Federal Housing Spending Might Be Cut From Biden’s $3.5 Trillion Budget
President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan may be pared down to $2 trillion to appease centrist senators, and advocates are worried that $300 billion in housing funds will get cut, according to reporting from Politico. The threatened funding includes $10 billion in downpayment assistance to first-time homebuyers whose parents do not own a home and another $2 billion of funding to build affordable housing in disinvested neighborhoods, according to Politico. It also includes $70 billion for repairing and upgrading affordable housing that could create 2 million new homes, according to Insider.
Housing Failures in NYC and DC
We have two follow-ups to items from last week’s newsletter, concerning corruption among NYC’s homeless shelter providers and D.C.’s misused affordable housing funds.
Regarding D.C., an audit by the city’s Office of Inspector General found that the city failed to meet a legally mandated goal to set aside 50 percent of federal housing dollars disbursed by its Housing Production Trust Fund to build homes for people who are “extremely-low income.” The city’s Department of Housing and Community Development said that this legal requirement was “aspirational” since the law contains no penalties, a position the chair of D.C. Council’s housing committee agrees with, according to DCist. But not everyone agrees, and Councilmember Elissa Silverman plans to introduce two bills in the coming weeks, one which will require more transparency on the DHCD’s ability to meet affordability benchmarks, and another that will require a waiver if DHCD is unable to meet those benchmarks. ”The goals aren’t aspirational, they’re essential,” Silverman told DCist.
And the NY Post sifted through city records and found that over 8 years, $4.6 billion of NYC’s funding for homeless shelters went to a dozen shelter providers that have been accused of corruption, including profiteering and failing to provide services. This accounts for nearly 30 percent of all the city’s spending on homelessness in that period.
‘Desegregate Connecticut’ Coalition Releases Playbooks For Advocates
A coalition of nonprofits calling itself Desegregate Connecticut has released a set of “playbooks” for advocates, commissioners and political candidates in the state who want to change the region’s zoning to allow more density. The playbooks define zoning for lay persons and urge people to advocate for laws removing single-family zoning and legalizing accessory dwellings, especially near public transit and centers of commerce to reduce urban sprawl. The playbooks focus on density as a racial equity issue, but only briefly touch on the issue of affordability.
Detroit Will Repair Roofs for Some Seniors Using Federal Money
A program called “Renew Detroit” will repair roofs of about 1,000 Detroit homes, using $30 million of funding from the American Rescue Plan. Applications opened on October 1 and will close at the end of the month. To be eligible, Detroit homeowners have to either be a senior or a person with a disability. Applicants will be prioritized based on how long they’ve lived in the home and how many family members live with them. Repairing roofs will be the first stage of the Renew Detroit program because, according to a press release, 80 percent of repair requests from seniors involve roof repair and 50 percent of home weatherization grants are denied due to roof disrepair. The city will launch another round of home repairs in a year but hasn’t said which part of the home it will focus on.
This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.
Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.