SCHUMER: PROPOSED SENATE BUDGET BILL WOULD DECIMATE FUNDING FOR KEY HOUSING PROGRAM THAT PROVIDES AFFORDABLE HOUSING, FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER ASSISTANCE AND MORE; STANDING WITH COMMUNITY LEADERS AND RESIDENTS, SENATOR VOWS TO FIGHT TOOTH & NAIL AGAINST FED FUNDING CUTS
Current Senate Bill Slashes HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) Funding By More Than 90% From Fiscal Year 2015 Levels – Effectively
Cuts Put First Time Homeownership, Rehabilitation Programs, and Neighborhood Revitalization Efforts In Jeopardy
Schumer: Cuts Would Be Devastating For Schenectady, Troy and Colonie
Standing at 1568 Carrie Street in Schenectady, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his push to fight steep funding cuts that have been proposed in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill that would negatively impact Schenectady and other Capital Region communities. Schumer explained that this cut would effectively decimate critical funding that Schenectady relies on for home rehabilitation and ownership programs, neighborhood revitalization efforts and more. 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. Schumer said these cuts could be devastating for Schenectady and other communities that depend on the HOME program as a pillar of community revitalization efforts.
“These cuts in Schenectady would be incredibly damaging; they have the potential to devastate invaluable programs in vulnerable neighborhoods across the Capital Region,” said Schumer. “That is why I am fighting these proposed cuts tooth and nail to make sure the HOME program remains fully funded. We need to make sure our local governments and communities have the resources they need to provide families and their children with safe and affordable housing options and can continue the neighborhood revitalization efforts that are critical to local economic development.”
Schumer explained that the City of Schenectady heads a consortium, which includes the City of Troy and Town of Colonie, and uses HOME funding for first-time homebuyer incentive programs, affordable housing initiatives and neighborhood development efforts. Schenectady works with well-known national non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity, as well as smaller local organizations like Better Neighborhoods Incorporated, the Community Land Trust of Schenectady, Schenectady Community Action Program, Bethesda House and the Schenectady Housing Development Fund Corporation in order to administer its programs. Schumer said this federal funding is critical to communities like Schenectady 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 home of Schenectady resident Karena Blackmon and her 3-year-old son, Yuven Oliver. Their home is currently being razed and rebuilt by Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County, using HOME funding. Schumer explained that it is anticipated that the HOME program will cover roughly two-thirds of this massive project’s total cost. However, according to Karena and Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady, if these funds are cut and no longer able to fund a significant portion of the rebuild, the construction effort would be completely halted. Therefore, Schumer said these types of programs would not be possible without the necessary federal funding.
The steep funding cuts to the HOME program would have a devastating effect on the low- and moderate- income families in the City of Schenectady and across the Capital Region, like those in the City of Troy and Town of Colonie, who rely on them. 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 development programs.
Schumer said that these cuts would effectively prevent state and local governments from building and rehabilitating affordable housing units. Schumer argued that reducing funding for vital low-income housing programs would dramatically reduce or potentially even eliminate the availability of many units. Because state and local governments rely on this HOME 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, the HOME cuts would diminish much of the progress that has been made in Schenectady and the Capital Region to revitalize low- and moderate- income neighborhoods.
Schumer highlighted the fact that HOME program services could be in jeopardy and projects in Schenectady halted, like the razing of Karena Blackmon’s home, if these funds were to be cut through the federal appropriation process. Schumer explained that, over the past six years (2009-2014), the Schenectady-Colonie-Troy consortium has received $7,344,041 in federal HOME funds, including $942,582 in 2014 alone, for these kinds of projects. Schumer said if cuts are more than 92 percent on a national scale, this could be disastrous for localities that depend on this funding. Schumer said this Capital Region consortium would no longer be able to provide nearly as much funding to organizations like Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County to aid housing projects like the razing and rebuilding of Karena Blackmon’s home. What’s more, Schumer said, is Habitat for Humanity has many other projects happening that could suffer. Currently, it is conducting significant work in Schenectady’s Northside neighborhood, having recently constructed and sold two adjacent homes at on Van Vranken and Salina Roads to low- and moderate- income families. In addition, they are working with the Capital Region Land Bank on a potential project down the road from the Blackmon family on Carrie St.
In addition, Schumer said the Habitat for Humanity program is not the only program that would suffer at the hands of a slashed HOME program. In fact, over the last five years, Schenectady County’s Community Land Trust has completed 109 low- to moderate- income homeowner rehabilitations with the help of HOME and HOME-assisted funding. From 2010 to 2013, the Schenectady Housing Development Fund Corporation used HOME program funding to provide down payment assistance to 29 low- to moderate- income families purchasing affordable housing units. According to the Schenectady-Colonie-Troy consortium, HOME funding has been critical in leveraging other funding sources as well. For example, a 2012 grant agreement with the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation leveraged $1.50 of state funds for every $1 of HOME funding and was used for rehabilitation projects for low- to moderate- income homeowners throughout the region. This grant agreement led to the completion of 17 projects and would not have been possible without the leveraged federal funding. A similar grant agreement with NYS Affordable Housing Corporation, signed this year, is currently leveraging $4 of state funds for every $1 of HOME dollars in Schenectady; this funding will rehabilitate a minimum of 10 low- to moderate- income homeowner units in the area.
Schumer was joined by Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, who has focused his attention on gaining control of the city’s housing stock. Last year, Schumer and McCarthy worked together to secure a federal HUD loan that has allowed the city to raze numerous, blighted and unsafe properties. At the same time, Mayor McCarthy has marshalled other sources of funding, such as the HOME program to rehabilitate many of the usable properties and encourage new homeownership to revitalize the city’s neighborhoods.
Schumer was also joined by Madelyn Thorne, Interim Director of Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County; Ms. Karena Blackmon Habitat’s partner family at 1568 Carrie Street; Deb Schimpf of Schenectady Community Action Program; and other community leaders.
“HOME funding provides critical support in our efforts to revitalize neighborhood and enhance local quality of life,” said MayorMcCarthy. “These proposed cuts would be devastating to many of our programs to restore homes and create home ownership opportunities.”
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 like Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County. These communities and organizations then fund activities such as building, buying and rehabilitating affordable housing units for rent or homeownership. HOME is the largest federal block grant provided to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing.