09.21.15

SCHUMER: PROPOSED SENATE BUDGET BILL SLASHES CRITICAL FUNDING FOR KEY HOUSING PROGRAM PROVEN TO HELP VETERANS; DEVASTATING CUTS WILL HALT SYRACUSE’S EFFORTS TO PROVIDE VETERANS HOUSING AND REVITALIZE NEIGHBORHOODS; SCHUMER STANDS WITH LOCAL VETERANS WHO BENEFITED FROM HOME PROGRAM & VOWS TO FIGHT TOOTH & NAIL TO PROVIDE SYRACUSE NEIGHBORHOODS & POTENTIAL HOMEOWNERS WITH THE VITAL FUNDING THEY NEED

Current Senate Bill Slashes HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) Funding By More Than 90% From Fiscal Year 2015 Levels – Decimating Critical Funding Streams For Syracuse

 

Cuts Put First Time Homeownership & Rehabilitation Programs, Neighborhood Revitalization Efforts & Economic Development Projects All In Jeopardy

 

Schumer: HOME Cuts Would Be Devastating For Syracuse

 

Standing at Van Keuren Square in Syracuse, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his push to fight proposed steep funding cuts in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill – cuts that would negatively impact Syracuse and the Central New York Region. Schumer explained that this cut would effectively decimate critical funding that Syracuse relies on for home rehabilitation and ownership programs, neighborhood revitalization efforts, housing for homeless veterans and more.

 

 “One homeless veteran is one too many,” said Schumer. “We need to make sure our local governments and communities have the resources they need to provide our heroes who bravely served this country, as well as the many families and children who need it most, with safe and affordable housing options.”

 

Schumer explained that the FY 2016 THUD bill, which was passed out of the Appropriations Committee, includes a drastic cut of over 90 percent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME). Specifically, this bill slashes HOME funding by more than $800 million. These cuts would dwindle Syracuse's portion of HOME Funding from $1,020,203 in FY15 to a proposed $74,954 in FY16. Schumer said these cuts could be devastating for Syracuse and surrounding communities that depend on the HOME program as a pillar of local revitalization efforts.

 

Currently, the City of Syracuse uses HOME funding for first-time homebuyer incentive programs, affordable housing initiatives for veterans as well as low- to moderate- income families and other various neighborhood development efforts. The City of Syracuse works with local development and non-profit organizations, along with the Syracuse Housing Authority, through its Department of Neighborhood and Business Development (NBD) to administer its HOME program, which has been proven to help many local veterans in particular in the Syracuse area. Schumer said between 2014 and 2015, the City of Syracuse assisted a total of 3,685 households through the HOME program as well as the Community Block Development Grant (CDBG) program, which is another HUD program used to fund affordable housing projects and community development projects in the most vulnerable communities. Schumer said this federal funding is critical to communities like Syracuse and devastating cuts could force them to scale back or even put an end to critical investments, housing projects, revitalization efforts and more that benefit low- and moderate- income families as well as create and retain local jobs.

 

During his visit, Schumer stood at the Van Keuren Square apartments in Syracuse, a former dilapidated apartment building that was rehabbed by the City of Syracuse and Housing Visions Unlimited, Inc. using federal HOME program funds to create 50 units of permanent, quality affordable housing for homeless veterans. The apartment complex is also equipped with on-site services from the local VA in Syracuse. Schumer said this was a prime example of federal dollars at work, as the HOME program provided $250,000 in gap financing to support this project. Schumer also cited nine other major housing projects in the area that used both HOME and CDBG program funds to rehabilitate formerly vacant and decrepit housing units into affordable properties for low- to moderate- income families in the Syracuse area. 

 

According to the City of Syracuse, the former nine Eljay buildings were an albatross for many years, first in their poor management and then in the waning days of their previous private ownership. After failing repeated HUD inspections and being declared unfit for occupancy, all nine sites remained vacant for years and threatened to bring down the values of all properties within their vicinity. Schumer explained that is when the City of Syracuse began working with local development organizations, using HOME and CDBG dollars, to turn all of these apartments around. If those federal dollars were not available, many of these projects would likely not have been completed.

 

The steep cuts to HOME funding in particular would have a devastating effect on the veterans and low- to moderate- income families in the City of Syracuse, as well as across the Central New York region, who rely on the program. Specifically, the proposed FY2016 THUD bill would reduce HOME program spending from its current level of $900 million for FY 2015 to just $66 million in FY 2016, an $834 million cut. Schumer said this reduction of more than 92 percent would effectively decimate the program. Schumer said this could mean even less will receive the critical funds many municipalities depend upon for neighborhood housing and redevelopment projects.

