If you need information on affordable rural housing and rural America in a quick, easy-to-digest format, you need the HAC News.

HAC News: January 20, 2022

Vol. 52, No. 2

TOP STORIES

Over $1.1 billion in pandemic rental aid reallocated.

On January 7 the Treasury Department announced the first reallocation of Emergency Rental Assistance from jurisdictions that had not used it. Voluntary reallocations between jurisdictions within the same state accounted for a large portion of the shift. Treasury did take about $91 million from states and localities that did not voluntarily relinquish it. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s analysis of Treasury’s data notes that it is not clear how Treasury is prioritizing recipients of reallocated funds.

As homeowner assistance plans are approved, states begin taking applications.

The Treasury Department has now approved plans for distribution of Homeowner Assistance Fund monies in 30 jurisdictions. States, territories, and tribes or tribal entities will use the funds for homeowners with incomes under 150% of area median or 100% of the U.S. median who experienced financial hardship and need help to prevent mortgage delinquency, default, foreclosure, loss of utilities or home energy services, or displacement. The National Council of State Housing Agencies provides links for more information from each state.

HAC sets 2022 policy priorities.

HAC’s policy priorities for 2022 call for building the capacity of local affordable housing and community development organizations deeply rooted in rural places; expanding access to credit and safe, affordable lending in underserved rural communities; improving the overall quality, availability, and affordability of housing to buy and rent in small towns and rural places; and preserving, increasing, and tailoring resources for federal affordable housing programs serving rural populations.

RuralSTAT

In the rural parts of Texas’s border with Mexico, there were 35 loans for every 1,000 owner-occupied units in Colonias Investment Areas from 2015 through 2017, compared with 73 loans per 1,000 outside Colonias Investment Areas. Source: Colonias Investment Areas: A More Focused Approach, Cityscape.

OPPORTUNITIES

NEW! HAC seeks Community Development Specialist, Loan Processor Associate, and Housing Specialist.

  • NEW! The Community Development Specialist works with nonprofits and local governments on all facets of developing community resources such as parks, community centers, public libraries, childcare centers, health care facilities, or other public spaces. Requirements include four years of relevant work experience. This position is eligible for telecommuting. The job description and application instructions will be posted on HAC’s site when available.
  • The Loan Processor Associate is an entry-level position and will assist in managing HAC’s portfolio of loans made to entities engaged in affordable housing activities throughout the rural U.S. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Comments sought on broadband funding distribution.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which will distribute billions of dollars for broadband provided in the recent infrastructure bill, requests public input on a set of broad questions, including some on access, digital equity, geography, and affordability. Written comments are due February 4. NTIA will also hold virtual public listening sessions and plans to conduct a tribal consultation. For more information, contact NTIA, 202-482-2048.

USDA offers guidance on accessibility for rental properties.

Recently released guidance for complying with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and other federal requirements applies to properties with financing from USDA RD multifamily programs (Sections 515, 514/516, 521, or 538/515). For more information, contact a USDA multifamily housing regional director.

IRS pandemic relief for housing tax credits extended.

Internal Revenue Service Notice 2022-05 extends several deadlines and flexibilities for Low Income Housing Tax Credit developers that were initiated earlier in the coronavirus pandemic but had expired.

Committee reviews Thompson for FHFA.

Sandra Thompson’s nomination to be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency was considered by the Senate Banking Committee on January 13. Thompson’s opening statement noted FHFA’s important role in supporting underserved markets like rural and tribal areas, manufactured housing, and preservation of affordable housing. The committee has not yet voted whether to recommend her for approval by the Senate.

Final regulations set for state and local fiscal recovery funds.

The State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program, enacted as a part of the American Rescue Plan, supports state, local, and tribal governments’ response to the coronavirus pandemic across a variety of activities including affordable housing. Recipients have already spent much of the funds and the Treasury Department has issued a final rule, effective April 22, intended to increase the program’s flexibility.

Three more Rural Development State Directors named.

Appointees for Florida and the Virgin Islands, Idaho, and Washington were recently announced. A list of all USDA RD State Directors named by President Biden to date is now available on HAC’s website. These positions do not require Senate confirmation.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

HAC and Fannie Mae identify Colonias Investment Areas.

Colonias Investment Areas: A More Focused Approach, an article in HUD’s Cityscape journal, considers ways to target Fannie Mae’s Duty to Serve efforts in colonias by identifying Colonias Investment Areas. Written by Keith Wiley and Lance George from HAC and Sam Lipshutz, formerly of Fannie Mae, the analysis shows the need for more affordable home lending options in areas with substandard housing and considers possible solutions.

Harvard to release rental housing report January 21.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies’ announcement of the pending release of America’s Rental Housing 2022 states that, “While unprecedented levels of federal assistance have helped keep evictions down, the need for a permanent, fully funded housing safety net is more urgent than ever, and a key element of that support must be to protect existing rental housing from the threat of climate change.”

Research yields proposals to combat appraiser bias.

Reviewing the appraisal industry and evidence on appraisal bias, Identifying Bias and Barriers, Promoting Equity presents recommendations regarding the industry’s governance, training and education on fair housing, barriers to entry to the profession, and compliance and enforcement. The study was prepared by the National Fair Housing Alliance and two law firms for the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.

Factors leading to housing losses examined.

More than half of all U.S. counties lost housing units during the 2010s. Housing Losses in the 2010s, a white paper published by Enterprise Community Partners, reports that almost two-thirds of these housing loss counties were outside metropolitan areas and had small and shrinking populations. Stagnant economies and aging housing supply were also common among these counties, while some had recently suffered major natural disasters.

Study in Ohio finds different rurals attract different populations.

Researchers at Ohio State University have outlined five types of rural communities, three near metropolitan areas that have attracted more residents and two farther away from cities that experienced loss or only minor gains in population. An analysis of migration between Ohio census tracts found that each rural type is attracting a specific kind of residents and thus becoming less diverse internally.

Varying rural definitions challenge small towns.

What Counts as Rural? The Qualifications are Keeping Grants from Some Small Towns, a National Public Radio story, explains that varying definitions of rural can impact which communities receive federal funding. More information about rural definitions, including the definition used in HAC’s data analyses, is available here.

Despite investments in California’s farmworker housing, crisis persists.

Farmworkers Bear the Brunt of California’s Housing Crisis, a recent article on the digital news site Civil Eats, discusses the continuing affordable housing shortage for farmworkers throughout California. Even with $100 million in recent investments for the construction and rehabilitation of permanent farmworker housing, unsafe and cramped housing conditions remain.

Modeling examines impact of increased earnings on benefits and other factors.

Balancing at the Edge of the Cliff: Experiences and Calculations of Benefit Cliffs, Plateaus, and Trade-Offs reports on the combined effects when increased earnings lead to declines in public assistance benefits, growth in taxes owed and other expenses, and availability of refundable tax credits. Overall, most families with a $2,300 increase in income would be better off, especially those with starting incomes below the poverty level, Urban Institute researchers found. Because tax refunds and benefit reductions often happen on different timelines, however, families might not feel the full payoff from work in their monthly budgets. Interviews with TANF recipients identified housing, and the impact of earnings changes on housing benefits, as one of their biggest financial concerns.

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: January 6, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 1

TOP STORIES

Congress faces funding deadline.

Having reconvened after the holidays, Congress must act again on appropriations for fiscal year 2022, which started October 1, 2021. The current continuing resolution that holds programs at FY21 funding levels will expire February 18.

HAC to hold online forum on rural veterans’ housing grants.

Register now for a January 12 briefing by HAC program staff on the Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans initiative, which helps local nonprofit housing development organizations to meet the affordable housing needs of veterans in rural places. Grants typically range up to $30,000 per organization and must support bricks-and-mortar projects that assist low-income, elderly, and/or disabled veterans with home repair and rehab needs, support homeless veterans, help veterans become homeowners, and/or secure affordable rental housing. This initiative is funded through the generous support of The Home Depot Foundation. Applications are due January 21. For more information, contact HAC staff. No phone calls please.

