HAC News: May 9, 2024

TOP STORIES

USDA warns of shortfalls in single-family programs

USDA has announced its single-family housing programs will serve fewer people this year because the FY24 consolidated appropriations act reduced funding for most of USDA’s rural housing programs. The Section 502 direct mortgage loan program dropped from $1.25 billion in FY23 to $880 million this year, so USDA says application processing may encounter significant delays. Processing timeframes will differ among states. The Section 504 home repair grant program for elderly homeowners with very low incomes fell from $32 million last year to $25 million this year, and the funding bill also rescinded $28 million carried over from prior years. As a result, USDA will be able to make fewer of these grants. It has also reduced the maximum amount for Section 504 disaster home repair grants from $42,920 to $15,000. The disaster grants have different age and income qualifications than regular Section 504 grants.

Farm Bill proposals released

The chairs of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees have announced their proposals for the 2024 Farm Bill, though not enough details are available to compare the two. The legislators have not yet made public the full text of either bill.

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) provided both a brief outline and a detailed summary of her Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act. HAC supports the bill’s inclusion of a proposed $50 million per year for the Rural Partnership Program, a new capacity building effort. HAC also hopes that the Rural Housing Service Reform Act introduced by Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), which is being considered separately by the Banking Committee, will eventually be added to the Farm Bill as a floor amendment.

Rep. GT Thompson (R-PA) released an overview of his draft 2024 Farm Bill, which will be marked up by the House Agriculture Committee on May 23. The summary of the bill’s Rural Development title mentions broadband connectivity, precision agriculture, health care, childcare, workforce challenges, private capital investments, and the permitting process for USDA RD projects; it is not clear which of these provisions, if any, would apply to housing.

HAC publishes research brief on farmworker housing

Creating a Better Understanding of Farmworker Communities and Their Housing Conditions reviews available data on the social and economic characteristics of farm laborers in the U.S. and on their housing conditions. While their demographics have shifted and the H-2A visa program has grown, farmworkers’ incomes remain low and their housing conditions inadequate. HAC recommends more research on farmworker housing and more resources devoted to improving conditions.

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

President Biden’s proclamation is posted here.

RuralSTAT

Although farmworkers are much more likely to rent their homes than other U.S. residents, they own homes at higher rates than ever before. Around one-third of farmworkers own a home or manufactured home in the U.S., compared to nearly two-thirds of all households in the U.S. Source: HAC tabulations of U.S. Department of Labor NAWS data set 2017-2018.

OPPORTUNITIES

HUD will modify PRICE manufactured housing program funding notice, extend deadline

The deadline for Preservation and Reinvestment Initiative for Community Enhancement applications will be changed to June 24 rather than June 5, according to a HUD “intent to modify” announcement. HUD plans to make other changes to the funding notice, it says, but specifics will not be available until the modification is published. For more information, email PRICE@HUD.gov.

HAC offers two new training and assistance opportunities

Applications for both programs will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so early submission is recommended. For answers to questions, email apply@ruralhome.org and put the name of the program in the subject line.

  • The One Rural Capacity Building Program is specifically designed for nonprofit organizations and Tribally Designated Housing Entities (TDHEs) eager to advance their mission. Participants will receive customized technical support, a wealth of training materials and informational guides, and reimbursable scholarships for HAC-sponsored training events. Apply by May 29.
  • The Empowering Organizations for Successful Homeowner Rehabilitation Learning Cohort is aimed at nonprofits undertaking homeowner rehabilitation efforts. It will guide you through every step of the rehabilitation process, from strategic marketing to project completion. Apply by May 15.

Farmworker housing funding notice corrected

USDA has published a corrected paragraph about commitment letters for third-party funding in its notice offering Section 514 and 516 funds for off-farm farmworker housing. The deadline for preapplications remains July 3.

USDA clarifies Strategic Economic and Community Development set-aside

In February, USDA announced it would set aside FY24 funds in the community facilities, water and waste, and Rural Business Development Grants programs for the Strategic Economic and Community Development priority, which emphasizes projects that support multi-jurisdictional and multi-sectoral strategic community investment plans. A recent correction notice says that Community Facilities Grant Program funds will not be reserved for SECD this year. The correction does not impact CF loans or guarantees. It also clarifies that community and economic development plans created in association with approved USDA Rural Partners Network networks will be accepted as plans under SECD.

Program will support rural artists in the Upper Great Plains

Ignite Rural is an eight-month residency program hosted by the Department of Public Transformation, a rural arts nonprofit. It is aimed at supporting rural artists who engage in social and civic work for their communities. This “at-home” cohort is open to artists who live in rural communities with populations of 20,000 or less within Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the 23 Native Nations that share that geography. Applications are due June 5.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD extends deadline for Buy America comments

Information on the cost and availability of materials covered by the Build America, Buy America Act is now due to HUD by June 17 rather than April 15. HUD requests details on domestic materials sourcing, market readiness, other product supply considerations, and whether specific housing products or their components are manufactured in the U.S.

HUD also recently posted materials from its most recent webinar on implementing BABA.

