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New federal budget proposals threaten to worsen affordable housing crisis

Families living in communities across the United States are struggling to pay their rent. In fact, a Harvard University study found that roughly half of all American renters – about 50 million households – are paying a higher percentage of their income on rent than is considered affordable.

Two-thirds of all renters have no plans to buy a home in the near future, not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t afford to do so, according to a survey from Freddie Mac.

It is more important than ever before for the federal government to commit time, energy, and resources to addressing this crisis.

Unfortunately, the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request released earlier this month would eliminate programs that provide desperately needed housing to families that need them.

The New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) urges Congress to reject these budget cuts and expand our government’s investments in affordable homes.

If enacted, the budget would cut funding to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by $8.6 billion, amounting to a 15 percent decrease the Department’s 2020 spending level.

The cuts are wide-ranging and would impact Americans living in public housing and those in need of rental assistance. They would also prevent homes from being refurbished and revitalized and stifle community development in areas in need of housing.

The total impact of the cuts, warns the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that the proposal could be that “up to 160,000 families losing housing assistance.”

Many of those families could be local New Yorkers. Consider that one of the many programs impacted by the budget is the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program, which would be eliminated under the proposal.

New York uses CDBGs to “provide financial assistance” to projects that would provide “decent affordable housing and suitable living environments” for eligible cities, towns, villages, and counties. At least 70 percent of all CDBG funds are used on projects that benefit low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

One example of the application of those funds is in Long Island, where the funding is being used to support the development of transit-oriented development projects along the Long Island Railroad.

Among other improvements, the Laurel Homes project in North Hempstead will be redeveloped, with the total number of units increasing from 66 to 74 when construction is done – with all eight of the new units reserved for seniors. A community center will also be created.

Seven other neighboring municipalities also received CDBG funding to improve their communities, with some even “reviewing their local zoning laws to allow more density in its downtown area.”

Promoting walkability, density and new housing development in transit-rich areas like these is fundamental to solving not just our housing crisis but also addressing climate change.

This is just one example from our state that shows the importance of CDBGs and similar programs that are now being threatened in the budget discussions. There are countless others from across New York and the nation that show how these programs benefits families.

As New Yorkers who work each and every day to address the housing crisis and create a brighter future for families of all incomes in our state, we are deeply disturbed by the new budget proposal.

It is crucial for our government partners at every level to provide support our neighbors in need – and that starts by funding the vital programs Americans deserve.

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