A few days ago, the Trump administration released a budget proposal that included steep cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including completely eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program, which allows cities to build affordable housing and feed poor senior citizens. The program makes up about 50% of the budget cuts at HUD.
The administration also announced a transportation proposal that includes a 13% reduction to the Department of Transportation and completely ends any federal funding for long-distance Amtrak routes. Amtrak said in a statement that long-distance routes are the only kind of Amtrak service in in 23 states.
Policy experts, journalists, and urban planners took to Twitter to voice their opinions on what these cuts mean for affordable housing, transportation, and other policies:
Slashes to Section 8 may make the affordable housing crisis worse
The massive cuts to HUD affect several programs that help citizens with affordable housing, like the Section 8 voucher program. Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, offered historic context to these cuts:
She also pointed out that HUD Secretary Ben Carson had previously expressed support for Section 8 vouchers, but that the proposal would cut funding for more than 250,000 families.
The administration wants to focus on private investment for transportation projects
The administration’s infrastructure plan includes ideas such as privatizing rest stops, encouraging private investment through tax breaks, and issuing more tax-exempt bonds to companies. CityLab wrote that it is is a “free lunch for private investors.”
Yonah Freemark pointed out that from the administration’s perspective, private investment is preferable than spending taxpayer dollars because it considers the government to be too cheap or unable to spend that money:
The admin's philosophy, quite seriously, is that this country is too cheap/poor to fund schools, housing, transport with collective money.— Yonah Freemark (@yfreemark) May 24, 2017
Instead, the only thing worth funding is that which can attract a revenue stream. A repulsive, regressive concept for a democratic society.— Yonah Freemark (@yfreemark) May 24, 2017
Trump budget stance on investment is that it shouldn't have to direct dollars to it unless there is a “revenue stream” associated with it. pic.twitter.com/jUbcm4pdcu— Yonah Freemark (@yfreemark) May 23, 2017
This is, frankly, the government acting like it's a private corporation, focusing on “revenue streams,” not the public interest.— Yonah Freemark (@yfreemark) May 23, 2017
After the election, I speculated that the administration would cut funding for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, which help fund state and local transit projects like the Metroway BRT in Arlington and Alexandria. Cutting TIGER grants is still included in this budget proposal, leaving many state and local projects in the lurch.
What else is getting the chop?
Aside from housing and transportation, there are other budget cuts that will affect citizens.
For example, weather forecasting in the United States is outdated and needs improvements. Right now, the United States uses the Global Forecast System model to track weather. This system has trouble accurately predicting weather 5 to 7 days in advance. This has big implications for predicting severe weather. Meteorologists and weather forecasters expressed dismay when the administration announced cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget, partly to “slow” these improvements, which include upgrading the technology involved in generating weather maps. NOAA last updated its main forecasting system in 2016, and had planned to build a brand new system.
The funding cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program, previously mentioned, also affect the likelihood of states getting federal assistance after natural disasters. Last year, Hurricane Matthew struck North Carolina, which is still recovering. Governor Roy Cooper requested $929 million in aid through the Community Development Block Grant program and the federal government only approved $6.1 million. The state government estimated that $700 million alone would go toward housing.
Additionally, the Senate was set to require the Government Accountability Office to investigate and report on why the cost of building transit was so high. When the Senate and the House had to reconcile their individual versions of their spending bills, the measure was removed (it's unclear who removed them); the government will no longer study transit costs.