RuralSTAT

The average purchase price of a new manufactured home (without land) is now estimated at $118,700* – up 41% from July 2020 to July 2021. Source: U.S. Census Bureau’s Manufactured Housing Survey. *Includes both single and multi-sections.

OPPORTUNITIES

HAC seeks Loan Processor Associate, Housing Specialist, and Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

  • The Loan Processor Associate is an entry-level position and will assist in managing HAC’s portfolio of loans made to entities engaged in affordable housing activities throughout the rural U.S. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.
  • 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 is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

USDA offers guidance on community facilities funding priorities.

A guidance document explains how RD State Directors and the RHS Administrator can allocate discretionary points to support RD’s FY22 priorities when scoring applications for community facilities direct loans and grants. (Discretionary points are not available for CF guaranteed loans.) The three priorities are to help rural communities recover economically from the pandemic’s impacts; ensure all rural residents have equitable access to RD programs and benefits from RD-funded projects; and reduce climate pollution and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. CF applications are accepted year-round. For more information, contact an RD State Office.

Duty to Serve proposals need revisions.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced on January 5 that it has reviewed Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s revised Duty to Serve Proposed Plans for 2022-24 and has directed both of them to submit additional revisions to improve the plans’ impact on all three DTS underserved markets (manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation, and rural housing). In the meantime, FHFA states, DTS implementation will continue without interruption based on objectives in the current proposed plans.

Input requested on rural minority businesses.

The Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency seeks information on rural minority businesses as it establishes a new Rural Business Center Program authorized by the November 2021 infrastructure act. It asks a variety of questions, including what are the financial, operational, and logistical needs of rural business enterprises; do rural and remote minority businesses face unique challenges; and how can community-based organizations be involved? Comments are due January 25. For more information, contact Danae Pauli, MBDA, 202-482-2332.

HUD announces regulatory waivers for Native American programs in disaster areas.

HUD has published a list of waivers and flexibilities from HUD requirements that can be used during calendar years 2022 and 2023 by Indian Housing Block Grant, Indian CDBG, and Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant grantees in areas covered by presidentially declared disasters. Separate notices were issued previously for HUD’s Native American coronavirus relief programs. For more information, contact Hilary Atkin, HUD.

Expedited waiver process set for public housing and Section 8 in disaster areas.

During presidentially declared disasters in calendar years 2022 and 2023, HUD will use an expedited process to consider PHA requests for waivers and flexibilities from regulatory and administrative requirements applicable to the public housing and Section 8 programs. For more information, contact Tesia Irinyenikan, 202-402-7026.

Two Rural Development State Directors appointed.

President Biden has named USDA RD State Directors for Montana and for New Hampshire and Vermont. The administration previously announced the State Directors for Alabama, Colorado, Delaware and Maryland, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

News stories describe 3D printing as an affordable housing solution.

How 3D Printing Can be the Solution to the Nation’s Affordable Housing Crisis, from NBC News, reports that building a home with wood costs approximately $150,000 but constructing homes with a 3D printer using concrete can reduce costs up to 15% and complete construction in half the time. ISU Project Hopes to Create a New Solution for the State’s Affordable Housing Crisis, an Iowa Public Radio story, explains that Iowa State University received $1.4 million from the Iowa Economic Development Authority and will purchase a 3D printer to print the vertical framing for homes. It will help fill the gap of Iowa’s workforce shortage and help speed construction of affordable housing.

Housing insecurity high for older renters of color.

Older Renters of Color Have Experienced High Rates of Housing Insecurity During the Pandemic, a Joint Center for Housing Studies blog post, reports the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey data shows that in the last year older households of color struggled to pay rent or mortgages at higher rates than white, non-Hispanic households. Disparities based on race, ethnicity, and tenure type are particularly apparent among older renters. During the last year, Black households were twice as likely as white households to be behind on rent. In addition, over a quarter of older Asian renters reported being behind on housing payments.

Hotel/motel conversions studied.

Addressing Homelessness Through Hotel Conversions presents an analysis of 13 hotel/motel acquisition projects from towns and cities of varying sizes, focusing on conversions aimed at providing housing for people experiencing homelessness. The report was published by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation as part of the Housing Crisis Research Collaborative.

Podcasts cover rural issues and housing.

  • UCLA Housing Voice features interviews with housing researchers, intended to help make sense of their work and how it can be applied in the real world. Topics have included the legacy of redlining, state housing mandates, and fair housing.
  • The Home Front from the National Low Income Housing Coalition focuses on housing policy priorities and advocacy.
  • The Yonder Report is a short roundup of rural news released weekly, featuring a variety of rural voices.

Solar farm to be constructed on former coal mine site.

The New York Times, in Coming Soon to this Coal County: Solar in a Big Way, describes the development of a large solar power project on a former mountain top coal site in Martin County, KY. In this economically distressed county coal jobs, which once helped fuel the area’s economy, are nearly gone. While about half of the project’s 300 jobs would be temporary, they would pay an average of $25 to $30 per hour.

Pharmacists retiring in rural America.

Seeking Refills: Aging Pharmacists Leave Drugstores Vacant in Rural America, published by Kaiser Health News, discusses the shortage of candidates available to fill vacancies created by retiring pharmacists and associated impacts for rural communities.

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: December 22, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 26

TOP STORIES

As social spending bill negotiations go on, refundable Child Tax Credit ends.

The Senate will not vote until at least January on the Build Back Better social infrastructure bill, H.R. 5376, though the House passed its version of the bill in November including $2 billion for USDA rural housing programs and substantial investments in many other housing programs. The bill would also continue the expanded Child Tax Credit, restructured in the American Rescue Plan Act to provide monthly payments to low-income families. That version of the tax credit was in place only from July through December 2021 and was particularly beneficial for rural children, according to research by the Daily Yonder and the Niskanen Center.

Response and recovery continue for South and Midwest tornadoes.

A 200-mile line of devastating storms on December 10-11 left scores dead and resulted in massive property damage estimated to be in the billions of dollars across six states in the South and Midwest. President Biden signed federal disaster declarations for affected communities in Kentucky, Illinois, and Tennessee, HUD announced aid for Kentucky, and USDA provided guidance for owners and managers of its rental housing properties. For more information about preparing for and recovering from natural disasters, visit HAC’s new resource Rural Resilience. For those wishing to help with recovery efforts, FEMA provides general guidance and numerous national and local organizations seek support for their work, including:

CRA rule rescinded and replaced.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is finalizing the Community Reinvestment Act regulation it proposed in September, making few changes. The new rule rescinds the June 2020 regulation adopted under the Trump administration and replaces it with rules based on the regulations that were in effect before 2020. OCC notes that it continues to work with the Federal Reserve Board and FDIC to modernize the rule. OCC is also requesting public comment by February 14 on proposed revisions to the form that banks and others can use to confirm whether an activity qualifies under CRA. For more information, contact OCC’s Chief Counsel’s Office, 202-649-5490.

Happy Holidays from HAC!

“Home” takes on even more meaning during the holiday season. HAC wishes everyone a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home.

RuralSTAT

Between November 20 and December 20, 2021, the average rate of daily deaths from COVID-19 was more than twice as high outside metropolitan areas as in metropolitan areas of the United States (cases per 100,000 population – 14 day average). Source: Housing Assistance Council tabulations of public health data from the New York Times.

OPPORTUNITIES

HAC offers aid for rural veterans’ housing.

HAC’s Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans initiative helps local nonprofit housing development organizations to meet the affordable housing needs of veterans in rural places. Grants typically range up to $30,000 per organization and must support bricks-and-mortar projects that assist low-income, elderly, and/or disabled veterans with home repair and rehab needs, support homeless veterans, help veterans become homeowners, and/or secure affordable rental housing. This initiative is funded through the generous support of The Home Depot Foundation. Applications are due January 21. For more information, contact HAC staff. No phone calls please.

