President Obama’s proposed budget, released last week, contains a lot of good news for cities. The section on the Department of Housing and Urban Development says that Obama intends to fully fund the Community Development Block Grant program at $4.5 billion. The President also proposes to devote $1 billion to combating homelessness, a problem cities are sure to face more of in the ongoing recession, by rehabilitating very low-income housing. I’m also particularly fond of the measure to preserve 1.3 million units of rental housing. As the foreclosure crises has demonstrated (to those not already convinced by 50 years of environmentally and socially disastrous suburban sprawl), not everyone should buy a home, and the government should take a more even-handed approach to supporting renting and buying.
The administration also pledges an additional $5 billion to finance high-speed rail construction and the expansion of mass transit. While it is certainly good to see more money for mass transit and rail construction, I think we should also consider just giving cities money to keep current subway and bus services running, and to keep fares down, as many cities are considering fare increases and service cuts.
Ben Adler is a journalist in New York. He is a former reporter for Grist, The Nation, Newsweek and Politico, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian and The New Republic.