HAC News: March 31, 2022

HAC News: March 31, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 7

TOP STORIES

Budget proposes to increase nationwide housing production and rural rental preservation.

The Biden Administration’s budget for fiscal year 2023 proposes to boost housing production in almost every USDA rural housing program and many HUD programs.

  • USDA direct lending for both homeownership and rental housing would increase, as would guaranteed loans for rental housing, home repair loans and grants, and rental preservation resources. Preservation funding through the Section 515 program would jump from $50 million in FY22 to $200 million under the budget, and the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program would almost double from $34 million to $75 million.
  • USDA proposes a multi-pronged approach to support tenants in rental properties where USDA mortgages are ending. It would decouple Section 521 Rental Assistance from Section 515 and 514 mortgages, so that some tenants could continue to receive RA after mortgage maturity. Tenants in other properties leaving USDA’s programs would receive Tenant Protection Vouchers from HUD, while those who currently have USDA Section 542 vouchers would be eligible to renew them.
  • A new Housing Supply Fund would be created at HUD to provide $25 billion in mandatory grants to states, localities, tribes, and partners for housing production, with another $10 million for removal of state and local barriers to production. Also contributing to housing supply increases would be $10 billion in the Treasury Department’s budget for additional Low Income Housing Tax Credits and a new $5 billion for CDFIs to finance production and preservation of housing, with an emphasis on underserved areas and small properties.
  • HOME, CDBG, homeless assistance, Section 202 for seniors, Section 811 for persons with disabilities, and housing vouchers would also receive increases. Native American housing would see a slight drop from $1.002 billion to $1 billion, but tribes would be eligible for the new Housing Supply Fund.
  • USDA, HUD, and Treasury all emphasize the importance of energy efficiency and climate resiliency.
  • More details are posted on HAC’s website for USDA and HUD programs, as well as materials and a recording from HAC’s budget webinar held on March 30.

April is Fair Housing Month.

Fair housing information is available on HUD’s website.

HAC receives gift from MacKenzie Scott.

HAC is pleased to announce a $7,000,000 gift from MacKenzie Scott, the largest private gift in HAC’s 50-year history. HAC will leverage this funding to establish and grow local organizations that build affordable housing in the nation’s poorest and most rural places. This gift ensures that more people and more communities will enjoy the benefits of American prosperity.

RuralSTAT

USDA’s Section 502 direct loan program provided over 5,350 mortgages to low- and very low-income homebuyers in fiscal year 2021, and the increased funding proposed for FY23 would support around 7,800 mortgages. Source: 2023 USDA Budget Explanatory Notes – Rural Housing Service.

OPPORTUNITIES

Rural places prioritized for Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program funding.

Nonprofits, tribes or tribally designated housing entities, and state or local governments collaborating with Continuums of Care can apply by June 28 for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, designed to address systemic responses to youth homelessness and significantly reduce the number of youth experiencing homelessness. HUD will select up to 25 communities, with a priority for communities with substantial rural populations in up to eight locations. For more information, contact Caroline Crouse, HUD, 612-843-6451.

Farm labor housing repair deadlines corrected.

Preapplications are due May 9 rather than April 2 for funding to repair USDA off-farm Section 514/516 farmworker housing. Funds can be used either for substantial rehabilitation or for limited improvements, repairs, or modifications such as accessibility compliance and health and safety issues. USDA will hold a workshop for potential applicants on April 13. For more information, contact Jonathan Bell, USDA, 254-742-9764.

HUD seeks nominations for tribal advisory committee.

HUD requests nominations by May 31 of elected or appointed tribal leaders to represent federally recognized tribal governments and Alaska Native Corporations on an Intergovernmental Tribal Advisory Committee. The committee will supplement, not replace, existing tribal consultation processes. For more information, contact Heidi J. Frechette, HUD, 202-401-7914.

Webinar to cover broadband for affordable rural housing.

Affordable Housing & Affordable Broadband: A Conversation with Rural LISC and CTC Energy & Technology, scheduled for April 13, will address the steps affordable housing owners, operators, lenders, and other stakeholders in rural places can take to ensure competitive, accessible broadband at their properties. This is the first in a planned series of rural housing webinars from Rural LISC.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Appraisal equity plan released.

The Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity, charged with identifying ways to address racial and ethnic bias in home valuations, released its action plan on March 23. The 13 participating federal agencies, including USDA and HUD, have committed to make the appraisal industry more accountable, empower consumers, prevent algorithmic bias in home valuation, cultivate an appraiser profession that is well-trained and looks like the communities it serves, and use data and expertise to inform policy, practice, and research on appraisal bias.

Treasury publishes updates to Emergency Rental Assistance guidance, spending data, and reallocation processes.

Recently updated guidance tells the state and local entities distributing ERA funds that federal privacy laws do not permit asking applicants to provide Social Security Numbers. Reallocation of unspent ERA2 funds is covered in another guidance document and information about ERA1 reallocation is updated. Finally, Treasury reports that state and local ERA grantees have made over 4.7 million payments to households and spent or obligated approximately $30 billion of the program’s total $46 billion. Treasury expects the vast majority of the remaining funds to be deployed to households or paid to grantees by the middle of 2022.

FEMA to cover some coronavirus costs through July 1.

FEMA will continue to cover the full cost of some coronavirus-related expenditures, including the costs of non-congregate shelters, through July 1, 2022.

Comments requested on updating Davis-Bacon Act regulations.

The Department of Labor is undertaking its first comprehensive review in almost 40 years of the regulations that implement the Davis-Bacon Act and related laws, requiring employers on federally funded or assisted construction projects to pay locally prevailing wages to construction workers. Comments are due May 17. For more information, contact Amy DeBisschop, DOL, 202-693-0406.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Alternative measurement of housing affordability identifies high cost burden rate for renters.

Cost burden is usually calculated by determining whether a household spends more than 30% of income on housing, but researchers at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies calculated housing cost burdens for renters based on residual income – the amount available for other needs after paying housing expenses. “The Rent Eats First”: Rental Housing Unaffordability in the United States, published in Housing Policy Debate, reports that in their sample nearly all households with incomes under $30,000 did not have enough residual income. They found that a combined policy that addresses both housing and transportation affordability would have the largest impact on reducing residual-income cost burdens.

Updated overviews of housing programs published.

Rural hospital closures disproportionately affecting minority populations.

A study by the University of North Carolina Rural Research Program found that hospital closures between 2010 and 2020 were more likely to occur in rural counties that had higher share of Black and Hispanic residents, were more urbanized, and were more likely to be located in the southern U.S. compared to previous decades. These counties were also more likely to have higher income inequality than the median rural county.

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: March 17, 2022

HAC News: March 17, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 6

TOP STORIES

Final appropriations set for FY22.

An omnibus appropriations act establishes federal funding levels for fiscal year 2022, which ends on September 30, 2022.

  • Several USDA rural housing programs receive modest funding increases rather than the significant boosts for rental housing that were included in House and/or Senate versions. The bill expands eligibility for Section 542 vouchers, allows rental property owners to request 20-year Rental Assistance contracts, and continues to require that at least 10% of most USDA Rural Development programs, including most housing programs, be set aside for persistent poverty counties where the poverty rate has been at least 20% for 30 years. For more details, see HAC’s site.
  • Many HUD programs will receive more funding in fiscal year 2022 than in 2021, although the final figures generally fall below the highest increases proposed by the Biden administration, the House, or the Senate. The SHOP program was increased from $10 million in FY21 to $12.5 million – the first increase in the program since FY15. The spending agreement also encourages HUD to consider increasing SHOP’s current $15,000 per-unit cap. The measure includes funds for 25,000 new rental vouchers. For more details, see HAC’s site.

Census continues trends of undercounting some populations.

While there was not a statistically significant overcount or undercount for the total U.S. population, the Census Bureau recently announced that an analysis of the 2020 decennial census estimated national undercounts for renters and Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, some other race, and Hispanic or Latino populations. A second study identified undercounts of young children under age 5 and working age men. Additional estimates of coverage will be released later this year, including estimates on housing units as well as for race and Hispanic origin.

RuralSTAT

There are approximately 15 million ‘Baby Boomers’ in rural America making them one of the largest age groups in many rural communities. But rural America is not a monolith and there are important dynamics in all rural age strata. For more information on Age and Aging in Rural America visit HAC’s website. Source: HAC tabulations of the Census Bureau’s 2014-2018 American Community Survey.

OPPORTUNITIES

USDA offers loan deferrals for rental preservation.

Owners or purchasers of rental properties with USDA Section 515 or 514 loans can apply by May 16 for 20-year payment deferrals, with the cash flow to be used for revitalization and preservation of the properties. This notice does not offer other forms of preservation assistance and no additional Section 521 Rental Assistance is available. Preregister here for an April 5 USDA workshop on this opportunity. For more information, contact Fallan Faulkner, USDA, 615-812-0050.

USDA-financed farmworker housing eligible for repair funding.

Section 514 loans and Section 516 grants are available for repair of off-farm labor housing with current Section 514/516 funding. Funds can be used either for substantial rehabilitation or for limited improvements, repairs, or modifications such as accessibility compliance and health and safety issues. USDA will hold a workshop for potential applicants on April 13. Pre-applications are due April 25. For more information, contact Jonathan Bell, USDA, 254-742-9764.

HAC schedules webinar on healthy homes innovations.

Building Smart and Building Healthy, to be held March 23, is the third in a series designed to share innovative solutions for affordable housing developers dealing with escalating prices and implementing additional regulations. This session will explore innovations in building/repairing healthy homes and their impact on inhabitants and their communities. For more information, contact HAC staff.

Placemaking resources to be launched.

Under a new cooperative agreement with USDA, the University of Kentucky will offer a digital toolkit to connect local leaders with technical assistance providers, funding organizations, planning guides, and other placemaking resources. USDA’s announcement describes placemaking as a collaborative planning and technical assistance process that helps rural community leaders develop plans to create quality places where people will want to live, work, visit, learn and explore. A virtual workshop is planned for May 23 and 24. For more information, sign up to receive updates from USDA. The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with HAC, offers additional rural placemaking and rural design resources.

FY23 budget to be released this month.

The Biden administration is expected to publish its funding request for fiscal year 2023 before the end of March. HAC will post an analysis of the budget and will hold a webinar, to be scheduled when the budget is released.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Violence Against Women Act expanded.