Rule covers fair lending and equitable housing finance for Fannie, Freddie, and Home Loan Banks

A final rule on fair lending, fair housing, and Equitable Housing Finance Plans will apply to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s oversight of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks. FHFA explains that the rule codifies existing FHFA practices in regulation and adds new requirements related to fair lending, fair housing, unfair or deceptive acts or practices, and Equitable Housing Finance Plans. Most parts of the rule will be effective 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. FHFA will hold a public listening session June 5 to hear interim feedback on Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s implementation of their current Equitable Housing Finance Plans and preparation of their 2025-2027 plans.

Revision to USDA guarantee program accounts for fee changes

Housing industry practices regarding real estate agent commission fees are changing, so USDA has made a corresponding change in the Section 502 single-family guaranteed loan program. The program has a 6% cap on seller concessions, which are funds from a seller or other interested party to incentivize a buyer to purchase a home. Real estate commission fees paid by the seller on behalf of the homebuyer will now be excluded from the 6% cap. USDA’s announcement says this update ensures that regardless of any possible changes to real estate commission requirements, rural homebuyers will continue to be able to affordably access guaranteed home loan financing from USDA.

HUD adopts changes to voucher programs

Amendments to HUD regulations implement changes to the Housing Choice Voucher and Project-Based Voucher programs made by the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016. HUD has also made other changes that are intended to reduce burden on public housing agencies.

H-2A farmworker visa program regulations revised

The Department of Labor has issued new regulatory provisions, adding to the 2022 overhaul of its rules for the H-2A temporary farmworker visa program. DOL says this rule adopts important provisions that will further strengthen protections for agricultural workers and enhance the department’s enforcement capabilities, thereby permitting more effective enforcement against fraud and program violations.

Two agencies allow homebuyers to request new appraisals

HUD’s Federal Housing Administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency worked together to develop new “reconsideration of value” policies for borrowers with mortgages insured by FHA or purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. A homebuyer will be able to request a re-assessment of the appraised value of their property if they believe that the appraisal was inaccurate or biased.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Thrive Rural Resource Center launched

HAC is honored to be part of the Thrive Rural Resource Center, a collaborative initiative hosted by the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group. Tailored for policymakers, philanthropists, and media professionals, the center provides information and strategies for equitable rural development.

USDA tenants’ rights explained

USDA has two new publications for residents of its multifamily housing properties. One explains Tenant Rights and Responsibilities. The other covers MFH Grievance Procedures Frequently Asked Questions.

U.S. wealth inequality hits record high

For the first time, the Urban Institute reports a seven-figure racial wealth gap: the average wealth held by white families is more than $1 million higher than that of Hispanic and Black families. Nine Charts about Wealth Inequality in America demonstrate disparities not just by race but also by gender. Accounting for educational attainment, women earn less than men with the same race. White women earn more on average than women of color and white men earn more on average than men of color.

Essays explore solutions for community development and climate resilience

What’s Possible: Investing Now for Prosperous, Sustainable Neighborhoods is a collection of essays exploring the intersection of community development and climate resilience. A number of the essays touch on housing issues. A collaboration of Enterprise Community Partners, LISC, and the New York Fed, What’s Possible is intended to offer practical solutions for clean energy, resilience, and equity. The entire book can be downloaded free. Print copies are also available.

National radio story features Rural Studio

What One Group’s Experiments Designing Affordable Housing in Rural America Show, a National Public Radio story on May 5, highlighted the work of Auburn University’s Rural Studio supporting affordable housing in Alabama. The story focuses on a resident of Hale County, AL and his house, which has a roof and foundation much larger than the current structure, allowing for future expansion.

HAC

HAC is hiring

HAC job listings, each with application instructions, are available on our website.

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).

Want to reprint a HAC News item?

Please credit the HAC News and provide a link to HAC’s website. Thank you!

Policy News field

HAC Applauds New Farm Bill Framework

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) celebrates the inclusion of key priorities for rural community development in the Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act, released by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow earlier this week. Strong rural communities are a vital part of building a stronger, better future for the whole country. This bill recognizes that reality. Including robust new resources for rural community development in the Farm Bill would be a historic victory for small towns and rural places nationwide.

The framework released by Chairwoman Stabenow creates, for the first time, baseline funding for Rural Development, with $50 million per year for the Rural Partnership Program, a new capacity building program that HAC has long been supportive of. This sustained investment in rural communities would help them build the capacity to access complex federal funding streams and overcome their greatest challenges, from housing to childcare to broadband.

HAC also continues to be glad to see the bipartisan interest in Senator Tina Smith’s and Senator Mike Rounds’ Rural Housing Service Reform Act. This bill makes tested, commonsense reforms to USDA housing programs so that they can better serve rural America. Modernizing the Rural Housing Service is an important step in solving the growing crisis in rural multifamily preservation. While not under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committee, we hope that this bill can move through the Banking Committee and join with the Farm Bill as a floor amendment.