Rural job accelerator funding available.

The Rural Innovation Stronger Economy program makes grants of up to $2 million to consortiums of local governments, nonprofits, industry, and other entities to support innovation centers and job accelerator programs that improve the ability of distressed rural communities to create high-wage jobs, form new businesses, and identify and maximize local assets. Apply by April 19. For more information, contact a USDA RD State Office.

HAC seeks Loan Processor Associate, Housing Specialist, and Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

  • The Loan Processor Associate is an entry-level position and will assist in managing HAC’s portfolio of loans made to entities engaged in affordable housing activities throughout the rural U.S. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.
  • 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 is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

USDA addresses cost concerns for new single-family homes.

Because of cost increases and construction delays in the current economic climate, USDA has announced some temporary authorizations for new construction financed under its Section 502 and 504 direct loan programs. It has increased the permissible construction contingency in these loans and eased some of the requirements for borrowers to obtain subsequent loans at the end of construction to cover cost overruns. For more information, contact a USDA RD State Office.

Thompson nominated as head of Federal Housing Finance Agency.

President Biden has nominated Sandra L. Thompson, who has served as FHFA’s acting director since June, to become the agency’s director. She will need to be confirmed by the Senate.

More Rural Development State Directors named.

President Biden has appointed USDA RD State Directors for Maine and Missouri, as well as for Delaware and Maryland, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, and Tennessee. The administration had previously announced the State Directors for Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

HUD seeks input on strategic plan.

HUD requests feedback on the four proposed focus areas in its draft FY22-26 Strategic Plan: support underserved communities, ensure access to and increase the production of affordable housing, promote homeownership, and advance sustainable communities. Comments are due January 28.

Housing goals set for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has established benchmarks for Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s single-family housing goals and subgoals for 2022-2024 and multifamily housing goals for 2022. FHFA also recently announced that in 2020 Fannie Mae met all of its single-family and multifamily housing goals, while Freddie Mac met all except its single-family low-income refinance goal.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Lack of regulations contributes to affordability problems.

A segment on the Marketplace Morning Report titled For Unincorporated Communities, Limited Ways to Regulate Housing examines the challenges high amenity communities like Joshua Tree, CA have with rental housing affordability. Lance George, HAC’s Director of Research and Information, offered a national perspective on factors that contribute to these challenges.

Communities observe Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.

December 21, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, is recognized by the National Consumer Advisory Board, the National Coalition for the Homeless, and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council as an opportunity to remember people experiencing homelessness who have died and to strengthen the resolve to work for change. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness acknowledged the event with recommendations for actions to address homelessness.

Emergency Rental Assistance programs and needs examined.

Recent reports consider the use of the Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance funding and ways to estimate need.

Rural workforce shrinking.

A recent Daily Yonder analysis of county-level data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that rural counties have gained jobs in the last year but have not reached the same number of jobs as before the beginning of the pandemic. The data reflects fewer people in rural America available to work, though the data do not show whether this is because working-age people are leaving rural counties, retiring, or just not looking for work.

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: December 9, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 25

TOP STORIES

Federal funding extended to February 18.

Hours before a temporary spending measure was set to expire on December 3, Congress passed and President Biden signed another continuing resolution that will fund the government through February 18, 2022. The new CR holds most government programs, including housing programs at USDA and HUD, at their fiscal 2021 funding levels; fiscal year 2022 began on October 1, 2021. FY22 appropriations bills proposing increased resources for some USDA and HUD housing programs passed the House in July and have been introduced in the Senate.

HAC holds National Rural Housing Conference, sessions now available online.

Rev. Dr. William Barber issued an inspiring call to action on Poverty and Equity in Rural America at HAC’s Virtual 2021 National Rural Housing Conference, held November 30-December 3. His address is available on HAC’s YouTube channel along with other plenary sessions featuring USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), and others. The more than 550 registrants from 44 states, DC, and the Virgin Islands can access workshop recordings on the conference app. HAC thanks our many sponsors, scholarship contributors, and partners for helping to make the event possible.

RuralSTAT

Between 2019 and 2020 the number of home purchase mortgage loans in rural America increased by 13.7% – a rate higher than in suburban or urban areas for the same time period. Source: Housing Assistance Council Tabulations of 2019 and 2020 FFIEC Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data.

OPPORTUNITIES

USDA offers support for farmworkers and food workers.

The new Farm and Food Worker Relief Grant Program will make grants to state agencies, tribal entities, and nonprofits with experience in providing support or relief services. Grant recipients will then distribute relief payments to frontline farmworkers, meatpacking, and grocery workers who incurred expenses preparing for, preventing exposure to, and responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Applications are due February 8. For more information, contact USDA staff.

Indian housing competitive grants deadline extended.

Tribes and tribally designated housing entities now have until January 4 to apply for the Indian Housing Block Grant Competitive Grant Program. HUD has posted updated Frequently Asked Questions. For more information, contact HUD staff.

HAC seeks Loan Processor Associate, Housing Specialist, and Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

  • The Loan Processor Associate is an entry-level position and will assist in managing HAC’s portfolio of loans made to entities engaged in affordable housing activities throughout the rural U.S. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.
  • 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 is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

USDA continues temporary authorization for appraisals.

For single-family direct loans, USDA will accept appraisals obtained by self-help grantees, certified loan application packagers, approved intermediaries, and leveraged or other participating lenders. This temporary authorization is effective through September 30, 2022.

Toolkit aims to help practitioners comply with federal lead rules.

HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes has developed a Lead Safe Housing Rule Toolkit with sample forms, checklists, and flowcharts to aid compliance with HUD’s rules on lead safe housing for units both with and without federal assistance.

Regulations revised for oneRD Guarantee Loan Program.

Based on comments and experience since a final rule was adopted in 2020, USDA has revised its regulations for oneRD, which applies to the Community Facilities, Water and Waste Disposal, Business and Industry, and Rural Energy for America guarantee programs. The changes are effective immediately but comments can be submitted until February 8. For more information, contact Thomas P. Dickson, USDA, 202-690-4492.

Change proposed for H-2A farmworker wages.

The Department of Labor is proposing to change the way wages are determined for many farmworkers with temporary H-2A visas. Comments are due January 31. For more information, contact Brian Pasternak, DOL, 202-693-8200.

Worker heat standards comment deadline extended.

OSHA has extended the deadline for responses to its request for information about protecting outdoor and indoor workers from hazardous heat. Comments are now due January 26. For more information, contact Andrew Levinson, OSHA, 202-693-1950.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

State and local use of Emergency Rental Assistance funds remains uneven.

Treasury Department data show that in October some states and localities began using the second round of Emergency Rental Assistance funds, while efforts to use the first round continue. Treasury estimates at least 80% of ERA 1 funds will be spent or obligated by the end of 2021. A National Low Income Housing Coalition analysis shows that states – which provide this rental aid for many rural areas – spent 48% of their ERA 1 funds by October 31, while localities spent 68%. Treasury has not yet announced how much ERA 1 funding it will reallocate, or what jurisdictions will gain or lose dollars.

Legal aid attorneys report eviction law violations continue.

A National Housing Law Project survey of legal aid and civil rights attorneys found that despite the availability of Emergency Rental Assistance and other aid, eviction filings rose, even for federally subsidized tenants, after the federal eviction moratorium ended on August 26. Survey respondents also saw more landlords lying in court to evict tenants; more illegal evictions, lockouts, and other harassment of tenants; evictions even after landlords collected rental assistance funds; and judges ignoring or inconsistently applying federal and state law. NHLP’s survey report includes recommendations to resolve these violations.

“Lost local news” includes stories on housing, prairie conservation, other rural topics.

