HUD Secretary Ben Carson said Monday that the Trump administration will seek to include housing funding in a yet-to-be unveiled infrastructure spending bill.
“The part that people are not hearing even though I’ve said it several times is that this administration considers housing a significant part of infrastructure in our country. And as such, the infrastructure bill that’s being worked on has a significant inclusion of housing in it,” Carson said at the National Low Income Housing Coalition conference in Washington.
Defending the White House’s proposed budget cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development — $6 billion would be cut, largely from operations and maintenance funds — Carson assured activists that “no one is going to be thrown out on the street.”
“There is no one — Section 811, 202 — no one is going to be thrown out on the street,” he said. “What would that accomplish? That doesn’t make any sense and is certainly not going to happen while I’m around. We do have a responsibility.”
The Washington Post previously reported that HUD was seeking infrastructure and maintenance funds to offset dramatic cuts to the department's budget; Carson’s remarks Monday represented his most direct assurances to date on those offsets. The White House has not detailed what will be included in a possible infrastructure package, though any such legislation would need to pass through a fiscally conservative Congress.
Under that preliminary White House proposal — outlined in detailed budget documents obtained by The Post last month — $1.3 billion would be cut from HUD's capital fund, which supports big-ticket repairs at public housing facilities, a 72 percent reduction. About $600 million would be cut from the operating fund, which is used for routine maintenance and security improvements. An additional $4 billion would be cut from development grants, including the popular Community Development Block Grant.
The Section 202 program, which provides housing for the elderly, would be cut by $42 million in that budget proposal, or nearly 10 percent. Section 811 — housing for people with disabilities — would be cut by nearly 20 percent, or $29 million.
Carson initially suggested in an email to staff that was sent after the preliminary budget outline was published by The Post that the proposed cuts would not make it into the White House's final budget recommendation. The public budget released by the Office of Management and Budget was consistent with the leaked budget.
Urban policy experts and fair-housing advocates have railed against the administration’s proposed cuts to HUD, calling them “devastating.” Though the Section 8 housing voucher program would not face significant cuts under the proposed budget, simply flat-funding housing voucher programs in 2018 could yield a loss of as many as 200,000 affordable housing units because of inflation and rising housing costs, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Carson said the department and the government have to spend “effectively and efficiency.” He said advances in affordable housing could be achieved with less money, in part through public-private partnerships. He pointed specifically to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, prompting applause from those gathered at the conference.
“We shouldn’t be looking for handouts, but we should be looking for things where everyone involved in the situation benefits,” he said.