HAC News: July 22, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 15

TOP STORIES

FY22 housing funding to be considered in House before end of July.

The House of Representatives has rolled several appropriations bills, including the USDA and HUD bills, into a “minibus” for consideration during the week of July 26. The measures, as approved by the House Appropriations Committee, would increase some USDA rural housing programs and most HUD programs above their FY21 funding levels. The committee’s draft report on the USDA bill urges attention to farmworkers’ needs, while the draft report on HUD funding encourages support for Central Appalachian communities impacted by the downturn in the coal industry and gives HUD some specific instructions on its FY22 funding competition for Native American housing grants.

OCC will propose rescinding 2020 Community Reinvestment Act rule.

Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu announced on July 20 that his office will propose reversing the CRA regulation it issued in June 2020, which has not yet gone into effect. He pledged to work with the Federal Reserve Board and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which did not join the OCC’s 2020 rule, to develop a new proposal based on a Fed notice published in October 2020. HAC’s comments on the Fed’s notice and on an earlier draft of the OCC’s 2020 rule are posted online.

Bills outline House Democrats’ housing infrastructure priorities.

Three bills introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, would provide new support for housing programs, including rural housing. Although the administration included housing funds in its American Jobs Plan infrastructure proposal, housing is not covered in the Senate’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and it is not yet clear what housing provisions will be in the Senate Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which will also address healthcare, climate change, and more. The three Waters bills are intended to mark the Chairwoman’s housing priorities for the reconciliation package, with negotiations not expected to begin in earnest until this fall after the bipartisan package is completed.

Waters’s Housing is Infrastructure Act would invest over $600 billion in housing infrastructure, including vouchers, public housing capital needs, the National Housing Trust Fund, HOME, and other HUD programs. Many of the HUD provisions include a 10% setaside for areas of persistent poverty. Additionally, the bill would provide $5 billion to fully address the capital needs backlog of the Section 515 and 514 rural housing programs, $500 million for Section 504 homeowner repair grants (not restricted to elderly owners, as the grant program usually is), $2 billion for Native American and Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grants, and setasides of $2 billion and $250 million in CDBG funds to address the housing and community infrastructure needs of colonias and resident-owned manufactured housing communities, respectively. A $10 billion program for neighborhood revitalization would include $250 million for SHOP and a $500 million setaside for communities outside metropolitan areas.

The Ending Homelessness Act would transform the Housing Choice Voucher program into a federal entitlement and the Downpayment Toward Equity Act would provide $100 billion to help first-generation homebuyers.

Housing costs remain out of reach throughout the country.

There is no state, county, or metropolitan area in the U.S. where a full-time minimum-wage worker can afford a modest two-bedroom rental home, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing 2021 report. Data is available by county, zip code, state, and metro area on NLIHC’s site.

OMB will not raise population threshold for metro areas.

On January 19, 2021, OMB published a proposal to change its definition of metropolitan statistical areas so that an area would need a population of at least 100,000 rather than 50,000 to be considered metropolitan. After receiving more than 800 comments, the vast majority of them – including HAC’s – opposing the change, OMB has decided to keep the metro area threshold at 50,000 and to conduct further research on the subject. Delineations of areas based on the 2020 standards and 2020 Census data will be published in 2023. For more information, contact Bob Sivinski, OMB, 202-395-1205.

House committee advances rural broadband bill.

On July 14 the House Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 4374, the Broadband Internet Connections for Rural America Act, which would revise USDA’s broadband programs and increase available funding.

OPPORTUNITIES

Self-Sufficiency Service Coordinator funds available.

Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency Service Coordinator funding enables nonprofits, PHAs, TDHEs, tribes, and resident associations to assess HUD-assisted residents’ needs and link them to training and services. Applications are due September 17. For more information, contact HUD staff, ROSS-PIH@hud.gov.

Pandemic-related fair housing enforcement opportunity opens.

The Fair Housing Initiatives Program – Private Enforcement Initiative American Rescue Plan will fund experienced fair housing enforcement organizations to conduct new projects relating to discrimination arising in connection with the pandemic or to sustain core fair housing enforcement and education activities. Apply by August 18. For more information, contact Kimberly Harley, HUD, 202-402-4753.

HAC seeks Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

The Community Facilities Housing Specialist identifies and engages community stakeholders and provides direct technical assistance to rural organizations that are developing facilities such as parks, community centers, public libraries and childcare centers. This includes helping them identify, utilize, and apply for financial resources such as USDA Community Facilities grants and loans. This is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

RuralSTAT – UPDATE AND RETRACTION.

HAC has received several questions and comments regarding the RuralSTAT on ‘USDA Exited Properties’ published in the July 22 edition of the HAC News. While we believe the analysis is substantively accurate, there have been some concerns and discrepancies identified with the underlying data used for that RuralSTAT analysis. Therefore, HAC is retracting this item and we will work to provide an updated analysis as soon as possible.  We greatly thank the robust body of experts and practitioners who alerted HAC to these issues. HAC strives to provide the most accurate data and information, and we thank you for assisting us in this effort. If you have questions or need any assistance, please contact Lance George at lance@ruralhome.org.

CORONAVIRUS

Rent aid to tenants increased in June, researchers suggest ways to improve distribution.

As the July 31 end of the federal eviction moratorium approaches, the Treasury Department reports that over $1.5 billion in federal assistance was delivered to 290,000 households in June, about 85% more households than in May. Census Bureau data shows that in late June and early July 3.6 million households believed they were “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to be evicted in the next two months. Resources discussing ways to improve distribution of these funds and prevent evictions include:

GAO reports on effectiveness of pandemic protections for homeowners.

A new Government Accountability Office report, COVID-19 Housing Protections: Mortgage Forbearance and Other Federal Efforts Have Reduced Default and Foreclosure Risks, details the impact of pandemic housing protections on federally backed mortgages. The report, accompanying podcast, and summary blog post highlight that foreclosures declined significantly during the pandemic because of federal moratoriums.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

USDA extends comment period on advancing racial justice and equity.

Responses are now due August 14 to USDA’s request for comments to help identify barriers that people of color and underserved communities and individuals may face in accessing, enrolling in, and participating in any of USDA’s programs and services, and engaging with USDA staff. USDA has also scheduled online listening sessions on July 28 and 29. For more information, contact Liz Archuleta, USDA, 202-720-7095. HAC has submitted comments addressing actions needed to build capacity, improve access to capital, increase flexibility, and engage with stakeholders.

HAC supports fair housing regulation.

HAC recently submitted comments strongly supporting HUD’s proposal to restore part of a previous affirmatively furthering fair housing regulation.

Timeline set for Section 538 final inspections.

Effective immediately, USDA Rural Development requires lenders using the Section 538 rental housing guarantee program to notify RD staff at least 30 days before the final inspection date. Contact information and details are included in RD’s notice.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Farmworker wage gap persisted in 2020.

