Schumer: Cuts Would Be Devastating For Elmira
New York – August 11, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer launched his push today to fight steep funding cuts that have been proposed to two federal programs in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill that would negatively impact the City of Elmira. Schumer explained that these cuts would effectively decimate critical funding that the City of Elmira relies on for local public infrastructure projects, home rehabilitation and ownership programs, neighborhood revitalization efforts and more. Schumer explained that the FY 2016 THUD bill, which was passed out of the Appropriations Committee, includes drastic cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME). Specifically, this bill slashes CDBG funding by $100 million from FY 2015 levels and HOME funding by more than $800 million.
“These cuts in Elmira would be incredibly damaging; they have the potential to devastate an already vulnerable neighborhood,” said Schumer. “That is why I am fighting these proposed cuts tooth and nail to make sure the CDBG and HOME programs are fully funded. We need to make sure our local governments and communities have the resources they need to provide families and their children with safe and affordable housing options and can continue the neighborhood revitalization efforts that are critical to local economic development.”
During his visit, Schumer stood at the home of Yolanda Klein, who purchased her West Henry Street home in July 2014 through the City of Elmira & Catholic Charities’ First-Time Homebuyer Program, after the house had been remodeled through Near Westside Neighborhood Association’s “One House At A Time” Program. Schumer explained that both of these programs rely on HOME funds in particular to operate. In fact, Yolanda now speaks to prospective first-time homebuyers at pre-purchase workshops and shares her experiences as a new homeowner. Schumer said these types of programs would not be possible without the necessary federal funding.
The steep funding cuts to the CDBG and HOME programs would have a devastating effect on the low- and moderate- income families in the City of Elmira and across Upstate New York who rely on them. Specifically, the proposed FY2016 THUD bill would reduce HOME program spending from its current level of $900 million for FY 2015 to just $66 million in FY 2016, an $834 million cut. Schumer said this reduction of more than 92 percent would effectively decimate the program. In addition, CDBG funding would be cut by $100 million from FY 2015 levels. Schumer said that while this only constitutes a three percent cut for state and local government grantees, the number of communities eligible for CDBG funds has more than doubled in recent years. Schumer said this means even less will receive the critical funds many municipalities depend upon for neighborhood housing rehabilitation and development programs. Funding CDBG at this low of a level fails to even maintain current grant sizes, let alone support the program’s growing needs.
Schumer said that combined these cuts would prevent state and local governments from acquiring and rehabilitating affordable housing units. In addition, Schumer argued that reducing funding for vital low-income housing programs would dramatically reduce or potentially even eliminate the availability of many units. Because state and local governments rely on this HOME and CDBG funding to offer and keep units affordable, the proposed cuts would put greater financial strain on the families who need these housing options the most, and potentially leave some of them without any safe housing options at all. Schumer said, if enacted, the HOME and CDBG cuts would diminish much of the progress that has been made in Elmira and the greater Binghamton area to revitalize low- and moderate- income neighborhoods.
The Southside Community Center, is one of the many programs in Elmira that could be at grave risk if the proposed budget cuts are enacted. The community center received $24,000 in CDBG funding in FY 2015, serves more than 60 youth on a daily basis and could be at risk of having fewer funds to operate if these proposed cuts are passed. Elmira also received $35,000 in CDBG funds for the Near Westside Neighborhood Association, a community housing development organization that seeks to improve housing stock for low-to-moderate income individuals and families. The Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler Housing Counseling received $25,000 to support its services providing post-purchase homebuyer counseling, foreclosure prevention and credit counseling to Elmira residents. Overall, the City of Elmira received $109,000 in federal funding for these types of public services. Additionally, the City of Elmira received $199,000 in federal CDBG funds towards its public infrastructure improvements. This includes street improvements in low- to moderate- income areas, as well as ADA sidewalk improvements and park improvements. The City also received $187,720 in CDBG funds for its Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Program, which is estimated to assist approximately 15 households each year. Finally, Elmira received $362,197.50 in CDBG funds to construct the First Arena, through a Section 108 Loan, which will be paid back in full by August 2019.
