They’ve put plenty of sweat into making Fort Mill a better place for everyone to live. Now, looking forward, President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget has them concerned.
“Vital affordable housing and community development programs that empower families to become more stable and self-reliant result in an improved quality of life for all members of the community,” said Tim Veeck, executive director with Habitat for Humanity of York County, “and need to be prioritized within our federal, state and local budgets.”
Habitat is particularly concerned over the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, Community Development Block Grant, HOME Investment Partnership Program and Corporation for National and Community Service, Veeck said. These are programs Habitat sees as vital to its mission.
Ben Carson, a former Republican presidential contender who Trump picked to head the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, has said recently while on a city by city listening tour that he’s looking to roll back the government’s investment in public housing.
“The character of a community – and a nation – is most accurately displayed by how it cares for those struggling to overcome the grip of poverty,” Veeck said.
Poverty, Carson said during his tour, can be a “state of mind.” He recently pushed back against criticism for making that comment.
Veeck said Habitat is asking residents to contact their members of Congress and ask for help as several grant programs face uncertain futures in the latest federal budget proposal. For residents in the Tri-County area, the only members of Congress they can appeal to for anything for the next couple of weeks are U.S. Republican Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham. The area’s U.S. member will be decided by voters in a June 20 special election in District 5 between Sumter-based Democrat Archie Parnell and Republican Ralph Norman of Rock Hill.
The special election was scheduled to elect a successor to complete the bulk of the two-year term won by incumbent Republican Congressman Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land. In a May 23 press briefing, Mulvaney, who left the U.S. House to become White House budget director, spoke of Trump’s proposed 2018 fiscal year budget. Mulvaney said he and groups that may oppose changes can agree on one point: Funding decisions involve compassion.
“Compassion needs to be on both sides of that equation,” Mulvaney said. “Yes, you have to have compassion for folks who are receiving the federal funds, but you also have to have compassion for the folks who are paying (for) it.”
Mulvaney said the proposal is the first in at least a decade with a truly balanced budget. It aims for economic growth while setting a course, he said, to repay debt.
“If I take money from you and I have no intention of ever giving it back,” Mulvaney said, “that is not debt. That is theft.”
Habitat partnered so far with 64 York County families for new home construction and 77 more through rehab or home preservation projects. Many in recent years took place in the Paradise neighborhood in Fort Mill or Clover’s Roosevelt community.
The grant programs Habitat has concern for have a history in the area, from one Fort Mill neighborhood in particular, to South Carolina as a whole:
▪ In 2013, the South Carolina Department of Commerce awarded a $25,000 Community Development Block Grant for upgrades in the Paradise neighborhood. Fort Mill added a matching $2,500. Money was used to develop a plan for water line, sidewalk, dilapidated home removal and other improvements. Then, in 2014, the town received $500,000 in block grant funding to make the plan happen.
The town kicked in $68,076 and York County another $75,000 in road money. Last July, the town awarded an almost $570,000 contract to kick off the Paradise improvements.
Last year, South Carolina received more than $18.8 million in federal block grant money.
▪ Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, or SHOP, funds are used to purchase new home sites or develop infrastructure needed for home ownership programs for low-income families. Recipients are largely volunteer-based and use “sweat equity,” meaning benefiting homeowners participate in the projects. The program began in 1996.
Habitat for Humanity was one of four national recipients of funds announced in January. Habitat received $5.8 million, more than half the $10 million total awarded. The total funding would be used to create 539 affordable homes. The grant gave out more than $396 million since it began more than two decades ago.
“Our SHOP grants help advance a fundamental ideal,” then HUD Secretary Julian Castro said when the last grants were announced in January, “that every American deserves the chance to build a brighter future by combining opportunity with their own hard work.”
▪ The HOME Investment Partnership Program provides money for states and municipalities, often partnering with nonprofits, for a variety of affordable housing efforts. Funds are used to build, buy, rehab housing for rent or ownership.
In the S.C.’s 5th Congressional District, more than $56 million arrived through the grant program from 1992 to 2015. More than 4,500 residential projects were completed, including 3,375 homebuyer units, 847 rental units and 320 rehab projects.
Lancaster County received funds as recently as 2015, at more than $690,000.
▪ This fiscal year $13.7 million goes to 530 locations in South Carolina through the Corporation for National and Community Service. Services range from mentoring children to serving seniors. The group has several local partners in the York County Council on Aging, Habitat and Winthrop University.
Want to contact elected officials?
If you want contact information for the two U.S. Senators who represent South Carolina, go to mytimetovote.com/elected_officials/south_carolina. Note: Check back after June 20 for information of the U.S. House Rep. from S.C.’s 5th District.