Although farmworkers were deemed essential to sustain food supply chains during the pandemic, their average hourly wage in 2020 was only $14.62, the Economic Policy Institute reports. That is just under 60% of what comparable non-agricultural workers made, a wage gap that was virtually unchanged since the previous year. The average nationwide wage for farmworkers with H-2A visas was $13.68 per hour. In Florida and Georgia, where a quarter of all H-2A jobs were located in 2020, they were paid $11.71 per hour.

Lack of clear title to heirs property leads to disaster aid denials.

A Washington Post story, ‘The Real Damage’: Why FEMA is Denying Disaster Aid to Black Families That Have Lived for Generations in the Deep South, reports that FEMA has rejected up to one-quarter of applicants for disaster aid in rural counties in the deep South because survivors cannot prove they own their land. Their ownership passes informally from one generation to another without deeds or wills.

Wealth gap and other structural inequities addressed in State of Black America report.

The 2021 edition of the National Urban League’s State of Black America report looks at “three pandemics”: economic collapse, health inequities, and structural racism. Increasing homeownership to build wealth is one of many strategies proposed in the report, titled “The New Normal: Diverse, Equitable & Inclusive.”

Hispanic homeownership rate rose in 2020.

Latinos are the only demographic in the U.S. to increase their rate of homeownership for each of the past six years, according to the 2020 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report, just released by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and the Hispanic Wealth Project. Latino homeownership rates vary widely from state to state and are lower in places with higher home prices. Almost 70% of Latino homebuyers have an annual household income below $100,000. Financing designed to serve first-time homebuyers and low wealth borrowers is important for this population, the report notes.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

Stats of USDA Rural Housing Obligations as of the End of April FY 2021

HAC’s Presentation of USDA Housing Activity Data Explained

Since 1996, HAC has produced a report on the housing activity (monthly loan and grant obligations) of the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA). So, what is HAC’s presentation of USDA obligations? And why have we been making it for the last three decades?

In short, HAC’s report tracks how much of each program’s allocation USDA Rural Development is actually using. These “obligations” are funds which have been committed to specific purposes within a program[efn_note] While “obligations” are committed funds, spent funds are referred to as “outlays.” Funds are considered spent when the loan or grant is closed. For example, a new low-interest mortgage made under the Section 502 Direct program would count as obligated when the funds are committed to that mortgage. Once the mortgage closes, the funds would then be considered an outlay. Data on outlays are not readily available.[/efn_note].

By tracking these obligations, HAC provides a picture of which USDA programs are being used to their fullest. HAC also tracks which states the funds are being obligated in, letting us see where the money is going. These reports help on-the-ground partners keep track of resources USDA is investing in their states.

HAC’s obligation report is the only one of its kind. We tabulate, format, and publish the information as a service to our partners, peers, and everyone interested in how USDA’s rural development programs are coming along. Every month, we calculate the total obligations made year to date through that month. At the end of each fiscal year, HAC also produces a detailed report for the entire year, including charts, maps, income levels of program recipients, and historical trends.

In the last seven decades, USDA Rural Development has invested over $300 billion in communities around the country. Understanding how these funds are used and which communities receive them is vital to being able to leverage those programs to their fullest effect.

For more information about HAC’s USDA data and reports please visit our web page for USDA data:  USDA Information and Data – Housing Assistance Council (ruralhome.org)

HAC News: July 8, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 14

TOP STORIES

Federal agencies extend many housing protections to July 31.

The Centers for Disease Control eviction moratorium for renters was extended through July 31. USDA, VA, FHA, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have extended their foreclosure moratoriums for homeowners through July 31. Homeowners with loans made, insured, or guaranteed by those agencies can also request forbearance (a delay in making mortgage payments) at least through July 31 and in some cases after that. The administration has stated that it does not expect to issue further extensions.

State, local, and tribal agencies have funds available to cover rent and other housing needs from two rounds of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, as well as other federal relief. The Treasury Department updated its ERA guidance on June 24.

Information is available from many sources, including these:

Supreme Court leaves eviction moratorium in effect.

On June 29 the Supreme Court issued an opinion keeping the CDC moratorium operational while a federal appeals court considers a challenge to its constitutionality.

House committee approves USDA FY22 appropriations bill.

On June 30 the House Appropriations Committee approved its USDA funding bill, making no changes to the rural housing figures supported by a subcommittee on June 25. The bill proposes to increase funding levels above FY21 levels, and in some cases above the amounts proposed in the administration’s budget, for Section 502 direct and guaranteed mortgage loans, Rental Assistance, self-help housing, the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program, and others. Details are posted on HAC’s website, along with language from the committee’s draft report urging USDA to pay particular attention to the needs of farmworkers.

RuralSTAT

In counties outside metropolitan areas, the unemployment rate continued a declining trend to 4.7%. Source: HAC Tabulations of May 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics LAUS data.

OPPORTUNITIES

Arts organizations from rural areas and Indian Country encouraged to apply for NEA grants.

The National Endowment for the Arts is actively seeking first-time applicants that work in rural America and Indian Country to apply for American Rescue Plan grants to cover salaries, stipends, and general operating costs. Nonprofit arts and culture organizations, local governments, federally recognized tribal communities or tribes, and local arts agencies are eligible, regardless of whether they have received NEA funding in the past. The NEA offers a webinar on July 8 for rural and Indian Country applicants. The deadline for most applicants is August 12. The deadline for arts agencies that will make subgrants is July 22.

Online training will cover energy efficient, affordable housing.

Strategies for Achieving Energy Efficient, Affordable Housing, a HAC webinar scheduled for July 14, will provide insight into energy efficient construction practices, including how to maximize energy efficiency while keeping costs in check. Learn the role of Home Energy Raters in the design and construction process and see the specifications for homes that are achieving varying levels of energy efficiency. Finally, you will see what it takes to achieve a net-zero home – one that produces as much energy as it uses on an annual basis.

Webinar to highlight rural climate-smart solutions.

On July 16, Pathfinders: Climate-Smart Solutions from Rural America and Native Nations will address innovations, including ways rural organizations build and retrofit more energy-efficient homes and offer new community energy options intentionally designed to build more financial stability for low-wealth people. This is the latest in the Rural Opportunity and Development (ROAD) Sessions, virtual exchanges co-designed and hosted by the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group, HAC, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Rural LISC, and the Federal Reserve Board.

HAC seeks Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

The Community Facilities Housing Specialist identifies and engages community stakeholders and provides direct technical assistance to rural organizations that are developing facilities such as parks, community centers, public libraries and childcare centers. This includes helping them identify, utilize, and apply for financial resources such as USDA Community Facilities grants and loans. This is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Comments requested on fair lending policy statement.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency seeks input on a policy statement that is intended to guide the entities it regulates – Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks – on their compliance with fair lending laws and regulations. Comments are due September 7. For more information, contact Annalyce Shufelt, FHFA, 202-649-3416.

Administration pledges to address housing for people returning from prisons and jails.

