Congress Allocates Increased Funds For New Jersey Housing

By Sarah Kayaten

Congress has passed the final fiscal year 2016 (FY 2016) budget allocated to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). According to their official website, HUD is “focused on helping to secure quality housing for Americans, ending homelessness, making our communities more resilient from natural disasters, protecting people from housing discrimination and providing rental housing assistance for millions of extremely poor Americans.” For 2016, HUD’s budget, approved by Congress, is about $47.2 billion — about 2.3 billion less than President Obama’s proposal, but two million more than the previous year’s budget. In a hearing on the “FY 2016 Budget Request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” the secretary of HUD, Julian Castro, notes in written testimony that “[increases in HUD funding] are provided to protect vulnerable families, reverse the effects of sequestration (cuts in HUD funding), [and] make significant progress toward the goal of ending homelessness.” Secretary Castro also stressed HUD’s initiative to support community-centered investments, including “funding to revitalize neighborhoods with distressed HUD-assisted housing and concentrated poverty.” Such goals and principles are illustrated in the budget’s summary, found on HUD’s website.  The budget ensures there are sufficient monetary resources to support community improvements, including a $170 million expansion of Choice Neighborhoods. The Choice Neighborhoods program supports locally driven strategies to address struggling neighborhoods. In response to the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods allocates money to help replace distressed public housing with “mixed income housing,” which is often represented as building apartment complexes that would provide a stable “mixed” income to the area. HUD also aims to expand housing mobility through its increased funding for voucher programs. About two billion dollars are set aside for the Housing Choice Voucher Program to help approximately 2.4 million low-income families afford decent housing in neighborhoods of their choice. In addition to supporting all existing vouchers, the budget provides funding to restore approximately 67,000, many of which were lost in 2013 due to sequestration — $3 billion cuts from HUD’s FY2013 budget. Secretary Castro also emphasized that HUD’s mission is not to provide temporary relief and housing, but to provide opportunity and a platform of positive economic growth going forward. The $100 million request for Jobs-Plus seeks to increase employment opportunities and earnings of public housing residents. According to HUD, this “welfare-to-work demonstration” is marketed toward “able-bodied,

working-age resident at a public housing development in each of the following five cities: Baltimore, Chattanooga, Dayton, Los Angeles and St. Paul.” The program aims to combine employment services, rent-based work incentives and community support for work. The budget also provides for many other services, including a Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project with the goal of ending and preventing homelessness for youth and young adults, as well as other grants targeting community and agricultural development in rural areas to improve economic growth. To insure that HUD has the resources to study the effectiveness of such programs, $35 million is allotted to HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), which HUD states is “responsible for maintaining current information on housing needs, market conditions and existing programs, as well as conducting

research on priority housing and community development issues.” With the exception of Jobs Plus, these programs are available to the 50 states. New Jersey, however, is one of 13 states that received additional aid from HUD. A part of HUD’s 2016 Budget, $1 billion was allotted for storm resiliency projects in the wake of the 2013 Super Storm Hurricane Sandy. According to POLITICO New Jersey, funds were allotted to 13 states based on a rigorous, multiphase application process. New York State received the most at $35.8 million, not including the $176 million that was already allotted to NYC. New Jersey came in last, with a mere $15 million in federal funding. Secretary Castro cites the lack of diligence by Governor Christie’s administration in completing the proper documentation as the reason for New Jersey’s meager funds. But things are still looking up for New Jersey. As the deadline to request hurricane relief aid for 2017 approaches in September, New Jersey has another chance of securing the relief aid it needs As of now, New Jersey’s statistics suggest a positive trend. According to a report released by Monarch Housing Associates, the total homeless population in New Jersey has been decreasing over the last five years at an average rate of 7.6 percent. Hopefully, with HUDs’ budget greater than ever, 2016 has the potential to see even greater drops in homelessness.

Housing and Urban Development For general questions about HUD, please contact the State office located in Newwark.

Phone: (973) 776-7200