U.S. Senators are sharpening their knives, preparing to shave billions in federal housing and human services money slated to flow to cities, including Chicago next year. Down at City Hall, housing advocates lamented the potential loss of money they say is sorely needed to finish the overhaul of public housing and to offset rents for the elderly, disabled and poor.
On Tuesday, a hearing was called at the behest of 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore who recently introduced a resolution urging Illinois' Congressional delegation and their colleagues to maintain the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding for the coming year.
“Never before, since at least the 1920s, before the Great Depression, has there been such a disparity in wealth between the very rich at the top and the rest of us,” he said. “This hearing is just one small step in that effort to cast a light on the painful impact that these cuts will have on the citizens and the residents of Chicago.” Watch:
By the National Low Income Housing Coalition's count, the Chicago Housing Authority would see its capital and operating funds cut by 27 percent in 2012 compared with 2010 spending. In real numbers, those cuts would amount to $73 million.
That doesn't include the additional cuts that are being proposed to Housing Choice Vouchers, a program that helps offset rents for some 37,000 households in Chicago. "Almost half of the households who participate in the [Housing Choice Vouchers] program in Chicago are seniors and persons with disabilities, and a good percentage of the households are employed," noted Kate Walz, an attorney with the Sargent Shriver National Center of Poverty Law, in her testimony at the hearing.
A Senate subcommittee opened debate over the proposal on the floor Thursday. Check out the National Low Income Housing Coalition breakdown of the bill here. The Senate could vote on the bill as soon as Oct. 17. If approved, the measure will go to a conference committee where it will be merged with a House proposal, which passed out of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies earlier this month. The bills emerging from both chambers fall short of the funding that President Barack Obama had proposed earlier this year.
"These cuts are coming at a very critical time," Moore said. "That disparity [in wealth] has increased the great recession and for many people a great depression that has not left the poor and middle class."
© Community Renewal Society 2011