The Lost Local News Issue of the Washington Post Magazine provides stories from local journalists living and working in news deserts, many of them in rural places and small towns. A Long-Deferred Hope for Better Housing, a photo essay, shows part of the process of remodeling the home of a low-income resident of Leflore County, Mississippi. (The author and photographer, Rory Doyle, also contributed to HAC’s There is More Work to Be Done exhibition.) How to Save the Prairie, Acre by Acre tells the story of Bob and Lorna Harder, who have preserved a portion of their farm in Kansas for Great Plains native plant species.

Article highlights rural use of housing tax credits.

Creating Affordable Housing in Rural America, an article in Affordable Housing Finance magazine, describes how developers around the country use Low Income Housing Tax Credits to address homelessness and the need for rental housing in rural America.

New docuseries explores perceptions of rural life.

Rural By Choice is filmed in Otter Tail County in central Minnesota. It shares stories from residents about “diversity, the rural vs. urban divide, and why people choose to live in rural areas.”

Almost all states criminalize homelessness.

A new study identifies laws in 48 states that prohibit or restrict conduct of people experiencing homelessness such as sleeping in public or in vehicles. Housing Not Handcuffs 2021, a National Homelessness Law Center study of state laws, supplements 2019 research on municipal laws. The law center notes that local laws and variations in enforcement can lead to penalties for activities even when they are not restricted by a state-level statute.

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: November 23, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 24

TOP STORIES

House approves Build Back Better Act.

On November 19 the House passed the Build Back Better social infrastructure bill, H.R. 5376, which includes about $2 billion for USDA rural housing and $1 billion for the new Rural Partnership Program. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Federal funding ends December 3.

During the week of November 29, Congress will decide the length of another continuing resolution to keep the government open at FY21 funding levels. Watch HAC’s website for updates.

There’s STILL time to register for the 2021 Virtual HAC National Rural Housing Conference!

HAC invites you to join us virtually on November 30-December 3! Speakers will include Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, Rep. James Clyburn, HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and more. The conference also features more than 30 workshops, a variety of musicians and artists, and a pre-conference day with gatherings for coalitions, associations, and working groups. For more information, contact HAC staff, 202-516-6271.

Online book addresses rural prosperity.

Investing in Rural Prosperity, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, is intended to show ways to approach rural development successfully and present stories of progress in different communities. The chapters, available online, touch on topics ranging from energy efficient manufactured housing to digital inclusion, entrepreneurship support, and workforce development. A chapter titled Geographic Equity Belongs in Federal Policymaking was authored by HAC President and CEO David Lipsetz.

RuralSTAT

In the most recent reporting year, over 100,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses – up nearly 30 percent from the previous pre-pandemic year. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – National Center for Health Statistics

OPPORTUNITIES

Supportive Services for Veteran Families: funds available, rule amended.

Nonprofits and consumer coops can apply by February 7 for SSVF grants to coordinate or provide supportive services to very low-income veteran families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The VA also requests comments by January 10 on an interim final rule that increases the support available for families in some areas and extends some time limits for aid. For more information on either notice, contact John Kuhn, VA, 727-273-5619.

Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants offered.

Apply by February 15 for grants to carry out plans to revitalize severely distressed public and/or HUD-assisted multifamily housing projects located in distressed neighborhoods into viable, mixed-income communities. Local governments, PHAs, and tribal entities are eligible, and owners of HUD-assisted housing can be co-applicants. For more information, email ChoiceNeighborhoods@hud.gov.

HAC seeks Loan Processor Associate, Housing Specialist, and Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

  • The Loan Processor Associate is an entry-level position and will assist in managing HAC’s portfolio of loans made to entities engaged in affordable housing activities throughout the rural U.S. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.
  • 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 is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Disaster-affected homeowners can extend forbearance on USDA guaranteed loans.

Temporary guidance from USDA addresses the possibility that homeowners with Section 502 guaranteed mortgages who are currently on forbearance may also be impacted by a hurricane or other disaster. These borrowers may have their mortgage payments reduced or suspended for additional time. For more information, contact Rural Housing Service staff, 202-720-1452.

Two USDA Rural Development state directors announced.

On November 18, the White House named RD state directors for Colorado and Iowa. Others were previously announced for Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Input requested on mortgage lending data collection.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau requests comments as it assesses the effectiveness of its current Home Mortgage Disclosure Act regulations, particularly regarding institutional coverage and transactional coverage, data points, benefits of new data and disclosure requirements, and operational and compliance costs. Comments are due January 21. For more information, contact Katherine LoPiccalo, CFPB, 202-435-7700.

FEMA extends reimbursement for pandemic spending.

Through April 1, 2022 FEMA will continue to cover the full cost of some coronavirus-related expenditures, including non-congregate shelters such as motels for people experiencing homelessness.

HUD announces Tribal Intergovernmental Advisory Committee.

The committee is intended to further communications between HUD and federally recognized tribes on HUD programs, make recommendations to HUD regarding current program regulations, provide advice in the development of HUD’s American Indian and Alaska Native housing priorities, and encourage peer learning and capacity building among tribes and non-tribal entities. It will be made up of duly elected tribal leaders representing small, medium, and large federally recognized tribes. Comments on the committee’s proposed structure are due January 14. For more information, contact Heidi J. Frechette, HUD, 202-402-7598.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

California farmworkers describe pandemic’s impacts.

Experts in Their Fields: Contributions and Realities of Indigenous Campesinos in California during COVID-19 focuses on the lived experiences of farmworkers from home communities in Southern Mexico and Central America where Indigenous languages other than Spanish are spoken. Based on surveys and interviews, the study found the pandemic worsened already precarious situations including chronic job and income insecurity, unhealthful and over-crowded housing conditions, and language barriers. This report is a product of the COVID-19 Farmworker Study, undertaken in California, Oregon, and Washington by the California Institute for Rural Studies and numerous partners. An article based on the Oregon findings appears in the most recent issue of HAC’s Rural Voices magazine.

ERS reports on rural America.

USDA’s Economic Research Service recently released its 2021 edition of Rural America at a Glance. This year’s report provides statistics on rural communities during the coronavirus pandemic, including population and employment change, intensity of infection and vaccination rates, and internet availability and adoption.

Data analysis shows FEMA disaster mitigation funds slower for rural, poor, and white-minority areas.

The Washington Post analyzed data on FEMA funding for disaster mitigation efforts, finding that counties wait an average of seven years to complete these projects. The Ring in the Ashes reports that FEMA is about half as likely to fund grants for rural areas and that poor counties and places where white people are a minority face longer delays in getting grants approved.

GAO considers improving accuracy of homelessness count.

A Government Accountability Office report, Homelessness: HUD Should Help Communities Better Leverage Data to Estimate Homelessness, notes that during the pandemic HUD allowed communities to use public and nonprofit agencies’ data on people they served to supplement their in-person counts of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. GAO determined this approach likely improved the counts’ accuracy. It recommends that HUD provide communities more information about how best to use such data to improve point-in-time counts moving forward.

Racially restrictive covenants still present in deeds.

Racial Covenants, a Relic of the Past, are Still on the Books Across the Country, a National Public Radio story, reports that many deeds for homes and property records of land still contain racially restrictive covenants. Although outlawed by the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the language still exists in property records in most states. A homeowner from Golden Valley, MN, Maria Cisneros, noticed the covenant in the deed to her home. Based on her personal experience of having the language removed, she created Just Deeds, a network of attorneys committed to helping homeowners remove the racially restrictive covenants from their property records.

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: November 12, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 23

TOP STORIES

Bipartisan infrastructure bill passes, social spending measure still pending.

On November 5 the House passed the $550 billion funding measure for traditional infrastructure, including rural broadband. It was approved by the Senate on August 10 and President Biden is scheduled to sign it into law on November 15. Also on November 5, the House agreed to move forward towards a vote on the Build Back Better social infrastructure bill, H.R. 5376, which includes funding for housing and the new Rural Partnership Program. A revised version of BBB, released November 3, added funds for some housing and development programs, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and the CDFI Fund. The House will continue its consideration of the bill after Congress returns from recess on November 15.

There’s still time to register for the 2021 Virtual HAC National Rural Housing Conference!

HAC invites you to join us virtually on November 30-December 3! This year’s conference features more than 30 workshops, where participants will interact and engage around best practices for rural housing and community development, organizational management, and resource development. The conference also includes a pre-conference day with gatherings for coalitions, associations, and working groups. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

Joaquin Altoro appointed as Rural Housing Service Administrator.

USDA announced on November 8 that Joaquin Altoro will serve as the RHS Administrator. He has been CEO and Executive Director for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

HAC’s Rural Voices magazine covers pandemic’s impact.

The pandemic is not over yet, but this issue, titled Creating the New Normal: COVID-19 Leaves its Mark on Rural America, covers how affordable housing organizations have adapted to a new reality. Get insights on how rural renters, the colonias, farmworkers, and people experiencing homelessness have been impacted.

RuralSTAT

53% of American Indians or Alaska Natives in the U.S. live in rural America. Source: HAC tabulations of 2020 P.L. 94-171 Redistricting Data.

OPPORTUNITIES

New Markets Tax Credits available.

Applications are due January 13 for NMTC allocations, which can be used to attract private investment in economic and community development in low-income communities. Applicants must be certified Community Development Entities; apply for certification by November 18. For more information, submit a service request on the CDFI Fund’s site or call agency staff, 202-653-0421.

Grants will help historic places important to underrepresented communities.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Telling the Full History Preservation Fund offers one-time grants to help interpret and preserve historic places of importance to underrepresented communities. Nonprofits, colleges and universities, state or local government agencies, and tribes are eligible and must have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Apply by December 15. For more information, contact National Trust staff.

Webinar to consider rural capacity building.

This Is What Capacity Looks Like: Building Development Muscle in Rural and Native Nation Communities, to be held November 30, will examine what key components of capacity need to be intentionally strengthened so that local organizations can strengthen their rural and Native nation communities, what it takes for them to build capacity, and what barriers stand in the way. This is one of 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.

NEW! HAC seeks Loan Processor Associate, Housing Specialist, and Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

  • The Loan Processor Associate is an entry-level position and will assist in managing HAC’s portfolio of loans made to entities engaged in affordable housing activities throughout the rural U.S. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.
  • 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 is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Agencies return to full enforcement of mortgage servicing protections.

Ending temporary flexibility they had instituted in April 2020, several federal and state regulatory agencies have announced they will enforce provisions requiring mortgage servicers to give families the chance to find alternatives to foreclosure before losing their homes. A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau statement notes that, with the majority of the over one million remaining pandemic-related forbearances expected to end before the end of the year, struggling homeowners will need these protections to avoid foreclosure.

USDA Rural Development requests comments on new forms.

Public comments are due January 4 on two sets of new forms for applicants. The Common Forms Package for Civil Rights Forms will collect information from funding recipients so RD can monitor their compliance with civil rights laws and regulations. The Common Forms Package for Real Estate Title Clearance and Loan Closing will collect information from recipients of funds involving real estate, including housing. For more information, contact Lynn Gilbert, USDA, 202-690-2682.

RISE rule for jobs accelerators is final.

USDA’s Rural Innovation Stronger Economy Grant Program interim final rule received no substantive comments, so it was finalized without changes. For more information, contact David Chestnut, USDA, 202-692-5233.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Learn about veterans in your community.

HAC’s Veterans Data Central is newly updated with data from the Census Bureau and other sources. This on-line resource is easy to use and provides essential information on the social, economic, and housing characteristics of veterans in the U.S. This data can help support sound strategies and policies to assist veterans.

New analysis shows what states may lose unspent Emergency Rental Assistance funds.

Emergency Rental Assistance Spending and Performance Trends, published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, reports that 28% of grantees have spent less than 30% of their allocations under the first portion of the Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance program and may be at risk of losing funds through reallocation. This includes 32 states (63% of state grantees) and 80 localities (23% of local grantees). The report analyzes grantee spending progress, describes Treasury’s process for reallocating funds, and provides recommendations to ERA administrators and Treasury to best serve low-income renters.

Booming housing sales affect trends in rental market, zoning, and housing availability.

Recent reports, including by Politico and Forbes, look at rises in housing costs. Forbes notes that housing sales continue to boom across the country. The lack of availability of starter homes has led to high demand in the rental market, with trending rent increases. Some states are changing single-family home zoning laws, apartments are being built with less square footage, and an increased allowability of tent cities across the country aims to provide housing in an increasingly expensive housing market. While the Forbes piece does not identify differences between urban and rural places, a new data analysis from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania verifies anecdotal reports about increased home sales in that state’s rural counties, while sales have fallen in its urban areas.

Postal Service plan for cost savings raises concerns about disproportionate rural impacts.

Researchers who study the U.S. Postal Service raise concerns about possible “catastrophic” impacts for rural communities due to cost cutting efforts in a recent article in the Daily Yonder. Citing a National Farmers Union statement, the article notes that rural residents disproportionately depend on the Postal Service to receive medication, vote, communicate with friends and family, cash checks, and conduct business.

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: October 28, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 22

TOP STORIES

President proposes budget reconciliation bill compromise.

On October 28, as Congress and the administration continue to negotiate on social services spending, President Biden released a new Build Back Better framework that would total $1.75 trillion rather than the $3.5 trillion originally proposed. The framework would include $150 billion to “enable the construction, rehabilitation, and improvement of more than 1 million affordable homes, boosting housing supply and reducing price pressures for renters and homeowners,” though information is not yet available on how the funding would be allocated among programs. It would also establish a new Rural Partnership Program. HAC’s statement on the framework notes that these investments would bring our country much, much closer to achieving the vision of safe, decent, and affordable homes for all.

Senate committee proposes FY22 HUD funding levels.

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently released nine proposed appropriations bills, including the Transportation-HUD bill, for the fiscal year that began on October 1. The committee would increase many HUD programs above their FY21 funding levels, though generally it would not raise them to the figures proposed in the House bill. HAC’s site has details on FY22 appropriations for HUD and for USDA’s rural housing programs. The continuing resolution that currently funds the federal government will expire on December 3.

Emergency Rental Assistance spending rose in September.

State and local governments distributed nearly $2.8 billion from the Emergency Rental Assistance program to more than 510,000 households in September, up from 459,000 in August, according to newly released figures from the Treasury Department. Treasury will use this data, along with other information, to determine what funds may be reallocated to other jurisdictions.

Register now for 2021 Virtual HAC National Rural Housing Conference!

HAC invites you to join us virtually on November 30-December 3! This year’s conference features more than 30 workshops, where participants will interact and engage around best practices for rural housing and community development, organizational management, and resource development. The conference also includes a pre-conference day with gatherings for coalitions, associations, and working groups. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

November is Native American Heritage Month.

 

RuralSTAT

In 2020, of the estimated 37,252 homeless veterans nationwide, 6,407 (17.2%) were in largely rural Continuums of Care. Source: HAC analysis of Point-in-Time data collected for HUD.

OPPORTUNITIES

Planning assistance offered for rural recreation economies.

Communities anywhere in the U.S., including territories, can apply by November 22 for Recreation Economy for Rural Communities planning assistance sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service, and the Northern Border Regional Commission. The program does not offer funding, but provides help from a planning team to identify strategies to grow a community’s local outdoor recreation economy, strengthen their downtown, and conserve and sustainably use forests and other natural assets. For more information, contact RERC staff.

Nomination deadline extended for USDA Equity Commission.

USDA will accept nominations through November 20 for membership on its new Equity Commission and Subcommittee on Agriculture. For more information, contact Dewayne L. Goldmon, USDA, 202-997-2100.

USDA to offer broadband funds.