“Rural Development is an often-overlooked title within the Farm Bill,” notes HAC Director of Public Policy Jonathan Harwitz. “Chairwoman Stabenow’s new framework changes that narrative for Rural Development. Improving those programs and providing baseline funding would give rural communities nationwide the tools they need to build a better, stronger future. We look forward to hopefully seeing the Farm Bill move forward this year and thank Chairwoman Stabenow for her leadership.”

Advocates and industry groups welcomed newly adopted energy codes today for federally supported homes across the country.

Groups Celebrate Updated Energy Efficiency Rules for New U.S.-Backed Homes

Advocates and industry groups welcomed newly adopted energy codes today for federally supported homes across the country. The significant update from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) will reduce housing costs, default risks to lenders, and greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.

By improving energy efficiency, the congressionally mandated requirements will save residents an estimated $15,071 for single-family homes and $5,886 per multifamily unit over 30 years, net of costs (compared to homes under existing U.S. requirements), the agencies said. Residents of single-family homes would save $963 every year on energy costs, on average.

Lowell Ungar, federal policy director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said: “This long-overdue action will protect homeowners and renters from high energy costs while making a real dent in climate pollution. It makes no sense for the government to help people move into new homes that waste energy and can be dangerous in extreme temperatures. Now the Federal Housing Finance Agency should do its part and direct Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to adopt these codes for even more homes.”

Jessica Garcia, senior policy analyst for climate finance at Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund, said: “​​As the frequency of extreme temperatures increases due to climate change, so too will home energy costs. Implementing up-to-date energy codes will help ease the financial strain on homeowners and renters across the country as they fight to remain housed. We are encouraged by HUD’s decision, and urge the Federal Housing Finance Agency to follow suit and swiftly adopt the latest energy efficiency codes to decrease burdensome energy costs for future homeowners and renters, which in turn may help lower default risks and loan delinquency rates, and set forth a path to stabilize our shaky housing financial system.”

David Lipsetz, president and CEO of the Housing Assistance Council, said: “HUD and USDA are helping keep utilities costs lower for homeowners and renters. This is the right move at a time when housing costs are growing ever farther out of reach. We stand ready to work with the agencies to find ways to cover the upfront costs for the short time periods until they pay for themselves.”

Amy Boyce, senior director of building and energy performance at the Institute for Market Transformation, said: “Studies show that energy-efficient homes are not only more comfortable, affordable, and healthy, but that borrowers are more likely to repay mortgages on efficient homes, sparing themselves, lenders, and taxpayers the trauma of foreclosure. While first costs are often the focus of conversation, ongoing costs like energy bills, that are subject to wide fluctuations based on environmental and political factors, are directly related to a person being able to remain in their home. Energy-efficient new construction reduces the risk for homeowners, which is especially important for LMI populations, who are least able to withstand those risks.”

Alys Cohen, senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, said: “Making new homes more energy efficient will lower utility costs for homeowners and renters who too often struggle to pay their bills and will reduce the risk of foreclosure and eviction. We applaud HUD and USDA for updating their building codes and urge the Federal Housing Finance Agency to adopt the newer standards so affordable energy is available for the many families moving into homes financed through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

Debra Phillips, president and CEO of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), said: “As a leading standards development organization, NEMA has a lengthy history of leading on code adoption and energy efficiency in the building sector—and our members manufacture products that contribute to the construction of these safe, efficient, and resilient homes in communities across the United States. NEMA commends Acting HUD Secretary Todman and USDA Secretary Vilsack for their leadership on this final determination that will create cost savings, generate efficiency gains, and further reduce emissions from buildings, benefitting all Americans. This decision will lower the energy burden on low-income homes, reducing monthly utility bills in the process.”

Curt Rich, president and CEO of the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA) said: “Today’s announcement is a giant win for consumers. Homes built to modern energy codes mean lower monthly utility bills, improved comfort, and greater resilience during extreme weather events. The promise of an energy-efficient home becomes a guarantee under this new policy.”

Erin Sherman, senior associate for building regulations at RMI, said: “RMI celebrates the new rule, which will benefit roughly one in four new homes, ensuring countless more families receive the economic and resilience benefits of energy efficiency. We expect FHA- and USDA-supported mortgages and HUD-supported affordable housing embracing energy efficiency will have positive and direly needed ripple effects across the housing market by encouraging homebuilders to incorporate higher-efficiency materials and techniques into new homes.”

Ben Evans, federal legislative director at the U.S. Green Building Council, said: “This decision clears the way for billions of dollars in savings for the households that need it most, savings that will be delivered month after month, year after year, in the form of lower energy bills. Additionally, these homes will be more comfortable and more resilient in the face of increasingly severe weather. This is going to improve a lot of people’s lives, and the Biden administration, Sec. Todman, and Sec. Vilsack deserve credit for their leadership in making it happen.”

Background:

In bipartisan laws in 1992 and 2007, Congress directed HUD and USDA to periodically strengthen efficiency requirements for new houses and multifamily units that are purchased with federally backed loans such as Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and USDA mortgages, along with new homes with funding from other HUD programs. These new homes—about 180,000 annually—are primarily occupied by low- and moderate-income homeowners and renters.

The law directs HUD and USDA to update their requirements every three years. They match new model energy codes if they determine that doing so would not negatively affect the availability or affordability of covered housing. The code requirements adopted today are known as the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (for houses and low-rise multifamily buildings) and ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2019 (for high-rise multifamily buildings). The Department of Veterans Affairs is required by law to update its loan requirements to match HUD and USDA.

Houses and multifamily buildings meeting the up-to-date codes generally have more insulation in the walls and roofs, better air sealing and windows, and more energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, including better-sealed ducts. Several requirements vary across the country to reflect differing climates.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) separately has the authority to require that new homes with mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have such efficiency requirements. The Campaign for Lower Home Energy Costs and dozens of organizations have called on FHFA to act, and the agency has said it is exploring this option.

###

Contacts:

ACEEE – Ben Somberg, bsomberg@aceee.org

AFREF – Carter Dougherty, carter@ourfinancialsecurity.org

HAC – Dan Stern, dan@ruralhome.org 

IMT – Alexandra Laney, alexandra.laney@imt.org

NCLC – Stephen Rouzer, srouzer@nclc.org

NEMA – Michael Farnham, michael.farnham@nema.org

NAIMA – Patrick Kiker, pkiker@naima.org

RMI – Leah Komos, leah.komos@rmi.org 

USGBC – Deisy Verdinez, dverdinez@usgbc.org

 

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a nonprofit research organization, develops policies to reduce energy waste and combat climate change. Its independent analysis advances investments, programs, and behaviors that use energy more effectively and help build an equitable clean energy future. 

Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund is a nonprofit organization which fights to eliminate inequity and systemic racism in the financial system in service of a just and sustainable economy. The organization was formed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and works in coalitions alongside civil rights, consumer, labor, investor, environmental justice, and other groups. 

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is a national nonprofit that supports affordable housing efforts throughout rural America. Since 1971, HAC has provided below-market financing for affordable housing and community development, technical assistance and training, research and information, and policy formulation to enable solutions for rural communities.

The Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that envisions a world where buildings dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions and support our physical, social, and economic well-being. We advance this vision through policies, programs, and business practices that scale better buildings in the United States.

Since 1969, the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center has worked for consumer justice and economic security for low-income and other disadvantaged people in the United States through its expertise in policy analysis and advocacy, publications, litigation, expert witness services, and training.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) represents over 300 electrical equipment and medical imaging manufacturers that make safe, reliable, and efficient products and systems. Together, our industries are responsible for 1.65 million American jobs and contribute more than $200 billion to the U.S. economy.

NAIMA is the association for North American manufacturers of fiber glass, rock wool, and slag wool insulation products. Its role is to promote energy efficiency and environmental preservation through the use of fiber glass, rock wool, and slag wool insulation, and to encourage the safe production and use of these materials.

RMI is an independent nonprofit founded in 1982 that transforms global energy systems through market-driven solutions to align with a 1.5°C future and secure a clean, prosperous zero-carbon future for all. We work in the world’s most critical geographies and engage businesses, policymakers, communities, and NGOs to identify and scale energy system interventions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% by 2030.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated. For over 30 years, we have pursued this vision through our flagship program Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) and through education, community, events and advocacy.

HAC News: April 25, 2024

TOP STORIES

Agencies update energy efficiency standards

Some federally supported new housing construction, including single-family homes supported by USDA’s Section 502 direct, Section 502 guaranteed, or Section 523 self-help programs, will be required to meet updated energy efficiency standards under a determination announced by HUD and USDA on April 25. In recognition of challenges they may face in implementing the changes, rural persistent poverty rural areas have a 24-month compliance period rather than the shorter timeframes for other places; USDA will publish a map identifying where the longer compliance period applies. HAC and a coalition of other organizations welcomed the changes. After the agencies proposed them last year, a comment letter circulated by HAC and signed by more than 80 other organizations supported the updated standards because they will reduce homebuyers’ utility bills. The letter also suggested ways to cover the upfront costs of building to higher standards.

RuralSTAT

A little over 60% of homes nationwide are single-family detached dwellings, but in rural America they comprise over 72% of homes. Structures with two or more units make up a smaller part of the rural housing stock at 12.2% collectively – less than half the national level of multi-unit structures at 26.3%. Source: HAC tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017-2021 American Housing Survey.

OPPORTUNITIES

USDA offers farmworker housing funds

Section 514/516 loans and grants are available to develop off-farm housing for farmworkers. Nonprofit organizations, Tribes, state or local governments, and limited partnerships with nonprofit general partners are eligible. Preapplications are due July 3. USDA also recently announced a June 18 deadline for subsequent loans and grants to improve, repair, or modify properties that already have Section 514 or 516 funding. For more information on either announcement, contact Jonathan Bell, USDA, MFHprocessing1@usda.gov, 202-205-9217.

