Trump administration cuts could hit Cincy bigly

Ohio could lose more than $100 million annualy

CINCINNATI – The region’s poorest and most blighted communities could lose out on tens of millions of dollars set aside to bolster their revitalization under federal budget cuts considered by the Trump administration.

As much as $6 billion could be cut from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to preliminary budget documents obtained this week by The Washington Post, a WCPO media partner.

The proposed cuts would trim funding for public housing and eliminate the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, program that for decades has funneled tens of millions of dollars into local neighborhood redevelopment projects.

“These kinds of cuts would devastate community-based organizations who wake up every day with the goal of trying to revitalize their neighborhoods, deal with bad landlords, remove blight and put small businesses into storefronts,” said Kathy Schwab, executive director of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The nonprofit helps community-based developers find resources and money for their work.

Under the proposal reviewed by The Washington Post, HUD's budget would be cut by 14 percent to $40.5 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, which starts in October.

A spokesman for HUD told The Washington Post that the budget document "is still a work in progress." 

During his January confirmation hearing HUD Secretary Ben Carson's signaled cuts would indeed be coming, adding that public housing assistance shouldn't be a "way of life,"  but rather a "springboard to move forward."

Cuts to the CDBG program aren’t new. In 2016, the program was slashed by $2.3 billion.

“Eliminating it, entirely though, that would be a huge blow,” Schwab said.

In 2016, the city of Cincinnati received nearly $13 million from the CDBG program. Those dollars are supporting more than 30 projects and programs across the city including:

  • More than $1.38 million for Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s Hand-Up Initiative, a job training and placement program aimed at curbing poverty in the city.
  • More than $1.6 million in funding for a housing repair program that’s helped more than 5,000 low-income, elderly and disabled residents make emergency repairs to their homes.
  • More than $900,000 for neighborhood business district improvements. These funds are matched with money from the city’s general fund and have been tapped by communities including Avondale, Walnut Hills and Madisonville as leaders there work to remake their business districts.

Statewide in Ohio, more than $140 million is awarded annually to communities through the CDBG program, according to HUD.

The proposed federal cuts would also eliminate the Choice Neighborhood program, which is remaking several city blocks in Avondale.

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In 2012, the program awarded $29.5 million to the Community Builders Inc. to remake more than 600 units of foreclosed low-income housing spanning several aging, apartment buildings in the neighborhood.

That work has also helped fuel the redevelopment of the Avondale Towne Center and a new neighborhood health clinic.

“The revitalization that’s happening in that community would have never happened without that grant, period,” Schwab said.

The Trump administration is expected to release its full budget plan next week.

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