Rachel Fee wrote an Op-ed published in the Daily News on February 16th. Please find the text below:
“President Trump’s budget is likely dead on arrival in Congress, but the message he sent to people living in public housing is not a tweet to delete or a truth easily denigrated as “fake news.” It is a statement of willful abandonment.
The President and his budget director declare that the federal government no longer wants a role in public housing. Zeroing out any funding to help repair boilers and buildings at the New York City Housing Authority leaves hundreds of thousands of people out in the cold (literally).
Trump proposes to cut funding across HUD programs by $8.8 billion, or nearly 20%. This comes as nearly every city and state grapples with insufficient affordable housing. To add insult, the President also proposes to raise rents for people in New York who rely on HUD programs by an average of 23% or $1,480 this year.
And while the Trump administration seeks to establish patronizing work requirements, they also want to eliminate benefits that actually allow people to work, like the ability to deduct child-care expenses before rent is calculated.
Even more than the funding in jeopardy, the President’s budget represents a major shift in the federal government’s role in subsidized housing. Budget cuts have been piling on year after year, causing boilers to break, elevators to stall, roofs to leak, mold to flourish, and lead paint to peel. But the President’s budget goes a step further and replaces federal disinvestment with divestment.
The President is throwing up his hands saying “not my problem” to New York’s 323,098 public housing residents who have gone without heat or hot water at some point this last year. What is galling is that the President offers no substitute or plan to assure state and local governments have resources to maintain any standard of habitability for public housing that is both occupied and desperately needed. It is a heartless abdication of responsibility.
An insufficient $100 million is proposed in the budget nationally for the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. Under RAD, the private sector can invest in public housing through Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Private Activity Bonds, resources that already took a huge hit in the recently enacted tax bill.
The idea that public housing is something to be abandoned is ludicrous. Because of chronic underfunding, NYCHA buildings require nearly $26 billion in needed repairs. That is a large number. But when you think about how many homes it provides to New Yorkers — almost 200,000 affordable homes — and what it would take to try to replace it, and the impact its continuing deterioration will have on the neighborhoods these developments are located in, the true value of NYCHA is much, much greater. The private sector, state and local government can and should be partners in revitalizing public housing, but it is the responsibility of the federal government to provide funding solutions to achieve basic and decent living conditions in public housing. We cannot let the federal government off the hook.”