Nonprofits, for-profits, limited liability entities, coops, tribes, states or local governments, and U.S. territories are eligible for loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations through USDA’s Rural eConnectivity (ReConnect) Program to construction, improve, or acquire facilities and equipment to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. USDA will accept FY22 applications from November 24, 2021, through February 22, 2022. For more information, contact Laurel Leverrier, USDA, 202-720-9554.

HAC seeks Housing Specialist and Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.
  • 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 is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

 

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Input requested on protecting workers against heat.

As the first step towards protecting indoor and outdoor workers from hazardous heat, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration seeks information about hazardous heat in the workplace, interventions and controls that can be used, and what OSHA should consider in developing standards. Comments are due December 27. For more information, contact Andrew Levinson, OSHA, 202-693-1950.

Fair lending enforcement initiative launched.

On October 22 the Justice Department announced a new Combatting Redlining Initiative to step up its enforcement of fair lending laws. The department says it will take into account local expertise on housing markets and the credit needs of local communities of color, expand its consideration of potential redlining by non-depository lenders (which are not traditional banks, but which now issue the majority of mortgages in the U.S.), and strengthen its partnership with financial regulatory agencies.

HAC recommends focus on racial and geographic equity in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plans.

HAC’s response to a Federal Housing Finance Administration request for comments supports a requirement for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to develop plans for advancing equity in housing finance over the next three years. HAC encourages the Equitable Housing Finance Plans to consider the unique needs of rural communities of color.

Coalition asks for Duty to Serve improvements.

A new Underserved Mortgage Markets Coalition of 20 organizations including HAC wrote to Federal Housing Finance Administration acting director Sandra Thompson requesting improvements in the regulations governing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s Duty to Serve obligations and in their 2022-24 Duty to Serve plans. The group also supported FHFA’s new requirement for Equitable Housing Finance plans.

HAC urges Census Bureau to expand data offerings.

In comments on the new 2020 Census Data Product Planning Crosswalk, HAC encourages the Census Bureau to provide sub-county geographies in all elements of the new crosswalk and in all of its public-use data products. County-level data may dilute or mask rural populations, HAC noted, particularly in the Western U.S. where counties cover large geographic areas.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Affordability restrictions expire for over 700,000 federally assisted homes in the next 10 years.

Nearly 5 million rental homes were supported by federal project-based assistance in 2020, representing 10% of the U.S. rental housing stock, according to the 2021 Picture of Preservation by the Public and Affordable Housing and Research Corporation and the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Nationwide, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit supports half of the federally assisted housing stock, followed by project-based Section 8 (28%), public housing (18%), and USDA Section 515 (8%). The report summarizes current challenges to preserving the affordability of these rentals and recommends improvements.

Water scarcity impacts affordable housing development in California.

Water Shortage Intensifies Valley’s Rural Housing Crisis, an article published by GV Wire, reports that water scarcity and lack of infrastructure prevent building more affordable housing in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Cities can usually afford to build sewer infrastructure or dig wells, but in rural areas the burden falls on developers.

Connections between mental health, health equity, and housing explored.

Anti-Racism Sparks Movement for Trauma-Informed Design, an essay in Build Healthy Places Network’s Crosswalk Magazine, describes how affordable housing can help address trauma and uplift residents’ voices to foster collective healing.

Temporary “shack” demonstrates rural housing quality problems.

Woman Lives in a Shack to Fundraise for Rural Housing Repairs describes the efforts of Lisa Pierce to draw attention to rural housing needs. The article in U.S. News & World Report explains that Rev. Pierce, of Alabama Rural Ministry, stays in the shack in downtown Auburn for about a week each year as part of a fundraiser called “No More Shacks.” The nonprofit uses the proceeds to repair substandard homes in rural Alabama.

Supplemental nutrition program benefits rural economy.

A recent study by USDA’s Economic Research Service, Impact of USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on Rural and Urban Economies in the Aftermath of the Great Recession, compared the effects of SNAP benefits on rural and urban economies in 2009-2014. The study found that SNAP benefit outlays generated larger impacts in the rural economy when measured as shares of output and employment.

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: October 14, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 21

TOP STORIES

Some funding needs get short-term solutions in Congress, others still pending.

A continuing resolution funds the federal government through December 3 and provides new disaster recovery funds. The debt limit has also been extended into early December. As negotiations continue in Congress to reduce the cost of the budget reconciliation bill, H.R. 5376, HAC has issued a statement supporting the proposed rural housing and development resources.

Torres Small confirmed for USDA post, first state directors named.

The Senate confirmed Xochitl Torres Small on October 8 to serve as USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development. On October 12 the White House and USDA announced that Rural Development State Directors have been appointed for Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Chopra starts work at CFPB; hearings held for HUD nominees.

Rohit Chopra took office as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on October 12, having been confirmed by the Senate on September 30. Three HUD assistant secretary nominees received tie votes in the Senate Banking Committee on October 5, delaying their confirmations. They include David Uejio, who has been acting director of the CFPB and is nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, as well as Julia R. Gordon for Housing/FHA and Solomon J. Greene for Policy Development and Research. The Banking Committee held hearings October 7 on additional HUD nominations but has not voted on those yet.

Register now for 2021 Virtual HAC National Rural Housing Conference!

HAC invites you to join us virtually on November 30-December 3! This year’s conference features more than 30 workshops, where participants will interact and engage around best practices for rural housing and community development, organizational management, and resource development. The Conference also includes a pre-conference day with gatherings for coalitions, associations, and working groups. Register by October 21 for the best rates. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

RuralSTAT

There were 12,400 reported deaths associated with COVID-19 in rural communities in September, a 142% increase over deaths in August. Source: HAC tabulations of public health data from the New York Times. A Rural Research Note on COVID-19 in Rural America: October 6, 2021 is available here.

OPPORTUNITIES

USDA posts instructions for strategic community plan setasides.

In FY22, projects that support multi-jurisdictional and multi-sectoral strategic community investment plans will be eligible for setaside funds in certain RD programs: Community Facility Loans, Grants, and Guaranteed Loans; Water and Waste Disposal Guaranteed Loans; Water and Waste Loans and Grants; Rural Business Development Grants; and Community Connect Grants. To apply for the Strategic Economic and Community Development Program setaside, submit a form with the application to the relevant program. For more information, contact an RD state office.

NEW! HAC seeks Housing Specialist and Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.
  • 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 is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

FEMA asks for input on floodplain management.

FEMA requests public views on revising the National Flood Insurance Program’s floodplain management standards, including what standards communities should adopt to become safer, stronger, and more resilient. Comments are due December 13. For more information, contact Rachel Sears, FEMA, 202-646-4105.

HUD to require eviction protections for assisted tenants.

During emergencies, including the current coronavirus pandemic, a new interim final rule will require owners of HUD-assisted properties to notify tenants about emergency rent relief and to wait 30 days between notification and eviction. The provisions will apply to public housing and properties with project-based rental assistance (Section 8, Section 8 Mod Rehab, Section 202, Section 811, and Section 236). The rule takes effect on November 8 and comments are due that day. For more information on public or Indian housing, email HUD staff at PIH-COVID@hud.gov; on other multifamily programs, email mfcommunications@hud.gov.

Details released on Emergency Rental Assistance reallocation.

Guidance issued October 4 by the Treasury Department explains how unspent funds from the first round of Emergency Rental Assistance (under the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act) will be reallocated. Treasury will examine the programs, plans, and needs of states and localities that did not obligate at least 65% of their ERA1 funds by September 30 to determine what funds to reallocate. Data to identify those places is not yet available. Grantees that did meet the 65% threshold can request funds be reallocated to them. Treasury will not recapture funds from Indian Tribes, tribally designated housing entities, or U.S. territories prior to April 2022.

VA loan deferment option extended.

Servicers of Department of Veterans Affairs mortgages may continue offering loan deferment as a coronavirus-related home retention option, the VA has announced. Other relief options also remain available into 2023. For more information, contact a VA lender or VA loan staff, 1-877-827-3702.

USDA announces 1-800 number for rental housing.

