HAC News: May 27, 20221 Featured Image

HAC News: May 27, 2021

May 27, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 11

TOP STORIES

Full Biden budget to be released May 28.

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

Eviction moratorium still effective, court still reviewing it.

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

OCC reconsiders its Community Reinvestment Act rule.

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

USDA accepting refinance applications from homeowners with payment moratoriums.

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

HAC celebrates 50 years of helping build rural communities.

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

New HAC website launched.

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

RuralSTAT

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

OPPORTUNITIES

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

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

HUD will fund technical research on lead and healthy homes.

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

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

For details, visit HAC’s website.

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

CORONAVIRUS

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

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

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

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

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD allocates Emergency Housing Vouchers.

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

Proposed Duty to Serve plans posted for review and comment.

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

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

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

NEA announces 2021 Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design Awards.

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

USDA shifts staff operating Housing Preservation Grants program.

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

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Essay collection considers racial justice in housing finance.

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

Rent debt estimates available for most counties.

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

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

 

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

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

HAC News: May 13, 2021

HAC News Formats. pdf

May 13, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 10

TOP STORIES

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

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

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

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

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

OPPORTUNITIES

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

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

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

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

 
CORONAVIRUS

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

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

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

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

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

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

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

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

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

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

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

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

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

CITIZENS’ INSTITUTE FOR RURAL DESIGN

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

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

HAC

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

USDA Obligations FY 2021 Featured Image

USDA Rural Development Obligations FY 21 – April

USDA Rural Development Obligations Report Cover - FY 2021

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

As of the end of April, USDA obligated 83,295 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $14.3 billion. This is $2.2 billion higher than obligation levels from this time last year. At that time, there were 77,581 loans, loan guarantees, and grants obligated totaling $12.1 billion.

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

Single Family Housing Program Highlights

The Section 502 Guaranteed loan program, the largest of the Single Family Housing programs, obligated over $13.6 billion (77,364 loan guarantees) up from $11.3 billion (69,902 loan guarantees) this time last year.

For the Section 502 Direct program, loan obligations totaled $533.1 million (2,902 loans), about $24.5 million less than last year’s obligation level of $557.6 million (3,262 loans.) About 37 percent of the loan dollars went to Very Low-income (VLI) applicants. VLI loans represented over 43 percent of the total number of Section 502 Direct loans.

The Section 504 Repair and Rehabilitation programs obligated 1,119 loans representing $6.6 million. At this time last year, USDA obligated 1,509 Section 504 loans representing $9 million. The Section 504 grant program saw about $11.7 million (1,821 grants) obligated compared to $17.7 million (2,756 grants) at this time last year.

USDA’s Section 523 Self Help Housing Grant program funded 23 grants and contracts totaling $15,030,227 up from 12 grants and contracts totaling $13,069,195 a year ago.

Multi-Family Housing Programs

USDA’s Section 538 Multifamily Housing program obligated 48 loan guarantees totaling $129.0 million compared to last year’s 86 loan guarantees ($137.6 million.) No Section 515 Rural Rental Housing program have been funded so far this year, similar to last year at this time. There have been no MPR loans or grants obligated so far this year compared to 4 loans representing $143,438 at this time last year.

No Farm Labor Housing loans or grants have been funded so far this year. Last year at this time, 9 loans and 5 grants were obligated ($18.6 million and nearly $5.9 million respectively.)

USDA obligated funds for 125,050 rental assistance units under the Section 521 Rental Assistance program totaling $739.7 million. This compares to about 135,562 units ($782.6 million) obligated same time last year. There were also 4,511 Rural Housing Vouchers totaling $21.8 million compared to 4,680 vouchers representing $21.9 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: April 29, 2021

HAC News Formats. pdf

April 29, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 9

TOP STORIES

Biden releases second piece of infrastructure proposal.
The American Families Plan, announced on April 28, would provide $1.8 trillion to finance support including education, child care, paid family leave, food assistance and tax credits. Congress is expected to make substantial changes if it approves versions of this request and the first part of the proposal, the American Jobs Plan, which includes $213 billion for housing. On April 22 a group of Senate Republicans released an outline of a $568 billion infrastructure proposal that focuses on roads, bridges, transit, water and wastewater, and broadband. It does not cover housing.

Homeowner Assistance Fund guidance issued.
The new Homeowner Assistance Fund, created by the American Rescue Plan Act, will provide aid for homeowners with financial hardships after January 21, 2020, prioritizing those with the greatest hardships. Funds may be used for mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, utility payments (including broadband) and other similar obligations. The Treasury Department recently released guidance for the state, tribal and territorial governments that will administer the funds. States, DC and territories will receive allocations of funds if they requested them by April 25; Treasury has not yet announced whether all eligible jurisdictions did. Tribes, tribal entities and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands must request their funds by September 30.

Debt collectors and attorneys required to tell tenants about CDC eviction moratorium.
Effective on May 3, an interim rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau requires that debt collectors – including attorneys filing or threatening to file eviction proceedings – must provide written notice to tenants of their protections under the Centers for Disease Control eviction moratorium. It also prohibits misrepresentations about tenants’ eligibility for the moratorium. Comments are due May 7. For more information, contact CFPB’s Office of Regulations, 202-435-7700. Violations of the eviction moratorium or other unlawful debt collection practices can be reported to CFPB, 855-411-2372.

