Rural Voices: 50Years of HAC - Cover

Rural Voices: 50 Years of HAC

HAC is celebrating its 50th anniversary! That does not mean we are simply congratulating ourselves for our good work and good fortune. We are glancing fondly backward, to be sure, but mostly we are looking forward. In May 2021 we launched a three-year capital campaign with an ambitious but achievable goal: “All families in rural America have a safe, decent, affordable place to live by 2071.”

This issue of Rural Voices considers the past 50 years while focusing on the next 50. It revisits some of the many rural communities in which HAC has worked, and it features visions of the future from rural places and rural housing leaders around the country.


VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

A Half Century Legislating for a Thriving Rural America
by Senator Patrick Leahy

The Senate President Pro Tempore reflects on his time leading the Senate Appropriations Committee, making a priority of investments in housing programs, and the challenges that remain.

FEATURES

Building on Past Successes for a Bright Future
by David Lipsetz

HAC’s CEO considers what needs to be done in the next 50 years.

Vision2071: What do Rural Communities Need to Succeed?
by Mackenzie Webb

Across the diverse tapestry of rural America, dedicated housing professionals hold an equally diverse set of visions for their communities.

Building an Abundance Mindset for the Rural Future
by Brian Fogle

A Missouri nonprofit offers a new way of thinking to ensure rural growth.

Revisiting Rural Success Stories
by Mackenzie Webb

A safe, healthy, and affordable home has an immediate impact when a senior no longer has to live with mold or a family finally has a home of their own. But, many of the effects reveal themselves over the course of decades. That’s why we are revisiting success stories from the Housing Assistance Council’s 50 years of helping build rural communities. Our homes shape our lives and our communities for generations to come. Decades after they concluded, these projects in Alamosa, Colorado, and Concordia Parish, Louisiana, continue to positively impact their communities—places where HAC still works.


INFOGRAPHIC

What is Your Vision for 2071?

During the 2021 National Rural Housing Conference, we asked attendees to share their vision for Rural America in 50 years. We would like to know: What is your vision for 2071?

 

 


Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please comment on these stories by sending a tweet to #RuralVoices, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

HAC News: June 9, 2022

TOP STORIES

House committee to begin FY23 funding process.

The House Appropriations Committee has announced its schedule for considering funding bills covering the fiscal year that begins October 1. USDA appropriations will be marked up in subcommittee on June 15 and by the full committee on June 23. HUD’s mark-ups will be June 23 for the subcommittee and June 30 for the full committee.

Senators request input on USDA rural housing programs.

Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over housing programs, are asking for stakeholders’ input on USDA Rural Housing Service programs. Comments can be emailed to rural_housing@smith.senate.gov by July 8.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issue plans for equitable housing finance.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have developed Equitable Housing Finance Plans for 2022-2024, intended to help address the racial and ethnic disparities in homeownership and wealth. The plans’ activities include consumer education initiatives for renters and homeowners, credit reporting to help tenants build credit profiles, counseling services, technology use, and special purpose credit programs. The Federal Housing Finance Agency will also require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to maintain online lists of pilots and test-and-learn activities.

Administration supports building codes to improve climate resilience.

A National Initiative to Advance Building Codes aims to encourage states and territories, local governments, and tribes to adopt building codes requiring structures to resist extreme weather, and federal agencies will require federally funded housing and other buildings to meet high standards even in places without such codes. The Administration’s announcement notes the advantages of cost savings over time as well as the need to control upfront costs.

June is National Homeownership Month.

President Biden issued a proclamation and HUD’s press release notes that this is the 20th annual Homeownership Month. USDA Rural Development will honor the occasion by highlighting stories from rural, tribal, and underserved communities.

June is Pride Month.

President Biden declared June to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Pride Month. HAC celebrates the diversity that makes every community unique.

RuralSTAT

Of the $1.1 billion Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac invested in Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity in 2021, $287 million (26%) went to areas defined as rural under the Duty to Serve regulations. Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency, 2021 Mission Report: Affordable Housing Activities of the Regulated Entities.

OPPORTUNITIES

Website offers training information for Section 502 direct loan packagers.

Completion of a USDA-approved training is one prerequisite for those seeking certification as packagers to help rural Americans apply for Section 502 direct mortgage loans. The new USDA 502 Direct Training website provides one-stop access to information on packaging, the certification course, and more, from all three intermediaries that offer training – HAC, NeighborWorks America, and Rural Community Assistance Corporation. For more information, email 502Training@ruralhome.org.

Help offered for localities to access infrastructure funding.

The Local Infrastructure Hub, created by the National League of Cities, Results for America, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors with help from other national nonprofits and funders, aims to ensure that local governments can access federal infrastructure funding to improve their communities. The effort, which will launch on July 1, intends to help cities and towns of all sizes and from all regions of the country.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD requests comments on “Buy America Preference.”

The 2021 infrastructure act requires that before HUD provides funds for infrastructure projects it must take steps to ensure that all the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used are produced in the United States. HUD seeks input on topics such as what HUD-financed projects might fall under exemptions from the preference, how materials are currently sourced, and more. It also asks what HUD programs might be considered to fund infrastructure in addition to those on a previously published list that includes HOME, CDBG, and SHOP. Comments are due July 1. For more information, contact Joseph Carlile, HUD, 202-402-7082.

Final energy conservation standards set for manufactured housing.

The Department of Energy has established energy conservation standards for manufactured housing, “tiered” based on size, except that the building thermal envelope requirements for single-section manufactured homes are less stringent than those for multi-section homes. Compliance with these standards is required by May 31, 2023.  For more information, contact John Cymbalsky, DOE, 202-287-1692.

HUD expands tools to find housing counseling.

HUD has revised its online search and toll-free telephone line (1-800-569-4287) to help people find HUD-approved housing counseling agencies. HUD’s announcement explains that the online locator is available in English and Spanish and includes improved navigation, smart-phone capability, and integration with map technology, as well as contacts to national intermediaries where there are no local agencies. The phone service allows users to speak to customer service representatives and to request assistance from translators in more than 200 languages.

Treasury explains reallocation of Emergency Rental Assistance for tribes.

An addendum to earlier guidance describes how the Treasury Department will reallocate funds from the first round of the Emergency Rental Assistance program to tribal governments.

Indian Country questions in CRA proposal highlighted.

Native American-focused provisions in the recent Community Reinvestment Act proposed rule are described in CRA Modernization and Indian Country: Banking Agencies Seek Feedback on New Rulemaking Proposal, an article from the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. The post points out that the proposal asks for comment on a new definition of Native Land Areas and on bank activities’ benefits to Natives. Comments on the proposal – which also covers many other topics – are due August 5.

Flood insurance Q&As revised.

The Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Flood Insurance issued by a group of federal agencies are intended to help lenders meet their responsibilities under federal flood insurance law and to increase public understanding of the agencies’ regulations. For more information, contact Rhonda L. Daniels, OCC, 202-649-5405.

FHFA reports on affordable housing.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s 2021 Mission Report: Affordable Housing Activities of the Regulated Entities describes the activities of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks to provide greater access to financing for targeted economic development and affordable, sustainable, and equitable housing.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Homeownership builds wealth but does not narrow the racial wealth gap.

Three Reasons Why Expanding Access to Homeownership Alone Won’t Close the Racial Wealth Gap, an Urban Institute post, summarizes research explaining why other policy approaches are needed. Black- and Latinx-led renter households do not benefit from policies targeted to homeowners; homeownership’s benefits are smaller and its costs and risks larger for people of color; and promoting homeownership contributes to negative climate effects, which disproportionately impact communities of color.

GAO recommends national broadband strategy.

A Government Accountability Office study identifies over 100 federal programs administered by 15 agencies that can be used to expand broadband access in rural places. Broadband: National Strategy Needed to Guide Federal Efforts to Reduce Digital Divide makes several recommendations to coordinate these efforts.

Drought’s impact in rural West draws attention.

Stories like CNN’s California Drought is Pushing Latino Farmers and Workers to Make Difficult Decisions and As California’s Big Cities Fail to Rein in Their Water Use, Rural Communities are Already Tapped Out describe climate change’s devastating impacts on rural economies. A report titled SGMA and Underrepresented Farmers says implementation of California’s groundwater management law does not adequately protect small and underserved farmers. A June 7 Senate subcommittee hearing addressed The Western Water Crisis: Confronting Persistent Drought and Building Resilience on Our Forests and Farmland. The federal Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group released a report on one year of Biden-Harris Administration actions, such as deployment of infrastructure funding.

Illustrated story explains Black farmers’ debt.

Illustrating the News: The Battle Over Debt Relief for Black Farmers, a graphic story published by the Daily Yonder, uses images to explain the need for the American Rescue Plan Act’s debt relief program for socially disadvantaged farmers and the lawsuits that have put the effort in limbo.

HAC

Rural veterans and local nonprofits receive critical housing support.

The Home Depot Foundation and HAC announced on June 8 that the Foundation is awarding grants totaling $375,107 to 13 local nonprofits around the country to repair the homes of 65 rural veterans and their families. As part of its Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans Initiative, HAC works with the Foundation to administer these grants that bolster and support the work of rural nonprofit housing agencies to deliver critical housing support to veterans.

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HAC seeks Housing Specialist – Native American Communities, Impact Specialist, and Community Placemaking Manager.

  • The Housing Specialist – Native American Communities is responsible for providing direct technical assistance, coaching, and training to tribal communities, tribal housing departments, tribal housing authorities, and nonprofit organizations serving tribal communities. Travel is required. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Impact Specialist collects and reports impact metrics across HAC’s lines of business, assists in the preparation and review of investor and donor reports for HAC’s various sources of funding, and assists in the development and tracking of HAC’s new strategic plan. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Community Placemaking Manager helps rural residents use their unique artistic and cultural resources to guide local development and shape the future design of their communities. The manager will cultivate the capacity of partner organizations and local communities, facilitate peer-to-peer learning engagements, manage day-to-day program functions and activities, communicate program success, and prepare funding applications. Travel is required. This position is eligible for telecommuting.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

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

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

HAC News: May 26, 2022

TOP STORIES

White House releases housing supply plan.

Citing burdensome housing costs and a shortfall of available units, on May 16 the Biden-Harris Administration released a Housing Supply Action Plan that includes administrative and legislative proposals to improve existing housing finance mechanisms. It also calls on Congress to establish a Housing Supply Fund and incentivize zoning reform to accelerate the building of more housing nationwide. HAC’s statement on the plan applauds the administration for designing and including several provisions specifically with rural markets in mind.

Rural homelessness bill passes House committee.