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge recently clarified that people who are at risk of homelessness after leaving incarceration are eligible for temporary Emergency Housing Vouchers. She noted that recent incarceration and homelessness are often connected and that, because of the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, addressing reentry housing needs helps advance equity. HUD also plans to review regulations, develop new tools, and publish best practices on reentry housing. These actions are part of an administration strategy to address gun crime and ensure public safety.

USDA and others to coordinate broadband funds.

USDA, the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration have signed an interagency agreement to share information and coordinate the distribution of broadband deployment funds.

HAC recommends federal actions for rural equity.

HAC recently submitted comments in response to an Office of Management and Budget request for input on whether federal agency policies and actions equitably serve all eligible individuals and communities, including rural residents. Noting that rural and persistently poor places have historically been and continue to be underserved by federal programs, HAC recommended a focus on capacity building, access to capital, and proactive and deliberate tailoring of federal programs to produce lasting rural equity.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Guide covers affordable housing providers’ role in addressing natural disasters.

Affordable Housing and Natural Disasters: A Practitioner’s Guidebook, published by the California Coalition for Rural Housing, is intended as a primer on the current state of disaster issues for affordable housing practitioners and a means of familiarizing disaster planners with innovations from the affordable housing sector. It covers the four major phases of the disaster cycle – mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery – and includes case studies from rural California.

Researchers skeptical about remote work’s economic impact on heartland.

Secondary tech centers and metropolitan areas away from the coasts, rather than distressed smaller places, seem to be benefitting from recent corporate relocations out of major cities, Brookings Institution researchers suggest in an article titled Remote Work Won’t Save the Heartland. Their analysis of data on individual moves shows also that only a fraction of people who moved out of the largest metro areas in 2020 moved to Heartland or Mountain West states.

Hot housing market changes rural community.

The Daily Yonder reports on the positive and negative impacts of the booming demand for market-rate housing in Short-Term Rentals and High-End Buyers Wipe Out Affordable Housing in Joshua Tree, Say Residents.

Need-tested benefits cut child poverty in half, research concludes.

To examine the likely situation after temporary pandemic-related supports end, the Congressional Research Service used data from 2017, a year of economic growth, to estimate the impact of assistance such as housing and food aid that are provided to recipients based on their incomes. Need-Tested Benefits: Impact of Assistance on Poverty Experienced by Low-Income Families and Individuals reports that this aid improves family economic wellbeing by reducing both the prevalence and degree of poverty, particularly for families with children.

Survey finds homeownership disparities largely unchanged over the past year.

NeighborWorks America’s 2021 Housing and Financial Capability Survey, conducted in April, found more Americans said they need guidance on building credit and reducing debt than one year earlier, and more were interested in financial planning classes. Among those who were financially challenged by the coronavirus pandemic, 73% said it would take six months or more to recover, and 46% said it would take a year or more. Socioeconomic disparities in homeownership rates were unchanged over the year, as were obstacles to homeownership.

32% of federally assisted housing at high risk from natural hazards.

In a new report, the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation and the National Low Income Housing Coalition examine the risk of harm to project-based federally assisted properties from climate-related events. A larger proportion of these households than of those without housing aid are at high risk of the negative impacts of these hazards and are less likely to have the supplies and resources to evacuate or prepare. The danger is greatest for households of color in assisted housing.

Low-income disaster survivors get less help from FEMA.

Why FEMA Aid is Unavailable to Many Who Need it the Most, a story from National Public Radio, covers FEMA’s failure to equitably serve marginalized racial groups and low-income people after disasters. An internal FEMA analysis of aid requests between 2014 and 2018 found that the poorest renters were 23% less likely than higher-income renters to get housing help. The poorest homeowners received about half as much as higher-income homeowners to rebuild their homes, a disparity greater than the difference in repair costs.

Lack of affordable housing leaves Latinx residents vulnerable to wildfires.

The shortage of affordable housing forces a disproportionate number of Latinx residents in the western U.S. to live in places seriously threatened by wildfire, according to a data analysis summarized by Politico in Wildfires Threaten All of the West – And One Group More Than Others. Latinx people are about 18% of the U.S. population but 37% of those who live in the areas identified as facing the most extreme wildfire risks.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

 

USDA Obligations FY 2021 Featured Image

USDA Rural Development Obligations FY 21 – June

USDA Rural Development Obligations Report Cover - FY 2021

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) presents this month’s report on Fiscal Year 2021 USDA Rural Housing program obligations.

As of the end of June, USDA obligated 106,072 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $18.3 billion. This is $1.9 billion higher than obligation levels from this time last year. At that time, there were 103,122 loans, loan guarantees, and grants obligated totaling nearly $16.4 billion.

Federal agencies operated under a series of short-term continuing resolutions (CR) for most of the first quarter of FY 2021. A final CR was signed into law on December 27, 2020 which provides funding for the remainder of the fiscal year. Since March 20, 2020, USDA offices have been operating from remote locations due to the COVID-19 virus.

Single Family Housing Program Highlights

The Section 502 Guaranteed loan program, the largest of the Single Family Housing programs, obligated almost $17.4 billion (98,173 loan guarantees) up from over $15.3 billion (93,226 loan guarantees) this time last year.

For the Section 502 Direct program, loan obligations totaled over $712.2 million (3,822 loans), a bit less than last year’s obligation level of $742.2 million (4,310 loans.) About 36 percent of the loan dollars went to Very Low-income (VLI) applicants. VLI loans represented nearly 43 percent of the total number of Section 502 Direct loans.

The Section 504 Repair and Rehabilitation programs obligated 1,511 loans representing $9.4 million. Loan volume was down from this time last year (1,912 loans representing $11.6 million.) There were 2,458 grants totaling about $16.1 million obligated in the Section 504 grant program compared to $22.4 million (3,474 grants) last year.

USDA’s Section 523 Self Help Housing Grant program funded 28 grants and contracts totaling $16.9 million, up from last year’s 19 grants and contracts but less than the total of $22.6 million.

Multi-Family Housing Program Highlights

USDA’s Section 538 Multifamily Housing program obligated 56 loan guarantees totaling about $145.3 million compared to last year’s 96 loan guarantees. No Section 515 Rural Rental Housing program have been funded so far this year, similar to last year at this time. There have been no loans or grants obligated in the MPR program so far this year compared to 28 loans and 3 grants representing $29.9 million and nearly $990 thousand, respectively last year.

No Farm Labor Housing loans or grants have been funded so far this year. Last year at this time, 14 loans and 5 grants were obligated (about $19.8 million and $5.9 million, respectively.)

USDA obligated funds for 171,799 rental assistance units under the Section 521 Rental Assistance program totaling over $998.4 million. This compares to about 178,225 units (over $1 billion) obligated same time last year. There were also 5,732 Rural Housing Vouchers totaling $27.7 million  compared to 5,700 vouchers representing $26.4 million this time last year.

Download the combined document.

* The Rural Housing Service (RHS) monthly obligation reports are produced by the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) 1025 Vermont Ave., NW, Suite 606, Washington, DC 20005. The monthly figures derive from HAC tabulations of USDA –RHS 205c, d, and f report data. For questions or comments about the obligation reports, please contact Michael Feinberg at 202-842-8600 or michael@ruralhome.org.

HAC News: June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 13

TOP STORIES

President can replace FHFA director at will, Supreme Court rules.

In a decision issued on June 23, the Supreme Court invalidated a provision of the Federal Housing Finance Authority’s governing statute that allowed the president to remove FHFA’s director only for cause. Director Mark Calabria immediately resigned and President Biden named Sandra L. Thompson the agency’s acting director.

Federal eviction and foreclosure moratoriums extended to July 31.

On June 24, Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky announced an extension until July 31 of the federal moratorium on evictions of tenants whose finances have been impacted by the pandemic. CDC’s extension order states that, “absent an unexpected change in the trajectory of the pandemic, CDC does not plan to extend the Order further.” The Federal Housing Finance Agency also extended to July 31 its moratorium on foreclosures and evictions of homeowners whose mortgages are owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Additional federal actions and guidance to assist tenants and homeowners are described in a White House fact sheet.

Congress begins work on FY22 spending bills.

The House Appropriations Committee released its FY22 bill for USDA on June 24 and its Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up the bill on June 25. The bill proposes higher funding levels than the administration’s budget for rental housing preservation and for home repairs. See HAC’s website for more details. The House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee markup is set for July 12. The full House committee will review the USDA bill on June 30 and the HUD bill on July 16. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released its schedule.

HUD proposes to reinstate fair housing disparate impact rule.

A proposed rule would cancel the regulatory changes proposed by the Trump administration in September 2020. The 2020 changes have not gone into effect because of a preliminary injunction issued in a lawsuit challenging them. Comments are due August 24 on HUD’s proposal to reinstate its 2013 rule, which has remained in effect while the lawsuit proceeds. For more information, contact Kathleen M. Pennington, HUD, 202-402-3330.

Torres Small nominated for RD Under Secretary.

President Biden has nominated Xochitl Torres Small, formerly a member of Congress from New Mexico, to serve as USDA’s Under Secretary for Rural Development. HAC CEO David Lipsetz commented, “She’s a leader dedicated to the communities @usdaRD serves, and she’d do great work at its helm.” The previous administration had eliminated this position. After stakeholders, including HAC, objected, Congress reinstated it in the 2018 Farm Bill, but only the Deputy Under Secretary position was filled.

Pandemic amplified housing inequities, reports Harvard’s Joint Center.

The State of the Nation’s Housing 2021 reports that, even as the U.S. economy recovers from the effects of the pandemic, millions who lost income are behind on housing payments and on the brink of eviction or foreclosure. Households with low incomes and people of color comprise a disproportionately large share of those at risk. The authors conclude that further government support, in addition to the steps taken so far, will be necessary to ensure that all households benefit from the expanding economy. HAC is a sponsor of the State of the Nation’s Housing report, which is published by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

RuralSTAT

Issuance of permits for new housing construction fell in core counties of large metro areas in 2020, but increased 12% in their suburban counties, 10% in smaller metros, and 9% outside metro areas. Source: State of the Nation’s Housing 2021.

OPPORTUNITIES

USDA’s new RISE program will fund job accelerators.

The Rural Innovation Stronger Economy program offers grants to support job accelerator partnerships that improve the ability of distressed rural and energy communities to create high wage jobs, accelerate the formation of new businesses, and identify and maximize local assets. Nonprofits, for-profits, local governments, tribes, and others are eligible and can apply by August 2. For more information, contact an RD state office. Comments are due August 16 on the Rural Business-Cooperative Service’s final rule for the program, which took effect on June 15. For more information on the rule, contact Sami Zarour, USDA, 202-720-1400.

Healthy Homes and Weatherization Cooperation Demonstration grants offered.

HUD will make grants for demonstrations that coordinate HUD’s Lead Hazard Reduction Healthy Homes program with the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program to determine whether this coordinated delivery of services achieves cost-effectiveness and better outcomes. Deadline is August 17. For more information, contact Brenda M. Reyes, HUD, 202-402-6745.

IRS tool helps non-filers claim child tax credits and economic impact payments.

People who were not required to file 2020 income tax returns can use an online IRS sign-up tool to claim the Child Tax Credit provided by the American Rescue Plan. Part of this credit will be paid in monthly installments from July through December 2021 rather than, as is usually the case, requiring parents to wait until they file their tax returns to claim it. The tool also allows non-filers to request Economic Impact Payments (also known as stimulus checks) from any of the three rounds of coronavirus relief.

HAC seeks Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

The Community Facilities Housing Specialist identifies and engages community stakeholders and provides direct technical assistance to rural organizations that are developing facilities such as parks, community centers, public libraries and childcare centers. This includes helping them identify, utilize, and apply for financial resources such as USDA Community Facilities grants and loans. This is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

CORONAVIRUS

“Neighborhoods with highest eviction filing rates have lowest levels of COVID-19 vaccination.”

Princeton University’s Eviction Lab reports that, in nine cities for which data was available, the zip codes with higher eviction filing rates were more likely to have lower vaccination rates. The highest eviction rates tend to be in neighborhoods with high Black and Latinx populations.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

USDA seeks input on advancing racial justice and equity for underserved communities.

The department requests comments to help identify barriers that people of color and underserved communities and individuals may face in accessing, enrolling in, and participating in any of USDA’s programs and services, and engaging with USDA staff. Responses are due July 15. For more information, contact Liz Archuleta, USDA, 202-720-7095.

Disparities in home appraisals under review.

On June 1 the Biden administration announced new efforts to reduce the racial wealth gap, including an interagency initiative to address inequity in home appraisals. According to Politico, the working group, led by HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, will begin work in July and produce a report within 180 days. CFPB also recently held a virtual discussion on the subject.

Fact sheet updated for USDA tenants displaced by natural disasters.

Current USDA RD multifamily tenants displaced by natural disasters have priority eligibility for other properties financed by USDA or HUD. USDA has updated its fact sheet for tenants, available in English and Spanish.

Courts put debt relief for disadvantaged farmers on hold.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on June 23 temporarily blocking the administration’s program to pay off farm loans for disadvantaged farmers and ranchers while the court considers a suit brought by white farmers challenging the plan. Another federal judge had issued an order pausing the program on June 10, and additional lawsuits have been filed.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Podcast reimagines rural policy.

A new three-part series from the Brookings Institution and the Rural Matters podcast urges a change in the federal approach to rural policy. The first episode focuses on rethinking rural policy, episode two looks at designing policy to best serve diverse rural populations, and the third episode highlights the importance of capacity building as a vehicle for improving rural communities. Rural Matters is available on all major podcast platforms.

FAQs and tips on Emergency Housing Vouchers available.

A National Housing Law Project summary answers questions and offers advocacy suggestions for HUD’s new Emergency Housing Vouchers, which have some important differences from Housing Choice Vouchers.

