Schumer joins Syracuse vets to highlight battle over housing funds


U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, right, poses with residents of VanKeuren Square today in Syracuse during a press conference to denounce proposed budget cuts to the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which helped pay for the 50-unit VanKeuren project. With Schumer, from left, are Army veterans Ronald Ford, William Pickard and Clifford Price. (Tim Knauss)

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, right, poses with residents of VanKeuren Square today in Syracuse during a press conference to denounce proposed budget cuts to the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which helped pay for the 50-unit VanKeuren project. With Schumer, from left, are Army veterans Ronald Ford, William Pickard and Clifford Price. (Tim Knauss)

By Tim Knauss
Published from syracuse.com

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer today stood alongside residents of a Syracuse apartment building for homeless veterans to denounce proposed cuts to a federal housing program that helped finance the building.

Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed to fight a Senate budget proposal to cut funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program from $900 million a year to just $66 million. Syracuse, which received about $1 million this year in HOME funding, would get just $75,000 in 2016 under the proposal.

Schumer said the proposed cuts would devastate the program. Standing in front of VanKeuren Square, an apartment building for veterans, Schumer said HOME funding has allowed cities like Syracuse to reduce the number of homeless veterans.

“How can we tell them they should live on the streets?” Schumer asked.

The proposed cuts to HOME funding are part of a $55.65 billion appropriations bill that passed the Republican-dominated Senate Committee on Appropriations earlier this year. The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill – THUD, for short – would increase overall spending for affected agencies by about 3 percent compared with 2015.

But the proposal would virtually eliminate the HOME program, which provides flexible funding for housing development to cities and states. The cuts would follow a series of decreases in HOME funding, from $1.8 billion in 2010 to $900 million in 2015, according to the National Council of State Housing Agencies.

Four of the 14 Democratic members of the appropriations committee — Senators Barbara Mikulski, Dianne Feinstein, Brian Schatz and Tammy Baldwin — joined with the Republican majority in support of the budget bill.

VanKeuren Square is a 50-unit apartment complex for homeless veterans that opened last year on Syracuse’s East Side. HOME funds provided just $250,000 of the $12 million cost of the project, but were vital nevertheless, said Kenyon Craig, president and CEO of the nonprofit developer, Housing Visions Unlimited.

Housing Visions has developed nearly 1,300 units of affordable housing across New York state, Craig said. The majority of funding comes from federal low-income housing tax credits, but HOME funding has provided a portion of the financing on each project, Craig said.