The House Committee on Financial Services approved several bills on May 18 including the Flexibility in Addressing Rural Homelessness Act, H.R. 7196. The bill, introduced by Reps. Cindy Axne (D-IA) and Frank Lucas (R-OK), would give rural Continuums of Care more flexibility in using their funding, allowing them to pay for short-term emergency lodging, including in motels or hotels; repairs to make existing housing habitable; and capacity building.

Senate subcommittee hears Torres Small on rural housing.

On May 25, USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small appeared at a hearing titled Examining the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service, held by the Senate Banking Committee’s Housing Subcommittee. Her testimony focused on the importance of the funds and actions proposed in the administration’s budget request, including the Rural Partnership Program and support for rental preservation efforts. USDA will need $10 billion in the MPR preservation program by 2033 to preserve 137,000 units, she said; without “robust funding,” USDA will lose 333,780 of its approximately 400,000 rental units by 2050. Questions from Senators attending the hearing recognized the need for these units, the positive potential of the Section 502 Single Family Housing Direct Loan Relending Program for Native Americans, and opportunities to improve agency processes, staffing, and technology.

Vilsack appears before Senate committee.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was the only witness at a May 26 Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Opportunities and Challenges Facing Farmers, Families, and Rural Communities, which focused primarily on agriculture topics. Responding to Senators’ questions, Vilsack expressed a commitment to equity for Black and underserved stakeholders, support for immigration reform including the H-2A visa program, and intentions to hire additional Rural Development field staff if Congress appropriates the necessary funding.

Manufactured housing hearing set for May 26.

The House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee is holding a hearing May 26 on Manufactured Housing: Supporting America’s Largest Unsubsidized Affordable Housing Stock, with HAC’s Director of Research and information, Lance George, among the witnesses. His testimony explains the importance of manufactured homes as affordable housing in rural America and the challenges facing manufactured housing residents, owners, and communities. It suggests that new research is needed to inform evidence-based solutions and that Congress could help address pressing challenges by providing grants for land acquisition by resident owned cooperatives, other mission-focused nonprofits, and public sector housing agencies, as well as financing for individual homeowners.

RuralSTAT

More than half of all manufactured homes are located in rural areas around the country and manufactured homes make up 14% of all occupied homes in rural and small-town communities. Source: Housing Assistance Council tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016-2020 American Community Survey.

OPPORTUNITIES

Housing Preservation Grants available.

USDA will make Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants to nonprofits, state and local governments, and tribes for repair or rehabilitation of rental or owner-occupied housing for low- and very low-income rural residents. Preapplications are due July 11. For more information, contact a USDA Rural Development State Office.

HUD offers service coordinator funds.

Nonprofits, PHAs, tribes, Tribally Designated Housing Entities, and resident associations can apply by July 18 for Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency Service Coordinator grants to hire staff who assess the needs of public and Indian housing residents and link them to training and supportive services. For more information, contact HUD’s ROSS Program Office, 202-402-3624, ROSS-PIH@HUD.gov.

Owners of USDA-funded properties invited to host summer meals.

Rental housing and Community Facilities sites funded by USDA Rural Development can host the Summer Food Service Program operated by the Food and Nutrition Service for low-income children and teens. Local sponsoring organizations prepare the meals and deliver them. For more information, contact USDA Summer Food Service Program staff.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Census reports on accuracy of state-level data.

The Census Bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey, one of the tools used to evaluate the accuracy of the 2020 Census, estimated there were no statistically significant undercounts or overcounts of population in 36 states and D.C., undercounts in six states, and overcounts in eight. Reliable estimates are not available for demographic characteristics or geographic areas within states. In March, Census reported estimated national undercounts for renters and Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, some other race, and Hispanic or Latino populations, as well as children under age 5 and working age men. The remainder of the PES estimates, including results for housing units, and undercount and overcount rates for Puerto Rico, are expected to be released this summer.

Family Self-Sufficiency program changes implemented.

HUD has published a final rule putting 2018 legislative changes into effect for the Family Self-Sufficiency program. Revisions include expanding the definition of eligible families to include tenants of privately owned multifamily properties with Project-Based Rental Assistance. PHAs and property owners must comply with this rule by November 14. For more information related to public and Indian housing, email questions to FSS@hud.gov; related to privately owned properties, email MF_FSS@hud.gov.

Thompson confirmed as FHFA director.

On May 25, the Senate confirmed Sandra L. Thompson to serve a five-year term as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. She has been the agency’s acting director since June 2021.

Placemaking toolkit offered.

USDA and the University of Kentucky’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky have created a digital Rural America Placemaking Toolkit intended to help rural leaders build placemaking plans. It covers conducting assessments, provides examples of placemaking projects, and includes information about technical assistance providers, funders, and resources.

Guidance covers design/build and construction management for USDA Community Facilities.

Replacing earlier guidance that has expired, USDA explains the process of obtaining agency approval for use of design/build or construction management services for Community Facilities projects. While USDA allows for the contracting of such all-in-one services, when the contract exceeds $250,000 prior approval must be obtained from the National Office. For more information, contact a USDA Rural Development State Office.

USDA tenant data shows emergency aid dramatically reduced cost burden.

USDA’s annual report on the characteristics of tenants in Section 515 and 514 properties shows that in October 2021 there were 108 fewer Section 515 properties and 25 fewer farm labor housing properties than in 2020, a total reduction of 1,709 units. The average household income rose by 3.78% to $14,665. Tenant households receiving Section 521 Rental Assistance saw a 7.13% increase in income to $12,501. The number of resident households paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent fell sharply from 41,121 in 2020 to 3,227 in 2021. USDA attributed this 92% decrease to the emergency rental assistance funds made available because of the coronavirus pandemic.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Wildfire risk calculated across the U.S.

First Street Foundation has developed a model to estimate the risk of wildfire on a property-by-property basis across the U.S. now and up to 30 years in the future. Reports by the New York Times and Washington Post use First Street’s data to create interactive maps and graphics. First Street’s online Risk Factor tool also includes information about flood risk.

Local nonprofit capacity impacted distribution of pandemic rent aid.

An Uneven Housing Safety Net: Disparities in the Disbursement of Emergency Rental Assistance and the Role of Local Institutional Capacity, published by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California at Berkeley, explores county-level take-up of federal Emergency Rental Assistance funding along with data about local governmental and nonprofit capacity, preexisting economic hardship, and pandemic-related impacts on employment. Researchers found that, while ERA is reaching many eligible households, counties that had higher levels of economic distress before the pandemic and where local nonprofit networks are less resourced also had relatively lower ERA take-up rates. Many of these counties are outside metropolitan areas.

Rural data helps address persistent poverty.

Filling the Data Gap in Rural America, written by Partners for Rural Transformation and published by Forbes, highlights how HAC works to increase access to data about rural America to better address rural housing challenges and persistent poverty.

Study describes rural Missouri renters’ concerns.

The State of Missouri Tenants: Listening to Tenants in America’s Heartland and a related podcast report on interviews with rural renters around the state conducted by KCTenants in 2021. While physical housing conditions and costs were the problems mentioned most often statewide, researchers found differences based on type of housing. In privately owned apartment complexes and manufactured home parks, affordability was the biggest tenant concern. In public housing (where rents are limited based on income), housing conditions were the major problem. Tenants who were Black or other people of color reported a higher incidence of problems than those who were white.

Iowa county’s growth plan: increase Latino population.

A Rural County in Iowa That Supported Trump Turns to Latinos to Grow, a Washington Post story, describes efforts in rural Greene County, Iowa to address chronic population decline by recruiting Latino residents. The county has jobs available, is trying to address a shortage of housing, and plans to educate residents about their new neighbors.

Guide covers partnerships for rural healthcare.

A Playbook for New Rural Healthcare Partnership Models of Investments, released by the Build Healthy Places Network, is intended to assist healthcare organizations that want to pursue partnerships with local community and economic development and other sectors in rural areas to create the community conditions that support improved community health.

Preparing for weather emergencies saves lives.

10 Tips for Rural Dwellers to Prepare for Emergencies, an article from Next Avenue, provides advice for rural residents to get ready for natural disasters. In addition to stocking up on supplies, food, and equipment, the author recommends creating a communication plan for your family and networking with your community.

HAC

HAC seeks Housing Specialist and Community Placemaking Manager.

  • The Housing Specialist is based primarily 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 Placemaking Manager helps rural residents use their unique artistic and cultural resources to guide local development and shape the future design of their communities. The manager will cultivate the capacity of partner organizations and local communities, facilitate peer-to-peer learning engagements, manage day-to-day program functions and activities, communicate program success, and prepare funding applications. Travel is required. This position is telecommuting eligible.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

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

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

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2021

USDA’s annual report on the characteristics of tenants in Section 515 and 514 properties shows that in October 2021 there were 108 fewer Section 515 properties and 25 fewer farm labor housing properties than in 2020, a total reduction of 1,709 units. The average household income rose by 3.78% to $14,665. Tenant households receiving Section 521 Rental Assistance saw a 7.13% increase in income to $12,501. The number of resident households paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent fell sharply from 41,121 in 2020 to 3,227 in 2021. USDA attributed this 92% decrease to the emergency rental assistance funds made available because of the coronavirus pandemic.

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2020

USDA’s annual summary of tenant data shows that characteristics of tenants in USDA’s Section 515 rental and Section 514/516 farmworker housing properties changed very little from September 2019 to September 2020. Average annual income of Section 515 tenants rose from $13,551 in September 2019 to $13,640 in September 2020, while the average income for Section 515 tenants receiving Section 521 Rental Assistance was $11,380 in 2020. About 10.6% of all tenants in USDA’s portfolio remain rent burdened and almost 70% of tenants continue to receive rental assistance of some sort. Elders and people with disabilities comprise 65.3% of Section 515 households.

HAC News: May 12, 2022

TOP STORIES

Community Reinvestment Act proposal released.

Comments are due August 5 on a proposed new CRA rule issued jointly by the three federal agencies that regulate banks and other lenders: the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Along with many other changes, the proposed rule would revise the way CRA assessment areas are delineated. It would create new performance tests for large banks (those with assets of at least $2 billion) and intermediate banks (those with assets between $600 million and $2 billion), including a Community Development Financing Test and a Community Development Services Test. Small banks (with under $600 million in assets) would be evaluated under the current CRA performance standards unless they opted into the new Retail Lending Test. For more information, contact Heidi Thomas, OCC, 202-649-5490.

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

President Biden’s proclamation and other federal information about the observance are available online.

RuralSTAT

In March 2022 the unemployment rate outside of metropolitan areas dropped to 3.9%, continuing a general decline in the rural joblessness rate since the height of the pandemic. Source: Housing Assistance Council tabulations of Bureau of Labor Statistics LAUS Data.

OPPORTUNITIES

Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants available.

PHAs, local governments, tribal entities, and nonprofits are eligible for funds that support the development of comprehensive plans to revitalize severely distressed public housing and/or HUD-assisted housing and the surrounding neighborhood. Apply by July 28. For more information, contact HUD staff.

Webinars cover subdivision development for affordable housing.

Subdivision development is a complex undertaking that requires both a vision of what is possible and an eye for detail throughout the entire process. HAC offers a free three-part webinar series, covering the process from start to finish, the financial risks and rewards for rural housing organizations, and more. Recordings are posted online from Session 1: An Overview and Session 2:  From Project Inception Through Land Acquisition. Session 3:  From Land Acquisition to Completion will be on May 25.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Some additional non-citizens temporarily eligible for Section 502 guaranteed loans.

For one year, beginning May 2, 2022, non-citizens with valid Social Security Numbers and work authorization, as evidenced by documentation such as an Employment Authorization Document, Form I-766, are temporarily eligible for USDA Section 502 guaranteed mortgages. USDA’s announcement explains that it intends to change its regulations to make this eligibility expansion permanent. For more information, contact a USDA RD service center.

Nonprofits and others will have new opportunity to purchase some foreclosed homes.

The Federal Housing Administration has modified its Claims Without Conveyance of Title post-foreclosure sale process, through which lenders can sell foreclosed properties that were FHA-insured directly to third parties rather than conveying them to FHA. Mortgagee Letter 2022-08 creates a 30-day exclusive sales period for owner-occupants, HUD-approved nonprofits, and governmental entities to purchase foreclosed homes before investors are allowed to bid. For more information, contact the FHA Resource Center, 1-800-CALL-FHA.

Deadline extended for Emergency Solutions Grants-COVID program.

A recent notice from HUD moves the deadline for ESG-CV recipients (states, localities, and nonprofits) to spend their program allocations to September 30, 2023 instead of September 30, 2022. The notice also explains how unused funds will be reallocated. For more information, contact an ESG-CV recipient.

Updated FAQs posted for homeowner assistance and state and local recovery funds.

VA sets goal for housing veterans experiencing homelessness.

Noting that progress towards ending veteran homelessness has stalled since 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs has established a nationwide goal to house 38,000 homeless veterans during calendar year 2022. VA offers resources to support communities in achieving this target, including bi-weekly office hours calls with recordings and notes posted online, FAQs, and other information.

2022 compliance supplement for audits released.

The 2022 Compliance Supplement to OMB’s Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements applies to audits of fiscal years beginning after June 30, 2021 for nonprofits, state and local governments and tribes receiving federal funds. Comments are due July 11. For more information, contact the relevant federal agency.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Online series addresses fair housing and racial equity.

HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity has posted a series of “Table Talks” that aim to educate regarding fair housing, discuss partnership in communities, and address fair housing policies and programs.

Black farmers’ land loss estimated.

Black families’ real estate ownership peaked in the early 1900s and by 1997 they had lost about 90% of their farmland, according to a new research report. The process – and USDA’s role in it – are described in How the Government Helped White Americans Steal Black Farmland, an article in the New Republic by a team of scholars whose academic report will be published by the American Economic Association. They calculated that the current value of the lost land and income from it would be about $326 billion. “This enormous loss not only cost the families who saw their land and dreams taken from them,” they write, “but destroyed a rural Black middle class that had, by sheer will, emerged in the aftermath of slavery.”

Emergency Housing Voucher use discussed.

Using EHVs to Get People Housed: Focus Group Discussions on Challenges and Current Strategies, a report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, explores experience with these vouchers, created by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for people experiencing homelessness. Continuums of Care and PHAs have faced challenges and developed strategies that could assist other communities and policymakers.

Answers updated about coronavirus aid based on immigration status.

A new version of Frequently Asked Questions: Eligibility for Assistance Based on Immigration Status, also available in Spanish, has been released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Housing Law Project, and the National Immigration Law Center. The update adds information on the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program and reflects the Treasury Department’s guidance on Emergency Rental Assistance programs’ use of Social Security Numbers.

Resources help address structural and systemic racism in housing policy.

A new webpage offers resources on policy, research, and advocacy related to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-racism, and Systems-thinking (IDEAS) from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and its partners. For more information, contact Renee M. Willis, NLIHC.

CDBG important for community improvements, report says.

CDBG: Improving Lives and Strengthening Communities, a report by the CDBG Coalition, offers national data and local examples from rural and urban places around the country to inform stakeholders about the importance of the Community Development Block Grant program.

HAC

HAC seeks Housing Specialist and Community Placemaking Manager.

  • The Housing Specialist is based primarily 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 Placemaking Manager helps rural residents use their unique artistic and cultural resources to guide local development and shape the future design of their communities. The manager will cultivate the capacity of partner organizations and local communities, facilitate peer-to-peer learning engagements, manage day-to-day program functions and activities, communicate program success, and prepare funding applications. Travel is required. This position is telecommuting eligible.

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: April 28, 2022

HAC News: April 28, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 9

TOP STORIES

Rural Partners Network launched.

A new “whole-of-government” effort led by USDA, the Rural Partners Network is intended to help rural communities access government resources and funding to create jobs, build infrastructure, and support long-term economic stability. USDA staffer Lee Jones has been named RPN’s executive director. Field staff will be placed in rural communities, starting with selected places in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and New Mexico, as well as certain tribes in Arizona. Additional efforts in Nevada, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and tribal communities in Alaska are planned to launch by the end of August and USDA hopes to expand eventually into all states, as well as more tribes and territories. For more information, contact RPN staff.

CFPB reports on rural banking access.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which recently announced a new initiative on rural financial issues, has published Data Spotlight: Challenges in Rural Banking Access. CFPB found that rural Americans rely on physical bank branches and smaller banks, though many lack access to physical branches; rural Americans are less likely to have a credit history and more likely to use non-bank credit, resulting in rural consumers paying more for credit; and medical debt affects rural access to credit, housing, and employment.

HAC lists its appropriations priorities.

As the FY 2023 appropriations process gets underway, HAC is supporting a variety of rural and tribal housing funding priorities for capacity building, rural rental preservation, and rural and tribal homeownership.

RuralSTAT

Small family farms operated 48% of U.S. farmland in 2020, down from 52% in 2011. They accounted for only 20% of production by value in 2020, while large-scale family farms (those with $1 million or more in gross cash farm income) yielded 46% of the total value of production. Source: USDA Economic Research Service.

OPPORTUNITIES

New round of farmworker housing funding announced.

On May 16 USDA will open its third application round for off-farm new construction funding from the Section 514/516 loan and grant programs. USDA will hold a webinar on May 11 to discuss the application process and the program. Preapplications will be due July 15. For more information, contact Abby Boggs, USDA, 615-490-1371.

HAC offers rental preservation financing.

USDA recently issued a Notice of Solicitation of Applications regarding its “no cost debt deferral” through the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program for Section 515 and 514 properties that have an obligation date after 10/1/1991. USDA will defer loan payments for 20 years to free up property funds for rehabilitation and improvements. Lower debt service payments will allow properties to leverage new financing or accumulate additional reserves for larger improvements. HAC has flexible, low-cost financing available for properties seeking debt deferrals through this program. Please reach out to Kristin Blum or Alison Duncan if you need financing for your Section 515 or 514 property or have questions on preservation of these properties.

Webinars to cover subdivision development for affordable housing.

Subdivision development is a complex undertaking that requires both a vision of what is possible and an eye for detail throughout the entire process. HAC offers a three-part webinar series, covering the process from start to finish, the financial risks and rewards for rural housing organizations, and more. The webinars are free and recordings will be posted online. Session 1: An Overview was held April 27. Session 2:  From Project Inception Through Land Acquisition is scheduled for May 11. Session 3:  From Land Acquisition to Completion will be on May 25.

Rural placemaking conference announced.

USDA and the University of Kentucky will hold a Placemaking in Small & Rural Communities Online Conference on May 23-24. Presenters will address rural placemaking strategies and provide placemaking resources, including a new interactive digital toolkit.

“Rural Talks” hybrid sessions planned.

Rural LISC will present webinars, with limited in-person attendance available in Washington, DC, on three rural community development topics: Broadband and Infrastructure on May 10-11, Housing on July 13-15, and Workforce and Small Business on December 7-9.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

New USDA appointees have rural housing experience.

Tom Carew, formerly with Fahe and Frontier Housing, has been appointed USDA Rural Development State Director in Kentucky. Michele Weaver, whose background includes work with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, was named RD State Director in Utah. HAC has posted a list of all USDA RD State Directors appointed by President Biden to date. These positions do not require Senate confirmation.

VA mortgage program for Native Americans needs improvements, study says.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Native American Direct Loan program has made relatively few loans, reports the Government Accountability Office in Native American Veterans: Improvements to VA Management Could Help Increase Mortgage Loan Program Participation. In addition to steps VA has already taken to strengthen the program, GAO recommends better data collection and performance measurement, planning, and working with other VA offices, federal agencies, and local organizations with applicable experience.

Duty to Serve plans accepted.

After twice requesting revisions, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has accepted the plans submitted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for meeting their 2022-2024 Duty to Serve obligations. FHFA will review actions taken under the plans to ensure they address the needs of the three DTS underserved markets (manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation, and rural housing).

HUD to review barriers for people involved with criminal justice system.

As part of a broader federal effort to expand opportunities for formerly incarcerated persons, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge has directed program offices to identify and propose changes to regulations, guidance documents, and other policies that may pose barriers to housing for persons with criminal histories. HUD also established a web page with information on preventing homelessness among people leaving prisons and jails.

Guidance addresses fair housing in rental properties’ marketing and applications.

HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity released new guidance on how some marketing, rental application processing, and waitlist management practices can perpetuate segregation or otherwise discriminate, violating fair housing requirements for HUD-subsidized multifamily housing. The guidance is intended to help property owners understand and implement more inclusive practices.

Equity Commission to meet.

USDA’s Equity Commission and its Subcommittee for Agriculture will meet on May 10 and 11. The meetings are open to the public online. For more information, contact Cecilia Hernandez, USDA, 202-913-5907.

Income limits revised.

The annual limits, which determine eligibility for several HUD programs, are effective April 18.

USDA explains which guaranteed loans can use oneRD provisions.

USDA Rural Development has confirmed its regulations for the oneRD Guarantee Loan Program are final as published in December. OneRD provides a standard set of requirements, processes and forms for lenders using the Community Facilities, Water and Waste Disposal, Business and Industry, and Rural Energy for America loan guarantee programs. Some provisions can be used for applications pending review, conditional commitments, and loans made under OneRD since October 1, 2020. For more information, contact Lauren Cusick, USDA, 202-720-1414.

Review notes flaws in USDA decision to move agencies.

A new Government Accountability Office report, Evidence-Based Policy Making: USDA’s Decision to Relocate Research Agencies to Kansas City Was Not Fully Consistent with an Evidence-Based Approach, considers USDA’s 2019 decision to move most Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture jobs from Washington, DC to Kansas City. GAO concludes that “USDA overlooked key evidence, e.g., it didn’t factor in potential costs related to the attrition of staff or the disruption of agencies’ activities due to the relocation. As a result, USDA cannot be sure it made the best choice to meet its objectives.” USDA confirmed last year that it will not disrupt the agencies again by moving them back to Washington, DC.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

U.S. needs 7 million more homes for lowest-income renters.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual publication, The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, reports there are shortages in every state. Nationwide, only 36 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households (those with incomes below poverty or below 30% of their area median income, whichever is greater). The report concludes that both short- and long-term policy interventions are needed to address the immediate housing impacts of the pandemic and the underlying shortage of affordable housing.

Survey shows risky home financing used by millions.

Briefs from the Pew Charitable Trusts review existing research and report the results of a Pew survey to explore U.S. homebuyers’ use of nonstandard financing such as land contracts, seller-financed mortgages, lease-purchase agreements, and personal property loans. Usage varies by race/ethnicity: 34% of Hispanic borrowers have used alternative financing at some point, as have 23% of non-Hispanic Black borrowers and 19% of non-Hispanic white borrowers. Pew’s analysis notes some of the factors that lead residents of high-poverty rural areas to use alternative financing, including low incomes, the difficulty of mortgaging trust land, the lack of standard mortgage options for low purchase prices, and manufactured homes’ legal status in some places as personal property.

HAC

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

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

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

HAC News: April 14, 2022

HAC News: April 14, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 8

TOP STORIES

Nominations open for Rural Community Economic Development Subcommittee, other advisory bodies.

  • USDA Equity Commission: The commission requests nominations by May 6 for its new Rural Community Economic Development Subcommittee, which will be charged with providing recommendations to the department on issues and concerns related to rural development, persistent poverty, and underserved communities. For more information, contact Cecilia Hernandez, USDA, 202-913-5907.
  • Treasury Department: The Treasury Advisory Committee on Racial Equity will provide information, advice and recommendations relating to the advancement of racial equity. Nominations are due April 25. For more information, contact Janis Bowdler, Treasury, 202-622-3002.
  • Government Accountability Office: Nominations are due May 20 for GAO’s first standing Tribal Advisory Council, which will advise GAO on issues affecting tribes and Indigenous peoples relevant to the agency’s work evaluating federal programs serving tribes and related topics. For more information, contact Paige Gilbreath, GAO, 214-777-5724.

Majority of persistently poor counties are rural and have had high poverty for many decades.

The Persistence of Poverty in Rural America, a new Rural Research Brief from HAC, estimates that in 2020 there were 377 U.S. counties and county equivalents where poverty rates remained at 20% or more for three consecutive decades. For the first time, HAC also calculated persistent poverty status for Puerto Rico; including that territory, there are a total of 455 Persistent Poverty Counties. Approximately 78% of Persistent Poverty Counties in 2020 have been in this status consistently since 1980.

RuralSTAT

All 78 of Puerto Rico’s municipios (county equivalents) were classified as having persistent poverty status in 2020. Source: HAC tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016-2020 American Community Survey, the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, and the 2000 Decennial Census of Population and Housing.

 

OPPORTUNITIES

HAC offers rental preservation financing.

USDA recently issued a Notice of Solicitation of Applications regarding its “no cost debt deferral” through the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program for Section 515 and 514 properties that have an obligation date after 10/1/1991. USDA will defer loan payments for 20 years to free up property funds for rehabilitation and improvements. Lower debt service payments will allow properties to leverage new financing or accumulate additional reserves for larger improvements. HAC has flexible, low-cost financing available for properties seeking debt deferrals through this program. Please reach out to Kristin Blum or Alison Duncan if you need financing for your Section 515 or 514 property or have questions on preservation of these properties.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Departments issue equity action plans.

On April 13 the White House announced that more than 90 federal agencies were releasing equity action plans. The plans generally acknowledge the particular barriers faced by rural places and tribal entities. USDA’s plan asserts the department’s intentions to “establish a place-based model to deliver federal rural development resources” and to prioritize RD projects that assist in recovering from the pandemic, ensure equitable access, and reduce climate impacts and increase resilience. One section of the plan specifically addresses tribal access to USDA programs. HUD’s plan focuses on four topics: widening the entities it funds, fair housing, homeownership, and homelessness. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness developed its own plan as well. The Treasury Department’s document summarizes actions taken and plans for the future in its various pandemic relief programs, which include Emergency Rental Assistance, the Homeowner Assistance Fund, and the Child Tax Credit. The Department of Commerce expects to work towards closing the digital divide, particularly for rural and tribal communities.

Rural infrastructure information released.

The White House released a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Rural Playbook and launched a tour for administration officials, including Cabinet secretaries, “to engage rural communities throughout the country.” The playbook describes efforts funded by the law – which focused on traditional infrastructure and did not include housing – and provides links to government sites for more information. An accompanying USDA factsheet emphasizes broadband and climate resilience.

Some foreclosures suspended while homeowners seek aid.