The FY22 omnibus appropriations bill includes provisions reauthorizing and expanding the Violence Against Women Act. The law, which – among numerous other provisions – protects tenants in federally subsidized rentals, previously applied to rental properties with direct or guaranteed financing from USDA, Low Income Housing Tax Credit developments, and most HUD-financed rentals. The new provisions make it applicable also to USDA’s Section 542 voucher program, the Housing Trust Fund, and housing programs for homeless veterans.

CFPB initiative to consider rural financial issues.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has launched a new initiative on financial issues facing rural America, focusing initially on rural banking deserts, discriminatory and predatory agricultural credit, and manufactured housing. Rural residents are invited to share their stories on these and other issues through a link in CFPB’s blog post.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Racial wealth gap solutions examined.

A recent series of articles published by Shelterforce attempts to “widen the lens on the racial wealth gap and what needs to be done about it.” The series, titled The Racial Wealth Gap – Moving to Systemic Solutions, argues that homeownership, business ownership, and higher education are all important, but “we must go beyond simply promoting more of each.” Articles include Wealth Building Won’t Work While Wealth Extraction Continues, Increased Homeownership Won’t Close the Racial Wealth Gap, Blaming Redlining Is Too Easy, Credit Where Credit Is Due: Expanding Access to Capital for BIPOC Developers, and more.

Both policy and technology can help address appraisal bias.

Reducing Bias in Home Appraisals: The Roles for Policy and Technology, a blog post from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, explores appraisal bias’s impact on wealth creation in communities of color and how certain changes could reduce bias. The authors conclude that long-term change requires a combination of private sector technology innovations and policy changes related to identification of comparable properties, standardized approaches, and division of the appraisal process among individuals.

Local investments yield big changes.

Residents of Albion, a small Nebraska town, have come together to raise funds for a child care center, agriculture and education center, nursing home improvements, and more. Raising such funds is a significant challenge for many rural communities, but it has become easier over time in Albion because the town has many visible successes. An article in the Flatwater Free Press titled Albion, Investing in Itself, Shows How Small Towns Can Thrive notes that the area’s shortage of affordable housing remains on the list of issues to be addressed.

Newsletter for tenants focuses on Emergency Rental Assistance.

A new issue of Tenant Talk, subtitled Emergency Rental Assistance at All Angles, centers on the Emergency Rental Assistance program’s impact for tenants navigating the economic challenges of the pandemic. This National Low Income Housing Coalition newsletter is free online or by mail.

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).

USDA Rural Development Housing Funding Activity: Fiscal Year 2020 Year-End Report

HAC presents an overview of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 USDA Rural Housing program obligation activity in this publication, USDA Rural Development Housing Funding Activity: Fiscal Year 2020 Year-End 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 2020, USDA obligated 151,876 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $24.5 billion. Since the first USDA housing loan was made (around 1950), the agency has funded the construction, purchase, or repair of nearly 5.4 million rural housing units representing $360.1 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 2020, USDA obligated 248,697 annual units of tenant assistance representing about $1.41 billion through the combined total of the Section 521 Rental Assistance and the Section 542 Rural Housing Voucher programs. Since the late 1970s, USDA funded nearly $27.3 billion for rental assistance and tenant vouchers representing nearly 4.1 million annual units.

USDA Program Obligation Final Report - FY 2020
USDA Rural Development Obligations Cover

USDA Rural Development Obligations FY 22- February

USDA Rural Development Obligations Report Cover - FY 2021

As of the end of February, USDA obligated 39,285 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $7.0 billion. This is $3.3 billion less than obligation levels from this time last year. At that time, there were 60,232 loans, loan guarantees, and grants obligated totaling $10.3 billion.

The agency has been operating under a series of continuing resolutions since the beginning of the fiscal year.

Single Family Housing Program Highlights

The Section 502 Guaranteed loan program, the largest of the Single Family Housing programs, obligated $6.6 billion (35,862 loan guarantees) compared to $9.9 billion (56,221 loan guarantees) last year.

For the Section 502 Direct program, loan obligations totaled $324.5 million (1,678 loans), compared to last year’s obligation level of $356.8 million (1,965 loans.) About 27 percent of the loan dollars went to Very Low-income (VLI) applicants. VLI loans represented nearly 32 percent of the total number of Section 502 Direct loans.

The Section 504 Repair and Rehabilitation programs obligated 638 loans representing $4.1 million. Loan volume was up from this time last year (750 loans representing $4.3 million.) There were also about $7.0 million (1,052 grants) obligated in the Section 504 grant program compared to $7.9 million (1,245 grants) last year.

USDA’s Section 523 Self Help Housing Grant program funded 8 grants totaling $10.8 million compared to last year’s 6 grants totaling $3.7 million.

Multi-Family Housing Program Highlights

USDA’s Section 538 Multifamily Housing obligated 29 loan guarantees totaling $76.7 million compared to last year’s 35 loan guarantees ($68.4 million.) The Farm Labor Housing programs funded 4 loans and 1 grant totaling $5,120,000 and $4,000,000 respectively. There were no Farm Labor Housing loans or grants at this time last year. There have been no other loan or grant obligations so far this year

USDA obligated funds for 40,063 rental assistance units under the Section 521 Rental Assistance program totaling $238.7 million. This compares to about 38,592 units ($219.6 million) obligated same time last year. There were also 2,898 Rural Housing Vouchers totaling $14.1 million compared to 1,939 vouchers representing $9.6 million this time last year.