First figures from 2020 Census released.
The U.S. population was 331,449,281 on April 1, 2020. All but four states and territories gained population over the last decade with Utah, Idaho, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas experiencing more than 15% population growth. Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Mississippi and Illinois lost population between 2010 and 2020. More details, including changes in congressional apportionment and an interactive map, are posted on HAC’s website. As more Census 2020 data is released, HAC will continue to analyze it and its implications for rural America.

HAC research looks at housing insecurity during pandemic.
Using data from the Census Bureau’s Pulse survey, a new HAC Rural Research Brief, Housing Insecurity During the COVID-19 Crisis, describes the past year’s challenges in paying housing costs and accessing assistance. Interactive graphics show differences between states and between owners and renters.

RuralSTAT
The U.S. population on April 1, 2020, was 331,449,281. That is an increase of 22,703,743 – or 7.4% – from 2010. Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

 

 

OPPORTUNITIES

Veterans housing repair grants available.
Nonprofit organizations offering nationwide or statewide programs that primarily serve veterans or low-income individuals are eligible for the Veterans Housing Rehabilitation and Modification Pilot Program from HUD and VA. Grants may be used to modify or rehabilitate eligible veterans’ primary residences or to provide grantees’ affiliates with technical, administrative and training support related to those services. Apply by July 30. For more information, contact  Jovette Gadson, HUD, 877-787-2526.

HUD offers fair housing funds.
The Fair Housing Organization Initiative Program will make grants to help housing nonprofits build their capacity and effectiveness to conduct enforcement-related activities. The Education and Outreach Initiative Program will fund national, regional and local education campaigns including a new Disability Deinstitutionalization and Integration Campaign. The Tester Coordinator Training Initiative will fund training for testers. The Private Enforcement Initiative will support experienced organizations enforcing fair housing law. The deadline for all applications is June 14. For more information on any of these programs, contact  Kimberly Harley, HUD, 202-402-4753.

Resources offered to help claim stimulus payments and tax credits.
The IRS provides information to help people without a fixed address or bank account to claim the three Economic Impact Payments, commonly known as stimulus checks, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which can provide a rebate for workers who worked but did not earn enough to need to pay taxes. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness also offers instructions. Many people will need to file a 2020 tax return to claim the payments and/or tax credits. The deadline is May 17, but anyone who does not owe taxes can file up to three years after that date, according to USICH. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Get It Back Campaign has more details about the EITC as well as outreach materials for community organizations.

Some low-income homeowners will have new refinance option.
This summer Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will begin offering a new mortgage product for refinances by homeowners with incomes under 80% of area median. To be eligible, a homeowner must have a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and meet specific requirements for factors such as credit rating, debt level and payment history.

HAC job openings: Community Facilities Housing Specialist and two internships.
For details, visit HAC’s website.

  • The Community Facilities Housing Specialist identifies and engages community stakeholders and provides direct technical assistance to rural organizations that are developing facilities such as parks, community centers, public libraries and childcare centers. This includes helping them identify, utilize and apply for financial resources such as USDA Community Facilities grants and loans. This a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Investor Relations Intern will assist in gathering and analyzing data on HAC’s lending and coordinate with HAC’s communication team to develop impact narratives. The Loan Portfolio Management Intern will assist in gathering and analyzing data for financial statement assessments of existing borrowers, and review and reconcile financial transactions. Both internships provide stipends, are eligible for telecommuting and will run from the end of May through August 2021.

 CORONAVIRUS

“Tribes see progress in COVID-19 fight.”
This video and story from Roll Call recount improvements in tribes’ infection and death rates resulting from vaccinations and other measures.

“Rural ambulance crews have run out of money and volunteers.”
This New York Times article explains the serious problem providing ambulance services in sparsely populated rural areas. The low volume of cases and a reduction in willing volunteers make it financially difficult to sustain these systems.

Research points out recovery gap for women.
Closing the Latina Wealth Gap: Building an Inclusive Economic Recovery after COVID, by UnidosUS, reports that Latina women face extra challenges in recovering from the recession because of pre-pandemic structural inequalities. Racial Wealth Snapshot: Women, Men and the Racial Wealth Divide, posted by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, shows that in each racial and ethnic group women earn less than men, though the disparities differ greatly among racial and ethnic groups. Wealth is also far lower for women in each population. Women’s academic attainment, in contrast, is higher than men’s for all racial and ethnic groups.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD cancels rule on treatment of transgender people.
HUD has withdrawn a regulation proposed in July 2020 would have removed protections for transgender individuals in HUD-supported facilities, such as single-sex shelters or shelters with separate facilities based on sex. HUD also released guidance for shelter operators on providing access based on gender identity. For more information, contact Samuel F. Pearson-Moore, HUD, 202-402-5138.

Housing Trust Fund input sought.
HUD requests comments on the interim regulations that have governed the Housing Trust Fund since 2016. Responses are due June 25. For more information, contact Virginia Sardone, HUD, 202-708-2684.

USDA revises Rural Energy for America Program rule.
The Rural Business-Cooperative Service issued revisions to its REAP regulations that will take effect on July 26. It is also accepting comments until June 28. For more information, contact  Sami Zarour, USDA, 202-720-9549.

Recovery funds for Puerto Rico released.
On April 19 HUD announced it is obligating $8.2 billion in CDBG Mitigation funds for Puerto Rico and removing the previous administration’s “onerous restrictions unique to Puerto Rico” that delayed the release of monies appropriated after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the island in September 2017. A recent report by HUD’s Inspector General found the funding was slowed by the federal government shutdown in 2018-2019 and by requirements imposed by OMB.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Water infrastructure study looks at pipeline performance, risk and economics.
A five-year study conducted by Virginia Tech and funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation analyzes data from over 500 water utilities and federal facilities on the health of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure. Researchers calculated necessary replacements will cost $3.6 trillion over the next 25 years.

2021 Advocates’ Guide to Housing and Community Development Policy published.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual guide describes programs, challenges and opportunities related to affordable housing and community development. The 2021 edition includes a chapter devoted to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on housing and homelessness.

Rural home sales in 10 states continue record growth.
The Creighton University Rural Main Street Index, a survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of 10 states, showed positive growth for the fifth month in a row. The home sale index for rural areas reached a record high in April, outpacing a record set in March. Nearly 40% of the rural bank CEOs surveyed said that their local economies expanded during April. For more information, see the survey findings and methodology.

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).

RURAL RESEARCH BRIEF: Housing Insecurity During COVID-19

COVID-19 has disrupted nearly every aspect of life and culture in rural America, and the economic fallout is most acutely felt through job losses. If rural unemployment rates remain high the collateral impacts to almost all sectors of the housing market could be substantial – notably the ability of unemployed households to make rent and mortgage payments. This Brief presents time series housing trends from the U.S. Census Bureau’s PULSE Survey. The Pulse Survey provides data to help understand the experiences of American households during the coronavirus pandemic.

USDA Obligations FY 2021 Featured Image

USDA Rural Development Obligations FY 21 – March

USDA Rural Development Obligations Report Cover - FY 2021

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

As of the end of February, USDA obligated 60,232 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $10,330,206,982. This is $2,134,121,531 higher than obligation levels from this time last year. At that time, there were 53,209 loans, loan guarantees, and grants obligated totaling $8,196,085,451.

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

Single Family Housing Program Highlights

The Section 502 Guaranteed loan program, the largest of the Single Family Housing programs, obligated $9,888,959,509 (56,221 loan guarantees) up from $7,721,657,308 ( 48,119 loan guarantees) this time last year.

For the Section 502 Direct program, loan obligations totaled $356,827,444 (1,965 loans), similar to last year’s obligation level of $365,962,478 (2,157 loans.) About 38 percent of the loan dollars went to Very Low-income (VLI) applicants. VLI loans represented over 44 percent of the total number of Section 502 Direct loans.

The Section 504 Repair and Rehabilitation programs obligated  750 loans representing $4,369,687. Loan volume was up from this time last year (1,015 loans representing $6,193,027.) There were also about $7,942,283 (1,245 grants) obligated in the Section 504 grant program compared to $12,003,752 (1,869 grants) last year.

USDA’s Section 523 Self Help Housing Grant program funded 6 grants and contracts totaling $3,710,175 up from last year’s 3 grants and contracts totaling $1,900,426.

Multi-Family Housing Programs

USDA’s Section 538 Multifamily Housing program obligated 35 loan guarantees totaling $68,356,333 compared to last year’s 29 loan guarantees ($60,715,592.) No Section 515 Rural Rental Housing program have been funded so far this year, similar to last year at this time. There have been 0 loans and 5 grants obligated in the MPR program totaling $0 and $251,778 this year compared to 0 loans and 3 grants representing $0 and $988,734, respectively last year.

No Farm Labor Housing loans or grants have been funded so far this year. Last year at this time, 9 loans and 5 grants were obligated ($18,630,577 and $5,853,855, respectively.)

USDA obligated funds for 38,592 rental assistance units under the Section 521 Rental Assistance program totaling $219,583,640. This compares to about 83,226 units ($477,189,635) obligated same time last year. There were also 1,939 Rural Housing Vouchers totaling $9,651,145 compared to2,340 vouchers representing $11,057,083 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: April 15, 2021

HAC News Formats. pdf

April 15, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 8

TOP STORIES

Biden budget outline calls for more HUD funding and expanded Rural StrikeForce.
The Biden Administration’s first budget request, released on April 9, outlines priorities including increases in the HOME, CDBG and Native American housing programs, along with 200,000 new HUD vouchers.  It proposes to increase funding above current levels for the Rural e-Connectivity broadband program, rural water and wastewater programs and USDA’s civil rights office but does not mention USDA’s rural housing programs. It includes $32 million to renew and expand an Obama administration StrikeForce initiative that aims to connect rural residents with federal resources. More information about the Biden proposal is posted on HAC’s website. A more detailed budget will be issued later this spring.

HUD launches process to restore fair housing rules.
One of President Biden’s early executive orders directed HUD to review two Trump administration fair housing regulations. On April 12, HUD sent replacement rules to OMB for review, the first step towards official Federal Register publication and eventual implementation. The documents themselves are not yet available online. Reinstatement of HUD’s Discriminatory Effects Standard is described as a proposed rule. Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing; Restoring Statutory Definitions and Certifications is labeled an interim final rule.

Guidance provided for recently approved USDA Rental Assistance.
The American Rescue Plan Act appropriated $100 million in Section 521 RA for tenants at USDA-financed properties who are not already receiving rent support and are paying more than 30% of their income for rent. USDA explains that its RD staff will determine what tenants may be eligible and will contact property owners. Tenants currently paying more than 50% of their income toward rent will receive priority. Assistance will last for up to a year; further aid depends on appropriations. For more information, contact the relevant RD servicing official (on the linked page, click the Contact tab).

HAC offers flexible loans for rental preservation.
HAC has flexible loan capital available to support preservation of USDA Section 515 properties, HUD-subsidized properties and naturally occurring affordable housing in rural places. Eligible properties are existing affordable or mixed-income rental housing (with or without current income restrictions). Loans can be $50,000-$1.5 million, interest rates can be as low as 4.5%, and terms can be up to 180 months, with longer amortization periods based on project needs. Eligible borrowers include nonprofit organizations, for-profit developers, housing authorities and tribal entities. For more information, see HAC’s website or contact  Kristin Blum, 207-596-0033, or  Alison Duncan, 443-884-9960.

Congressional hearings consider race, infrastructure and housing.
On April 13 the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing titled Separate and Unequal: The Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing with witnesses from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Ohio State University and the American Enterprise Institute. An April 14 House Financial Services Committee hearing, Build Back Better: Investing in Equitable and Affordable Housing Infrastructure, focused on housing priorities for the upcoming infrastructure package negotiation and also touched on broader topics like the state of the job market, what constitutes infrastructure, and proposed corporate tax increases. Members on both sides of the aisle noted the specific needs of rural and tribal housing during the hearing.

RuralSTAT

According to HAC estimates, approximately 2,838 FDIC insured banks do not report mortgage activity through the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act due to exemptions for asset threshold size, metropolitan location or level of mortgage loan activity. Source: HAC tabulations of FDIC and HMDA data.

Non-HMDA Reporting Financial Institutions, Estimate of FDIC Insured Banks

 

OPPORTUNITIES

National Housing Trust Fund doubles last year’s funding.
Each state must use most of its portion of this year’s nearly $700 million in HTF funds to provide rental housing for low- and extremely-low income residents. HUD estimates the total will finance more than 5,400 units. The funding comes from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and increased this year because low interest rates during the pandemic led to high levels of mortgage financing for home purchases and refinances. For more information, contact a state administering agency.

April 20 listening session to cover tribal broadband access.
USDA will host an online listening session on April 20 to solicit comments and recommendations from tribal communities and tribal broadband industry experts on ways to help expand broadband access in tribal communities under the ReConnect Program. Register online here. For more information, contact  Tedd Buelow, USDA. Written comments on USDA’s ReConnect regulation are due April 27.

HAC job openings: Community Facilities Housing Specialist and two internships.
For details, visit HAC’s website.

  • The Community Facilities Housing Specialist identifies and engages community stakeholders and provides direct technical assistance to rural organizations that are developing facilities such as parks, community centers, public libraries and childcare centers. This includes helping them identify, utilize and apply for financial resources such as USDA Community Facilities grants and loans. This a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Investor Relations Intern will assist in gathering and analyzing data on HAC’s lending and coordinate with HAC’s communication team to develop impact narratives. The Loan Portfolio Management Intern will assist in gathering and analyzing data for financial statement assessments of existing borrowers, and review and reconcile financial transactions. Both internships provide stipends, are eligible for telecommuting and will run from the end of May through August 2021.

CORONAVIRUS

CFPB proposes to delay foreclosures for pandemic-affected homeowners, asks lenders to help.
Comments are due May 10 on a proposed regulation from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would delay foreclosures on homeowners who have not been able to make mortgage payments for pandemic-related reasons. Forbearance (permission to delay making payments) will end for almost 1.7 million homeowners in September and the following months, CFPB states. Its changes would require lenders and servicers to wait until after December 31, 2021 before starting most foreclosures, to offer loan modifications to borrowers and to take other steps. For more information, contact Angela Fox, CFPB, 202-435-7700. CFPB has also issued a Compliance Bulletin and Policy Guidance urging mortgage servicers to prepare early for the wave of homeowners exiting forbearance and warning them it can base enforcement actions on their assistance to borrowers. For more information, contact Allison Brown, CFPB, 202-435-7107.

HAC provides round-up of recent federal housing actions.
Federal agencies have recently announced numerous policy and regulatory changes related to the pandemic and housing, and HAC summarized many of them on its website. All of HAC’s coronavirus resource pages can be accessed here.

“Covid racial disparities loom large in rural counties.”
This article, published by Stateline and the Daily Yonder, compiles findings from several studies that demonstrate the pandemic’s impact in rural places has been especially significant for people of color.

Eviction moratorium declaration now available in several languages.
The Centers for Disease Control has posted its revised form, which can be used by tenants to state their eligibility for the eviction moratorium, in Amharic, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Traditional Chinese as well as in English.

Research looks at rental housing counseling during coronavirus pandemic.
The Urban Institute published Housing Counseling to Support Renters in Crisis, which outlines how housing counseling agencies have altered their approach to service provision in the wake of the pandemic. The report includes perspectives from counseling agencies that serve rural, urban and suburban populations.

Answers provided to immigrants’ questions about vaccines.
The National Immigration Law Center has posted Answers to Common Questions about Immigrants’ Access to the COVID-19 Vaccines. It explains there are no restrictions on vaccination based on immigration status and addresses several other possible concerns.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD and VA pledge to work together on veteran homelessness.
HUD secretary Marcia L. Fudge and VA secretary Denis McDonough issued a joint statement on April 12 committing to work together to end veteran homelessness. This is the first step, they said, in a multi-agency effort coordinated by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Reports document poverty, income inequality, racial/ethnic disparities for children and youth.
The State of America’s Children 2021, published by the Children’s Defense Fund, is based primarily on pre-pandemic data because little real-time data is available, though each chapter includes a section on the pandemic’s impact. The report includes fact sheets for each state. Pre-pandemic state-level information is also the basis for the 2020 State Index on Youth Homelessness published by the National Homelessness Law Center and True Colors United, focusing on state systems, environment and laws as they relate to preventing and ending youth homelessness.

“‘In 2021 it should be different’: Martin County waits for water.”
Residents in part of Martin County, KY have relied for years on a token station where they can purchase water to haul to their homes, reports WYMT, until recently the token station broke down and could not be repaired promptly. A WCHS article describes residents driving miles to other places to find clean water. The county’s long history of water-related challenges is recounted by the Ohio Valley ReSource and the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.

“Why we must first be well before we can do the work of the people.”
Starting with a description of community leaders’ tendency to ignore their own trauma, this Shelterforce article addresses the need for organizations and staffs to care for themselves in order to do their work of caring for others. The author describes alternative approaches and links to a variety of resources.

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 - 4/1/2021

HAC News: April 1, 2021

HAC News Formats. pdf

April 1, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 7

 

TOP STORIES

Eviction moratorium extended through June 30.

The Centers for Disease Control has extended the nationwide eviction moratorium through June 30, with some changes in wording. CDC also posted a new checklist version of the Eviction Protection Declaration for tenants to use. USDA RD announced that the moratorium applies to tenants in USDA-assisted properties. For more information, property owners and management agents can contact their RD servicing representative (on the linked page, click the Contact tab). Tenants can request information from HUD-certified housing counseling agencies.

Agencies announce eviction moratorium enforcement.

After the eviction moratorium was extended on March 29, the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warned they “will not tolerate illegal practices” by landlords or property managers trying to evict tenants who cannot pay rent for reasons related to the pandemic. Their joint statement asserts that “both agencies will be monitoring and investigating eviction practices, particularly by major multistate landlords, eviction management services, and private equity firms, to ensure that they are complying with the law.” Evictions that violate the moratorium, as well as other unlawful debt collection practices, can be reported to the CFPB at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/ or 855-411-2372.

Infrastructure proposal includes housing, broadband and a new Rural Partnership Program.

The administration released a summary of its sweeping infrastructure proposal on March 31, including several provisions relevant to HAC News readers. HAC supports the inclusion of increased rural housing resources in the infrastructure plan, especially around USDA multifamily preservation and capacity building.

  • Acknowledging the severe shortage of affordable housing options in the United States, the White House would invest $213 billion to produce, preserve and retrofit affordable homes, including 500,000 for low- and middle-income homebuyers. The summary does not indicate how most of these funds would be administered, though it does allocate $40 billion for public housing capital needs.
  • The administration proposes a new $5 billion Rural Partnership Program “to help rural regions, including Tribal Nations, build on their unique assets and realize their vision for inclusive community and economic development” by supporting locally led planning and capacity building efforts through flexible funding mechanisms.
  • The proposal calls for building high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach everyone in the country.
  • Rural, tribal and underserved areas are mentioned throughout the proposal, including in the housing section.

HUD withdraws proposed rule on mixed-status families.

In 2019 HUD proposed to change its regulations regarding assistance to families with mixed immigration status. Instead of continuing to allow such families to live in HUD-assisted housing and prorating the amount of their assistance to cover only the eligible family members, the proposal would have prohibited aid to the entire family. The rule was never finalized, and HUD has now withdrawn it.

HAC and NEA present rural photography exhibit.

With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, HAC launched There is More Work to Be Done, a virtual exhibition celebrating the work of acclaimed photographer George “Elfie” Ballis (1925-2010), a long-time friend of HAC and rural housing, along with photos and stories from contemporary photographers who worked with community-based housing organizations in California, Kentucky and Mississippi to capture collective progress while exposing the work that must continue.

HAC celebrates SHOP’s 25th anniversary.

March 26 was the 25th anniversary of HUD’s Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program. Over these 25 years, HAC has received and invested over $120 million through SHOP to build 9,896 self-help homes. As the only national SHOP grantee with a specific focus on rural homes, we’re proud of the difference our SHOP investments make in rural America. To celebrate this anniversary, HAC featured a story about the impact of one of our SHOP grantees: Northwest Regional Housing Authority in Harrison, Arkansas.

April is Fair Housing Month.

HUD’s theme for the month is Fair Housing: More Than Just Words. Scheduled events include a virtual celebration on April 7.

 

RuralSTAT

From 2019 to 2020, the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in largely rural Continuums of Care increased by 8.3%, higher than in other geographies and higher than the 7.5% increase nationwide. Source: 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, HUD.

 

OPPORTUNITIES

Paycheck Protection Program extended.

The PPP Extension Act of 2021, signed into law by President Biden on March 30, sets May 31 as the new deadline for small businesses to request PPP loans.

Health hazard reduction funds available for PHAs and IHAs.

The deadline is May 25 for public housing authorities and Indian housing authorities to apply for competitive grants to evaluate and reduce housing-related hazards, including carbon monoxide and mold, in public housing. For more information, contact HUD staff.

Equipment makers encouraged to partner with rural nonprofits.   

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers has released a Workforce Solutions Toolkit designed to improve manufacturers’ approach to workforce development. It includes a section on specific challenges in rural places and recommends partnering with local nonprofits to maximize impact. For more information, contact Julie Davis, AEM.

HAC job opening: Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

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

 

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Input sought on new Rural Energy Pilot Program.

USDA RD requests comments by April 29 on its new Rural Energy Pilot Program, which received $10 million in USDA’s FY 2021 appropriation to help rural communities develop renewable energy. RD will hold an online listening session on April 22. For more information, contact Anthony Crooks, USDA, 202-205-9322.

House hearing examines the state of Black farmers in the U.S.

House Agriculture Committee hearing on March 25 included testimony from six farmers and farmer advocates as well as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, covering USDA’s history of discrimination and advice for the $5 billion in debt relief and other aid provided by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Mortgage data collection required for 2021.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ended several policies, put in place near the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, that allowed banks and other lenders flexibility in complying with a variety of requirements, including the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. HMDA data on applications and approvals for mortgage finance will be required again beginning with transactions finalized in 2021. For more information, contact Zixta Q. Martinez, CBPP, 202-435-7204.

USDA revises domestic violence guidance for rental properties.

A March 15, 2021 Unnumbered Letter revises guidance published in November, correcting errors and omissions in the earlier version.

 

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

HUD reports homelessness increased before the pandemic.

The just-released 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress shows about 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the U.S. on one night in January 2020, with about 18% of them in HUD-defined “largely rural” Continuums of Care. Unsheltered homelessness increased, as it has every year since 2015, although the total is still lower than it was in 2007. About 20% of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness were in largely rural CoCs. HUD has posted data at the national, state and CoC levels.

Guides offer fair housing tools for limited English proficiency.

Language Access Guide prepared by the Intermountain Fair Housing Council in Idaho provides information and tools for housing providers and consumers, both with and without federal assistance. It explains what requirements apply and what remedies are available for persons with limited English proficiency. The guide is in English but links to numerous resources, some of which are available in other languages. HUD has also released a Housing Counseling Limited English Proficiency Toolkit for its counseling agencies.

“How to improve public health, the environment and racial equity all at once: upgrade low-income housing.”

An environmental health researcher argues that retrofitting and rehabilitating affordable housing saves money, improves the health of residents, and helps the environment.

 Fracking left Appalachian counties’ economies worse, research found.

Appalachia’s Natural Gas Counties: Contributing More to the U.S. Economy and Getting Less in Return reports the findings of an Ohio River Valley Institute analysis of data from the 22 counties that produce 90% of the region’s natural gas. While natural gas production increased economic output by 60%, little of the income benefited local economies. The data indicated scant job growth and a declining population in many of the counties involved.

“Census data delay scrambles plans for state redistricting.”

The delay in completing the 2020 Census and releasing the data has added cost, confusion and instability to the redistricting process and will likely come with legal challenges, this AP article explains. Each state will handle the delay in its own way – according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only about half the states require using the census data for redistricting – but those with 2022 primaries face a time crunch.

 

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 - 3/18/2021

HAC News: March 18, 2021

HAC News Formats. pdf

March 18, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 6

TOP STORIES

American Rescue Plan Act offers aid for housing, socially disadvantaged farmers and more.

The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Biden on March 11, addresses numerous economic and health aspects of the coronavirus pandemic. HAC is proud that the plan provides significant and desperately needed housing aid, including $100 million for USDA’s Section 521 Rental Assistance program and $39 million for the Section 502 direct and Section 504 homeowner loan programs. HAC’s statement includes a summary of relevant parts of the statute.

Comments due March 19 on metropolitan area definition.

HAC encourages rural communities and organizations to respond by Friday, March 19 to the Office of Management and Budget’s proposal to redefine metropolitan statistical areas. HAC has posted language and information including a recording of its recent webinar on the topic. The change could substantially impact rural communities because OMB’s definition of outside metropolitan areas is often used as a proxy for rural areas.

Public charge litigation ends, rule rescinded.

The federal government has returned to using the public charge policy that was in place before the last administration changed the regulation in 2019. This means that determinations of whether an immigrant may become a public charge will not take into account the person’s receipt of federal housing aid, Medicaid (except for Medicaid for long-term institutionalization), food stamps, or medical treatment or preventive services for COVID-19, including vaccines. Court cases that supported the 2019 public charge regulation were dismissed on March 9 after the Biden administration announced it would not pursue them. A Federal Register notice deletes the 2019 rule, and the administration also withdrew a related proposal made in 2020. Several state attorneys general have now asked courts to allow them to intervene to support the 2019 rule.

House again considers bill to legalize farmworkers, revise H-2A and increase rural housing funding.

The House is expected to vote March 18 on the Farm Workforce Modernization ActH.R. 1603, which passed the House in the last Congress but was never taken up by the Senate. The measure would create a process for farmworkers and their families to obtain legal status in the U.S., tweak the H-2A visa program for temporary farmworkers, increase the number of green cards available for farmworkers and establish a mandatory system for farm employers to check their workers’ legal status. For rental housing preservation, it would authorize the MPR and preservation technical assistance programs, expand eligibility for Section 542 vouchers, permit 20-year Rental Assistance contracts, allow decoupling of Rental Assistance as a last resort, require USDA to develop a preservation plan and establish a stakeholders’ committee to advise USDA. Finally, it would authorize increased funding for the Section 514 and 516 farmworker housing programs and for Section 521 Rental Assistance.

National Farmworker Awareness Week will be March 25-31.

Student Action with Farmworkers describes National Farmworker Awareness Week as “a week of action for students and community members to honor farmworkers’ important contributions and to raise awareness about the issues they face.” SAF offers media resources and event suggestions.

RuralSTAT

The share of women among hired farmworkers remained relatively unchanged from 2006 to 2009, but then climbed from 18.6% in 2009 to 25.5% in 2018. Source: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2020.

OPPORTUNITIES

VA offers grants to help improve safety for sheltering homeless veterans.

VA has opened two funding competitions under its Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program. Nonprofits, state and local governments, and tribes can apply for new special need grants for per diem payments to cover operating costs that facilitate housing stabilization for veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and who are chronically mentally ill, frail elderly, individuals who care for minor dependents, terminally ill or women. This can include providing supportive housing beds in private rooms with private bathrooms. Applications are due May 5. Current GPD grantees can apply by May 25 for capital grants to acquire, construct or rehabilitate property to reduce the use of congregate facilities and make more individual units available for GPD transitional housing. For more information on either program, contact Jeffery Quarles, VA, 1-877-332-0334 (toll-free).

Federal agencies set webinar on mortgage forbearance.

Forbearance Options and Resources for Helping Borrowers with Federally Backed Mortgages: Webinar and Discussion with CFPB, FHFA, HUD, USDA, and VA is scheduled for March 22. CFPB staff will review materials available to help consumers navigate the process of requesting a delay in making their mortgage payments. Panelists from the other agencies will discuss the options available to their borrowers, with an emphasis on exit options and information about recently announced forbearance extensions.

HAC job opening: Community Facilities Housing Specialist.

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

CORONAVIRUS

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac extend relief for homebuyers and rental property owners.

Some flexibilities related to new single-family mortgage loans, put in place by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earlier in the pandemic, have been extended until April 30. These include alternative appraisals, alternative methods for documenting income and verifying employment before loan closing and expanded use of power of attorney. Forbearance options for owners of rental property whose mortgages are owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are extended through June 30. Landlords who are experiencing financial hardship because of the pandemic can request mortgage forbearance and must agree to certain tenant protections. For more information, contact a mortgage lender or servicer.

COVID death rates higher in rural counties with high minority populations.

The death rate in “highly diverse” rural counties – those where at least 33% of the population is minority – is 60% higher than in other rural counties, whereas the urban death rate is 13% higher in highly diverse counties than in others, according to COVID-19 and Rural Communities: Protecting Rural Lives and Health, an article by McKinsey & Company. In highly diverse counties where the largest population group is American Indian or Alaska Native, the death rate is 2.1 times higher than in less diverse counties. Death rates are 1.6 times higher where the largest group is Black or African American and 1.5 times higher where the largest group is Hispanic. Socioeconomic vulnerabilities such as financial insecurity, housing insecurity, and risk of being uninsured contribute to poor health outcomes and are greater in highly diverse rural communities than in other rural communities. The report suggests a variety of actions to improve outcomes.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

USDA reminds landlords about eviction notices and non-renewals.

In an notice to stakeholders emailed on March 12, USDA Rural Development reminds owners and managers of USDA-financed multifamily properties that the CARES Act instituted a required 30-day notice before evicting a tenant, and that provision has no expiration date. The agency also notes that a lease cannot be terminated or not renewed as an alternative to eviction. USDA is sending letters to all Section 514 and 515 tenants about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program support that is being distributed through states and localities. For more information, contact an RD state office.

White House and USDA name advisors for rural, housing, racial justice, veterans and Native issues.

Recent appointments to the White House Domestic Policy Council include Kelliann Blazek, who will serve as Special Assistant to the President for Agriculture and Rural Policy. Erika Poethig was named Special Assistant to the President for Housing and Urban Policy; Donald K. Sherman is Special Assistant to the President for Racial and Economic Justice; Terri Tanielian is Special Assistant to the President for Veterans Affairs; and Libby Washburn is Special Assistant to the President for Native Affairs. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has also named a Senior Advisor for Racial Equity, Dewayne Goldmon, who headed the National Black Growers Council and is an Arkansas farmer.

Fudge begins work as HUD Secretary.

On March 10, after the Senate approved her nomination, Marcia Fudge was sworn in as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

USDA FY21 single-family funding details announced.

For the Section 502 direct loan program and Section 504 loans and grants, an Unnumbered Letter dated March 11, 2021 provides information on program goals, basic formula criteria, setasides, administrative allocation, pooling of funds, and program contacts. Lists show funding allocations for each state and names of counties eligible for setasides.

“USDA relocations curtail ag research, farmer confidence.”

This AP article reports on the current status of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA agencies that were moved from Washington, DC to Kansas City in 2019. Both lost a significant portion of their staff and hiring has been slower than expected. A spokesperson for the current USDA leadership said the department is now focused on restoring employee confidence and morale.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Report calls for increase in Black homeownership.

Raising the Black homeownership rate would address significant barriers to housing access and wealth creation for the African-American community, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition says in 60% Black Homeownership: A Radical Goal for Black Wealth Development. Black homeownership nationwide peaked at 49% in 2004. Even a 60% rate would not bridge the Black-white wealth divide, however, the report’s authors write; additional bold programs are needed.

Research finds link between eviction and depression.

The Health Impacts of Eviction: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a University of Pennsylvania Population Center Working Paper, reports that analyses of nationally representative, longitudinal data from 1994 to 2008 showed eviction was associated with risk of depression in young adults. The researchers concluded that “our results suggest that the recent surges in evictions in the U.S. serve as a potent threat to population health during the emerging adult period, with especially devastating consequences for low-income individuals and communities of color.”

“Soaring home prices are starting to alarm policymakers.”

Despite a much higher unemployment rate, home prices in January rose 14% and sales jumped 24% from the previous year. This article from Politico reports industry analysts do not consider the current situation to be a bubble like the lead-up to the financial crisis of 2007-08 but, as home prices further outpace average income, Americans increasingly will not be able to afford a mortgage.

Expert recommends consulting Native communities in the 2021 redistricting process.

The redistricting conducted after the census every ten years influences how likely Democrats or Republicans are to be elected. A National Conference of State Legislatures blog post reports Native policy expert Chloe Cotton says consultation with tribes is paramount in taking Native communities into account, and explains why.

HAC

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HAC’s loan funds provide 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, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development and construction/rehabilitation. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at  hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.
Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

USDA Obligations FY 2021 Featured Image

USDA Rural Development Obligations FY 21 – February

USDA Rural Development Obligations Report Cover - FY 2021

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

As of the end of February, USDA obligated 60,232 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $10.3 billion. This is approximately $2.1 billion higher than obligation levels from this time last year when 53,209 loans, loan guarantees, and grants were obligated totaling nearly $8.2 billion.

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

Single Family Housing Program Highlights

The Section 502 Guaranteed loan program, the largest of the Single Family Housing programs, obligated approximately $9.9 billion (56,221 loan guarantees) up from nearly $7.8 billion (48,119 loan guarantees) this time last year.

For the Section 502 Direct program, loan obligations totaled $356.9 million (1,965 loans), a bit lower than last year’s $366 million (2,157 loans.) About 38 percent of the loan dollars went to Very Low-income (VLI) applicants. VLI loans represented over 44 percent of the total number of Section 502 Direct loans.

The Section 504 Repair and Rehabilitation programs obligated 750 loans and 1,245 grants representing about $4.4 million and 7.9 million respectively. Loan volume was lower than this time last year (1,015 loans representing $6.2 million) while grants totaled $12.0 million (1,869 grants).

USDA’s Section 523 Self Help Housing Grant program funded 6 grants and contracts totaling $3.7 million up from last year’s 3 grants and contracts totaling $1.9 million.

Multi-Family Housing Programs

USDA’s Section 538 Multifamily Housing program obligated 35 loan guarantees totaling nearly $68.4 million compared to last year’s 29 loan guarantees ($60.7 million.) No Section 515 Rural Rental Housing program have been funded so far this year, similar to last year at this time. There were also no loans or grants obligated so far in FY 21 under the MPR program compared to 3 grants representing $988,734 at this time last year.

No Farm Labor Housing loans or grants have been funded so far this year. Last year at this time, 9 loans and 5 grants were obligated (about $18.6 million and nearly $5.9 million respectively.)

USDA obligated funds for 38,592 rental assistance units under the Section 521 Rental Assistance program totaling $219.6 million. This compares to about 83,226 units ($477.2 million) obligated same time last year. There were also 1,939 Rural Housing Vouchers totaling about $9.7 million compared to 2,340 vouchers representing just over $11 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.