Cutbacks Reduce Housing Voucher Availability

President Bush announced his 2006 proposed budget in February, including his plan to cut government spending by 0.5 percent. Funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development could be reduced by as much as 11.5 percent, or about $28.5 billion. The cuts are expected to hit low-income families the hardest, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The mission of the Department of Housing and Urban Development states that HUD works toward increasing home ownership, supporting community development, and increasing access to affordable housing free from discrimination. The agency is known within the black community for making home ownership in urban and rural neighborhoods possible for low-income families.

With the proposed budget, HUD would experience cutbacks across the board. According to the housing coalition: “Housing for people with disabilities is cut. Public and assisted housing are cut. Fair housing is cut. Lead safety is cut. Indian housing is cut. Rural housing is cut. The housing block grant to cities and state is cut.”

Alphonso Jackson, secretary of the housing department, said the budget will promote homeownership, address homelessness and reorganize the Section 8 program. However, the budget has potential to slow the progress of the Section 8 housing program that is reportedly already over-extended. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-profit liberal-based research organization, announced that Congress has fallen short in providing the $570 million dollars out of the $13.4 billion needed to cover the renewal costs of existing vouchers, resulting in an 80,000 voucher deficit.

The burgeoning demand for housing in areas both urban and suburban is causing a serious problem for local housing officials who claim that the money being allocated is already inadequate. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities predicts that the areas that are likely to suffer the hardest will be in cities where the cost of living is high or has experienced a significant rise in price since the summer of 2004. Fairfax County, Va., a suburban county outside of Washington, will be hit the hardest, according to the Center’s prediction.

A budget cut in the Department of Housing could have critical impact for black HUD recipients. Don Davis, a political science professor at Howard University said, “This is a cut decidedly not in the interest of black people who are low-income earners, who have fewer savings and less capability to purchase property. These people are restricted effectively to government subsidized housing.”

As the names of families awaiting housing vouchers mounts in cities nationwide, HUD has indicated that they plan to continue to work with their given budget and stretch their federal dollars.