Download the combined document.

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

HAC News: March 3, 2022

HAC News: March 3, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 5

TOP STORIES

Federal funding deadline now March 11.

Assistance for Ukraine has complicated Congress’s efforts to adopt an omnibus measure to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2022 before the current continuing resolution expires on March 11. Contents of an omnibus bill have not yet been released. Last year the House and Senate considered differing proposals for USDA and HUD programs. The FY23 funding process will begin soon as well, with the Biden administration’s budget proposal expected to be released sometime in March.

New public charge regulation proposed.

A noncitizen can be denied legal resident status in the U.S. if they are deemed likely to become a “public charge.” (Some categories of immigrants, such as refugees, are exempt from the regulation.) In 2021 the Biden administration cancelled a Trump administration public charge rule, and it is now proposing its own, which would narrow the types of government assistance that could be used to indicate someone may be likely to become a public charge. Comments are due April 25. For more information, contact Andrew Parker, USCIS, 240-721-3000.

Rural rental housing loss projections updated.

New HAC projections show that Section 515 rural rental properties will leave USDA’s Section 515 portfolio because of maturing mortgages slightly more slowly than previously predicted, though mortgage maturation is only one of the reasons these properties can be lost as affordable housing. A HAC Rural Research Brief, Rural America is Losing Affordable Rental Housing at an Alarming Rate, reports that from 2016 through mid-2021 far more properties left the program for reasons unrelated to mortgage maturity.

HAC names Jonathan Harwitz Director of Policy.

As HAC’s new Director of Policy, Jonathan Harwitz will spearhead and expand HAC’s place as the national source for independent, non-partisan policy solutions for rural housing and community development. He was most recently the Director of Housing Community Development and Insurance Policy for the House Financial Services Committee. He has also held policy-related positions at the Low Income Investment Fund, a large national CDFI; HUD; and the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

March is Women’s History Month.

 

RuralSTAT

From April 2016 to July 2021, only 199 Section 515 properties exited USDA’s portfolio because of mortgage maturity and 723 others left the program before their final mortgage payments were due. Source: HAC tabulations of USDA data.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Housing programs to receive record amount from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

This year the Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund will receive a record high total of $1.138 billion for affordable housing initiatives from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced recently.

USDA sets rule on rental housing management and Rental Assistance use.

USDA has adopted a final rule with some changes from the proposed rule published in September 2020 regarding management of rental housing assets and agency flexibility in the use of Section 521 Rental Assistance. For more information, contact Jennifer Larson, USDA, 202-720-1615.

FEMA adopts new hazard mitigation grant program.

States, territories, tribes, and local governments will be eligible for grants under the new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Policy. This new hazard mitigation program supersedes the Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program and will be funded by a 6% setaside of estimated disaster expenses for major disasters each year. FEMA will announce the availability of funding. For more information, contact Ryan Janda, FEMA, 202-646-2659.

Multifamily housing included in carbon reduction challenge.

The Department of Energy, HUD, and private businesses and organizations nationwide have launched the Better Climate Challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Partners commit to a 50% portfolio-wide reduction in carbon emissions over 10 years. Multifamily housing is one of several building sectors participating; in that sector, any organization with a portfolio of at least two multifamily buildings and 250 units can join the challenge. Request more information on the Department of Energy’s website.

Fees reduced for USDA rental housing guaranteed loans.

USDA is dropping its fees for Section 538 guaranteed loans. The greatest fee reductions will be provided for energy-efficient substantial rehabilitation, preservation of existing USDA-financed rental housing, and workforce housing. For more information, contact Tammy Daniels, USDA, 202-720-0021.

More USDA Rural Development State Directors appointed.

The most recent announcement names State Directors for Alaska, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts/Connecticut/Rhode Island, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. HAC has posted a list of all USDA RD State Directors appointed by President Biden to date. These positions do not require Senate confirmation.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Over 4,000 bank branches closed during pandemic.

A new report from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition shows that in the 20 months beginning with March 2020, banks closed about twice as many branches as they had in the 20 months prior. The Great Consolidation of Banks and Acceleration of Branch Closures Across the Country: Branch Closure Rate Doubled During the Pandemic includes data on shutdowns in metropolitan areas and in the parts of states outside metro areas.

Almost two-thirds of 2021 Emergency Rental Assistance recipients had extremely low incomes.

Treasury Department data on use of Emergency Rental Assistance funds by states, localities, and tribes shows that spending slowed from November to December. Demographic data for 2021 indicates that nearly two-thirds of the more than 3.2 million participating households had extremely low incomes (below 30% of area median income). The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s analysis of the data is available online.

Tribal housing assistance finder launched.

The Tribal Housing Assistance Resource Hub, provided by the National American Indian Housing Council in partnership with Wells Fargo, lists mortgage, utilities, and rental assistance services offered by state and tribal programs through the federal Homeowner Assistance Fund and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. It also shows housing services available from tribal housing programs, such as home loan assistance, homebuyer education, elder and veteran housing, and other services.

State funding and modular homes bring more affordable housing to Colorado.

The Colorado Sun reports that Kit Carson in the state’s Eastern Plains, with a population of 250, has 135 homes, 34 of which are vacant and likely uninhabitable due to asbestos. Kit Carson Rural Development incorporated bank loans and grants from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and partnered with Fading West Development to build five homes for residents with lower incomes.