Annual Kids Count report shows disparate outcomes.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book presents figures and trends on child well-being through 2019 and looks at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children’s access to food, health care, housing, and education. The analysis finds that, despite gains for children of all races and income levels before the pandemic, nearly all index measures show children experience disparate outcomes based on race/ethnicity and income. AECF recommends making the expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit permanent, strengthening state and local policies affecting children and families, and prioritizing racial and ethnic equity in policymaking.

Commerce Department maps broadband needs.

A new interactive digital map from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration shows data at the county, census tract, and census block level for key indicators of broadband need: broadband access, speed, and availability of equipment, as well as poverty. Data can also be viewed for tribal lands.

“As the climate emergency grows, farmworkers lack protection from deadly heat.”

Civil Eats reports on studies by the Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future that describe the inadequate legal protections for farmworkers’ health and the public health threats they face, including danger from extreme heat.

“Rural Kansas is falling far short of supplying needed housing. The shortfall is stifling hopes of growth.”

The Topeka Capital-Journal covers how the limited supply of housing is fueling skyrocketing prices. The barriers to building new homes can be described by the “five Ls”: labor, land, lending, laws, and lumber. Currently, the costs to build houses in rural areas require prices higher than local residents can afford.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

 

HAC News: June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 12

TOP STORIES

HAC honors the legacy of Gordon Cavanaugh.

Gordon Cavanaugh, who served as HAC’s first Executive Director from 1971 until President Carter appointed him to lead the Farmers Home Administration in 1977, passed away on May 26 at the age of 93. Throughout his long career in affordable housing, Gordon was an inspiring leader and a fierce advocate. His commitment to serving the poorest of the poor still lies at the heart of HAC’s work.

USDA housing budget proposes increases in Section 502 mortgages and rental preservation, HUD budget would raise many programs’ funding.

The Biden administration’s first full budget request would increase the Section 502 direct loan program from $1 billion to $1.5 billion and Section 502 guarantees from $24 billion to $30 billion. Fiscal year 2022 funding for most other rural housing programs would remain at the same levels as in FY21. The budget proposes to eliminate some protections for Section 521 Rental Assistance. It also indicates that the American Jobs Plan – the administration’s infrastructure proposal – would provide an additional $2 billion in rural housing spending, without providing details. Under the administration’s FY22 HUD request, HOME and CDBG would see large funding increases, as would Native American and Native Hawaiian housing programs, tenant vouchers, and programs that serve people experiencing homelessness, elders, people with disabilities, people with AIDS, and more. The SHOP program would remain at its FY21 level of $10 million. In addition to the budget proposal, the infrastructure plan would provide significant funding for many HUD programs. Each house of Congress will now craft its own proposal and differences will be worked out in the months to come.

2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule partially reinstated, disparate impact changes expected soon.

HUD has issued an interim regulation, effective on July 31, 2021, that repeals its August 2020 AFFH regulation and reinstates definitions and certifications from the AFFH rule it adopted in 2015. This interim final rule does not require jurisdictions receiving HUD funding to undertake any specific type of fair housing planning to support their certifications, but HUD offers assistance to jurisdictions that choose to do so. HUD will issue a separate proposal on implementation of AFFH obligations, stating that it “will seek to build on and improve the processes set forth in the 2015 AFFH rule to further help funding recipients comply with their statutory obligation while reducing the regulatory burden on them.” Comments on this interim rule are due July 12. For more information, contact Sasha Samberg-Champion, HUD, 202-402-3413. HUD is also expected to announce revisions soon to its September 2020 rule on fair housing disparate impact.

As attacks on eviction moratorium continue in court, it remains in effect but will expire June 30.

A federal appellate court agreed with a lower court judge that the eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control should remain effective while the appellate court considers its validity. Landlord representatives appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could issue a decision as early as June 11. The moratorium is set to expire on June 30, even if there is no final court decision by that date.

June is National Homeownership Month.

Building on President Biden’s proclamation, USDA and HUD are observing the occasion. Follow HAC on social media for relevant policy recommendations, homeownership stories, and more.

June is Pride Month.

President Biden proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month. HAC recognizes and celebrates the diversity that makes every community unique.

RuralSTAT

There are more than 2,000 rural and small-town census tracts where racial and ethnic minorities make up the majority of the population. Source: Housing Assistance Council tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014-2018 American Community Survey.

OPPORTUNITIES

Section 533 Housing Preservation Grant applications open.

USDA Rural Development will make HPG grants to public agencies and nonprofits to assist low- and very low-income rural homeowners in repairing and rehabilitating their homes, and to cooperative housing complexes and rental property owners to repair and rehabilitate units in rural areas available to low- and very low-income persons. Pre-applications are due July 19. For more information, contact Bonnie Edwards-Jackson, RD, 202-690-0759.

USDA expands water/wastewater programs.

The Rural Decentralized Water Systems Grant program funds nonprofit or tribal lenders to make affordable loans to homeowners who need new household water systems in places with populations up to 50,000 including tribal lands and colonias. The program now includes building or repairing septic systems, and lenders can provide grants to homeowners with incomes under 60% of area median. Deadline is July 19. For more information, contact Taylor Marable, RD, 615-772-8726, or an RD state office. The Water and Wastewater Projects Revolving Funds Program enables nonprofits to make loans for water and wastewater treatment projects’ pre-development costs or for short-term and small capital improvement projects. Places, including tribal lands and colonias, with populations up to 10,000 are eligible. The maximum loan amount for FY21 is $200,000 rather than the previous $100,000. Deadline is July 16. For more information, contact Lois East, RD, 660-492-4268, or an RD state office.

HUD offers Lead Hazard Reduction funds.

Grants are available to help local governments and some states and tribes undertaking comprehensive programs to identify and control lead-based paint hazards in privately owned rental or owner-occupied housing where children under age six are at risk. Deadline is July 12. For more information, contact Yolanda Brown, HUD, 202-903-9576.

HOPWA Special Projects of National Significance grants available.

Nonprofits, states, and local governments are eligible for grants to produce new projects that align with initiatives aimed at ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic and elevate housing as an effective structural intervention in ending the epidemic. Apply by July 6. For more information, contact HUD staff.

Hometown Grants aim to revitalize community spaces.

Grants of up to $50,000 are available from T-Mobile, in partnership with Smart Growth America and Main Street America, to build, rebuild, or refresh community spaces that help foster local connections in cities and towns with populations under 50,000. Local governments or nonprofits are eligible. Deadlines are June 30, September 30, and December 31.

Conference Coordinator and Community Facilities Housing Specialist positions open at HAC.

For details, visit HAC’s website.

 

CORONAVIRUS

Forbearance for multifamily property owners extended.

Owners of multifamily rental properties with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac can now request mortgage forbearance through September 30. Owners must inform tenants about their rights and cannot evict tenants for nonpayment of rent during the forbearance period.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Changes proposed for USDA single-family guaranteed loan program regulations.

The revisions to the Section 502 guaranteed program would update the requirements for federally supervised lenders, minimum net worth and experience for non-supervised lenders, approved lender participation requirements, treatment of applicants with delinquent child support payments, and builder credit requirements. Comments are due August 9. For more information, contact Ana Placencia, USDA, 254-721-0770.

