AUSTIN - President Donald Trump's budget plan calls for deep cuts to Housing and Urban Development programs. The cuts would impact about 55,000 households in Texas, including about 2,000 households in Austin.
Saturday, low-income families, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities joined other affordable housing advocates, Austin city councilman Jimmy Flannigan and Austin Habitat for Humanity to rally at City Hall in protest of the proposed cuts.
"I'm proud to say that their daughter now has that American dream," said Jacqueline Perez said, addressing the crowd. She was speaking of her parents, who moved to Austin 27 years ago.
Perez credits Austin Habitat for Humanity's affordable housing program for keeping her daughter safe.
"That seemed like our only option, was apartments," explained Perez. "And working in the apartment industry, I know how unreliable your security could be."
Like many other struggling families, Perez worked multiple jobs to stay above water. But it wasn't enough.
"What do you have to do, to be able to afford a home?" asked Perez. "Have three jobs? Five jobs? It's ridiculous. There are not enough hours in the day in order to commit to a job and also your family."
The proposed cuts mean Texas stands to lose nearly $500 million in federal housing funding annually. Austin would lose about $18 million of that.
"There was a time when Austin Habitat could go out and raise funds to build a house, entirely without any assistance money aside from donations that would come in from churches and businesses and schools," explained Austin Habitat for Humanity CEO Phyllis Snodgrass. "But land has become so expensive that it's just impossible. So we use federal funds to buy the land and develop it so that we can build homes on it. Lots in Austin have become very expensive. You can't find a lot in Austin under $100,000 to build a home on."
The other problem is getting lawmakers to see the funding as more than just a hand-out.
"I just don't think people understand where these HUD dollars are going," added Snodgrass. "They think that these are going to programs that are just giving away money and it's not true. Even the rental assistance programs are supporting families that are working hard here in Austin, but clearly cannot make it on the incomes that they are making."
Austin city councilman Jimmy Flannigan -- the only councilor to rent -- also addressed the crowd.
"It's no surprise to anyone -- there is a national housing crisis," said Flannigan. He urged the public to take action.
"We have to fight we have to fight," he added. "We have to call and contact our elected representatives. We have to send them letters. We have to send them faxes. We have to make their phones ring to the point that no other work can get done in Washington until this problem is fixed."
The rally ended with a wall-raising by Austin Habitat for Humanity and volunteers, which organizers said symbolizes progress and cooperation.
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