US House 2008 Funding Bill Would Cut 55,000 Vouchers
(APN) ATLANTA — The Democratic-led US House recently passed an appropriations, or funding, bill for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development [as well as the Department of Transportation] which would cut 55,000 rental vouchers for low-income families during Fiscal Year (2008), according to a report just released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
This could be a problem for the public housing residents facing demolitions of their communities; as they were counting on receiving vouchers from Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) upon being evicted.
Funding for the vouchers must be approved by US Congress each year. As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, 150,000 vouchers were de-funded between the years 2004 and 2006 by the Republican-led Congress, according to Linda Couch at the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“In 2008, the way things stand now, both the House and Senate have passed bills. Both are substantive improvements on the President’s budget request,” Douglas Rice, PhD, Housing Policy Analyst for the CBPP and report co-author, told Atlanta Progressive News.
President Bush’s budget request would fail to renew 80,000 housing choice vouchers, and he has threatened to veto any budget that exceeds “the overall level of… funding he proposed in his budget earlier this year,” the report states.
Still, this time, unlike during 2004 to 2006, the de-funding this year would be by Democrats.
“To some extent a political calculation was made,” Rice said.
Despite the fact the Democrats have a greater majority in the US House than in the Senate, “In appropriations bills, there’s usually a more open process [between political parties], in the number and type of amendments,” Rice said.
US Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), Ranking Member on the US House Committee which funds HUD, has supported using a funding formula put forth by Bush, which led to the decrease in vouchers funded, Rice said.
“The Democrats were bound to Republican Members to accept the President’s formula because they needed the votes to get it off the floor,” Rice said.
On the other hand, the version of the bill passed by the US Senate would keep voucher funding at current levels, the report said. “In the Senate, US Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) happens to be a strong proponent of [vouchers], so it’s easier on the Senate side,” Rice said.
“We have seen some instability in the voucher program,” Rice said.
Dr. Rice also raised concerns about demolishing public housing in Atlanta, not only because of the instability in vouchers, but because of the lack of affordable housing in Atlanta.
“Ought we to be allowing public housing to be demolished across the board? In some places, this is very problematic, with such a severe shortage of affordable housing. This is not the best or most cost-effective solution,” Rice said.
“Renovating and rehabilitating can be more cost effective,” Rice said. “In terms of preserving the most affordable housing resources, preserving public housing could be the way to go.”
AHA is aware that funding from Congress is precarious.
“We weren’t surprised there would be a reduction in federal participation,” said Renee Glover, director of AHA, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper (AJC) in 2003, when President Bush planned to phase out the HOPE VI program, under which several public housing projects were destroyed in Atlanta starting in the 1990s.
“We didn’t anticipate that HOPE VI would be eliminated,” Glover said at the time.
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Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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