Federal Danger Sign for Inner Cities

By Whitman, Cameron | Nation's Cities Weekly, May 5, 1997 | Go to article overview

Federal Danger Sign for Inner Cities


Whitman, Cameron, Nation's Cities Weekly


A new report, Life in the City: A Status Report on the Revival of Urban Communities in America, was reviewed at a recent public policy forum. The report provides hope for inner cities in general through examples of progress and achievements in six cities. However, Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, interjected a note of pessimism regarding the findings of the report. He emphasized the fragility of the progress made and warned of profound federal danger signs. He expressed concerns about the anticipated effects of welfare reform and his fear that the gains that have been made in inner cities might be used to justify reductions in federal support.

He discussed the importance to inner cities of the final budget deal being negotiated currently between the Clinton Administration and the congressianal leadership. Tight caps, and even cuts in discretionary spending, will further diminish funding for federal programs essential to the revitalization of urban centers.

It is already known that federal programs like the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME, and public housing will, at best, receive level funding over the next five years with no adjustments for inflation. There will not be sufficient funding to maintain current program levels so there will be shortfalls at the same time more jurisdictions will become eligible for these sources of funding. Inner cities depend on funding from these programs to improve infrastructure, carry out economic development, develop affordable rental housing and maintain the public housing stock.

Mr. Greenstein went on to point out the importance of Section 8 housing as an affordable housing resource in inner cities and expressed his uncertainty about whether Congress will renew the rental contracts on these units which house more than 4 million persons. …

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