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Despite calls for budget cuts, Philly must keep focus on affordable housing

Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of any major city and our public housing resources are underfunded.

President Trump's proposed budget sends a clear message to low-income Philadelphians:

You are not a priority.

As is, the budget would cut more than $100 million in affordable and accessible housing funds for Philadelphia alone, stripping away support to low-income homeowners and renters who constitute nearly one-third of the city's population.

The $3 billion package of cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would be devastating to low-income families who are already struggling to pay rent or mortgages.

More than 200,000 Philadelphia families, seniors, and residents with disabilities who are currently living below the poverty line could face homelessness under Trump's proposed budget. We urge our federal elected officials to keep this critical funding in place for Philadelphians who need it most.

But even before this budget proposal, we had already seen a steady decline in federal funding toward affordable housing. Since 2010, funding for public housing fell by $1.6 billion (21 percent) while HOME Block Grants had been cut by $1 billion (52 percent).

Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of any major city and our public housing resources are underfunded. Local tools such as the Housing Trust Fund have been essential resources in supporting affordable and accessible housing. The fund invests about $12 million a year into new affordable rental development, basic systems repair, adaptive modification, and homelessness prevention programs.

By comparison, the same program in Washington, D.C. - a city one-third the size of Philadelphia - receives $100 million a year. If Washington can fund affordable housing at 24 times the rate per citizen, there must be a way for Philadelphia to increase funding to our Housing Trust Fund.

This is a defining moment for City Council and Mayor Kenney to step up and support low-income families.

The proposed federal budget puts profits over people and will hurt low-income Philadelphians. While that proposal works its way through the budget process, our city cannot stand by and wait for the worst to happen - change must start locally.

By finding new resources for the Housing Trust Fund, we will preserve and expand affordable, accessible housing in our city. Philadelphia has a moral obligation to provide adequate resources to this fund for all residents and their families - because every Philadelphian deserves a place to call home.

Nora Lichtash is the executive director of the Women's Community Revitalization Project.

Thomas Earle is the executive director of Liberty Resources.

They are steering committee members of the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities.