By Philp Haldimian, Independent Newsmedia
Last year, the Abdi family helped build the three bedroom Peoria home they live in today with some help from Habitat for Humanity of Central Arizona.
Selamawit Abdi, a single mom of two children, wanted to have a home in a safe neighborhood where her children could play and ride their bikes. But she was unable to get loan approval for a home.
So Habitat for Humanity of Central Arizona was able to fill that gap, partially due to funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Thank you for making something impossible possible,” Ms. Abdi said when the home was dedicated last February.
Habitat is scheduled to dedicate another home in Peoria May 13.
But the work performed by Habitat and other local service groups could become more difficult if President Donald Trump’s proposed budget passes in its current state, which includes the elimination of some HUD programs.
Habitat officials estimate more than $200 million in HUD funding supports their affiliates each year, which includes Habitat of Central Arizona, one of their largest affiliates.
Spokesman Dusty Parsons said Habitat for Humanity in Arizona could potentially lose up to $1.9 million in funding, which would impact about 90 percent of the families they serve in Maricopa County, mostly through their Emergency Home Repair program, which is funded by HUD programs.
Peoria officials say the loss of funding from eliminated programs would jeopardize the city’s ability to increase the availability of affordable housing.
“The need for affordable housing continues to grow in Arizona and although the economy might be improving for some, it’s not improving for everyone,” Mr. Parsons said. “There is a population that is being left behind and these cuts would affect them the most.”
HUD offers a number of programs for low and moderate income persons, but two that are used throughout the West Valley and beyond — Community Development Block Grants and HOME Grants — are proposed to be eliminated under the budget.
The CDBG program provides communities with resources to address a wide range of community development needs.
The program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations, has not demonstrated results, and the cut would create a savings of $3 billion, according to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
The HOME Grant is given to states and localities that communities use — often in partnership with local nonprofit groups like Habitat For Humanity — to fund a wide range of activities including building, buying, and/or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership or providing direct rental assistance to low-income people. It the largest Federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households.
Eliminating this program as well as funding for a number of “lower priority programs,” will save more than $1.1 billion, according to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
HUD IN PEORIA
The city budget for CDBGs is $1.35 million, which will be used for various housing rehabilitation projects, as well as housing assistance and social service programs, in partnership with non-profit agencies to provide programs to residents.
The budget for the HOME grant is $329,104.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Stein said the city is moving forward with the budget process, but should CDBG or HOME be reduced, the amount will be shared on a percentage basis equally by all approved grants/programs. These programs have enjoyed immense bi-partisan support since their inception, so the city is remaining optimistic they won’t be eliminated, she said.
Council will consider the tentative budget for approval May 2. A vote on the final budget is scheduled for May 16.
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget said state and local governments are better positioned to serve their communities based on local needs and priorities.
Ms. Stein said Peoria deserves a great deal of credit in this regard through programs such as Neighborhood Grants, Neighborhood Pride, the HOA Academy and related HOA trainings, General Fund Grants and the Tool Lending Center, just to name a few.
But, she said, CDBG is an important tool to accomplish larger scale projects that these programs aren’t designed to address.
“CDBG funding helps support larger, regional efforts to reduce homelessness and poverty by supporting agencies such as homeless shelters and food banks,” Ms. Stein said. “The city utilizes CDBG funding for important local projects such as park improvements and repairs to the local Boys and Girls Clubs buildings where important programs for at-risk youth are being undertaken.”
The Surprise Human Services and Community Vitality Department recommended $14,700 in CDBG funding to Benevilla in 2017, which could be cut if the upcoming proposed federal budget is accepted, said Gwen Shawley, director of child development.
Benevilla offers a number of services to West Valley residents, including those in Peoria, from day care to senior care. “Most of the younger families that use our services are struggling to make ends meet as it is,” Ms.Shawley said. “If we could no longer offer our financial assistance this funding allows, many families would not be able to afford quality childcare for their children.”
HUD funding directly impacts several programs within Benevilla including Life Enrichment programs and the Home Delivered Meals program, as well as low income residents access to childcare at Wirtzie’s Preschool and Child Care.
Spokesman Jay Lickus said these funds are used to subsidize low income families who do not qualify for the state Department of Economic Security program who need that help to pay for quality child care.
In many cases, these are single parents or families with several young children who find it difficult to find higher paying jobs and sustain a lifestyle which affords them an effective way to keep their children in a safe and supportive learning environment, he said.
“It’s a trickle down effect that has no positive outcome. These proposed HUD cuts would squeeze funding to the city of Surprise CDBG Grant program which would in turn lessen the positive community impact that nonprofits like Benevilla can make,” Mr. Lickus said. “Without the CDBG funds, many low income families could not afford to use the services of the Wirtzie’s Preschool and Child Care programs. They would have to turn to less expensive and lower quality means of child care or, even worse, risk losing their jobs as they try different means to make ends meet.”
Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, said federal housing programs currently reach about one in four income-eligible households, and with the proposed federal budget, many fewer would receive assistance, leading to even more families to choose paying housing costs over purchasing food, health care, and meeting other basic needs.
He said housing is foundational to reducing poverty and achieving lasting economic growth, and eliminating or reducing funding for HUD’s housing programs would exacerbate local housing shortages and increase the burden of housing costs on families in need of housing stability.
Habitat is working with elected officials to see the programs don’t get cut, he said.
“Perhaps more than ever before, middle and lower income households in the U.S. are shouldering heavy housing cost burdens and facing a variety of health, education, financial stability and other challenges resulting from or complicated by lack of access to decent, stable housing at an affordable price,” Mr. Reckford said. “Federal housing programs are critical to meeting affordable housing needs in our country, and we look forward to working with the administration, along with Habitat’s many supporters in Congress as legislation moves forward with the budget and appropriations process.”