 

Schumer highlighted the fact that HOME program services could be put on the chopping block and projects in Syracuse halted if these funds were to be cut through the federal appropriation process. Schumer explained that, over the past 10 fiscal years (2006-2015), the City of Syracuse has received $16,795,911 in federal HOME funds, including $1,020,203 in 2015 alone, for these kinds of projects. This $16 million investment has also leveraged additional investments – through mortgages, bank loans, private equity, etc. – to fix up houses, build new affordable housing units and educate first-time homebuyers. Between 2014 and 2015, with the assistance of HOME funds, 114 new affordable housing units were developed. Schumer said if cuts are more than 92 percent on a national scale, this could be disastrous for localities that depend on this funding; the City of Syracuse would receive just $74,954 in federal HOME funding under these cuts. Schumer said this vital program would no longer be able to provide nearly as much funding to the City of Syracuse, which could put in jeopardy the program the city has already put in place to house homeless veterans as well as low- to moderate- income families.

 

What’s more, Schumer said, many other HOME program projects could suffer at the hands of a slashed federal funding stream. For instance, on the buyer’s end of the deal, HOME funding helps first-time homebuyers purchase their first home through financial guidance and incentive programs. In Syracuse, the federal HOME funding supports buyer education programs where prospective buyers receive help repairing their credit, if needed, and learn the ins and outs of home ownership to make them better long-term homeowners. Schumer said these types of programs would likely no longer be possible under these steep cuts.

 

In addition, CDBG funding would be cut by $100 million from FY 2015 levels. Schumer said that while this only constitutes a three percent cut for state and local government grantees, the number of communities eligible for CDBG funds has more than doubled in recent years. Schumer said this means even less will receive the critical funds many municipalities depend upon for neighborhood housing rehabilitation and development projects. Funding CDBG at this low of a level fails to even maintain current grant sizes, let alone support the program’s growing needs.

 

Schumer said the City of Syracuse has received $56,437,816 in CDBG funds alone over the last 10 fiscal years (2006-2015). This includes $4,603,746 in just FY 2015. Between 2014 and 2015, with the assistance of CDBG funds, 3,571 households were assisted by the City of Syracuse through community development and affordable housing programs. Schumer said if CDBG funds are cut nationwide, this could be harm the localities like Syracuse that depend on this funding. Schumer said if this THUD bill is passed and allows CDBG funding to be slashed by $100 million from FY 2015 levels, these projects could cease to exist or could be severely undermined and cut back due to reduced funding.

 

Schumer said that these cuts would effectively prevent state and local governments from building and rehabilitating affordable housing units, for veterans or low- to moderate- income residents. Schumer argued that reducing funding for these vital programs would dramatically reduce or potentially eliminate the availability of many units. Because state and local governments rely on this HOME, as well as CDBG, funding to offer and keep units affordable, the proposed cuts would put greater financial strain on the families who need these housing options the most, and potentially leave some of them without any safe housing options at all. Schumer said, if enacted, these federal funding cuts would diminish much of the progress that has been made in the Syracuse area to revitalize low- and moderate- income neighborhoods and provide those who served the United States in the military with safe and affordable housing. Finally, in addition to increasing property values through revitalization efforts, Schumer said the HOME and CDBG programs help generate further economic development by hiring local contractors.

 

Schumer was joined by Syracuse Commissioner of Department of Neighborhood and Business Development Paul Driscoll; Ben Lockwood, Vice President of Housing Visions; and local veterans who have benefited from HOME Funds.

 

“The federal government has continued to cut the critical funding our communities need to thrive. This is another example of federal decisions that are leaving cities behind,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “HOME funding has gone to support many important projects that help low income residents and veterans throughout the City of Syracuse. We would be in a significantly more challenging position to create quality affordable housing for our citizens if we had our funding reduced by over 90%. I thank Senator Schumer for being an advocate on this issue.”

 

“The HOME program is an essential financing source meet the mission of Housing Visions’ mission of neighborhood revitalization.  Vulnerable populations such as veterans and working families will suffer for these cuts,” said Kenyon Craig, President and CEO of Housing Visions. “It will make it much more difficult to find quality affordable housing not only in Syracuse but across the United States.”

 

HOME funds are distributed to villages, towns, cities and counties across the U.S. to fund housing and development projects. According to HUD, the HOME program provides grants to states and localities that communities use, often in partnership with local nonprofit groups or development companies. These communities and organizations then fund activities such as building, buying and rehabilitating affordable housing units for rent or home ownership. HOME is the largest federal block grant provided to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing.

 

CDBG funds are distributed to states, counties, villages, towns, and cities across the U.S. to fund development projects. According to HUD, the CDBG program funds affordable housing projects, provides services to the most vulnerable in communities and creates jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses. The CDBG program provides annual grants on a formula basis to over 1,200 general units of local and state governments.

 

 

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