Without federal funding, Sister Mary Scullion wonders how one of Philadelphia’s newest affordable housing developments would have been built.
On Monday morning, Scullion stood in a first-floor conference room in the Ruth Williams House at the Gene & Marlene Epstein Building in North Philadelphia, which opened this year.
Project HOME, an organization that seeks to end homelessness in the city, built the five-story development. Scullion, Project HOME’s executive director, said the 88 affordable housing units in the complex were filled immediately.
“I’ve got a waiting list down Broad Street,” she said.
But the $25 million development was funded with upwards of $19 million in federal funding programs, with million more in eligible funding over the years. Now those federal programs are at risk of being dramatically cut in President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget.
“The proposed Trump budget that is being considered in Congress is a recipe for disaster,” Scullion said as she stood flanked by Democratic city and congressional leaders that morning.
Mayor Jim Kenney, City Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, and Congressmen Brendan Boyle (D-13), Bob Brady (D-1), and Dwight Evans (D-2) said they were united in opposing Trump’s proposed cuts to affordable housing, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and education programs, among other things.
Boyle and Evans are running for re-election this year and facing challengers in the May 15 Democratic primary; Brady is not seeking another term in office.
Since Trump has taken office, Brady said the president has “continually attacked critical housing programs that millions of Americans depend on nationwide to simply achieve the American dream of owning a home.”
Boyle said the 2017 Republican-passed tax bill will overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, and will lead to higher deficits that crowd out funding for programs for low-income and middle-class Americans.
“When it comes to the Republican budget, it’s not just bad economics, it is bad morally,” Boyle said.
As the city contends with an affordable housing crisis, Kenney called for more funding for those programs — not less.
Kenney said the drop in funding would “put more of a burden on the city and organizations like Project Home to find shelter for those who most need it.”
Trump’s 2019 proposed budget calls for drastic cuts to housing programs, including rental assistance programs and the elimination of Community Development Block Grants which pay for development projects, according to the Associated Press.
In addition, the budget proposes to reduce SNAP funding, the official name for the food stamp program, by approximately $213 billion over the next 10 years, along with other changes to the program, the AP reported. The cuts amount to an estimated 30 percent reduction in the SNAP program, the AP reported.
As for education, Trump’s budget would cut $7.1 billion and reduce spending by 10.5 percent from 2017, the AP reported. The budget proposes to cut $5.9 million in teacher preparation and aftercare programs, while would expanding private and public school choice, and increasing funds for magnet schools, among things, according to the AP.
As for Scullion, she worried that any cuts will put more people out of their homes and onto the street.
“That is creating homelessness not only in our city, but across our nation every single day,” she said.