The House appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over funding for the Choice Neighborhoods program zeroed out its funding today (July 1). This decision is not final, but it has significant implications for the final funding level. It also signals possible trouble ahead for the Promise Neighborhoods program.
President Obama requested $250 million in funding for Choice Neighborhoods for the upcoming federal fiscal year, which starts October 1. The House subcommittee provided no funding for Choice and instead provided $200 million for the HOPE VI public housing revitalization program — the program the Obama administration had hoped to replace with Choice Neighborhoods. Today’s decision on Choice Neighborhoods is only the first step. The bill must still be considered by the full appropriations committee, the full House, and also the Senate. Still, this initial decision is meaningful.
According to at least one housing analyst, part of the problem is political. House appropriators were deferring to the concerns raised by the separate Financial Services Committee, which had previously expressed reservations about Choice Neighborhoods. Given that Choice Neighborhoods has not been legally authorized, and given some of the controversies surrounding it, the appropriations committee was not willing to provide funding until the bill had gone through proper channels. This same analyst suggested that the Financial Services Committee may act on the administration’s Choice Neighborhoods legislative proposal after the July 4 break, which could clear the path for funding later this year.
Still, even under that scenario, it appears that Choice Neighborhoods is on track to receive the same $65 million it received this year at best, not the $250 million requested by President Obama. The overall bill that contains the Choice Neighborhoods funding was cut by $500 million, so flat funding is actually doing well.
This action on Choice Neighborhoods also has implications for Promise Neighborhoods. Neither Promise Neighborhoods nor Choice Neighborhoods has been legally authorized. Promise Neighborhoods is less controversial than Choice Neighborhoods, and thus may not face those political barriers.
But the budgetary barriers for Promise Neighborhoods may be higher. Like the housing bill, the bill containing Promise Neighborhoods funding is also likely to be cut. However, unlike Choice Neighborhoods, which received $65 million in funding this year, Promise Neighborhoods only received $10 million for planning grants this year. The administration is asking for $210 million for Promise Neighborhoods next year, which is an increase of $200 million in a bill that is being cut overall.
Asking for a funding increase in a bill that is being cut overall will pose significant challenges.
We are continuing to reach out to members of Congress and will keep you posted.