Schumer also highlighted HOME program services that could be in jeopardy in Elmira if these funds were to be cut through the federal appropriation process. For instance, the City is expecting to receive $222,636 in HOME funds, but it would certainly be unlikely that the city would receive the total funding if the program is cut by 92 percent. The City has budgeted $70,000 for its First-Time Homebuyer Program, which typically provides $8,000 grants for down payment and closing cost assistance for seven new, first-time homebuyers to purchase within the City of Elmira. This program also provides them with pre-purchase counseling, which they receive through organizations like Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler; this helps make them more successful homeowners in the long-term. These funds help incentivize new homebuyers who are income eligible to live in the City, help make neighborhoods better and contribute to the economy. Additionally, the City has budgeted $95,436 in HOME funds for its Owner-Occupied Housing Rehabilitation Program, which is estimated to assist an additional six homeowners with improvements. Finally, Elmira is expecting $35,000 in HOME funds for the Near Westside Neighborhood Association’s “One House At A Time Program,” which are used to improve housing stock for low-to-moderate income individuals. Schumer pointed to the home of Yolanda Klein as the perfect example of the program’s success.
Ultimately, the ability for the City of Elmira to provide funding to help leverage millions of dollars in housing investment would be jeopardized if these proposed reductions to HOME and CDBG funds were to pass in Congress. Schumer said Elmira would be unable to provide down payments and closing cost assistance to new homebuyers, administer and invest in quality affordable housing and rehabilitation programs, among many other neighborhood initiatives that improve communities. If funding for the HOME program was reduced by more than 92 percent, local organizations in Elmira, like the Near Westside Neighborhood Association, would likely no longer have sufficient funding to develop affordable housing in the area and operate their numerous community programs.
Schumer was joined by Susan Skidmore, Mayor of Elmira; Jennifer Miller, City of Elmira Director of Community Development; Kimberlee Balok Middaugh, City Manager; Jane Sokolowski, First-Time Homebuyer Program Coordinator for Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler; Chuck Nocera, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler; Kathy Dubel, Catholic Charities Justice & Peace; Amy Bell, Housing Counselor for Catholic Charities; Beth Farr, Executive Director of Near Westside Neighborhood Association, Inc.; and Sara Liu, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Chemung County.
“Distressed cities like Elmira rely on programs like, CDBG and HOME to improve our neighborhoods and aging housing stock. Through programs like the First-Time Homebuyer Program, Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Program, and the many community service organizations we fund with these dollars, we are investing in our community’s future,” said Susan Skidmore, Mayor of Elmira.
“CDBG and HOME are valued programs for cities like Elmira and provide local governments with additional resources and the flexibility to address local community and economic development priorities,” said Kimberlee Balok Middaugh, Elmira City Manager.
“The CDBG and HOME programs provide flexibility to develop partnerships and projects that improve Elmira’s quality of life and leverage additional public and private investment. Further reductions to these vital community development programs further erode the impact of these investments,” said Jennifer Miller, City of Elmira Director of Community Development.
CDBG funds are distributed to counties across the U.S., where they are then dispersed to villages, towns and cities within the county to fund development projects. According to HUD, the CDBG program funds affordable housing projects, provides services to the most vulnerable in communities and creates jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses. The CDBG program provides annual grants on a formula basis to over 1,200 general units of local and state governments. HOME funds are similarly distributed to counties, and then dispersed among municipalities to fund housing projects. According to HUD, the HOME program provides grants to states and localities that communities use, often in partnership with local nonprofit groups, like the City of Elmira’s Catholic Charities First-Time Homebuyer Program and the Near Westside Neighborhood Association’s “One House At A Time” Program. These communities then fund activities such as building, buying and rehabilitating affordable housing units for rent or homeownership. HOME is the largest federal block grant provided to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing.