The 2018 budget proposal the President sent to Congress today includes a 13 percent cut – more than $6 billion – to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD is already underfunded for public housing and vouchers to help people afford rent in the private market, which form the safety net that keeps millions of veterans, seniors, children and many others in our country from homelessness. Congress must stop these budget cuts from being enacted.
The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) currently serves more than 34,000 people. Our annual operating budget, which is funded through HUD, is $180 million. The federal budget at this point is only the President’s proposal, and we don’t know where the numbers will be at the conclusion of the full budget process. For perspective, however, if a 13 percent cut to our HUD funding were to happen, it would mean $24 million less to provide housing and services to people in need in the Seattle community. The average annual household income for people living in SHA housing is $17,000. The impact of a cut of this magnitude would be devastating for the people we serve. They cannot afford other housing.
$24 million is nearly half of the annual cost of maintaining and operating our 8,000 residences, which provide housing for more than 15,000 people. It is the annual equivalent of 2,400 rental assistance vouchers providing affordable housing for almost 5,000 people. $24 million dollars is four times the current SHA budget for essential services for our tenants such as youth tutoring, job training and employment, support for aging residents and health related services.
There is a myth, and a great deal of false rhetoric, about people living in public housing or using vouchers. Some government leaders have suggested that people just lack the motivation to work and meet their own needs. Nothing could be further from the truth. More than two-thirds of the low-income people we house are elderly, disabled or children. Among the remaining third are hardworking individuals who simply cannot earn enough to pay today’s rents, let alone garner enough resources to buy a home. They are vulnerable for myriad reasons and need our help. The proposed cuts to HUD are not abstract. If enacted they would mean leaving people like these two applicants to founder:
“I have a 15-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. She had a left leg amputated above the knee then had a recurrence of the cancer. I also have a 20-year-old son with an intellectual disability who isn’t able to live on his own. The shake-up in our life from the cancer has put us in a real bind. I am no longer able to afford the rent on the apartment we have been living in for almost five years.”
“I’m a single dad with two little girls. I worked at my former job for 20 years. Now I’m homeless and just started a part-time job making $11 an hour. My goal is to get a good paying job and show my kids if they keep working on life it soon will get better. Help with housing is all I need to keep them on the right path.”
When we don’t help people like these, we place a much greater burden on our society – morally and financially – than $6 billion. When people lose their housing and become homeless, the price is paid not just by the individuals but by communities in terms of emergency health care, poor student achievement, safety and other measures. The proposed cuts would be felt widely, including in the $100 million SHA puts into the local economy annually in the form of rental assistance payments to landlords.
On behalf of the community and individuals we serve, the Seattle Housing Authority implores members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to consider the immediate and the hidden consequences for our entire society of decimating the HUD budget. It’s not only inhumane, it’s shortsighted. America is better than this.
Andrew J. Lofton
Executive Director, Seattle Housing Authority
About Seattle Housing Authority
The mission of the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) is to enhance the Seattle community by creating and sustaining decent, safe and affordable living environments that foster stability and self-sufficiency for people with low incomes. SHA provides long-term, low-income rental housing and rental assistance to more than 34,000 people in the City of Seattle. SHA owns and operates approximately 8,000 units at nearly 400 sites throughout the city. SHA also handles more than 10,000 Housing Choice Vouchers, enabling low-income residents to receive rental assistance throughout the Seattle housing market. Approximately 15,000 SHA residents are elderly or disabled and about 11,000 are children. SHA, a public corporation established in 1939, is governed by a seven-member Board of Commissioners, two of whom are SHA residents. Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. More information is available at seattlehousing.org.