GAO study recommends ways to increase 10-20-30 impact in persistent poverty counties.

Areas with High Poverty: Changing How the 10-20-30 Funding Formula Is Applied Could Increase Impact in Persistent-Poverty Counties examines the requirement for some programs of USDA Rural Development, the Economic Development Administration, and the CDFI Fund to allocate at least 10% of their funds to counties with poverty rates of at least 20% over the last 30 years. The report recommends using the formula selectively, since some programs achieve this allocation without a requirement and others cannot achieve it because of program design. It also supports creation of a single list of persistent poverty counties.

Interim appraisal requirements adopted for USDA’s Community Facilities loan programs.

Because of the coronavirus emergency, USDA RD has established interim requirements, effective until December 31, for appraisals of real estate being used as collateral for direct or guaranteed Community Facilities loans.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Building materials’ costs and shortages increase.

A National Association of Home Builders survey in May found costs for building materials have increased an average of 26.1% over the last 12 months. NAHB also reports an all-time high in the number of builders experiencing material shortages.

“Doubly disadvantaged: rural communities left out in federal income limits formula.”

Flaws in the use of area median incomes to determine aid eligibility are described in a Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity op-ed, written by Joshua Stewart from Fahe and H. Luke Shaefer from the University of Michigan. Where rural poverty is concentrated, AMIs are low, so fewer households qualify for aid. The problem is particularly common in Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, the colonias, and tribal lands.

“Redefine rural.”

The Katy (Texas) Times notes the dramatic implications of OMB’s proposal to change the minimum population threshold for identifying metropolitan areas from 50,000 to 100,000. This definition is used to determine how certain federal program funds are distributed. For more information on this issue, see HAC’s website.

“Evictions at a Kentucky trailer park highlight Ohio Valley’s lack of affordable housing.”

The Ohio Valley Resource reports on manufactured home community evictions in Morehead, KY and draws attention to the larger affordable housing crisis happening in rural areas, including limited housing stock and looming mass evictions if the federal eviction moratorium is not extended beyond its June 30 expiration date. In addition to barriers to transportation, “a lack of tenant protections, rising rents, and high poverty rates” leave few options for low-income renters.

“In rural South Carolina, a groundbreaking broadband project takes root.”

Roll Call describes how the town of Allendale, SC has used existing broadcasting towers to make high-speed internet available to residents. The state broadband coordinator says other communities can use the same system by mounting equipment on water towers or other tall structures.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

 

Rural America is More Diverse Than You Think

USDA Obligations FY 2021 Featured Image

USDA Rural Development Obligations FY 21 – May

USDA Rural Development Obligations Report Cover - FY 2021

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) presents this month’s report on Fiscal Year 2021 USDA Rural Housing program obligations.

As of the end of May, USDA obligated 94,334 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $16.2 billion, nearly $2.4 billion higher than obligation levels from this time last year. At that time, there were 88,196 loans, loan guarantees, and grants obligated totaling $13.9 billion.

Federal agencies operated under a series of short-term continuing resolutions (CR) for most of the first quarter of FY 2021. A final CR was signed into law on December 27, 2020 which provides funding for the remainder of the fiscal year. Since March 20, 2020, USDA offices have been operating from remote locations due to the COVID-19 virus.

Single Family Housing Program Highlights

The Section 502 Guaranteed loan program, the largest of the Single Family Housing programs, obligated nearly $15.5 billion (87,519 loan guarantees) up from almost $13.0 (79,509 loan guarantees) this time last year.

For the Section 502 Direct program, loan obligations totaled $605 million (3,281 loans), a bit less than last year’s obligation level of $629 million (3,681 loans.) Nearly 37 percent of the loan dollars went to Very Low-income (VLI) applicants. VLI loans represented over 43 percent of the total number of Section 502 Direct loans.

The Section 504 Repair and Rehabilitation programs obligated 1,316 loans representing about $8 million. Loan volume was down from this time last year (1,722 loans representing $10.4 million.) About $13.7 million (2,119 grants) was obligated in the Section 504 grant program compared to over $20 million (3,105 grants) last year.

USDA’s Section 523 Self Help Housing Grant program funded 27 grants and contracts totaling $16.9 million, a bit less than last year’s 14 grants and contracts totaling over $20.5 million.

Multi-Family Housing Program Highlights

USDA’s Section 538 Multifamily Housing program obligated 51 loan guarantees totaling $135.7 million compared to last year’s 92 loan guarantees ($145.6 million.) No Section 515 Rural Rental Housing loans and no MPR loans or grants have been funded so far this year, similar to last year at this time.

No Farm Labor Housing loans or grants have been funded so far this year. Last year at this time, 13 loans and 5 grants were obligated ($19.7 million and $5.9 million, respectively.)

In the Section 521 Rental Assistance program, USDA obligated funds for 125,076 rental assistance units the Section 521 Rental Assistance program totaling nearly $740.0 million. This compares to about 135,675 units ($783.0 million) obligated same time last year. There were also 5,007 Rural Housing Vouchers totaling $24.3 million compared to 5,368 vouchers representing $25.0 million this time last year.

Download the combined document.

* The Rural Housing Service (RHS) monthly obligation reports are produced by the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) 1025 Vermont Ave., NW, Suite 606, Washington, DC 20005. The monthly figures derive from HAC tabulations of USDA –RHS 205c, d, and f report data. For questions or comments about the obligation reports, please contact Michael Feinberg at 202-842-8600 or michael@ruralhome.org.

HAC News: May 27, 20221 Featured Image

HAC News: May 27, 2021

May 27, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 11

TOP STORIES

Full Biden budget to be released May 28.

When the Biden administration’s first complete budget request is released on May 28, HAC will post a summary on our website.

Eviction moratorium still effective, court still reviewing it.

A federal judge has extended the stay on her May 5 order invalidating the eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control, leaving the moratorium in place while the Justice Department appeals the ruling in Alabama Association of Realtors v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A federal appellate court is now considering the case. The moratorium is set to expire on June 30, even if there is no final court decision by that date.

OCC reconsiders its Community Reinvestment Act rule.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has announced it is reconsidering its June 20, 2020 CRA regulation and does not plan to finalize proposed evaluation measure benchmarks. It expects banks to comply with portions of the rule that have October 1, 2021 deadlines but will not require them to move towards implementing portions with 2023 and 2024 deadlines. For more information, contact Vonda Eanes, OCC, 202-649-5470.

USDA accepting refinance applications from homeowners with payment moratoriums.

Homeowners who have had payment moratoriums on their USDA direct Section 502 or Section 504 loans because of the coronavirus pandemic can now apply to refinance their loans at more favorable terms. USDA is sending letters to eligible borrowers. For application forms and more information, visit USDA’s servicing website or contact a USDA Rural Development service center.

HAC celebrates 50 years of helping build rural communities.

