Even before Texas could dry out from Hurricane Harvey’s deluge, Hurricane Irma arrived in September to wreck Florida and other parts of the Southeast.
We’ve seen such widespread and indiscriminate damage, after Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. And we’ve seen affordable housing and community development organizations step into action to rebuild, often using Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs), HOME funds, and low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs).
It’s hard to find any silver linings when people have lost their lives, and homes are buried under mud and water, but, hopefully, the recent disasters will reinforce the importance of these federal programs. After Harvey, lawmakers moved quickly to direct $7.4 billion in CDBG–Disaster Recovery funds.
These funds won’t be enough for communities to recover, but they’ll be a big help.
It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the assistance is coming when CDBG is under threat. In its 2018 budget request, the Trump administration has called for eliminating the CDBG and HOME programs. Not a reduction but elimination. Perhaps, now, the administration will rethink these cuts. Fortunately, the House and Senate budget proposals provide funding for both programs. Eliminating or even reducing CDBG and HOME at this time would be a disaster on top of a disaster.
As the recovery in Texas and Florida gets under way, I’ll bet that CDBG, HOME, and LIHTCs will once again be critical in the rebuilding effort.
I’ve heard people say don’t talk about climate change during a hurricane and don’t talk about gun control after a mass shooting—it’s too soon. Well, it’s time to talk about the critical federal programs that will rebuild affordable housing and the communities that were hard-hit by Harvey and Irma. The storms just delivered a new opportunity.