President Joe Biden’s discretionary budget request for FY 2022 puts fair and affordable housing on center stage by making significant re-investments in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In total, the $1.5 trillion discretionary request provides $68.7 billion for HUD, $9 billion more than the 2021 enacted level. It also expands key priorities for the agency, including:
- Expanding rental assistance to low-income households
- Funding strategies to end homelessness
- Addressing the shortage of affordable housing across the country
Some of the key funding priorities in the discretionary request include:
- $800 million for public housing expansion and rehabilitation
- $500 million to bolster the Housing Assistance Grants Program
- $747 million for tribal housing projects
- $12 million for fair housing enforcement
- $180 million to build new 2,000 new homes for seniors and people with disabilities.
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said she is particularly pleased to see requests for over $30 billion to provide housing vouchers to an additional 200,000 low-income families.
“Addressing our nation’s urgent housing challenges and building a more affordable, equitable, and resilient housing system demands strong federal leadership backed by robust federal funding,” Fudge said.
“President Biden’s FY22 discretionary funding request turns the page on years of inadequate and harmful spending requests and instead empowers HUD to meet the housing needs of families and communities across the country,” she added.
Discretionary requests are not the same as Congressional budgets.
They are submitted to Congress during transition years so that lawmakers are aware of the President’s non-defense funding priorities before the annual appropriations and budget process begins.
Priorities included in discretionary requests include education, research, human services, and protections for low-to-no income earners.
Since 2010, discretionary funding as a share of the U.S. economy has shrunk considerably. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), discretionary funding totaled $661 billion, or 14% of federal spending last year. That’s nearly half of the discretionary funding spent in FY 2015.
CBPP said nearly half of the discretionary funds are spent on health care research, transportation, and economic development. Only 13% is spent on programs that provide impoverished Americans with economic security.
While it may be easy for budget hawks to make academic squawks about fiscal responsibility, the lack of discretionary spending has a practical impact on many impoverished Americans.
For example, funding for the Center for Disease Control is 10% less today than a decade ago. Between 2018 and 2020, former President Donald Trump cut over $1.3 billion from the agency’s funding alone. This significantly complicated the CDC’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic effectively.
Similarly, programs like Head Start, which provides free-and-reduced lunches to public school students, serves an average of 95,000 fewer children per year, according to data from The White House.
While on a background call with reporters, an administration official said the proposal comes at “a particularly important moment.”
“For the past decade, due to overly restrictive budget caps, our country has underinvested in core public services, benefits, and protections that are incredibly important to our success,” the official said.
One group of people negatively impacted by discretionary funding cuts are homeless veterans.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from May 2020 found HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) brought about a 47% reduction in veteran homelessness between 2010 and 2016. However, progress after 2016 plateaued as funding for services has stalled.
During his four years in office, Trump did not make a significant investment in ending veteran homelessness. Between FY 2019 and 2020, he flattened spending on these programs at $2.77 billion, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. At the same time, Trump did not increase the number of available Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Vouchers (HUD-VASH).
As a result, veteran homelessness increased by 2020. A total of 37,252 veterans now sleep rough each night, according to HUD’s 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report. This represents a 6% increase in unsheltered veteran homelessness from 2019.
This is one reason why Fudge and VA Secretary Denis McDonough have committed to working together to end veteran homelessness. Biden has given the duo a healthy war chest to achieve their goals. Between the American Rescue Plan and the American Jobs Plan, Biden has given them over $10.2 billion to provide services for homeless people and preserve affordable housing options.
“Together, we can enhance how we deliver services and provide opportunities to Veterans to ensure we bring the full force of the federal government to end Veteran homelessness,” the secretaries said in a joint statement.