The Housing Assistance Council, incorporated on May 21, 1971, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. A week-long series of posts on HAC’s social media feeds, tagged #HAC50, featured some highlights from the past 50 years for HAC and for rural affordable housing. Check out the posts and share your memories on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

New HAC website launched.

HAC invites readers to the redesigned ruralhome.org, which debuted on May 25.

RuralSTAT

Only 35% of hazard-prone communities in the U.S. have the latest hazard-resistant building codes as of April 1, 2021. Source: FEMA, Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study of Loss Prevention.

OPPORTUNITIES

Creative placemaking funds available from NEA, USDA.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town program supports projects that integrate arts, culture, and design activities into efforts that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes. Applicant partnerships must include local government entities, cultural organizations, and others. The deadline is August 5. For more information, contact NEA, OT@arts.gov.
  • USDA’s Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge offers funds for nonprofits, public bodies, tribes, small businesses, and institutions of higher education to provide technical assistance and training to rural communities for placemaking planning and implementation. The deadline is July 26. For more information, contact Angela Callie, RD, 202-568-9738.
Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program funds offered.

HUD will select 50 awardees, including eight rural communities, to develop and execute coordinated community approaches to preventing and ending youth homelessness. Entities designated as Collaborative Applicants by Continuums of Care are eligible and must apply by July 27. For more information, contact HUD, YouthDemo@hud.gov.

HUD will fund technical research on lead and healthy homes.

Nonprofits, for-profits, state and local governments, tribes, and others are eligible for Lead and Healthy Homes Technical Studies grants, studies to improve HUD’s and the public’s knowledge of housing-related health and safety hazards and to improve or develop new hazard assessment and control methods, with a focus on lead and other key residential health and safety hazards. The deadline is June 21. For more information, contact J. Kofi Berko Jr., HUD, 202-402-7696.

Conference Coordinator and Community Facilities Housing Specialist positions open at HAC.

For details, visit HAC’s website.

  • The Conference Coordinator supports every part of preparing and delivering HAC’s 2021 National Rural Housing Conference. Excellent communication skills and attention to detail are vital, along with proven experience in conference and/or event planning to include logistic coordination. This is a full-time, temporary position and is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Community Facilities Housing Specialist identifies and engages community stakeholders and provides direct technical assistance to rural organizations that are developing facilities such as parks, community centers, public libraries and childcare centers. This includes helping them identify, utilize, and apply for financial resources such as USDA Community Facilities grants and loans. This a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

CORONAVIRUS

“One year into COVID-19, pandemic’s negative effects persist in Indian Country.”

The Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis  provides an overview of how tribal governments, businesses, and communities have weathered the pandemic so far. Tribal governments have experienced increased operational costs and revenue losses, resulting in spending cuts for services like parks and recreation, economic development grants, and cultural programming.

“GOP Governors’ Cutoff of COVID Benefits Hits Hard in Rural America.”

A Pew Trust Stateline article describes the potential negative impacts of governors discontinuing the federal extended unemployment funding their states initially accepted. Extended benefits can be particularly important in rural areas where jobs are limited, and for rural minorities are disproportionately impacted.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD allocates Emergency Housing Vouchers.

EHVs, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, do not operate the same way as other Section 8 vouchers. PHAs must work jointly with Continuums of Care to issue them to people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, or recently homeless and risking becoming homeless again. HUD resources, including a detailed notice governing the program’s operation as well as FAQs, are posted online.

Proposed Duty to Serve plans posted for review and comment.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s proposed Underserved Markets Plans for 2022-2024 are available online. The plans explain how the secondary market hopes to meet needs for rural housing, affordable housing preservation, and manufactured housing. Comments are invited by July 17.

USDA begins Process to pay loans of disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

A Farm Service Agency notice explains the process created by the American Rescue Plan Act for FSA to pay off socially disadvantaged farmers’ and ranchers’ direct loans under the Farm Loan Programs and Farm Storage Facility Loan Program. Within four months a separate notice will be issued for guaranteed loans. Eligible recipients do not need to take any action until they receive a payment offer directly from FSA, although they can contact their local FSA service center to update their demographic information if needed. For more information, contact Bruce Mair, FSA, 202-720-1645.

NEA announces 2021 Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design Awards.

Four workshops across the country will bring together local leaders and residents with design professionals to work on local design challenges. The members of the Design Learning Cohort come from 15 communities as diverse as Skagway, Alaska and Manchester, Georgia. CIRD is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts that has partnered with the Housing Assistance Council for the past two years to provide design and planning assistance to rural communities.

USDA shifts staff operating Housing Preservation Grants program.

USDA Rural Development State Offices are switching staff responsibility for training and day-to-day operation of the Section 533 HPG program from multifamily staff to single-family staff. The announcement also updates guidance on the program. For more information, contact a State Office.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Essay collection considers racial justice in housing finance.

Essays from diverse viewpoints, collected by the Poverty and Race Research Action Council in Racial Justice in Housing Finance: A Series on New Directions, explore ways to harness housing finance towards the ends of residential integration, equitable investment, and housing security.

Rent debt estimates available for most counties.

The National Equity Atlas and the Right to the City Alliance offer a rent debt dashboard with regularly updated data on the number and characteristics of renters who are behind on rent for the U.S., 41 states, and 15 metro areas. It also estimates the number of households with debt and the amount owed for every county in the 41 states.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

 

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

HAC News: May 13, 2021

HAC News Formats. pdf

May 13, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 10

TOP STORIES

Eviction moratorium remains in effect while under court review.
Ruling that the Centers for Disease Control did not have the legal authority to issue its moratorium on evictions, a federal judge on May 6 declared the measure invalid, then temporarily stayed her order when the Justice Department appealed it. Numerous other suits have been filed in state and federal courts, with some judges upholding the moratorium and others finding it did not apply in specific cases.

New guidance will help tenants access Emergency Rental Assistance.
On May 7, when the Treasury Department allocated $21.6 billion to states and localities in Emergency Rental Assistance funds appropriated by the American Rescue Plan Act, it also revised its FAQs and fact sheet for the program. The new documents address some of the challenges faced by tenants trying to use the first round of ERA aid. For example, they require program administrators to provide relief directly to tenants whose landlords decline to participate, and to help tenants in federally assisted housing pay their share of rents. Summaries comparing the ERA 1 and ERA 2 programs are available from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and National Council of State Housing Agencies.

USDA homeowner refi funds available soon, officials tell Congress.
The Biden administration’s plans for USDA Rural Development were examined in a May 6 House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee virtual hearing. Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act will be used to refinance loans to USDA single-family borrowers who have been under forbearance during the pandemic, said Chad Parker, Acting RHS Administrator. USDA expects to issue guidance to its staff later in May and then to begin accepting applications for these refinances in late May or early June. The $39 million appropriation will yield about $650 million in Section 502 direct mortgages and $18.8 million in Section 504 home repair loans. The American Rescue Plan Act also provided $100 million for new Section 521 Rental Assistance; USDA has already issued guidance for field staff regarding these funds. The hearing also touched on the backlogged MPR rental preservation program, subsidy recapture for Section 502 homeowners, the need for local capacity building and USDA staff levels; a summary is posted on HAC’s website.

