Ann Arbor City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday to oppose cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which were released last week in President Donald Trump’s administration budget outline, obtained by the Washington Post.
The new budget for 2018 includes over $6 billion in cuts to HUD, stating that state and local jurisdictions are better suited to address their own needs. One of the major missions of HUD, now headed by Secretary Ben Carson, is to provide affordable housing for all residents of the United States.
Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) opposed the cuts, saying the harm they would do to the community would be greater than the value of the dollars saved.
“I have the privilege of serving on the Urban County Steering Committee for the City, and in that role I see a couple things,” he said. “One, I see how these funds that are under attack are used to leverage. A dollar that goes in yields a lot more than a dollar in terms of community good. But I also every now and then get to hear some of the personal stories of how these funds make a difference in people’s lives. We talk about the numbers, but there are lives behind these numbers. These funds provide a lifeline to these people, and to threaten them is to threaten some of the best members of our community.”
Councilmember Zachary Ackerman (D–Ward 3) emphasized the real effects the cuts would have on Ann Arbor residents, specifically mentioning HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers, which provide monetary assistance to veterans in need of housing.
“As we dig deeper and ask ‘how does this affect our local community in terms of the most vulnerable,’ we’re also looking at two to three million dollars in cuts to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission,” Ackerman said. “And these are programs that go to house veterans, the disabled, to house people of limited income simply because this society doesn’t provide enough to them. We spent the last six years in Washtenaw County fighting veteran homelessness, and in the past year got it to a functional zero. And cuts to the VASH voucher program put that entirely at risk. These cuts will put people on the street.”
Councilmember Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) voted in favor of the resolution but said he thought the HUD cuts were just one of many problems with the new budget and the resolution on its own was not enough.
“I don’t want anyone to believe that because we’re singling out this one cut that we don’t also object to all of the other cuts that are in the budget,” he said. “This administration is proposing drastic cuts to transit and to the EPA and to research in a manner that will affect our research University. I’ll support this, but I think we’re being too narrow in our approach when we address just one of the horrible things this administration is doing to our community.”
Ackerman said one way to address the problems presented by the budget cuts was to engage more with Republican politicians.
“It’s not just speaking to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, it’s not just speaking to Sens. Peters and Stabenow,” he said. “They’ll fight this tooth and nail. It’s making sure that people like Congressman Tim Walberg know if he and his Tea Party back a president like Donald Trump, they’re backing a president who will shake their hands with the right and steal away from the working people of their districts with the left.”