Waters Laments Proposed Cuts to Affordable Housing Programs

Melanie Hunter | Deputy Managing Editor | Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Waters Laments Proposed Cuts to Affordable Housing Programs

(CNSNews.com) - A California Democrat is criticizing President Bush's budget proposal for cuts made to the Community Development Block Grant program, which helps low- to middle-class Americans find affordable housing.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D- Calif.), an outspoken critic of Bush, said the president is trying to "balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the middle class."

"It is unconscionable, but all too familiar, that our so-called 'compassionate' President would seek to address the massive shortfalls created by his fiscally reckless tax cuts for the rich by neglecting the needs of the poor and working families," said Waters in a statement Tuesday.

She said the president's plan to "make huge cuts to the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), perhaps as much as fifty percent, and transfer CDBG and other Community Development programs to the Commerce Department is just the latest illustration, among many, of the President's predisposition to try to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the middle class."

Waters said Bush's budget proposals "are designed to decimate the CDBG program, to end it as we know it, not to improve the program. They must be resisted."

According to Waters, her state of California, as well as the rest of the nation, has an affordable housing crisis. "There is not a single metropolitan area where an extremely low income family can be assured of finding a modest two bedroom rental home that is affordable; and there are literally millions of people who are homeless," she said.

Waters said "it is breathtakingly irresponsible" for Bush to propose "these drastic cuts" to the block grant program, which helps fund a wide range of housing initiatives and homeless services.

Bush's budget proposal orders almost all of the programs that make up the Community Development Fund, including the Community Development Block Grant Program, to be moved out of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to be combined instead with 17 other programs in the Commerce Department, according to Waters.

Only a few of the small Community Development Programs - the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity program (SHOP), the Indian Community Development Block Grant program, and the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program - would remain in HUD, Waters points out.

The 18 combined programs within the Commerce Department would receive $3.7 billion in proposed funding.

"A shift of the CDBG program from HUD to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) at Commerce also would fundamentally change the mission of CDBG by changing the focus from municipal projects and the revitalization of distressed neighborhoods to business interests and economic development projects," said Waters.

According to Waters, the Commerce Department "has no real experience in community development programs." The department has yet to reveal the criteria it would use in evaluating applications for funds under the consolidated program, she noted.

"A substantial likelihood exists that programs like CDBG with targeting provisions to focus funding on people with low and moderate incomes would receive less consideration from the Commerce Department than other parts of the consolidated program," Waters said.

"Thus, while the overall cut in community development funds is about thirty-five percent, the cuts to CDBG could be even larger," she said. According to Waters, "the CDBG program is a great success and one of the few programs in the Federal government with targeting provisions that effectively focus funding to benefit people with low and moderate incomes."

"The public may not know or understand the details of how CDBG funds are allocated to local communities, but, every mayor, every county official, every community development professional knows the indispensable role of CDBG in funding housing, neighborhood improvements, and public services," she said.

"When the public sees the programs and services that will have to be eliminated if these cuts are enacted, they will be outraged and they should be," Waters said. "You can't shoehorn $5.6 billion dollars in programs into a $3.71 billion dollar program without many people being hurt."

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