Viewpoint

Trump’s budget will worsen Charlotte’s housing crisis

A volunteer helps a Habitat for Humanity building blitz of 15 homes in Charlotte in 2014.
A volunteer helps a Habitat for Humanity building blitz of 15 homes in Charlotte in 2014. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Last week’s news of the White House budget blueprint has sent shock waves through the affordable housing industry. A proposed $6 billion reduction in funding for HUD would impact millions nationally and thousands here in Charlotte. Consequences of these cuts, if enacted, would be to drive families to spend more on housing at the expense of food, healthcare and other basic needs.

For Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte and the families we serve, the proposed elimination of such HUD-administered programs as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Home Investment Partnership (HOME) and Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) would be devastating and could negatively impact organizational cash flow by $2.5 million.

In partnership with the City, Habitat Charlotte utilizes CDBG funding to repair aging homes for families – mostly seniors and many of whom are widows – living in substandard conditions. Our critical repair work includes fixing leaking roofs that lead to mold and water damage, mitigating electrical hazards that could cause fires, and providing heat for those whose furnaces don’t work.

HOME funding, administered through the N.C. Housing Finance Agency, allows Habitat Charlotte to access loans for new construction and grants to ensure our homes are built to the highest standards of sustainability and green-building practices. HOME funds also increase accessibility of homeownership through down payment assistance for qualifying families. SHOP funds last year enabled Habitat Charlotte to invest in land on which more hardworking, low-incomes families will eventually enjoy the stability afforded by homeownership.

The proposed budget also calls for the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the organization that coordinates the AmeriCorps program. This year alone, 20 AmeriCorps members are working with us on new construction projects, critical home repairs, and in family services programming. The elimination of AmeriCorps would be a tremendous setback to our ability to serve more families with affordable housing.

Severe cuts to the HUD programs will impact more than Habitat Charlotte; they will impact our entire community as we struggle to address the barriers to upward mobility for the poor in our community. The City of Charlotte recently reviewed plans for the 2018 fiscal year’s allocations, and are planning on $5.6 million in CDBG funding and another $3.4 million in HOME funds. Eliminating or reducing funding for these programs would exacerbate the already critical shortage of affordable housing in Charlotte and increase the burden of housing costs on our most vulnerable citizens.

Much work will be done by Congress between now and the adoption of a budget for 2018, but we cannot take for granted that prior housing programs will be protected in the current environment.

Charlotte is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis – that fact is not in question – and if funding sources that are part of the solution to the problem are withdrawn, the crisis will escalate. Important efforts are being made to increase affordable housing with local public and private investments. These efforts will not advance the community if the federal funds are simultaneously reduced.

Every voice matters. Please join us and let yours be heard in Washington.

Belcher is president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Charlotte.

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