Social cohesion and health outcomes better for rural seniors “aging in place.”

Research from the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center finds that rural seniors who have the opportunity to “age in place,” described as remaining in their current homes, have increased social cohesion, connection to community, and better health outcomes for both the residents and the overall community. In a policy brief, researchers report that providing the resources and infrastructure necessary to allow seniors to keep their homes and age in place helps the residents and their communities.

Rural development stakeholders see housing among key issues.

A nationwide survey conducted by the Regional Rural Development Centers identified issues associated with physical infrastructure/public services (including housing) and economic development as the most pressing priorities for rural development in the next five years. Investing in Rural Recovery: Findings from a Rapid Assessment of Stakeholder Priorities for Rural Development suggests that “the greatest potential for impact by investment in these areas is likely that which builds capacity on the issues of broadband internet, housing, energy, rural innovation and entrepreneurship, and tourism and recreation. Also notable are potential investments in issues related to economic development but focused on diversity, such as entrepreneurship promotion among socially disadvantaged groups and promoting equitable and inclusive economic growth.”

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).

An Update on Maturing Mortgages in USDA’s Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Program

Rural America is Losing Affordable Rental Housing at an Alarming Rate

USDA’s Section 515 Rural Rental Housing properties are an important resource for many rural households and communities. But the availability of these homes is declining. In 2016, USDA presented estimates of the date when properties would leave their portfolio and potentially lose affordability and some renter protections. HAC examined changes in USDA’s Section 515 portfolio during the past five-year period. The analysis identified 921 Section 515 properties that left the portfolio between 2016 and July 2021 – nearly three times the original USDA projection for maturing mortgages during the five-year period. The ramifications of this accelerated loss of affordable rural rental housing are important as the number of properties expected to leave USDA’s portfolio will grow exponentially in the coming decades.

Download Research Brief (PDF)

Appendix 1: List of properties that have left the program.

 

HAC News: February 17, 2022

HAC News: February 17, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 4

TOP STORY

House passes funding extension, Senate action pending.

On February 8 the House adopted another continuing resolution to extend federal funding at fiscal year 2021 levels through March 11. The Senate is expected to approve the measure before the current CR expires at midnight on February 18. Congress hopes to use the added time to negotiate final appropriations for FY22, which began on October 1, 2021.

RuralSTAT

From 2020 to 2021, the number of sheltered people experiencing homelessness declined by 8% nationwide and by 6.5% in rural places. Source: HUD, 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, Part I.

OPPORTUNITIES

Financial and technical assistance offered for CDFIs and Native CDFIs.

The CDFI Fund’s CDFI Program will make financial assistance and technical assistance awards to Community Development Financial Institutions. The Native Initiatives Program will make financial assistance or technical assistance awards to Native CDFIs. The deadline for all applications is April 12. For more information, contact the CDFI Fund Helpdesk, 202-653-0421, option 1.

Small grants available for community projects focused on age 50+.

The AARP Community Challenge provides small grants to nonprofits and government entities to fund quick-action projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages. This year, applications will be accepted for projects to improve housing, public spaces, transportation, and civic engagement; support diversity, equity, and inclusion; build engagement for programs under new federal laws; and pursue innovative ideas that support people age 50 or older. The deadline is March 22. For more information, contact AARP.

Community Innovations for Racial Equity to support health partnerships.

  • The Community Innovations for Racial Equity Initiative of the Build Healthy Places Network invites applications by March 18 from community development corporations that are led by Black, Indigenous, or People of Color and are motivated to engage healthcare partners to advance racial equity. Selected organizations will receive funding, in-kind technical support, and facilitated connections to a national network of peer support. For more information, contact Colleen Flynn, BHPN.
  • BHPN is also surveying BIPOC-led community development corporations about how they are engaging with the health sector to better support partnerships that advance racial equity. It hopes to identify needs relative to challenges and impacts emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic among these partnerships. The survey results will inform tools and capacity building resources for the field. The survey closes February 28.

Call on rural prosperity set for February 22.

HUD’s Rural Gateway will hold a Peer-to-Peer Web Conference Call on February 22 based on Investing in Rural Prosperity, a book recently published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Topics will include investing in climate resilience, supporting local entrepreneurship and small businesses, and advancing racial equity through rural development investments. For more information, call 1-877-RURAL-26 (1-877-787-2526).

Deadline for ReConnect broadband applications extended.

USDA will now accept applications through March 9 for the Rural eConnectivity (ReConnect) broadband deployment program. The agency may also increase the amount of funds available. For more information, contact Laurel Leverrier, USDA, 202-720-9554.

Corrections issued for RISE job accelerator program.

USDA has made corrections in its funding availability notice for the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy grant program. Applications are due April 19. For more information, contact Will Dodson, USDA, 202-720-1400.

Broadband assistance available, comments requested.

The 2021 infrastructure law created the Affordable Connectivity Program to help make broadband services and devices available to low-income households. ACP is based on the short-term Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and will replace EBB on March 1. For more information on transitioning from EBB to ACP, visit the FCC’s site or contact ACPinfo@fcc.gov. The Federal Communications Commission requests public comment by March 16 on the final rule it has adopted for the ACP and on proposals for increasing public participation as well as providing an enhanced benefit for consumers in high-cost areas. For more information on the regulations, contact Eric Wu, FCC, 202-418-7400.

Website helps claim Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

Low-income families may be eligible to receive funds through the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit by filing a 2021 income tax return even if they would not otherwise have to file. Information and assistance on both credits is available at ChildTaxCredit.gov.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Rules for rural single-family housing programs revised.

  • A final regulation for the Section 502 direct loan program and the Section 504 loan and grant programs adopts most of the changes proposed on November 25, 2019, with some modifications based on public comments. The changes include the use of loan refinancing to help borrowers who have difficulty keeping their accounts current (for example, after a payment moratorium). USDA will also have more flexibility in the future to revise the loan and grant caps for Section 504. For more information, contact Andrea Birmingham, USDA, 202-720-1489.
  • Another final rule mandates use of the Guaranteed Underwriting System and the Lender Loan Closing System by approved lenders using the Section 502 guarantee program, effective May 9. For more information, contact Ticia Weare, USDA, 702-407-1400 x 6001.

USDA launches equity commission.

The members of USDA’s new Equity Commission and its Agriculture Subcommittee were announced on February 10. The body will provide recommendations on policies, programs, and actions to address equity issues within the Department and its programs. Its first virtual meeting, scheduled for February 28, will be open to the public. USDA’s press release states, “There are future plans to launch an additional Subcommittee focused on rural community and economic development.” For more information, email EquityCommission@usda.gov.

Civil rights office scrutinized.

USDA’s Inspector General reported recently that in 2017-2019 the department’s civil rights office continued to experience problems identified in past reviews. In 2019, the office averaged 799 days to process program complaints although its goal is to do so within 180 days. Complaints that may raise Fair Housing Act violations are referred to HUD but, in the three years covered by the study, HUD took an average of over 600 days to process complaints from USDA. At a February 15 House subcommittee hearing about the report, the IG said increased staffing and improved technology could help resolve the problems.

Wiggins nominated to head Delta Regional Authority.

Corey Wiggins has been nominated to serve as Federal Co-Chair of the Delta Regional Authority. The Delta Grassroots Caucus reports that Wiggins, currently the Executive Director of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, is the first African American presidentially named to the DRA. The Senate has not yet begun to consider his nomination.

Housing regulator requests input on strategic plan.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Bank System, invites public comments by March 11 on its strategic plan for fiscal years 2022-2026.

Fannie Mae expands protections for rented sites in manufactured housing communities.

Fannie Mae has expanded its previous policy of encouraging Tenant Site Lease Protections for residents of manufactured housing communities. These protections are now required on all site leases, both owner-occupied and tenant-occupied, in communities with loans backed by Fannie Mae.

OneRD guaranteed loan platform regulation corrected.

USDA has issued a correction addressing omissions and errors in the December 10, 2021 final rule for the oneRD Guaranteed Loan Platform being used by several loan guarantee programs. For more information, contact Lauren Cusick, USDA, 202-720-1414.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Annual report shows drop in sheltered homelessness, but data is incomplete.

HUD has released its Annual Homeless Assessment Report, presenting data collected in January 2021. The number of sheltered people experiencing homelessness declined by 8% nationwide from 2020 to 2021. The report suggests there may have been fewer shelter beds available because of pandemic guidelines, some people may have stayed out of shelters because of fears of illness, and policies like eviction moratoriums may have helped some people avoid homelessness. The report does not conclude whether overall or unsheltered homelessness numbers rose or fell because the pandemic prevented many communities from counting unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in 2021. Among the sheltered population, “largely rural” places accounted for 16.3% of total people experiencing homelessness, 16.6% of individuals, 15.9% of families, 20.7% of unaccompanied youth, and 17.6% of veterans.

FEMA program underserves rural counties, study finds.

Researchers from Texas A&M University examined how well the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program served urban and rural counties from 1989 to 2018. Their article, Naturally Resilient to Natural Hazards? Urban-Rural Disparities in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Assistance, published in Housing Policy Debate, identifies “vast inequities in the distribution and duration of HMGP assistance” and concludes that “the current structure of the HMGP leaves rural counties in the dust.”

New index shows where rural capacity is limited.

Headwaters Economics has created a Rural Capacity Index based on 10 variables intended to function as proxies for community capacity. The variables incorporate metrics related to local government staffing, community education and engagement, and socioeconomic trends. An interactive map presents results at the county, county subdivision, and community levels. Headwaters suggests the index can be used by communities to advocate for resources and by federal and state agencies to target investments.

Experts say better capacity building and more funding needed for Indian Country housing.

A recent article on HAC’s website, Self-Determination in Tribal Housing: Reflections on NAHASDA’s Impact, reports the views of four experts on housing in Indian Country regarding the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act. One of HAC’s 2022 Rural Housing Policy Priorities is the reauthorization of NAHASDA with targeted improvements to build on its 25 years of achievements.

Disaster planning ensures community resilience and vitality.

The Conversation reports that vulnerable residents, who live in lower quality affordable housing located in less desirable locations, are most affected by disasters and least able to recover from them, slowing down recovery for the community as a whole. Disasters Can Wipe Out Affordable Housing for Years Unless Communities Plan Ahead – The Loss Hurts the Entire Local Economy points out that in some rural areas, replacement values are not enough to rebuild equivalent housing, so homes go unbuilt. Community land trusts, relaxed rental rules, and monitoring recovery funds offer relief.

Total value of U.S. homes hits record high in 2021.

Redfin reports that from 2020 to 2021, the total value of U.S. homes increased 18.6%, approximately $6 trillion, for a record high of $38.6 trillion in December 2021. The total value of rural homes increased by 19.5%, resulting in a total of $4.2 trillion. Benefits of increasing home values were seen in rural places and metropolitan areas. The wealth increase for homeowners widened the gap between renters and homeowners across the U.S., however.

3G shutdowns problematic in rural places.

Rural America May Experience Service Blackouts as Providers Sunset 3G Service, a Daily Yonder article, looks at the impact of mobile carriers shutting down older 3G service to make room for newer technology. Some advocates for survivors of domestic violence expressed concerns whether there has been sufficient coverage about the potential loss of service for those with older phones, especially “people in rural areas, those living on reservations, people who are low-income, and people of color.”

HAC

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

  • The Director of Policy is a newly created position based in HAC’s Washington DC headquarters, reporting directly to the CEO and serving on HAC’s Executive Leadership Team. This individual will be expected to maintain HAC’s position as the leading authority on current rural housing and community development policy; grow HAC’s role as a non-partisan, evidence-driven authority trusted by policymakers and practitioners; and represent HAC in a wide range of forums, demonstrating issue mastery and thought leadership when communicating with Congress, federal agencies, the affordable housing and community development industry, the media, and the general public. Some travel is required.
  • 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 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.
  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states and works with local partner organizations to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies.

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 Rural Development Obligations Cover

USDA Rural Development Obligations FY 22- January

USDA Rural Development Obligations Report Cover - FY 2021

As of the end of January, USDA obligated 33,374 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $5.9 billion. This is $2.2 billion more than obligation levels from this time last year. At that time, there were 47,476 loans, loan guarantees, and grants obligated totaling $8.1 billion.

The agency has been operating under a series of continuing resolutions since the beginning of the fiscal year.

Single Family Housing Program Highlights

The Section 502 Guaranteed loan program, the largest of the Single Family Housing programs, obligated $5.6 billion (30,597 loan guarantees) up from $7.8 billion (44,318 loan guarantees) last year.

For the Section 502 Direct program, loan obligations totaled $264.5 million (1,374 loans), a bit less than last year’s obligation level of $292.3 million (1,623 loans.) About 29 percent of the loan dollars went to Very Low-income (VLI) applicants. VLI loans represented nearly 34 percent of the total number of Section 502 Direct loans.

The Section 504 Repair and Rehabilitation programs obligated 516 loans representing $3.4 million. This compares to 587 loans representing $3.4 million this time last year. There were also about $5.5 million (848 grants) obligated in the Section 504 grant program compared to $5.7 million (916 grants) last year.

USDA’s Section 523 Self Help Housing Grant program funded 7 grants totaling $3.9 million up from last year’s 5 grants totaling nearly $3.5 million.

Multi-Family Housing Program Highlights

USDA’s Section 538 Multifamily Housing obligated 19 loan guarantees totaling about $47.0 million, higher than last year’s 20 loan guarantees ($64.7 million.) The Farm Labor Housing programs funded 3 loans and 1 grant totaling $4.8 million and $4.0 million respectively. There have been no other loan or grant obligations so far this year.

USDA obligated funds for 40,064 rental assistance units under the Section 521 Rental Assistance program totaling $238.2 million compared to 38,592 units ($219.5 million) obligated same time last year. There were also 2,064 Rural Housing Vouchers totaling $9,.9 million compared to 1,675 vouchers representing nearly $8.4 million this time last year.

Download the combined document.

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

HAC News: February 3, 2022

HAC News: February 3, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 3

TOP STORIES

Congress must address federal funding this month.

The continuing resolution that maintains government spending at fiscal year 2021 levels will end on February 18. Congress may pass an omnibus appropriations bill, possibly using another brief CR to obtain more time to negotiate, or may decide to adopt a full-year CR. FY22 appropriations bills proposing increased resources for some USDA and HUD housing programs passed the House in July and were introduced in the Senate. The FY23 funding process will begin soon as well, with the Biden administration’s budget proposal expected to be released sometime in March.

Bill introduced to target funds to neediest places.

On February 1, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced the Targeting Resources to Communities in Need Act of 2022, H.R. 6531, which would direct federal funding to persistent poverty areas throughout the country. The bill is based on the 10-20-30 formula that has been applied to require at least 10% of funds from some USDA Rural Development programs be spent in persistent poverty counties (those where the poverty rate has been at least 20% for at least 30 years). It instructs OMB to work government-wide, program by program, to increase the share of funds going to high and persistent poverty areas.

Rental housing study finds growing inequities by income and race.

America’s Rental Housing 2022, published by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, reports that in 2020 the rental vacancy rate fell to its lowest level since the mid-1980s, rents rose, and ownership of rental properties continued to shift from individuals to businesses – including a record high share of single-family homes. Lower-income renters were especially hard hit by pandemic-related income losses and likely to fall behind on rent, with Black, Hispanic, and Asian renters suffering far higher rates of rent arrearages than whites.

