Probably not a surprise, but for the third straight year, President Bush’s proposed budget would eliminate HOPE VI (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere), a public housing program developed in 1992 for the purpose of eradicating “severely distressed public housing.” The program replaces severely distressed public housing projects, occupied exclusively by poor families, with redesigned mixed-income housing and provides housing vouchers to enable some of the original residents to rent apartments in the private market. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) own web site, HOPE VI “serves a vital role in…efforts to transform Public Housing.”
In its FY 2004 and FY 2005 budget submissions, the White House proposed eliminating HOPE VI, but in both years Congress maintained the program, with substantial funding cuts.
Knowing the program was on the chopping block, the non-partisan Urban Institute sponsored an extended study of Hope VI in 2004, examining the program’s results over its decade-long existence. President Bush likes to say his budget focuses on programs that get results — here’s what the Urban Institute had to say about the program’s results:
“Launched in 1992, the $5 billion HOPE VI program represents a dramatic turnaround in public housing policy and one of the most ambitious urban redevelopment efforts in the nation’s history….Since 1992, HUD has awarded 446 HOPE VI grants in 166 cities. To date, 63,100 severely distressed units have been demolished and another 20,300 units are slated for redevelopment (Holin et al. 2003). As of the end of 2002, 15 of 165 funded HOPE VI programs were fully complete (U.S. GAO 2003b). The billions of federal dollars allocated for HOPE VI have leveraged billions more in other public, private, and philanthropic investments.”
The Urban Institute stresses that, despite some administrative shortcomings, HOPE VI remains “the only major source of redevelopment funding” in HUD’s budget. “In our view,” the study concluded, “evidence strongly supports continuation of the HOPE VI approach as a way to improve outcomes for distressed developments, residents, and neighborhoods.”
In 2005, the program was funded at an estimated $143 million, significantly less than the U.S. is currently spending each day in Iraq. President Bush is proposing zeroing out the program. In other words, we will soon have spent $200 billion on reconstruction in the Middle East, but can spare precisely zero dollars to rebuild at home.