Companies that service mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be required to suspend foreclosure activities for up to 60 days if the servicer has been notified that a borrower has applied for assistance under the Homeowner Assistance Fund, which is run through state, local, and tribal governments. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer online lookup tools to determine whether one of them owns the mortgage on a property. For more information, contact the bank or company where mortgage payments are made. For information on USDA direct Section 502 loans, which are not owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, contact USDA’s Customer Servicing Center, 1-800-414-1226.

Treasury to reallocate more Emergency Rental Assistance funds.

The Treasury Department has issued its reallocation guidance for the second Emergency Rental Assistance program (ERA2), along with updated ERA1 guidelines and data on aid distributed through the end of February. Because Treasury expects relatively few ERA2 funds will be available for reallocation, it encourages state, local, and tribal governments to use other sources, including their State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, to assist more renters.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Rural housing voucher use fell, homeowner repair grants not fully used in FY21.

HAC’s Fiscal Year 2021 USDA Rural Development Housing Activity Report shows that in FY21 USDA obligated about $1.0 billion for 5,355 Section 502 direct loans, with just over 36% of the obligated funds going to very low-income borrowers. The Section 502 guaranteed loan program covered 137,970 mortgages. Section 504 repair loans for homeowners were underutilized, as is usually the case, but Section 504 grants, fully used in most years, left more than $5 million unobligated in FY21. Multifamily housing financing included 96 Section 538 loan guarantees totaling nearly $230.0 million, 47 Section 515 direct rental housing loans totaling $38.3 million to repair or rehabilitate 1,343 units, and two loans and one grant from the Section 514/516 farm labor housing program. Section 521 Rental Assistance funded 284,194 units totaling $1.5 billion. For the first time, the number of Section 542 housing vouchers fell, dropping from 7,489 in FY20 to 7,261 in FY21.

Tribal housing aid finder launched online.

The Tribal Housing Assistance Resource Hub, created by the National American Indian Housing Council, is intended to enable American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian homeowners, individuals, and families, to find mortgage, utilities, and rental assistance services. It covers two federal programs administered by state and tribal governments – the Homeowner Assistance Fund and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program – as well as services offered by tribal housing programs, such as home loan assistance, homebuyer education, elder and veteran housing, and others.

Redlining Toolkit addresses fair and equitable access to credit.

A new publication from the National Fair Housing Alliance is intended to help understand the public data relating to redlining risk in order to take action and promote racial equity. It includes information about the history and legal framework for redlining, provides tools to identify specific lenders with high redlining risk, and offers guidance for taking action when a lender shows high redlining risk in a community of color.

Report looks at lessons learned for designing rent aid.

Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) During the Pandemic: Implications for the Design of Permanent ERA Programs, released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Housing Initiative at Penn, discusses the findings from a survey of 100 administrators of the Emergency Rental Assistance program during the pandemic. Lessons in the report include the need for permanent emergency rental assistance programs and flexibility in requirements for applications.

Water contaminants mapped at county level.

A Drinking Water Dashboard compiled by Columbia University offers an interactive map and links to datasets showing contaminant exposure estimates in community water systems across the U.S. It accompanies a study titled Sociodemographic Inequalities in Uranium and Other Metals in Community Water Systems Across the USA, 2006-11: A Cross-Sectional Study.

Child Tax Credit payments used for essentials, including housing.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey and found that from July through December 2021 the most common reported uses of monthly Child Tax Credit payments were for basic needs, including food (65%), utilities and telecommunications (40%), rent and mortgage (39%) and clothing (34%). The Pulse Survey does not break down data by geography below the state level, but previous analyses found that families living outside metro areas were more likely than those in metro areas to benefit from the tax credit.

Rural leaders talk policy for 2071.

A new post on HAC’s Vision 2071 site reports on eight experts’ visions for how federal housing policy could solve the toughest challenges facing rural America. In Policy 2071: How Do We Help Rural America Thrive?, they put forward approaches that incorporate strategy, funding, and flexibility that deepen local capacity, lift up the natural advantages found in rural places, and result in a coordinated set of federal policies designed purposefully for small towns and rural regions.

HAC

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

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

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

The Persistence of Poverty in Rural America

Persistently poor counties are classified as having poverty rates of 20 percent or more for three consecutive decades. Using this metric, the Housing Assistance Council estimates there were 377 persistently poor counties in 2020 using data from the Census Bureau’s recently released 2016-2020 American Community Survey, the 2006-2010 American Community Survey and the 2000 Decennial Census of Population and Housing.

Download Research Brief (PDF)

Fiscal Year 2021 USDA Rural Development Housing Activity Report - Cover

Fiscal Year 2021 USDA Rural Development Housing Activity Report

Since the 1950s, USDA has provided financial assistance for the construction, repair, and affordability of millions of homes for low- and moderate-income rural Americans. USDA accomplishes this activity through its Rural Development (RD) agency. In FY 2021, USDA obligated 139,221 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $24.2 billion. Since the first USDA housing loan was made (around 1950), the agency has funded the construction, purchase, or repair of over 5.5 million rural housing units representing $384.1 billion.

Beginning in 1978, USDA also provided funding for rental assistance to help tenants better afford to rent housing in agency-financed multi-family housing units. In FY 2021, USDA obligated 291,455 annual units of tenant assistance representing about $1.54 billion through the combined total of the Section 521 Rental Assistance and the Section 542 Rural Housing Voucher programs. Since the late 1970s, USDA has funded over $28.8 billion for rental assistance and tenant vouchers representing nearly 4.4 million annual units.

Download the document.

USDA Housing Activity Report - Fiscal Year 2021