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Syracuse housing programs could be cut if federal block grant goes away

Tom Magnarelli
A recent rally in downtown Syracuse against the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant.

The Community Development Block Grant is funding distributed by the federal government to local governments and states to use on housing and economic and social development. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget eliminates CDBG funds. That means some programs in Syracuse could be hit hard, if not eliminated, by the cut.

The Syracuse Common Council recently approved the distribution of nearly $4.5 million in CDBG funding for this year. Syracuse Common Councilor Helen Hudson said that means the city’s community centers and housing partners can stay on track.

“What we’re afraid of is next year," Hudson said. "Next year is going to be our real big issue.”

That’s because home improvement and senior and youth programs in the city could lose funding if the block grants go away. Also at risk is everything from workforce training to shuttle services, even the city's Neighborhood and Business Development department which oversees the Land Bank and Syracuse Industrial Development Agency.

Hudson said some of these programs keep kids off the streets with after school activities and can provide home essentials like a new porch or water heater to seniors who need help. And as a single parent, she said she herself needed the funding for home improvements in the past.

“So this is going to be things that help stabilize us and they’re actually going to come through and strip the rug from under us,” Hudson said. "It's going to be detrimental to people. It will cause them to lose their homes because they won't be able to take care of them. It will cause us to shut down some senior programs. That's a problem for me."

Home Headquarters in Syracuse is a recipient of CDBG funding and provides seniors and low to moderate income residents with exterior and emergency home repairs. Rickey Brown of Home Headquarters said they have helped at least 50 families through their foreclosure prevention program.

“Can you imagine 50 families that would be impacted by the fact that they couldn’t receive that funding?" Brown asked. "We don’t have to move much beyond those raw numbers to understand that that could have a dire impact on folks that live here in the city. It's not the end of the agency (Home Headquarters), I'm more concerned about the impact on the community as a whole. To me this amounts to economic genocide for many of the recipients that are on the south side of the city.”

At a recent rally in Syracuse, opponents and supporters of Trump’s budget listened to Brown and others lament the possible cuts. But Trump supporter Randy Potter of Syracuse called people’s fear of the cuts, ludicrous.

“All these programs will continue, but they need to trim the fat off of their budgets,” Potter said.

Trump's budget proposal is just the first step in a long process during which Congress will get to weigh in on what to cut or spend. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.