Affordable housing advocates have never considered the Bush administration friendly to their cause. With one exception, its 2006 budget is more of the same.
The biggest news in the proposed 2006 budget is the White House's idea to move community development block grants from HUD to the Department of Commerce. The rationale for the change: Too many block grant programs (which help cities and counties develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing) are doing the same thing. “During this time of fiscal restraint, it is both duplicative and costly to fund so many of the federal government's community and economic development programs out of different departments,” HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson wrote.
As it moves block grants, the administration also wants to cut their funding by $2 billion. The 2006 proposal calls for $3.7 billion in funding, down from $5.7 billion in 2005. “The proposal to move the CDBG program to Commerce is very disturbing to us,” says Denise Muha, executive director for the National Leased Housing Association.
Hope VI is also in peril. The White House wants to eliminate the funding for the program and recoup the money Congress appropriated for it last year.
But there was some good news: The White House wanted an additional $1 billion for project-based Section 8 vouchers. “In other years, it's been a billion dollars shy,” says Lisa Blackwell, NMHC's vice president of state and local strategic outreach and housing policy initiatives. “In light of the domestic budget, this is a significant amount of money.”
At press time, budget proposals were in the congressional appropriations process, which will decide the ultimate fate of these programs.