What the new, short-term federal budget means for smart growth

Today, President Trump signed into law a $1.1 trillion budget to continue funding the government for the rest of Fiscal Year 2017, which runs through the end of September.

This legislation overall maintains funding for key federal programs critical to rebuilding neighborhoods and providing attainable housing and affordable transportation options. Here’s what the bill contains for smart growth-related programs:

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
The bill includes a total of $38.8 billion for HUD—$512.6 million more than in fiscal year 2016. Funding levels for key programs include:

  • The Office of Public and Indian Housing, which helps residents of affordable housing become more self-sufficient and economically independent, is funded at $27.5 billion. This includes $20.2 billion for Tenant-based Rental Assistance program and $137.5 million for the Choice Neighborhoods program, which provides support for struggling neighborhoods and aid for community revitalization.
  • Housing programs assist the nation’s most vulnerable residents are funded at $11.5 billion, $269 million more than fiscal year 2016. This includes $10.8 billion to fund project-based rental assistance, $502 million for housing for the elderly, $146 million for housing for persons with disabilities, $40 million for the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program to help end veterans’ homelessness, $20 million for the Rental Housing Assistance program, and $55 million for the Housing Counseling Assistance Program.
  • The Community Development Block Grants program is funded at $3 billion, including $400 million designated to communities recovering from national disasters in the last three years.
  • The HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides block grants to states and localities to expand affordable housing, is funded at $950 million.

Department of Transportation (USDOT)
The budget includes a total of $19.3 billion in fiscal year 2017 discretionary appropriations for USDOT—$129.6 million less than in fiscal year 2016. It also provides USDOT with $57.7 billion in “obligation limitation” funding for surface transportation and safety programs.

  • The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants program, which funds competitive grants for state and local road, transit, port, and railroad construction projects, is funded at $500 million. Funds in the bill would be available until September 30, 2020, and would cover projects including but not limited to highway, bridge, public transportation, passenger and freight rail, and port projects.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration is funded at $1.8 billion.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is funded at $12.4 billion. This includes $9.7 billion in state and local transit grant funding from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund, to help local communities build, maintain, and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems. It also includes $2.4 billion for FTA’s Capital Investment Grants, such as the New Starts, Small Starts, and Core Capacity Improvements grant programs responsible for funding major transit capital investments, including rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, commuter rail, and ferries.

Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The budget prioritizes funding to support American farmers and ranchers. The bill also funds important programs such as rural development, food and drug safety, and financial market oversight. In total, the bill provides USDA with $20.9 billion in discretionary funding—$623 million less than fiscal year 2016 enacted level.

  • Rural development programs help create an environment for economic growth by investing in basic infrastructure, providing loans for rural businesses and industries, and helping to balance the playing field for buyers in rural housing markets, are funded at $2.94 billion, $166.2 million above the fiscal year 2016. The legislation also provides $35.46 billion in loan authorizations for rural communities to address housing, electrification and telecommunication needs.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The legislation includes $8.06 billion for EPA, a 1 percent decrease in funding from fiscal year 2016. While the legislation barred EPA from adopting any rules requiring a permit to emit greenhouse gases from livestock operations, it did not specifically call out funding for the EPA’s smart growth program.

Congress and the President took a step towards bipartisanship with the enactment of this legislation. However, more budget battles are head. Congress will now begins the appropriations process for fiscal year 2018, which begins in just a few months, and funding for these programs will need to be negotiated once again.