WASHINGTON — Mayors worry that high prices and scarcity in housing will cause people to move out of their cities, according to a survey of over 100 mayors across the country released Thursday.
Half of the mayors surveyed – 51 percent — cited housing costs as the primary reason people move out of their cities. These mayors said that, even when affordable housing is needed, providing is difficult because, according to 55 percent, new affordable developments for families aren’t popular among many more-established residents.
The annual survey by the Initiative on Cities at Boston University covers 115 cities with populations over 75,000, spanning all regions.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said proposed cuts to federal funding in Housing and Urban Development programs have put pressure on local governments to find creative solutions for affordable housing.
If the cuts to HUD materialize, grants that provide for affordable housing, infrastructure improvements and hunger relief would be eliminated. In his 2018 federal budget blueprint released in May, President Donald Trump proposed $6.2 billion in cuts to agency spending.
Mayors say that without the promise of this federal funding, affordable housing and community revitalization will require that state and local governments step in. Charities and the private sector could also play a role.
“We’re stuck, and becoming reliant on cities and mayors to find solutions. Mayors are hunkering down and saying, ‘We’re kind of on our own now,'” Fischer said.
Katherine Einstein, the Boston University professor who led the research, said this is a “two-fold problem:” Cuts to HUD funding would both take away subsidies for housing below the market rate and limit the government’s resources to intervene when necessary.
Local governments may still be able to incentivize the construction of affordable housing by decreasing zoning regulations, Einstein said. She said mayors will face “big problems” if their cities can no longer subsidize low-income units.
“The loss of subsidized affordable housing is impacting cities everywhere. In every county in the country, minimum-wage earners cannot afford the average two-bedroom apartment,” she said.
HUD claims that the cuts to block grants will not harm community development.
“While the scale of this reduction is significant, we are prepared to meet its challenges. The proposed reductions are primarily… eliminating funding for programs that haven’t consistently been targeted to address need,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition said the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts could impact up to 4.5 million families.
“There is simply no way to make up for this funding gap without directly harming the low-income people who currently receive and rely on HUD housing assistance,” the coalition said.
Mayor Fischer said that federal and state government policies hurt mixed-income cities such as Louisville. He said this inequity in policy is the root of specific issues such as price and scarcity in housing.
“We’re squandering our most valuable resource — our people,” he said.