Funds for public housing prove their worth, merit continuation by Congress


We cheer the announce- ment this week from U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, that the Mahning Valley will reap about $6 million in federal funding this year for proper upkeep and maintenance of federally subsidized public housing.

The funding proves more than just vital assitance for the housing authorities of Mahoning and Trumbull counties, it also represents a life line for many of the thousands of district residents who call public housing home.

As Congressman Ryan put it, “Investing in public housing is critical to ensuring every person has an affordable and livable home to come to at the end of the day. ... As a member of Congress, I will continue to fight for this important funding and advocate for accessible, affordable public housing.”

At a time when funding for domestic-assistance agencies such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is being scaled back with threats of more wholesale slashing ahead, Ryan’s fight is one well worth joining.

President Donald J. Trump not only has proposed an $8.8 billion cut to HUD in his fiscal year 2019 federal budget blueprint, he also recommends zeroing out completely the Public Housing Capital Fund. That fund provided the total $17.4 million to the 13th Congressional District that Ryan announced Wednesday.

Diane Yentel, president and chief executive officer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, has quantified the potential adverse impact of the cut.

“His budget would mean more than 200,000 seniors, families, and people with disabilities could lose their rental assistance that they get today, putting them at immediate risk of evictions and potentially homelessness,” she added.

Yentel’s dire prediction is not hyperbole. The Public Housing Capital Fund stands as one of two critical cogs to ensure success of this nation’s public-housing program.

FUNDING PUBLIC HOUSING

The federal government funds public housing through two main streams: the Public Housing Operating Fund, which is intended to cover the gap between the rents that public housing tenants pay and the developments’ operating costs; and the Public Housing Capital Fund, which funds renovations and upkeep.

The loss of the PHCF, within time, most assuredly would translate into inferior living conditions for hundreds of thousands of Americans. That’s because PHCF provides the capital for critically needed renovations and modernization of properties, for replacing obsolete utility systems, for ensuring compliance with basic housing codes and for other essential repairs and improvements.

Elimination of the Public Housing Capital Fund would invite neglect and a return to the day when public housing units were viewed by many by the pejorative nickname “projects,” rife with images of decaying edifices and threats to the public health.

That repugnant result may be fine with the likes of President Trump or HUD Secretary Ben Carson. Carson commented last year in Columbus that he thought public housing complexes for the poor should not be “comfortable.”

Fortunately, most do not buy into the mindset that those with low incomes deserve to suffer in squalor. Such thinking flies in the face of this nation’s long-standing commitment to protect society’s most vulnerable.

In addition, since its beginning as a New Deal program of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, public housing programs have proved their worth. Access to affordable shelter has allowed people to improve their lots and climb out of poverty by giving them more time and greater resources to seek education, training or jobs.

Public housing also enables senior citizens and the disabled to remain in their home communities and avoid or delay moving into nursing homes or other institutions that are much more costly for governments.

These and other success stories make a strong case for keeping our stock of public housing intact and livable. Gutting the PHCF, as the president misguidedly advises, would only invite blight and decay for communities and hardship and helplessness for those who use public housing as a steppingstone toward personal growth and independence.

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