City

Syracuse receives millions in federal funding annually for quality housing programs, but those dollars are at risk of being cut

Delaney Kuric | Staff Illustrator

For the current fiscal year, the CDBG provided Syracuse with more than $4.6 million in funding. The grant provides funding every year to a number of housing agencies in Syracuse.

To combat housing crisis in Syracuse, community organizations such as CNY Fair Housing use dollars from the federal government each year to assist people in dire situations.

Sometimes CNY Fair Housing investigates complaints of people in poverty being denied housing. Sometimes the group works to help people facing imminent eviction from becoming homeless. Other times, the nonprofit helps people with disabilities remain in their homes.

But soon, the federal funding that helps enable those endeavors could be gone. United States President Donald Trump’s budget proposal would eliminate the Community Development Block Grant as part of cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For the current fiscal year, the CDBG provided Syracuse with more than $4.6 million in funding. The grant provides funding every year to a number of housing agencies in Syracuse. In addition to CNY Fair Housing, other groups that receive funding include Home HeadQuarters, Empire Housing and Development, the Greater Syracuse Tenants Network and Jubilee Homes.

Jean Kessner, a Syracuse common councilor at-large, said the city has a “serious need for improved housing” that would be made more difficult to meet without the CDBG funds.

“What we will have lost is one of the things that stands between us and these really, really significant housing problems,” she said. “… It would compound them.”

The grant also funds other types of agencies, such as youth programming groups like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse and neighborhood development organizations such as the Northeast Hawley Development Association.

And, in addition to the direct services such as housing and after school programming that the grant funds, CDBG also acts as an economic multiplier for the city, said Stephanie Pasquale, the deputy commissioner of Syracuse’s Division of Neighborhood Development. For example, if the grant funds a roof improvement to a house, it’s not just helping the homeowner — it’s also helping construction businesses in the city.

“That grant funds a really wide array of services … that would go away immediately,” Pasquale said.

In a statement provided to The Daily Orange, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said Trump’s proposed cuts to CBDG and other community funding “shows a lack of an urban agenda.”

“We are not going to put more Americans to work, revitalize our urban cores, or improve our schools by cutting funding for housing, education, and building a wall,” she said. “These programs fight poverty and blight every day. Shortsighted investments for unsubstantiated fears will not make our country great again but will instead have a devastating impact on cities across the nation.”

For CNY Fair Housing, the CDBG funding comes from a number of municipalities: the city of Syracuse, Onondaga County, Auburn and Watertown, said Sally Santangelo, the group’s executive director.

The nonprofit uses the funding to investigate complaints of fair housing, provide legal representation for victims of discrimination and to help individuals understand their fair housing rights, among other related services, Santangelo said.

“It’s important in terms of helping people maintain housing stability,” she said. “If people end up becoming homeless, it ultimately costs our community significantly more. If we can work to keep them in their homes, it’s ultimately cost effective for our community.”

Home HeadQuarters, another Syracuse-based housing agency, also receives significant funding from the CDBG. The organization helps underserved community members become and remain homeowners by providing grants, down payment assistance, homeowner education, foreclosure prevention and property development.

Of the country’s 100 largest cities, Syracuse has the highest rate of concentrated poverty among black people and Hispanics. Karen Schroeder, the chief communications officer for Home HeadQuarters, said the funding the organization receives from CDBG flows to “some of our most challenged families, populations and neighborhoods.”

Without CDBG funding, Schroeder said, “I think that it would just be harder to reach those people. The need is greater than ever and hopefully we don’t lose one leg of the stool.”

At the Syracuse branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs, which provides after school programs for youth, CDBG funding is relied on heavily, said Pat Driscoll, chair of the executive board.

Driscoll added that any cuts to the CDBG “would certainly impact the operation of the club.”

“I just hope that our president and members of Congress don’t lose sight of the fact that the Community Development Block Grant plays in our communities,” he said.

Santangelo, the CNY Fair Housing executive director, said the fact that so many organizations in the community receive funding from the CDBG is what worries her most about the potential elimination of the grant.

“It’s one thing for one organization to lose funding, but we’re talking about absolutely devastating impacts to the human service agencies in the community,” she said. “And that’s a real concern for the long-term opportunities for the people of central New York.”

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