USDA now offers a toll-free phone number for stakeholders, tenants, and the general public to obtain information about the department’s multifamily housing programs: 1-800-292-8293. The multifamily office’s website has also been updated to make staff contact information easy to find.

Area loan limits revised for Section 502 direct and 504 in some places.

A USDA Rural Development email bulletin summarizes the changes.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

USDA obligations fell in FY21 for most housing programs.

HAC’s preliminary annual analysis found that overall dollar levels for the USDA rural housing programs’ FY21 loan and grant obligations were about 1.4% lower than FY 20 and the number of obligations was down about 8.3%. The Section 502 direct program used $1.0 billion for 5,355 loans, nearly the same dollar amount but fewer loans than last year. About 36% of Section 502 loan dollars obligated and over 43% of loans were for very low-income applicants. Obligations for the Section 502 guarantee program and the multifamily programs were also generally lower than last year, and fewer Section 542 vouchers were issued. There were more Section 521 Rental Assistance units this year, supported by American Rescue Plan funds. HAC will publish a more detailed FY21 report.

Crisis models address family homelessness.

Immediate and Flexible Crisis Options for Children and Families, a brief and two videos released by the Framework for an Equitable COVID-19 Homelessness Response, focus on crisis options for homeless families, paired with strong housing exits. One case study is rural and the Framework says other models can be replicated, adapted, and scaled up or down as needed.

Much Hispanic wealth is in residential property.

The 2021 State of Hispanic Wealth Report from the Hispanic Wealth Project shows that Hispanics may be on track to achieve wealth goals the project set for 2024. Their wealth is not well diversified, however, with residential property values (both their own homes and investment properties) making up 52% of Latino assets. The pandemic has impacted the stability of these assets: as of March 2021, Latino home loan borrowers were 2.3 times more likely to be in forbearance and 1.5 times more likely to be delinquent on mortgage payments than non-Hispanic white borrowers.

Equity considered in two webinars.

“Worst case” rental housing needs changed little from 2017 to 2019.

Only 62 affordable rental units were available for every 100 very low-income renters in 2019, according to HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs: 2021 Report to Congress. Data is not yet available on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession that began in 2020. Households with worst case needs are defined as renters with very low incomes (at or below 50% of area median income) who do not receive government housing assistance and pay more than half their income for rent, live in severely inadequate conditions, or both. In 2019 there were 7.77 million such renter households in the U.S., 42.2% of all very low-income renters. About 74% of worst case renters in 2019 had extremely low incomes (at or below 30% of area median), the highest proportion since 2005.

38% of Black rural southerners lack home internet access.

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies conducted research on Affordability and Availability: Expanding Broadband in the Black Rural South across 152 rural counties in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The research found that 38% of rural Black southerners lack home internet access, and one in four do not have broadband options available around their homes.

Flooding risk assessed for every county.

The 3rd National Risk Assessment: Infrastructure on the Brink, published by the First Street Foundation, identifies flood risks to homes, roads, businesses, and other infrastructure. Risk is increasing significantly along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, with large increases in the Northwest and a concentration in the Appalachian Mountain region. Seventeen of the top 20 most at-risk counties in the U.S. are in Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

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: September 30, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 20

TOP STORIES

Funding for early FY22 likely to pass on Sept. 30.

Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution on September 30 to keep the government open until December 3, holding programs at their FY21 funding levels. Regular appropriations bills, including those for USDA and HUD, remain in limbo. Three other major legislative efforts are also ongoing: the increase in the U.S. debt limit; the bipartisan infrastructure bill (H.R. 3684); and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that covers social programs including housing (H.R. 5376).

Agencies extend program flexibilities.

Some federal housing programs’ pandemic-related flexibilities were set to expire on September 30 but have been extended.

Treasury begins process to reallocate unspent Emergency Rental Assistance.

The Treasury Department has released a general description of its approach to reallocating some Emergency Rental Assistance funds from states and local governments that have not spent them to others with stronger distribution records. A September 24 letter to ERA grantees says Treasury is developing detailed guidance to govern its determinations about what funds will be moved and where they will go. It promises consultation with tribes and U.S. territories before reallocating any of their funds. Distribution of ERA funds has increased every month, but a large portion of the total has not yet been spent.

National homelessness partnership launched.

HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness are inviting mayors, city and county leaders, tribal nation leaders, and governors to work with them in House America: An All-Hands-on-Deck Effort to Address the Nation’s Homelessness Crisis, using American Rescue Plan funding to address homelessness through a Housing First approach.

Comptroller of the Currency nominee announced.

President Biden has nominated Saule Omarova, a Cornell University professor, to serve as Comptroller of the Currency.

House committee supports NAHASDA reauthorization.

On September 15 the House Financial Services Committee reported out H.R. 5195, which would reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act. The bill must be passed by the full House next.

Registration for virtual National Rural Housing Conference coming soon.

HAC’s National Rural Housing Conference is scheduled to take place virtually on November 30-December 3, 2021. With an exciting and full schedule of workshops and new virtual gathering spaces, the conference offers attendees a premier opportunity to learn from experts and connect with the entire affordable housing industry. Be on the lookout for a registration announcement. We look forward to connecting with you this December!

RuralSTAT

From 2010 to 2020 the rural Hispanic population increased by roughly 1 million people, or 19.7%. Source: HAC tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Census of Population and Housing and 2020 P.L. 94-171 Redistricting Data. A Rural Research Brief on race and ethnicity is available  here.

OPPORTUNITIES

Webinar to explore improving racial equity in rural places.

Shared Prosperity: Driving Change Towards an Equitable Rural Economy, to be held October 13, will explore the positive economic and social potential that comes with improving racial equity in rural places. 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.

Recordings of recent webinars available.

The recording and materials from HAC’s September 28 webinar titled “Build Smart” Webinar Series Part 2: ‘Scaling Down’ to Address Rising Costs are now posted online. A recording of the Citizens’ Institute for Rural Design’s September 15 webinar, Models and Practices for Meaningful Community Engagement, has also been posted.

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 is a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

USDA invites nominations for new Equity Commission.

USDA is creating an Equity Commission to advise the Secretary of Agriculture by facilitating identification of critical USDA programs, policies, systems, structures, and practices that contribute to barriers to inclusion or access, systemic discrimination, or exacerbate or perpetuate racial, economic, health and social disparities. Nominations for committee membership are due October 27. For more information, contact Dewayne L. Goldmon, USDA 202-997-2100.

Guidance on HUD-VASH vouchers updated.

HUD has updated its policies and procedures for the administration of HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Section 8 vouchers. The changes add designated service providers to the definition of VA medical centers and provide new waivers and program flexibilities as well as additional general guidance. For more information, contact Ryan Jones, HUD, 202-708-0477.

Administration to tackle extreme heat danger for workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other federal agencies announced they will take steps to protect workers better in hot environments and reduce the dangers of heat exposure. These efforts will impact workers in agriculture, construction, and other sectors, as well as vulnerable populations such as children and seniors.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

The U.S. is becoming more racially diverse – and so is rural America.

Race and Ethnicity in Rural America, a new Rural Research Brief from HAC, presents an initial review of characteristics, trends, and issues related to race and ethnicity in rural America. According to the 2020 Census, 74.8% of the rural population is White non-Hispanic, compared to 57.8% for the U.S. as a whole. Hispanics (who may be of any race) comprise 10.4% of the rural population, Black residents 7.4%, and American Indians or Alaska Natives about 2%. The number of rural residents identifying as multiracial (of two or more races) increased an astounding 148% from 2010, consistent with the national trend.

Tax credit expansion aids rural children.

Children living in counties outside metro areas are more likely than metropolitan children to benefit from the recent temporary expansion of the child tax credit, according to a data analysis by the Daily Yonder. About 49% of rural children are likely to receive increased child tax credits compared to about 39% in metro areas.

Recent research covers farmworker numbers and pandemic impacts.