COVID-19 cases explode as Omicron variant hits rural America.

HAC’s most recent analysis of data on the coronavirus pandemic shows a dramatic rise in rural cases. Since the emergence of the Delta variant in summer 2021, the COVID-19 death rate has been substantially higher outside metropolitan areas than within them.

February is Black History Month.

President Biden proclaimed February 2022 as National Black History Month.

RuralSTAT

Between December 20, 2021 and January 20, 2022 communities outside metropolitan areas reported more than 1.8 million new cases of COVID-19 – a 223% increase over the previous month. Source: HAC tabulations of public health data from the New York Times.

OPPORTUNITIES

Grants offered for rural arts.

The Rural Arts Initiative of the Laura Jane Musser Fund offers grants of up to $10,000 to assist small nonprofit arts organizations in rural communities to develop, implement, or sustain exceptional artistic opportunities for adults and children in the areas of literary, visual, music, and performing arts. Applicants must be located in communities with under 20,000 population in Colorado, Hawaii, Wyoming, or specified parts of Minnesota, New York, or Texas. Applications must be submitted online between February 9 and March 9. For more information, contact the Musser Fund, 612-825-2024.

Webinar to cover “Building Momentum for Your Long-Term Vision.”

Join the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design on February 16 for a webinar about approaches and tactics to build support for design projects across rural America. The session will be led by Jun-Li Wang, Associate Director for Programs at Springboard for the Arts, and Emily Schmidt, award winning journalist and communications consultant.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

CFPB updates lists of rural and underserved areas.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has posted its annual lists of areas determined to be “rural or underserved” and counties determined to be “rural” for purposes of mortgage lending regulations, and has updated the accompanying website tool.

CDBG disaster funds allocated and requirements explained.

A HUD notice describes the allocation of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds for some jurisdictions where major disasters occurred in 2020, along with waivers and alternative requirements, relevant regulatory requirements, the grant award process, criteria for action plan approval, and eligible activities. These CDBG-DR funds will be used for disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, economic revitalization, and mitigation.

U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has new director.

Jeff Olivet, a founder of Racial Equity Partners and the former CEO of the Center for Social Innovation, has been appointed Executive Director of USICH.

HAC suggests ways to strengthen mortgage reporting.

HAC submitted comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regarding its assessment of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act rule. HAC strongly urges the CFPB to return to requiring HMDA reporting by lenders originating as few as 25 loans, rather than its new 100-origination threshold, to more accurately capture rural markets that are disproportionately served by small financial institutions. HAC also supports development of a HMDA reliability index and addition of data points on topics such as manufactured housing to improve understanding of certain underserved markets.

USDA RD clarifies use of 2020 Census data.

Because Census Bureau release of new data has been delayed, USDA Rural Development programs will continue to use population data from the 2010 decennial census. Until October 1, 2022, RD programs will use state nonmetro median household incomes calculated from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey and then will switch to median incomes based on the 2015-2019 five-year ACS. For more information, contact an RD State Office.

Time periods for some youth vouchers extended.

A HUD notice explains newly extended time periods for vouchers provided to youth through the Family Unification Program. Some of these Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities amendments are already in effect. Comments are due March 25. For more information, contact Ryan E. Jones, HUD, 202-402-2677.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Tribal implementation of Emergency Rental Assistance examined.

Emergency Rental Assistance among Indigenous Tribes: Findings from Tribal Grantees, a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, explains that tribal grantees face unique challenges and barriers to implementing Emergency Rental Assistance programs: they serve households across jurisdictional boundaries and also have different housing needs and rental markets, administrative infrastructures, and ERA grant allocations. The research examines these key characteristics as well as lessons learned from tribal experience with the programs.

Development and population growth intensify flood risks, analysis shows.

In an academic paper and an article more accessible for non-scientists, researchers report that over the next 30 years, the cost of flood damage in the U.S. is on pace to rise 26% due to climate change alone. Factoring in population growth, however, makes the increase in flood losses four times higher than the climate-only effect. The study also found that the current flood risk is predominantly concentrated in white, impoverished communities, many of them on the coasts or in Appalachian valleys, whereas the 30-year increase in risk falls disproportionately on urban and rural communities with large Black populations on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. New Flood Maps Show US Damage Rising 26% in Next 30 Years Due to Climate Change Alone, and the Inequity is Stark includes an interactive map providing risk estimates by county.

HAC

Vision 2071 site celebrates history and looks to the future.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary and look toward the next 50 years, HAC has launched vision2071, a website covering stories about the communities HAC serves, milestones over HAC’s history, and an opportunity to consider what rural American will be in 2071. A recent post describes the visions of eight housing and community development leaders for their communities. You can donate to HAC’s anniversary campaign here or by contacting Jennifer McAllister at HAC. Together, we can make this vision of rural America a reality by 2071.

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

  • 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 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

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).

Coronavirus news

Covid-19 Cases Explode as Omicron Variant Hits Rural America

The first reported case of COVID-19 in rural America was on February 20, 2020. As of January 20, 2022 there have been more than 9.6 million reported cases of COVID-19 and more than 152,000 associated deaths in communities outside metropolitan areas. Between December 20, 2021 and January 20, 2022 communities outside of metropolitan areas reported more than 1.8 million new cases of COVID-19 – a 223 percent increase over the previous month.