Sunday, June 11, 2006

Tax cuts hurt HUD but help homeowners

    1. “Any plan to cut spending hurts HUD programs” --Barbara Sard.
    2. “Save Our Housing, Save Our Homes,” an all-day conference.
    3. More tax cuts will help save our homes from HUD.

"Housing group criticizes Bush's budget proposal" by John Yellig, Daily Progress staff writer, June 10, 2006

In an effort to trim a ballooning federal deficit, President Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal 2007 asks Congress to make steep cuts in social programs such as public housing, community development block grants and Section 8 housing vouchers while maintaining tax cuts, the real cause of the deficit, a housing analyst told a group of public housing residents and activists Friday.

While the domestic discretionary spending that funds the Department of Housing and Urban Development accounts for only 6 percent of the $3.4 trillion deficit projected to accrue by 2011, the tax cuts account for 50 percent of that figure, said Barbara Sard, the director of housing policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

That deficit is in stark contrast to the $5.6 trillion surplus forecast when Bush came into office, she said, adding that many people mistakenly blame the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Hurricane Katrina for the deficit.

“The big, big, big issue is the tax cuts,” Sard said.

“Wars come and go. Hurricanes come and go. But tax cuts stay.”

Sard was the keynote speaker at “Save Our Housing, Save Our Homes,” an all-day conference put on by advocacy groups, including the Public Housing Association of Residents, the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Virginia Organizing Project and the Quality Community Council.

Held at First Baptist Church on Park Street, the conference hosted workshops on topics such as voter registration, gentrification and affordable housing.

Even if Congress passed Bush’s budget with the proposed cuts in social spending, the deficit would still increase $281 billion over five years, Sard said.

“Any plan to cut spending hurts HUD programs,” she said.

Luckily, Sard said, Congress has been reluctant to approve many of the cuts in the past.

Nevertheless, she said, last year’s budget cut $494 million from the Community Development Block Grant program, which pays for neighborhood improvements in low-income communities.

The proposed 2007 budget asks for a 22 percent cut in the program, she said.

Locally, shortages in federal funding for Section 8 vouchers, which help poor families pay rent, have helped to create a deficit for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

“We’re in one of those situations where we spent more last year on vouchers than we received,” Executive Director Noah Schwartz said.

The authority is authorized to issue 341 vouchers, Schwartz said, but received enough funding for just more than 300 vouchers.

There are about 200 additional people on a waiting list for the vouchers and 1,200 waiting for public housing, he added.

“The trend has been that the federal government does not provide enough funding to run a functioning housing authority, even by their own calculations,” he said.


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