On Thursday, March 9, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration is planning to eliminate all funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).
In response to the Post’s requests for clarification, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said the budget document is still a work in progress. According to the Post, the budget document the newspaper obtained “appears to be part of a back-and-forth with federal budget officials,” though the Post also stated that it is “unclear whether the proposed cuts will be included in the president’s final budget proposal,” which is scheduled to be released next week.
The proposed cut comes as a major surprise for at least three important reasons:
First, Mr. Trump, throughout his campaign, spoke of the need to invest in America’s “inner cities,” and committed to spending $100 billion over eight years to address “inner city” problems. Certainly, we would expect CDBG funding to be a major player if such a budget plan were carried out.
Second, CDBG has always been the beneficiary of bi-partisan support, something not very common in Washington these days. How Congress will respond to this proposed cut is anyone’s guess, but the National Community Development Association, of which NARC is a member, will continue to push for $3.3 billion in CDBG funding for fiscal year 2018 (which begins October 1, 2017), a ten percent increase over this year’s expected funding level.
Third, CDBG funds have been used to leverage other non-federal funds that can help support community improvement programs, particularly those focused around affordable housing. CDBG funds have been used to develop comprehensive approaches to community development that factor in, among other things, economic and social goals, and sound financial management. Coupled with economic development activities, CDBG funds to designated cities, urban counties, and states have helped to transform unsafe, unlivable communities into safe and livable ones. Without CDBG funds many of these efforts would come to a screeching halt and activities that were making a measurable difference in communities across America would end.
Now is not the time to cut CDBG funds – it is the time to increase our community development investments. As NARC Executive Director Leslie Wollack has said, CDBG represents one of the most important community development tools “cities, counties, and regions have to ensure that everyone lives in vibrant communities, with good services and good housing.”
For more information please visit NARC’s community development page on NARC’s website, where you will find a more detailed policy statement, examples of outstanding community development programs across the nation, as well as federal and non-profit community development resources. You may also access the press release from the National Community Development Association that addresses our concerns.
By Neil E. Bomberg, NARC senior policy advisor