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REMARKS: Rep. Price Opening Statement on HUD Budget Hearing with Secretary Carson

March 3, 2019
Speeches

WASHINGTON, DC (April 3, 2019)Today, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, Congressman David Price (NC-04), Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, will deliver opening remarks at a public hearing to examine the Trump Administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The Honorable Benjamin S. Carson, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will testify before the subcommittee.  The hearing will be held at 9:00 a.m. in room 2358-A of the Rayburn House Office Building, and a live-stream can be found here: https://youtu.be/oDoTejwWUP8.

 

Chairman David Price
Opening Statement

HUD Budget Hearing with Secretary Ben Carson
April 3, 2019 at 9:00 AM

 

Remarks as prepared.

The hearing will come to order.  I would like to welcome the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, to our annual budget hearing.  Welcome back, Mr. Secretary.

Across the country, communities are grappling with an affordable housing crisis.  Many of the people affected by this crisis are the most vulnerable among us—seniors, the disabled, low-income families with children, and veterans. 

Studies from HUD and other sources indicate that more and more families are struggling to pay rent.  The Department’s most recent “Worst Case Housing Needs” report to Congress identified more than 8 million renters who spend more than half of their income on rent, live in severely substandard conditions, or both.

Yet today, just one in four families eligible for federal housing assistance gets the help they need—25 percent!  At a time when housing should be a front-burner issue, we seem to be falling farther behind. 

As I’ve said before, this reality is not written in the stars; it is a political failing, and it can be remedied.  For many years, nearly all of HUD’s affordable housing and community development programs have been underfunded compared to demonstrated need. 

We know from both personal testimony and available research that HUD programs make a positive difference in the lives of millions of people.  They can transform struggling communities, improve health and education outcomes especially for children, reduce homelessness, and support self-sufficiency. 

That’s why it’s disappointing that the Department—for the third year in a row—has put forward a budget request that is wholly inadequate for the task at hand.  There’s an old saying that the “third time’s the charm.”  Well, apparently not in this case.

HUD’s request includes about $39.7 billion in total budgetary resources.  This is $9.7 billion less than the FY 2019 enacted level, or a cut of 20 percent. 

Mr. Secretary, you propose to eliminate Community Development Block Grants, the HOME program, the Public Housing Capital Fund, Choice Neighborhoods, and special vouchers for homeless veterans.  The list goes on, and I haven’t mentioned any of the numerous reductions in your request.

On that front, it appears that your budget request could leave core housing assistance programs, such as Section 8 vouchers, without adequate funding to continue serving all existing tenants.  This could put thousands of families at risk of becoming homeless. 

These sweeping program eliminations and reductions are not only unacceptable, but also unrealistic.  It’s “exhibit A” of this Administration’s draconian approach to budgeting, and it utterly fails to consider the stark human costs it would impose on our fellow citizens.  It would never, ever balance the budget, but it would disinvest in our communities—the worst of both worlds.

I’d also like to register my serious concerns with the Department’s so-called rent “reforms” which would essentially shift HUD program costs onto residents.  These proposals were rejected on a bipartisan basis last year, and I expect the same will occur this year. 

In addition, during the last two fiscal years, under the leadership of Mr. Diaz-Balart, this subcommittee provided significant new targeted resources for HUD programs to assist the disabled, elderly, and Native Americans.  We need more clarity about when this funding will be awarded.

Finally, we need to hear directly from you, Mr. Secretary, on a host of other topics including the Department’s actions to improve housing quality standards, enforce our nation’s fair housing laws, and administer disaster recovery funding to assist states and territories hit by recent natural disasters.    

The current state of housing in America should force us to ask tough questions about our national priorities.  Those who live in federally-assisted housing are not second-class citizens; they are our neighbors, working parents, seniors, the disabled, and young children.  They are seeking stability and opportunity in their lives, just like us.  They deserve a place in our communities; indeed, they are often serving our communities. 

Unfortunately, this budget proposal would make our affordable housing crisis even worse, and it would relegate vulnerable people to an even more tenuous and marginalized existence within our society.

Mr. Secretary, HUD and its dedicated employees have a challenging and vital mission.  I look forward to working with you to ensure you have the resources necessary to carry it out.