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Trump HUD Cuts Target Public Housing Fixes and Apartment Vouchers

HUD Secretary Ben Carson visits a NYCHA complex in 2018.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson visits a NYCHA complex in 2018.
Photo: Sammy Mayo Jr./HUD

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts would cripple crucial building upgrades at city public housing developments — and zap subsidies for thousands of renters, New York’s congressional delegation warned Monday.

The fiscal 2021 budget proposed by Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Benjamin Carson last month eliminates all HUD funding for big-ticket “capital projects” in public housing nationwide.

It also seeks a 10% cut to federal funds for public housing operating budgets nationwide to $3.5 billion, and trims the Housing Choice Voucher rental subsidy, also known as Section 8, by $5 billion.

The local hits would translate into losses of nearly $550 million in building fixes and of Section 8 vouchers for almost 10,000 apartments, the New York officials project.

In a letter sent Monday to Secretary Carson and Office of Management & Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, the delegation predicted the budget as proposed “threatens the very future of the housing authority, the Section 8 program and the more than half a million New Yorkers that rely on these programs as a reliable source for quality, affordable housing.”

Congressmember Nydia Velázquez
Rep. Nydia Velázquez
@ReElectNydiaVelazquezToCongress/Facebook

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn/Queens) told THE CITY, “New York has the largest public housing authority in the nation and, should the president’s proposal to eliminate the public housing capital fund be implemented, it would be devastating for our city.”

“This would mean an already bad situation would get immeasurably worse,” she said. “We can expect public health problems stemming from lead paint and mold would intensify.”

A $40 Billion Price Tag

NYCHA estimates it needs nearly $32 billion in fixes to bring all its 174,000 apartments up to code, though NYCHA Chairman Gregory Russ recently said the price tag could reach $40 billion.

Under the Trump budget, the loss of $549 million in capital project funds would “prevent NYCHA from keeping current on basic building upgrades” systemwide, the letter from the all-Democratic delegation asserts.

The letter predicts the expected 10% reduction in operating funds “will result in fewer maintenance staff, longer response times for completing apartment repairs and an acceleration of the deterioration of units.”

The officials estimate the budget would end housing vouchers for 9,700 Section 8 apartments in New York City, in which taxpayers subsidize the rent of tenants living in private-sector units.

Section 8, run through NYCHA, the city Housing Preservation & Development Department and the state Homes & Community Renewal, is considered a key tool in the city’s battle to provide affordable housing.

“Not only would approximately 9,700 individuals and families lose their ability to pay rent, landlords would immediately lose income provided by the Section 8 program as well,” the letter warns.

Lead and Mold Woes

The delegation also noted that HUD is again pressing to raise rent from 30% of a public housing tenant’s income to 35%, and impose work requirements on some tenants. The delegation estimated that these measures could amount to a 40% rent increase for public housing residents and a 20% increase for Section 8 tenants.

The letter was signed by the city’s 16 Democrats in Congress: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, and Reps. Velazquez, Jerold Nadler, Grace Meng, Yvette Clarke, Kathleen Rice, Adriano Espaillat, Eliot Engel, Max Rose, Thomas Suozzi, Jose Serrano, Gregory Meeks, Carolyn Maloney, Hakeem Jeffries and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed Monday that the Trump administration had informed New York it would not extend a Medicaid waiver — costing the state about $625 million in federal support for the health care program.

HUD’s planned cuts come as NYCHA struggles to comply with laws and regulations requiring that it provides safe and healthy housing to 400,000 tenants and 200,000 Section 8 recipients. That includes an ongoing effort to test for lead paint in 135,000 NYCHA apartments, and a court-supervised clean-up of toxic mold.

A federal monitor appointed as part of a January 2019 agreement with HUD has already found NYCHA has fallen behind on many of its promised reforms, from lead paint to busted elevators to eradicating rats and other vermin.

Federal funding from HUD makes up about 90% of NYCHA’s capital spending and nearly 70% of its operations budget. In the last two years, the Trump administration has proposed similar cuts, but both times Congress has restored and even increased this funding for housing authorities.

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