U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro addressed the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations Wednesday on the Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal for HUD, where he emphasized the commitment from the Obama administration to continue to provide affordable housing for families, seniors, disabled Americans and others in need of resources.
The proposed budget calls for a $4 billion increase in funding, pushing the overall funding budget to $49.3 billion.
According to Castro, $21 million of the increased budget will be used for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which would offer support to more than 2.4 million low-income families. The budget also plans to help 67,000 households by fulfilling the promise to restore vouchers lost to sequestration.
"This support is critically needed. We recently released the findings of our nation’s 2015 'Worst Case Housing Needs' Report to Congress,' he said. "It found that 7.7 million low-income households that receive no housing assistance pay more than 50 percent of their income in rent, live in severely inadequate housing, or both."
Castro emphasized the push to lift more Americans into the middle class through programs that can provide links to upward mobility in the mission to end chronic homelessness and work to end homelessness among families and youth. A proposed $2.5 billion would fund Homeless Assistance Grants, which help combat homelessness by providing communities with housing and service investments.
"With Congress' support through programs like HUD-VASH, we have seen dramatic reductions in homelessness among veterans. If our nation invests in the targeted programs we know work, we can make similar progress in tackling other forms of homelessness," Castro said.
HUD plans to use $100 million to fund Jobs Plus, a program designed to help low-income families living in HUD-subsidized housing to build careers. Another $85 million will be invested into HUD’s Family Self Sufficiency Initiative, which equips about 80,000 families with financial literary training and childcare and transportation services.
Castro asked for the support of Congress to eliminate the Rental Discrimination Cap, saying it would "put billions of dollars in private financing for public housing preservation and create thousands of jobs in the construction trades and other industries."
Castro closed his testimony by citing the $250 million proposed in the budget for HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, a program that has he said has shown impressive success. Between fiscal years 2010 and 2013, the $351 million that HUD invested in these grants leveraged more than $2.6 billion of additional investment in extremely low-income communities.
"As HUD commemorates 50 years of advancing policies that create opportunity for all," he said. "We’re also creating a solid foundation for the next 50 years and beyond."