Chairman Price Statement at Hearing on FY 2021 HUD Budget Request

2020-03-04 10:30

Congressman David Price (D-NC), Chair of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development:

The hearing will come to order.  This morning we will examine the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  We are pleased to have Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of the Department, here to testify.  Welcome back Mr. Secretary, and thank you for being here.

Stable housing is a basic human need and the foundation upon which people build their lives.  Absent a safe, decent, affordable place to live, it is next to impossible to achieve good health, positive educational outcomes, or reach one's economic potential.

Across the country, both urban and rural communities are struggling to address an affordable housing crisis.  Many of the people affected are the most vulnerable among us—seniors, the disabled, low-income families with children, and veterans.  Meanwhile, only one in four families eligible for federal rental assistance can receive it because of budget shortfalls. 

Of course, the problem isn’t just the quantity of affordable units, it’s also about the quality of those units and preserving what we have.

The threat of carbon monoxide, lead, radon, and other hazards continue to pose major challenges for landlords—including cash-strapped public housing authorities—as well as HUD’s oversight capacity and physical inspection process.  Residents of the Durham Housing Authority in my home state of North Carolina are only the most recent high-profile example of the human costs of deferred maintenance in our public housing stock.  We must do better.

In the last three fiscal years, under both Republican and Democratic House majorities and in partnership with my friend, the former Chairman and current Ranking Member Mario Diaz-Balart, we’ve provided billions in new resources for public housing, vouchers, homelessness programs, and grants to states, localities, and nonprofits to address housing and community development needs. 

But let’s be clear—this subcommittee knows that the unmet needs in our communities are immense; the challenges facing HUD and its dedicated employees are vast; and absent a major infusion of new resources and policy interventions, we will not be able to effectively address our national housing crisis.

This brings us to the Department’s FY 2021 budget request, which proposes $48 billion in total budget authority, a cut of $8.6 billion or 15 percent compared to the current enacted funding level.  This is woefully inadequate to the task at hand.

Mr. Secretary, for several years in a row you propose to eliminate Community Development Block Grants, the HOME program, SHOP, the Public Housing Capital Fund, and Choice Neighborhoods.  All of these programs either create new housing or preserve existing units.  The cuts to the Capital Fund are especially baffling given the acute challenges faced by public housing communities nationwide.

After much presidential posturing about homelessness in California and other states, the budget proposes a $4 million reduction to homeless assistance grants—precisely the opposite of what we might expect given all the rhetoric.  I also find it troubling that despite a highly touted initiative to “End HIV in America”, the request would slash funding for HOPWA, the only program designed to address the housing needs of low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. 

Despite the overwhelmingly grim picture painted by this budget request, there are a handful of bright spots.  For the first time you include some funding for new construction in the 202 and 811 housing programs, building on investments this subcommittee has prioritized in prior years to address acute housing shortfalls for the elderly and disabled. 

The request also seeks increased funding for lead hazard control grants; radon testing and lead risk assessments; carbon monoxide alarms; and a boost for several self-sufficiency programs.  Unfortunately, these modest investments are more than offset by the draconian cuts and unrealistic program eliminations I mentioned earlier, including funds essential to reducing the public housing maintenance backlog. 

Disaster recovery also remains an important area of focus for this subcommittee.  On January 27, the Department issued the long overdue mitigation notice for CDBG-DR funding—145 days after the 90-day statutory deadline.  We will continue to conduct oversight into the Department’s actions on disaster recovery.  We also need more information about the new Federal Financial Monitor for Puerto Rico.  I reiterate that the HUD IG found no major deficiencies with the island’s housing department.  Survivors of natural disasters need assistance and support—not politics and bureaucracy.  

When it comes to policy proposals in the budget, I’d like to once again register my serious concerns with the Department’s so-called rent “reforms” which would essentially shift HUD program costs onto residents.  These proposals have been consistently rejected on a bipartisan basis, and I expect the same will occur this year. Yet the budget includes non-existent savings based on the assumed enactment of these work requirements and rent increases. 

I’m extremely concerned with HUD’s administrative attempts to roll back fair housing regulations, including the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and the proposed “disparate impact” rule.  These actions represent a fundamental abandonment of our obligations under the Fair Housing Act.

The Department has withdrawn guidance and is considering harmful changes to the Equal Access Rule that ensures shelters and other homeless providers that accept federal funds to treat individuals with dignity in accordance to their gender identity.  Rolling back these protections would threaten an already vulnerable population with additional barriers to vital services.

Finally, I urge the Department to reverse course when it comes to the cruel and misguided attempt to block assistance to families with mixed immigration status.  By the Department’s own admission, this policy would not save money.  But it could result in the potential eviction and displacement of 108,000 people, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, as well as the separation of children from their parents. 

The current state of housing in America should force us to ask tough questions about our national priorities.  Unfortunately, this budget proposal would make our affordable housing crisis even worse.  Mr. Secretary, I look forward to working with you to ensure HUD has the resources necessary to carry out its critical mission.

I’d now like to recognize my good friend and the Ranking Member of the subcommittee, Mr. Diaz-Balart.


116th Congress