Disaster repair grants available for homeowners

USDA offers Section 504 Rural Disaster Home Repair Grants for low-income owners of homes damaged by 2022 presidentially declared disasters. The program requirements, including those for homeowners’ age and income level, are not the same as those of the regular Section 504 program. Applications will be accepted as long as funds remain available. For more information, contact a local USDA RD office.

Creative placemaking grant competition opens

Our Town or Nuestra Ciudad, the creative placemaking grants program of the National Endowment for the Arts, offers grants from $25,000 to $150,000 with a 1:1 match requirement. The program supports activities that integrate arts, culture, and design into local efforts to advance local economic, physical, or social outcomes. These projects require a partnership between a nonprofit organization and a local government entity, with one of them or a third partner being a cultural organization. The first part of the application is due August 1. For more information, contact NEA staff, OT@arts.gov.

Water systems grants will finance revolving funds

USDA’s Rural Decentralized Water Systems Grant Program makes grants to nonprofits to establish and maintain revolving funds that provide loans and sub-grants to low- and moderate-income individuals for individually owned water well systems and/or individually owned wastewater systems. Eligible areas include rural areas and towns with populations of 50,000 or less, Tribal lands in rural areas, and colonias. Apply by June 28. For more information, contact Lola Maratita, USDA, Dolores.Maratita@usda.gov, 615-714-8883.

Racial equity committee at Treasury seeks members

The deadline for nominations to the Treasury Advisory Committee on Racial Equity has been extended to May 20. The U.S. Treasury Department administers the Community Development Financial Institutions programs and a number of Inflation Reduction Act and pandemic recovery programs. For more information, contact Rhianna Rogers, Treasury, equity@treasury.gov, 202-622-3644.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

OCC extends comment period on bank merger

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has extended the time to submit public comments on the proposed application by Capital One to acquire Discover Bank. Comments may now be submitted through May 31.

HUD revises rule on floodplains and wetlands

A new final rule amends HUD’s regulations governing floodplain management and the protection of wetlands to implement the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, and revises HUD’s Minimum Property Standards. HUD will publish guidance on compliance and will schedule two webinars on the final rule. To receive future announcements, subscribe to HUD’s Office of Housing email list.

Multifamily insurance deductibles rise for wind and storm coverage

The Federal Housing Administration is changing its requirements for wind and named storm insurance coverage at multifamily properties with FHA mortgage insurance. FHA is increasing the maximum allowable deductibles, so insurance policies will cost property owners less. HUD explains the changes in guidance documents here and here.

EVENTS

USDA to hold tenants’ rights roundtable online

USDA Rural Development will host a community roundtable on Thursday, May 2 to review the rights and protections for tenants of USDA-financed properties. Participants will be able to provide feedback and discuss additional ways USDA can support their needs. Register here.

Webinar series will advise on equitable energy efficiency programs

On May 21, Navigating Organizational Funding for Home Energy Upgrade Programs in Justice 40 Communities will cover the nuts and bolts of applying for Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grants, prizes, and technical assistance. This is the first workshop in a series organized by EPA and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, designed to support community-based organizations, small businesses, and local governments in creating equitable efficiency and electrification home upgrade programs.

Listening sessions will cover HUD’s environmental justice plan

HUD will hold three listening sessions online as it develops a 2024-2028 Environmental Justice Strategic Plan. During these events, HUD officials will offer information about the development of the Strategic Plan and external stakeholders can provide feedback on priorities HUD should consider and concerns related to environmental justice in communities with HUD-assisted housing. Register here for public sessions on May 1 or May 2. Register here for an April 30 session specifically for Tribes, Tribally Designated Housing Entities, and Tribal Housing Authorities.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Federal Reserve asks for responses to 2024 Community Perspectives Survey

The Federal Reserve System invites organizations that serve low- to moderate-income communities to take its Community Perspectives Survey. The survey collects insights on the economic conditions of low- to moderate-income communities and the health of the organizations serving them. It is open through April 30.

Toolkit advises working on data with people with lived experience of homelessness

People with Lived Experience and Expertise of Homelessness and Data Decision-Making is a HUD toolkit highlighting the importance of ensuring people with lived experiences are partners for decision making efforts by Continuums of Care and community partners. It includes resources on partnership practices, compensation, and training.

Artificial intelligence’s use in housing industry examined

Housing Industry Innovation: 5 Ways AI Can Help Boost Supply and Affordability, a brief from the Bipartisan Policy Center, summarizes ways AI is changing five areas related to housing: predevelopment, construction, creditworthiness, home appraisals, and property tax assessments. It includes a link to an AI 101 brief as well as links to more detailed information about the topics covered.

Study addresses barriers to federal funding for rural places

The West Virginia Community Development Hub’s Barriers to Federal Investment in Rural Communities report uses West Virginia as a case study to examine key factors that prevent rural, coal-impacted communities from effectively competing for federal funding across multiple agencies. The authors then identify simple strategies that federal agencies can implement to address these barriers.

Montana housing discussed in podcast

A Pew Trusts podcast episode, Housing in America: A Foundation in Montana, covers housing affordability issues. Montana state lawmakers describe legislation to address the concerns and Indigenous advocates discuss Tribal housing solutions.

HAC

HAC is hiring

HAC job listings, each with application instructions, are available on our website.

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).

Want to reprint a HAC News item?

Please credit the HAC News and provide a link to HAC’s website. Thank you!

HAC News: April 11, 2024

TOP STORIES

Supreme Court to hear homelessness case

On April 22 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Grants Pass v. Johnson, a case that considers whether it is cruel and unusual punishment to fine or arrest people for “camping” on public property. A National Homelessness Law Center website, https://johnsonvgrantspass.com/, explains and tracks the case. Several national advocacy organizations created a toolkit for participation in a National Week of Action, starting on April 22, to support long-term housing solutions rather than the criminalization of homelessness. Numerous state and local governments have supported the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, which has also posted information on its perspective. The Court’s decision will probably be announced in June.

HUD has new online system for Build America waiver requests

HUD established a new online system for grantees to request project-specific waivers from Buy America Build America requirements. A launch announcement offers instructions and links to resources and training.

HAC participates in heirs’ property conversations at national convenings

As a part of its multifaceted and collaborative initiative on heirs’ property, HAC engaged audiences and stakeholders at three recent national convenings. HAC’s research was featured at the Boston College of Law’s Initiative on Land, Housing, and Property Rights‘ second annual Heirs’ Property and the Racial Wealth Gap conference, Fannie Mae’s National Convening on Heirs’ Property: Past and Future, and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s 2024 Just Economy conference. To learn more about heirs’ property and its prevalence in your community, access HAC’s new report, A Methodological Approach to Estimate Residential Heirs’ Property in the United States, and a new Federal Housing Finance Agency blog post, Sustaining Family Wealth through Heirs’ Property Resolutions. FHFA highlights national research including HAC’s research in collaboration with Fannie Mae and efforts from the Federal Home Loan Banks to address heirs’ property issues.

RuralSTAT

HAC estimates the prevalence of heirs’ properties in persistent poverty counties is conservatively 1.2% of residential parcels – twice the estimated national rate at 0.6%. Source: Housing Assistance Council, A Methodological Approach to Estimate Residential Heirs’ Property in the United States

OPPORTUNITIES

Distribution of greenhouse gas reduction money begins

EPA has announced the intermediaries and consortia that will receive $20 billion from two of the three programs under the new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. These awardees will distribute the funds to other organizations around the country to create a national financing network for clean energy and climate solutions across sectors. EPA’s site provides details, including links to the awardees’ websites. Grantees for the third GGRF program, Solar for All, will be announced later this spring.

Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants available

HUD’s Choice Neighborhood Planning Grants support development of local plans to revitalize communities of all sizes with severely distressed public or HUD-assisted housing. There is a separate competition for implementation grants. Apply by June 10. For more information, email ChoiceNeighborhoods@hud.gov.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Guidance for federal awards revised

The Office of Management and Budget has modified the OMB Guidance for Grants and Agreements, now renamed the OMB Guidance for Federal Financial Assistance. OMB says it is updating and improving the guidance to incorporate recent policy priorities and statutory requirements, reduce burden, add clarifications, use plain language, and more. OMB Memorandum M-24-11 to federal agencies explains the changes and describes other steps agencies should take. The guidance is effective for all federal awards issued on or after October 1, 2024, though agencies may choose to use it sooner. For more information, contact OMB at mbx.omb.grants@omb.eop.gov.

Nominations sought for HUD’s tribal advisory committee

Nominations for membership on HUD’s Tribal Intergovernmental Advisory Committee are due June 7. For more information, contact Heidi J. Frechette, HUD, 202-402-7598.

Rent increases capped for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit developments as income limits set for HUD-assisted properties

HUD announced 2024 income limits for tenants in HUD-assisted properties and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties. Developments with LIHTC or housing bond financing are now subject to the 10% cap on rent increases HUD proposed in January. HUD explains its analysis of the cap’s impact here.

HUD sets rent adjustment factors

HUD’s FY24 Annual Adjustment Factors are effective April 1 for adjustment of some Section 8 properties/units’ contract rents. Contacts for more information vary by program.

HUD proposes to change treatment of tenants with criminal records

Comments are due June 10 on a proposal to amend the regulations for the public housing and Section 8 assisted housing programs, as well as the Section 221(d)(3) below market interest rate program, Section 202 elderly housing, Section 811 housing for persons with disabilities, and the Section 236 interest reduction payment program. In both admissions and evictions, PHAs and owners would be required to consider criminal records only when relevant to endangering health and safety and would also have to consider mitigating factors and circumstances.

Fair housing testers with felony convictions now permitted

HUD has changed its regulations to allow Fair Housing Initiatives Program grantees and Fair Housing Assistance Program agencies to use fair housing testers with prior felony convictions or convictions of crimes involving fraud or perjury. For more information, contact Aztec Jacobs, HUD, 202-402-7861.

