House GOPers Looking to Gut Public Housing

| Tue Mar. 8, 2011 2:49 PM EST

Much has been written about the House GOP's 2012 budget bill (HR1), which would cut government spending by $61 billion this year by clamping down on non security-related discretionary spending. One line item that's not getting as much attention: cuts to low-income rental assistance programs for the elderly and the disabled.

A new paper from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) crunches the numbers on the GOP's plan, which would target some of the most vulnerable Americans, potentially pushing people who are nearly homeless out into the cold. Here are some of HR1's greatest housing hits:

  • $5.4 billion in cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) funding for housing and community development programs (12 percent below their 2010 level).
  • Funding for housing vouchers for some 10,000 homeless veterans would be eliminated.
  • $587 million slashed from housing programs for the elderly (a 71 percent reduction).
  • Funding for 4,500 new units per year of housing for low-income seniors and the disabled would be axed.
  • $210 million in funding cuts or housing for people with disabilities (70 percent).
  • Housing vouchers for 14,000 low-income people with disabilities wouldn't be renewed, putting them in danger of losing their homes.

These cuts couldn't come at a worse time. New data from HUD shows that 7.1 million renter households had "worst-case housing needs" in 2009. That means that they received no federal, state, or local housing assistance, earned incomes below 50 percent of the areaS median income, and lived either in severely substandard housing or directed half their income toward housing costs. That 7.1 million figure represents an increase of 20 percent since 2007 and 42 percent since 2001.

Meanwhile, the budget proposal advanced by Senate Democrats—which cuts non-security discretionary spending by $6.5 billion—rejects the House GOP's more draconian measures. It restores $75 million for new housing vouchers for homeless veterans that were cut in HR1. It also boosts funding for homeless assistance grants by $190 million, and rejects the House GOP's cuts to the elderly and disabled. The Senate bill also fully renews funding for Section 8, whose programs in 2010 helped over 3 million low-income households, over half of which were headed by seniors or people with disabilities. To assist the same number of homes in 2011, CBPP recommends boosting Section 8 funding by a little over $100 million.

But that seems unlikely to happen. As the budget battle rages on, one Continuing Resolution extender at a time, it's far from clear how much the Democrats are prepared to push back.