Today, led by Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance Ranking Member Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), all 26 Democratic Members of the Committee on Financial Services sent a letter to Chairman Jeb Hensarling requesting hearings with Ben Carson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to discuss the Trump Administration’s budget request, which contains deep and harmful cuts to housing programs.
“These proposed cuts to both HUD and USDA would undoubtedly increase homelessness and poverty across our nation, including among veterans, seniors, persons with disabilities, and families with children,” the lawmakers wrote. “At a time when our country is experiencing a serious rental housing crisis in which far too many households are struggling with unaffordable rents, and at a time when many of our rural communities are struggling to cope with the ongoing impacts of deindustrialization, this budget represents an irresponsible proposal to take our country in the wrong direction.”
The Trump Administration has also proposed eliminating the position of Under Secretary of Rural Development, a key role in overseeing all of the Rural Housing programs at the USDA.
In May, Committee Democrats hosted a roundtable discussion, featuring both urban and rural community leaders, to examine the ways in which the Trump Administration’s budget request would create suffering for whole communities; increase poverty, hunger and homelessness; and reduce economic development opportunities across the nation. In addition, in April Committee Democrats wrote letters proposing funding increases for a variety of federal housing programs and rural housing programs that serve low-income families, seniors and persons with disabilities.
The full text of the letter is below:
June 26, 2017
Representative Jeb Hensarling
United States House of Representatives
Financial Services Committee
2129 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Hensarling:
We write to request that this Committee hold hearings with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as witnesses to discuss the Administration’s budget request for FY 2018 as it pertains to our nation’s federal housing programs, as well as the USDA’s proposal to eliminate the Under Secretary of Rural Development (RD). The Administration’s budget request for both HUD and USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) would impose steep funding cuts on, or complete elimination of, critical housing and community development programs that would ultimately increase homelessness and rent burdens on our most vulnerable American households. This Committee must be vigilant in examining this budget request and the potential negative consequences for individuals and families, including the impact of the rent reform proposals that would increase rent burdens on many of the lowest income households in this country. This would also be an opportunity for Members of the Committee to hear directly from the heads of these key agencies for the first time about their priorities and their vision for these agencies moving forward.
The Administration’s FY 2018 budget request would reduce the overall HUD budget by 15 percent, or approximately $7.4 billion, compared to FY 2017 funding levels. It would impose painful cuts to major rental assistance programs, including Public Housing and the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. It would also completely eliminate key housing and community development programs, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) programs. The Administration’s budget request would also introduce several harmful legislative proposals that would increase rent burdens for the lowest income households, especially seniors and persons with disabilities. There are serious concerns that these cuts and legislative proposals would result in hundreds of thousands of households losing their rental assistance and struggling to afford their rent as well as other basic necessities. It could also result in displacement with some families unable to afford to stay in their homes and communities. In general, the proposed HUD budget raises serious questions regarding HUD’s ability to serve our nation’s most vulnerable households, and about this Administration’s commitment to carrying forth the statutory mission of HUD.
Similarly, the Administration’s FY 2018 budget request for the USDA’s RHS programs represents a stunning indifference for the housing and community development needs of our rural communities. It would cut the overall RHS budget by more than 13 percent, or approximately $273 million, compared to FY 2017 funding levels. It would also completely zero out several key programs, including the Section 502 Single-Family Direct Loan program, the Section 504 Very Low Income Repair Loan and Grant programs, the Section 523 Mutual Self- Help Housing Grant program, and the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization demonstration. These are programs that help some of the lowest income households in rural areas access homeownership and financing for home repairs; they also help property owners access to financing for much needed rehabilitation of aging multifamily properties that house low and moderate income residents. Rural residents are already more likely to live in poor housing conditions, and this budget request would only ensure that these conditions get worse. Moreover, the USDA provides virtually no policy rationale for these steep cuts in its budget appendices or the Agency’s Explanatory Notes.
The USDA’s reorganization proposal adds insult to injury by proposing to eliminate the Under Secretary of RD, who oversees the RHS programs. The proposal suggests that the elimination of the Under Secretary of the RD represents an “elevation” of RD, but it provides no explanation for what protocol would apply in the absence of this key leadership post, or how the new structure would impact RD programs. There are serious concerns that this reorganization would undermine the importance and effectiveness of programs within RD by leaving a void of leadership and oversight. Further, questions have arisen regarding the Administration’s legal authority to implement this reorganization, an issue that should be closely scrutinized by this Committee. The USDA has not provided a legal opinion regarding its authority to implement this proposal nor has it provided a timeline for its implementation of this proposal.
The proposed cuts to both HUD and USDA would undoubtedly increase homelessness and poverty across our nation, including among veterans, seniors, persons with disabilities, and families with children. At a time when our country is experiencing a serious rental housing crisis in which far too many households are struggling with unaffordable rents, and at a time when many of our rural communities are struggling to cope with the ongoing impacts of deindustrialization, this budget represents an irresponsible proposal to take our country in the wrong direction. As the Committee of jurisdiction over these important programs, we must ensure that the Secretaries of HUD and USDA are fully aware of our concerns, and we must also ensure that these agencies are not acting in violation of the law.
Thank you for your consideration of this important request. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or Esther Kahng and Theresa Dumais with Ranking Member Waters’ staff at (202) 225-4247 with any questions about this letter.
Rep. Maxine Waters, Ranking Member
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez
Rep. Brad Sherman
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks
Rep. Michael E. Capuano
Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay
Rep. Stephen F. Lynch
Rep. David Scott
Rep. Al Green
Rep. Gwen Moore
Rep. Keith Ellison
Rep. Ed Perlmutter
Rep. Jim A. Himes
Rep. Bill Foster
Rep. Daniel T. Kildee
Rep. John K. Delaney
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema
Rep. Joyce Beatty
Rep. Denny Heck
Rep. Juan Vargas
Rep. Josh Gottheimer
Rep. Vicente Gonzalez
Rep. Charlie Crist
Rep. Ruben Kihuen