Climate change adaptations for housing underway in Alaska.

In the Seattle Times, Housing in Alaska Can’t Survive Climate Change. This Group is Trying a New Model reports on the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, which has built 22 prototypes incorporating Indigenous wisdom and 21st-century technologies that can withstand the state’s unpredictable climate. These homes will replace those originally imported from the Lower 48 and incompatible with the extreme weather conditions of Alaska.

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: September 16, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 19

TOP STORIES

Fiscal year 2022 will start with a continuing resolution.

Congress has not passed any of the appropriations bills to fund the government for the new fiscal year, which begins on October 1, so a continuing resolution will be needed. Its length has not yet been determined. Information about the appropriations levels proposed for USDA and HUD is posted on HAC’s site.

House bill includes over $5 billion for rural housing.

Substantial funding for USDA and HUD housing programs would be provided in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill now being developed by House committees. The full reconciliation package, which covers social services not included in Congress’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, is expected to pass the House but its fate in the Senate is uncertain.

  • On September 14 the Financial Services Committee passed its portion of the package, which includes funds for new construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of USDA-financed rental properties; Section 521 Rental Assistance; Section 502 direct loans; Section 504 repair grants, and Section 523 self-help housing. Details are posted on HAC’s site.
  • HUD’s Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) would receive an additional $50 million over 10 years.
  • The Agriculture Committee’s section of the package includes $3.87 billion over 10 years for a Rural Partnership Program to support rural development.
  • The Low Income Housing Tax Credit would get an increased allocation each year from 2022 through 2028 under the Ways and Means Committee’s section. Tax credit basis boosts would be provided for some properties, including those in rural or Native American areas. The bill would make several other changes in the program as well.

Census Bureau calculations show aid reduced poverty in 2020.

The Census Bureau’s annual report on income and poverty shows that the official poverty rate rose from 10.4% in 2019 to 11.4% in 2020, the first increase after five consecutive annual declines. When the calculation includes stimulus payments, poverty fell from 11.8% in 2019 to 9.4% in 2020. Using that measurement, poverty in places outside metro areas fell from 11.6% in 2019 to 8.3%. U.S. median household income fell from $69,560 in 2019 to $67,521 in 2020, the first statistically significant decline in median household income since 2011. For places outside metro areas, changes in median income and the official poverty measurement were not statistically significant.

OCC proposes to withdraw CRA regulation.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has issued a notice requesting comment on a proposal to withdraw its controversial 2020 Community Reinvestment Act regulation. The 2020 rule would remain in effect while the banking regulatory agencies develop a new CRA regulation, with a transition period while some aspects of the 2020 rule are replaced. Comments are due October 29. For more information, contact Emily Boyes, OCC, 202-649-5490.

Registration for virtual National Rural Housing Conference coming soon.

HAC’s National Rural Housing Conference is scheduled to take place virtually on November 30-December 3, 2021. With an exciting and full schedule of workshops and new virtual gathering spaces, the conference offers attendees a premier opportunity to learn from experts and connect with the entire affordable housing industry. Be on the lookout for a registration announcement. We look forward to connecting with you this December!

Last chance to nominate individuals or organizations for rural housing awards – deadline extended to Sept. 24!

As part of the 2021 National Rural Housing Conference, HAC will recognize individuals and/or organizations that have, through their continued work and/or newly established initiatives, made a positive and lasting impact in rural America. HAC invites nominations by September 24 of those who have made outstanding and enduring contribution to affordable housing in rural America. This year, HAC will consider each nomination on its own merits, relative to the specified contributions. More details and a list of potential categories are posted on HAC’s site. For more information, contact Miguel Guevara, HAC.

September 15 – October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month.

September is National Preparedness Month.

USDA Rural Development published a guide to RD programs and services that can help with disaster preparedness and recovery, and offers a webpage with information for RD customers.

RuralSTAT

There are nearly 20 million workers in rural America. Source: HAC tabulations of Bureau of Labor Statistics LAUS data.

OPPORTUNITIES

“Scaling down” webinar set for September 28.

HAC presents the second in a series of webinars designed to share innovative solutions for affordable housing developers dealing with escalating prices and implementing additional regulations. “Scaling Down” to Address Rising Costs will share pilot programs to reduce square footage and overall costs while increasing energy efficiency, including partnerships with Auburn University Rural Studio to design small, energy-efficient affordable homes.

Webinars offer training to help residents enroll in Child Tax Credit program.

Free webinars to inform housing and service providers who are helping residents claim the enhanced Child Tax Credit will be offered by the National Housing and Rehabilitation Association on September 24; by HUD on September 24; and by the White House and Treasury Department on September 20.

Survey asks for lessons learned since 2008.

The NHP Foundation, in collaboration with Enterprise Community Partners, invites affordable housing stakeholders to respond to a survey intended to produce a comprehensive look at what has been learned as a result of housing challenges from the Great Recession through the pandemic. The survey should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

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

Input requested on Equitable Housing Finance Plans for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency is requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to develop Equitable Housing Finance Plans that will identify and address barriers to sustainable housing opportunities, including goals and action plans to advance equity in housing finance for the next three years. Public comments are due October 25 and FHFA will hold a public listening session​ on September 28.

HUD sets requirements for American Rescue Plan Act’s HOME funds.

Notice CPD-21-10 establishes requirements for the use of HOME-ARP funds, which must primarily benefit people experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness, or in other vulnerable populations. Several waivers and alternative requirements apply. The setaside for Community Housing Development Organizations is waived, but participating jurisdictions can use up to 5% of their grants to provide capacity-building operating assistance to CHDOs and other nonprofits. HUD also published several fact sheets related to this notice.

FY22 Difficult Development Areas and Qualified Census Tracts listed.

HUD’s annual lists of designations for use in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program have been posted online. For more information, contact Michael K. Hollar, HUD, 202-402-5878.

FEMA widens disaster aid access, including for homeowners without standard titles.

Several changes to FEMA policies are intended to reduce underserved populations’ access to disaster aid. The agency broadened the list of documents that can be used to verify occupancy and ownership. It will allow disaster survivors with heirship properties, travel trailers, and the like to self-certify ownership. Also, assistance will be available for disaster-caused damages even if they did not make a home uninhabitable, and survivors who incur disaster-related disabilities will be eligible for aid to adapt their damaged homes.

Hazard mitigation regulations revised.

FEMA has revised its Hazard Mitigation Assistance and mitigation planning regulations to reflect current statutory authority and agency practice. These regulations cover the Flood Mitigation Assistance grant program, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, financial assistance for property acquisition and relocation of open space, and mitigation planning. For more information, contact Katherine Fox, FEMA, 202-646-1046.

USDA requests comments on broadband rules changes.

USDA’s Rural Utilities Service adopted regulatory changes to implement provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill relating to broadband programs, effective immediately. Comments are due November 9. For more information, contact Laurel Leverrier, RUS, 202-720-9556.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

News consortium plans to expand coverage of rural America.

The Institute for Nonprofit News hopes to uncover the most pressing issues confronting rural communities, with a focus on solutions. Over 50 INN news outlets prioritize coverage of rural communities and will form the basis of this two-year collaboration. The Daily Yonder and Investigate Midwest will serve as hubs for the project. For more information, contact INN.

USDA Community Facilities programs may have reduced pandemic’s impact.

Counties where USDA’s CF programs invested in health care facilities between 2016 and 2020 had lower COVID-19 case and death rates than other counties, regardless of rurality or poverty level, according to USDA’s Community Facilities Program May Help Rural America Cope with COVID-19, published in the magazine of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association. The impact was strongest in remote counties.

Documentaries focusing on rural environmental justice to be shown across five states.

Working Films Rural Cinema, in collaboration with five nonprofit organizations across the country, is showing a total of 20 documentaries in rural communities in Georgia, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Utah.  These organizations intend to use the showings as a way to open a discussion about environmental topics.

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).