EVENTS

HAC offers USDA packaging training in Chicago

The three-day USDA Section 502 Direct Certified Loan Application Packaging Training, designed for those experienced in using Section 502, will provide participants with a strong understanding of Section 502 direct underwriting and packaging standards, which will ensure that submitted loan dockets are complete and accessible for processing. The course will be held in Chicago on May 21-23 (rescheduled from April 23-25). Registration is $750. For more information, contact HAC staff, registration@ruralhome.org, 202-516-6271.

White House rural partners call to address housing costs

The White House holds regular calls to brief rural partners, with the next scheduled for Tuesday, April 16 at 3:00 pm Eastern. Administration officials will provide an overview of President Biden’s plan to lower housing costs, as well as an overview of funding available to provide career training services for workers in the Appalachian, Lower Mississippi Delta, and Northern Border regions. The call is off-the-record and closed to press. Register for the call here and sign up for White House rural news here.

Senate subcommittee sets housing preservation hearing

A hearing titled Challenges in Preserving the U.S. Housing Stock has been scheduled for April 16 by the Senate Banking Committee’s Housing Subcommittee. It will be webcast live and a recording will be available online afterwards.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Study points to upward mobility factors for rural teens

An article titled Why do Kids Outperform their Parents in This Rural California Town? A Sociologist Looks for Answers describes an ongoing study of Dixon, California, where social mobility is high and successful outcomes are common for young people. The Opportunity Index identified Dixon as the only place in the country that is rural and multiracial and has high historical and predicted rates of upward mobility. Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara want to identify what makes this community so successful, hoping the information can then be used by others. Factors identified so far include strong mentors, supportive and involved family members, school and extracurricular activities that keep students busy, and the availability of jobs students can do when they are in school.

New online platform collects housing policy resources

A collection of information from a wide range of sources, the National Housing Conference’s new Housing Resource Center is intended to meet the information and data needs of policymakers, journalists, lenders, home builders, civil rights groups, affordable housing advocates, real estate professionals, and more.

Guide offers help for designing home energy rebate programs

As states and territories prepare plans for Home Energy Rebate Programs with Inflation Reduction Act funding, the National Consumer Law Center and the National Housing Law Project have created IRA Home Energy Rebates State Program Design Recommendations to serve as a resource for advocates. It is intended to help promote state plans that prioritize low-income homeowners and tenants and work intentionally with existing state and federal programs to reduce consumers’ costs and increase consumer protections.

HAC

HAC is hiring

HAC job listings, each with application instructions, are available on our website.

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).

Want to reprint a HAC News item?

Please credit the HAC News and provide a link to HAC’s website. Thank you!

HAC News: March 28, 2024

TOP STORIES

April is National Fair Housing Month

This year is the 56th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act. HUD will celebrate the theme Fair Housing: The ‘Act’ in Action. For more information about fair housing rights or to file a complaint, visit HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity website or call 1-800-669-9777. For information or complaints related to USDA rural housing, visit USDA RD’s Civil Rights site.

Flexibility increased for rural multifamily owners to use surplus cash

A new regulation will allow owners of properties with financing from USDA’s Section 515 and 514/516 rental programs to apply cash to approved soft debt. The agency says this change provides a new source of capital for property improvements. For more information, contact Michael Resnik, USDA, 202-430-3114.

USDA formalizes 30-day written eviction notices

Owners of Section 515 and 514/516 rental properties must give tenants written notification at least 30 days before terminating a lease or taking eviction actions. The notice must include instructions on how a tenant can cure the nonpayment to avoid eviction and how to recertify household income. These notices will be required after April 24, 2024, and they must be included in leases by September 25, 2025. For more information, contact Michael Resnik, USDA, 202-720-1615.

Native American loan guarantee program gets revised rules

HUD is updating its regulations for the Section 184 program, which have not been substantially revised since 1996. The department says the changes will minimize potential risk and increase participation by financial institutions. The new rules are effective June 18. For more information, contact Krisa Johnson, HUD, 202-402-4978.

RuralSTAT

There are more than 2,500 banks headquartered in rural areas, and rural banks comprise more than half of all FDIC insured institutions in the United States. Between 1995 and 2022 the number of rural headquartered banks declined by 57%. Source: HAC tabulations of FDIC data.

OPPORTUNITIES

Farmworker housing repair funds available

USDA’s subsequent Section 514 and 516 off-farm labor housing loans and grants may be used to improve, repair, or make modifications to existing off-farm labor housing properties. The deadline is June 18. USDA will hold a webinar for potential applicants on April 3. For more information, contact Jonathan Bell, USDA, 254-727-5647.

Pay for Success Program can support permanent supportive housing

The Justice Department’s FY24 Second Chance Act Pay for Success Program offers funds to states, cities, townships, counties, special districts, federally recognized Tribal governments, and community-based public and Native American housing authorities to address transition and re-entry services including permanent supportive housing for people with mental health, substance use, or co-occurring disorders who are or were involved in the criminal justice system. Applications are due April 25. For more information, contact DOJ at 800-851-3420 or grants@ncjrs.gov.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Dates delayed for part of new CRA rule

The deadline for banks to make changes to their assessment areas and their public files, as required by the 2023 Community Reinvestment Act final rule, is now January 1, 2026 rather than April 1, 2024. The federal bank regulators have also made technical amendments to the CRA rule and related agency regulations that reference it. Comments on the extended effective date are due May 13.

