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HOUSING: Senator Murray Warns that the President's Housing Budget Will Hurt Families and Undermine Community Development

Mar 02 2006

Murray Questions HUD Secretary About Budget Proposal that Cuts Funding to House the Elderly, Disabled, and Vulnerable Families

(Washington, D.C.) – Today at a Senate hearing, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) warned that the President's budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will hurt families and undermine community development efforts nationwide. Murray is the top Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees HUD funding. Today she questioned HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson about the President's budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2007.

Overall, the President's budget would cut HUD funding by 1.8 percent. The president's budget proposes specific cuts, including:

  • Housing for the elderly – cut 26 percent


  • Housing for the disabled – cut 50 percent


  • Community Development Block Grants – cut by more than $1 billion


  • Funding for public housing authorities for utility costs – frozen again (for the 5th year in a row)


  • Funding to keep more than 13,000 public housing properties from falling into dilapidated, decrepit and inhumane conditions -- cut 11 percent. (Public Housing Capital Fund)


Last year, Murray helped fend off some of the most painful cuts from the President's FY 2006 budget proposal. She said that this year she will fight once again to enact a budget resolution that will "keep faith with the people who need HUD assistance the most."

Murray said the President's budget reflects the wrong priorities. She noted that while the Administration is proposing to cut $620 million from HUD, it's working to boost spending for Exploration Systems in NASA by more than $860 million.

'"I support the overall goal of space exploration. But when it comes to sending an astronaut to Mars or housing our elderly and disabled neighbors here on earth, there's no doubt where my priorities lie," Murray told Secretary Jackson.

Murray has been meeting with housing leaders throughout Washington state in the past few months. In December, she toured public housing facilities in Vancouver. In January, she met with housing leaders and advocates in King County. Last month, she sat down with low-income housing leaders in Spokane.

Murray is a member of the Senate Budget Committee, which helps set the overall funding blueprint for the coming fiscal year. Murray said that if the funding level for housing is set to low during the current budget process, housing will face step cuts later in the year when the Senate makes specific appropriations based on the overall budget blueprint.

Senator Murray's full opening statement at today's hearing with Secretary Jackson follows:

Remarks by U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Appropriations Committee Hearing on the
President's FY 2007
HUD Budget Proposal


It's been more than six months since Hurricane Katrina reminded all of us of the ongoing poverty that grips so many American families. After the storm, millions of us gathered around our television sets and saw vulnerable Americans struggling for their dignity and struggling for their lives.

One of the little known facts about Hurricane Katrina was that public housing authorities across the country made heroic efforts to find housing to relocate hurricane victims. I want to commend them for their hard work and compassion.

But the sad fact is that every one of those public housing authorities already had long waiting lists of local families who had been waiting years for housing to become available. That means the efforts to house Katrina victims pushed other poor families further down a long waiting list. Those families who were pushed down the list were, in most cases, no less poor, no less desperate and, in some cases, no less homeless, than the Katrina victims. And the vast majority of them are still waiting for an available unit today.

We shouldn’t be a in a position where -- if we respond to a disaster -- our only choice is to hurt families who have been waiting years for housing. But that's the position we find ourselves in today – and there is one reason why – years of misguided housing budgets.

Now, we're once again working on a new budget for the coming fiscal year. We should not make the same mistakes again. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the President's budget would do.

HUD has a critical mission – to promote home ownership, ensure safe rental housing, house the homeless, rejuvenate desolate communities, and provide hope to a great many struggling Americans. We are talking about the impoverished elderly. We are talking about disabled citizens who have unique housing needs. We are talking about helping the working poor climb the economic ladder.

I have often said that budgets are about priorities. And it is clear that the Bush Administration’s priorities are not with the missions of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The President’s budget for the coming fiscal year proposes to increase discretionary spending by 3.2 percent. But within that total, HUD is singled out for a cut of 1.8 percent. The Community Development Block Grant program, is slated for a cut of more than a billion dollars. All funds for the HOPE VI program – a program designed to demolish and replacing our most decrepit public housing units – is proposed for elimination in the Bush budget.

In fact, the Administration’s budget goes even further and calls on the Congress to eliminate the funding that we have already appropriated for this program in 2006. Housing for the elderly is cut by 26 percent, while housing for the disabled is cut by 50 percent. These proposed cuts come at a time when every study tells us that these populations are growing – and growing rapidly.

One thing that has been clear to every American this winter is the fact that utility costs have risen dramatically. It seems that everyone knows that – except for the Bush Administration. While utility costs have risen dramatically for public housing authorities across America, the Bush Administration wants to freeze operating funds for public housing authorities for the fifth year in a row.

Funding for the Public Housing Capital Fund – which is intended to keep over 13,000 public housing properties from falling into dilapidated, decrepit and inhumane conditions -- is singled out for an 11 percent cut.

As I said earlier, the President’s budget proposes to increase discretionary spending by 3.2 percent, but all of the rhetoric and public statements by the President and his OMB Director have sought to divide this budget into three separate categories: funding for Defense; funding for homeland security, and funding for everything else.

Their implication is clear. In the view of the Bush Administration, programs in this third category – programs that educate our children, prevent disease, or house the underprivileged -- are the least worthy of public funds. Within this third category, the President proposes to cut overall spending by 0.5 percent. But for HUD, which falls entirely into this third category, this Administration is proposing a much larger cut of 1.8 percent. The message is clear: the non-defense, non-homeland security portion of the budget is a low priority for the President, and funding for HUD’s work is an even lower priority.

It is worth noting that, while the Administration is proposing to cut the HUD budget by more than $620 million, they are proposing to boost spending for Exploration Systems in NASA by more than $860 million. Like many of my colleagues, I support the overall goal of space exploration. But when it comes to sending an astronaut to Mars or housing our elderly and disabled neighbors here on earth, there's no doubt where my priorities lie.

Mr. Chairman, last year, with your strong support, we were able to fend off many of the more painful cuts included in President Bush’s budget for HUD. Unfortunately we were handed an allocation by a budget resolution that I did not support that resulted in our having to accept some of his proposed cuts. Last year, our appropriations bill did cut the Community Development Block Grant program by more than half a billion dollars. We did cut the HOPE VI program by 31 percent.

I am a member of the Budget Committee, as you used to be, Mr. Chairman. If we are presented with a budget resolution that continues to cut the Community Development Block Grant program, I am going to be the first Senator out of the box offering amendments to restore those cuts. I hope that, together, you and I can work together toward ensuring that a budget resolution is adopted that will allow us to reject these ill-conceived proposals so that we can keep faith with the people who need HUD assistance the most.