May is Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
President Biden’s proclamation includes condemnation of anti-Asian bias and violence.

RuralSTAT
Over the past year an average of 4.6% of U.S. homeowners and 12.4% of renters lacked confidence in their ability to make their next mortgage or rent payment. Source: HAC tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Pulse Survey.

OPPORTUNITIES

HUD offers Choice Neighborhood Planning Grants.
Nonprofits, PHAs, local governments and tribal entities can apply by July 13 for grants to develop comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategies to guide the revitalization of public or assisted housing and transformation of surrounding neighborhoods.

Emergency Broadband Benefit program launched.
The Federal Communications Commission is offering discounts to low-income people for broadband service and computer purchases during the coronavirus pandemic. The program can be used for a new or existing broadband plan from a participating provider. It will end when funds are exhausted or six months after the federal government declares an end to the pandemic. FCC also offers outreach materials, including handouts in several languages. For more information contact a broadband provider, visit FCC’s webpage or call 833-511-0311 to receive an application by mail.

NEW Conference Coordinator job opening at HAC; Community Facilities Housing Specialist also open.
For details, visit HAC’s website.

  • The Conference Coordinator supports every part of preparing and delivering HAC’s 2021 National Rural Housing Conference. Excellent communication skills and attention to detail are vital, along with proven experience in conference and/or event planning to include logistic coordination. This is a full-time, temporary position and is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Community Facilities Housing Specialist identifies and engages community stakeholders and provides direct technical assistance to rural organizations that are developing facilities such as parks, community centers, public libraries and childcare centers. This includes helping them identify, utilize and apply for financial resources such as USDA Community Facilities grants and loans. This a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

 
CORONAVIRUS

Administration’s vaccination goal includes rural outreach.
The federal effort to vaccinate 70% of American adults by July 4 involves supports directed at underserved communities, including rural places. The White House aims to improve rural access by sending vaccines directly to rural health clinics, funding rural clinics to conduct education and outreach, and helping rural clinics and hospitals broaden their testing and mitigation work.

HUD and HHS work together to increase testing and vaccinations.
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced a joint-agency effort to increase access to COVID-19 prevention and treatment services, including testing and vaccinations, among disproportionately affected communities, including among HUD-assisted households and people experiencing homelessness. They asked community health centers, HUD grantees and others to assist with registering and scheduling tests and vaccination appointments and facilitating on-site vaccine clinics.

“Why lagging COVID vaccine rate at rural hospitals ‘needs to be fixed now.’”
This story by National Public Radio reports on relatively low rates of vaccinations among rural health care workers. The National Rural Health Association and Chartis Center for Rural Health surveyed rural hospital executives, 30% of whom said less than half their employees had been vaccinated. About the same proportion said that 70% or more of their staff were vaccinated.

Guide proposes ways for local coronavirus funding to advance racial equity.
10 Priorities for Advancing Racial Equity Through the American Rescue Plan: A Guide for City and County Policymakers, published by PolicyLink, is addressed to city and county governments receiving  recovery funds from the Treasury Department. The guide provides a worksheet with questions to help achieve the ten priorities, which include explicitly naming racial equity as a goal, engaging historically underserved communities in prioritizing investments, and preventing displacement and increasing community ownership of land and housing.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Comments sought on government reaching underserved communities, including rural.
Rural residents are among several examples of underserved populations identified in an Office of Management and Budget notice requesting input by July 6 on methods, approaches and tools that could help determine whether federal agency policies and actions equitably serve all eligible individuals and communities. For more information, contact  Amira Boland, OMB, 202-395-5222.

USDA updates guidance for Community Facilities programs.
USDA Rural Development released three documents on May 11 with information relevant to applicants or recipients of CF direct loans, loan guarantees or grants: best practices for RD staff to evaluate proposed projects; documentation required when a direct loan applicant has less than five years of successful operations; and requirements for submitting audit reports or financial statements.

Vilsack confirms ERS and NIFA will stay in Kansas City.
USDA will not move the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture back to Washington, DC, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has stated. The Counter reports representatives of the employees’ union agreed that was the least disruptive decision and recommended hiring remote workers to rebuild staff capacity. The Trump administration relocated the agencies in 2019.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Mortgage interest deduction increases racial disparities, research shows.
The income tax deduction available to higher-income homeowners contributes to economic and racial inequality, the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity at Brandeis University write in a new report. Misdirected Housing Supports: Why the Mortgage Interest Deduction Unjustly Subsidizes High-Income Households and Expands Racial Disparities explains that affluent white households benefit disproportionately from the deduction. The authors propose ending the MID and directing those federal resources to help rectify unjust racial disparities.

Rural places received few early Opportunity Zones investments.
A University of California Berkeley analysis, Neighborhood-Level Investment from the U.S. Opportunity Zone Program: Early Evidence, finds that in 2019, Opportunity Zone capital was highly concentrated in only 16% of the eligible census tracts nationwide and focused on places with relatively high incomes, pre-existing upward trends in incomes and home values, and declining shares of elderly and non-white residents. These OZ investments focused on real estate, both commercial and residential. The paper emphasizes that the available data was incomplete and covered only the program’s early implementation; a review by the Economic Innovation Group reinforces this point. The Berkeley researchers established baselines against which to measure impacts of OZ investments as more data becomes available in the future.

New analysis illustrates U.S. broadband gaps.
Using publicly available Microsoft data, the Verge created an interactive map showing the proportion of people in each county who use the internet at broadband speed. The data does not indicate whether broadband is unavailable in a given area or is available but unaffordable for residents.

“In rural towns like Kit Carson, a housing and development conundrum born of rising costs, disrepair – and lots of asbestos.”
The Colorado Sun article uses one town’s example to highlight threats facing many others, including “declining population, shifting economics of agriculture, absentee property ownership, and an aging and too-often-deteriorating housing inventory.” Many rural towns struggle to balance investing in rehabilitation of current housing stock and economic development. Their goal is to have enough jobs and housing for the next generation to stay.

CITIZENS’ INSTITUTE FOR RURAL DESIGN

American Artscape features Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
A 2019 recipient of funding from the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society is receiving national recognition for its leadership in elevating black voices and history. The church is featured in the latest issue of American Artscape, a magazine of the National Endowment for the Arts, which focuses on equity and access for the arts in black communities. CIRD design team lead and HAC collaborator Omar Hakeem is interviewed in this story about partnership with architects to redesign a historically black church in Appalachian Ohio and what that inspires in the community.

National Endowment for the Arts announces $88 million in 2021 funding awards.
NEA award recipients include two communities that participated in the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design in 2019 and have now received additional funding through the Our Town program: the Pike School of Art in McComb, MS and Snow Pond Center for the Arts (New England Music Camp) in Sidney, ME.

HAC

Need capital for your affordable housing project?
HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at  hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.
Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).