U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro said the Department will continue to focus on its top priorities in 2015 with the $45 billion budget allotted as part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, despite the lack of funding for some key HUD initiatives.
Among those priorities are securing sustainable housing for American individuals and families, preserving rental house assistance for poor Americans, ending homelessness, protecting people from discrimination in housing, and helping neighborhoods become more resilient from natural disasters, according to a release from HUD.
"HUD is the Department of opportunity. We support millions of Americans with the housing they need to succeed and we invest in making communities economically strong and inclusive," Castro said. "Our mission isn't a republican or a democratic issue – it's an American issue. As needs for our services have gone up in states, cities and counties across the country, HUD's resources have gone down. As we have time and time again, we’ll continue to find creative ways to have the greatest impact with the resources we have available so that we can continue expanding opportunity for all."
Two of HUD's key initiatives that will continue under the budget allotted in fiscal year 2015 are the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, an program that puts $80 million toward revitalizing neighborhoods decimated by blight and transforming distressed properties in those neighborhoods into sustainable, mixed-income housing; and allowing tribal lands access to the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program, expanding the program veterans living in Indian country, supporting an additional 10,000 housing vouchers with critical support from the VA. HUD's goal is to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
"It is unacceptable that after their service and sacrifice, too many of our veterans find themselves living without a roof over their heads," Castro said. "The expansion of HUD-VASH to include Indian country is a significant step forward in reducing homelessness among veterans. These vouchers will help communities build on the progress of reducing homelessness among veterans by a third in just four years, providing targeted assistance to those in need to ensure that every veteran has a home."
One of the key HUD initiatives not supported by the new budget is ending chronic homelessness in 2016. HUD had been seeking $301 million in homeless assistance grants for FY 2015 in order to develop housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness, but the Department did not receive the full $301 million request.
Another key initiative that will be put on hold for at least a year is the Homeowners Armed With Knowledge (HAWK) program, which is a pilot program introduced in 2014 to further incorporate housing counseling into the homebuying process for new homebuyers who are purchasing a home with Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured financing.
"Over the last few years FHA has proposed a number of steps to better serve borrowers and lenders in an ongoing effort to expand credit access and ultimately continue moving the economy in a positive direction," said Biniam Gebre, acting FHA commissioner and assistant secretary for housing. "We are disappointed programs that could have served many families will not be permitted under the bill."