HUD posts resources on source of income discrimination

A new HUD webpage explains what source of income discrimination is and provides an interactive map to help families, PHAs, and landlords to identify jurisdictions that are covered by source of income protections for tenants with vouchers. There are also tips and resources for tenants and PHAs on what to do if such discrimination occurs, as well as strategies for how to reduce it. To support efforts to improve landlord participation, HUD has posted an HCV Landlord Strategies Guidebook on its landlord resources page.

USDA suggests changes for multifamily housing credit reports

To avoid the complexities of its current process, USDA proposes to change the way it obtains credit reports for determining eligibility and feasibility for its Section 515 and 514/516 direct rental housing programs. Rather than collecting fees and ordering credit reports itself, the agency would require applicants to provide credit reports. Comments are due May 28. For more information, contact Abby Boggs, USDA, 615-490-1371.

Rural home repair program instructions revised

Changes to the Section 504 homeowner repair loan and grant programs have been incorporated into USDA’s handbook.

USDA seeks input on Section 502 guarantee policy changes, offers new tool

A new online Policy Desk is intended to make it easier for lenders and stakeholders to provide feedback on proposed policy changes for the Section 502 loan guarantee program. Current proposals would revise servicing guidelines and simplify the mortgage recovery advance process.

Priorities changing for USDA multifamily guarantees

A regulatory change removes the priorities currently listed in the rules for the Section 538 multifamily loan guarantee program and inserts a general statement allowing the agency to set and change priorities for the program without going through the rulemaking process. For more information, contact Tammy Daniels, USDA, 202-720-0021.

Comments requested on participation in government decisionmaking

The Office of Management and Budget is developing a government-wide framework, common guidelines, and leading practices for public participation and community engagement in government decisionmaking. It requests input on the experiences of individuals and organizations, including those from underserved communities, with informing federal government decisionmaking and participating in engagement activities with government agencies; examples of leading practices in this space; and other recommendations for this effort. Comments are due May 17. For more information, email publicparticipation@omb.eop.gov with “PPCE RFI” in the subject line, or call Cherie Klein, OMB, at 202-881-6220.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Research considers why Native American borrowers pay more for home loans

The Center for Indian Country Development at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve examined the reasons why, on average, Native American borrowers pay more for home loans than White borrowers. CICD found that for Native American borrowers, living either on or off reservations, the disparity can largely be explained by heavy reliance on personal property loans used to purchase manufactured homes, and not by underwriting or demographic characteristics such as credit scores or incomes. The reliance on such loans likely stems from the lack of low-cost mortgage options available to Native homebuyers, CICD suggested, as well as factors such as diminished access to generational wealth. Data indicated it is not due to the higher prevalence of manufactured homes on reservations, nor to the ownership structure of trust land.

Information posted to help decarbonize affordable housing

The Affordable Housing Decarbonization Hub, offering housing providers access to resources and information for equitable decarbonization, was recently launched by Enterprise Community Partners, the Housing Partnership Network, and the Rocky Mountain Institute. The hub also allows users to submit questions to experts and to share suggestions for additional resources.

Connections between housing and climate change studied

Residential buildings are responsible for 20% of total primary energy consumption in the U.S., reports the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley. Its report, Housing + Climate Policy: Building Equitable Pathways to Sustainability and Affordability, looks at the existing research on climate and housing in the U.S. in two key areas: how housing decarbonization and production strategies can reduce pollution to mitigate climate change, and how climate change impacts renters, homeowners, and the broader housing industry. This is the first paper in a planned Housing + Climate research initiative, intended to provide policy makers and advocates with evidence to advance effective policy solutions to both the climate and housing crises.

HUD reports on human trafficking survivors’ housing needs

Housing Needs of Survivors of Human Trafficking Study, a new report from HUD, notes that programs and services exist but are not scaled to meet survivors’ needs. In rural areas and Native lands, it says, housing and service resources for survivors are particularly scarce. The study recommends increased resources, low-barrier entry processes, trauma-informed approaches, culturally specific service delivery, and more.

Homeowners’ insurance costs rising

Nationwide, insurance costs for single-family homeowners with conventional mortgages have increased along with home values, though the effective rate (cost per dollar of value) has risen more slowly, Freddie Mac reports in a new analysis. U.S. Economic, Housing and Mortgage Market Outlook – March 2024 includes data showing that rates vary widely between states, based on hazards and state regulations.

HAC

Design workshops underway

The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD), in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, HAC, and To Be Done Studio, kicked off its 2023-2024 CIRD Design Workshops with back-to-back events. The first CIRD workshop took place November 29-December 1 in Thompson Falls, MT where the U.S. Forest Service and local organizations are looking to revamp an outdoor recreation area. The workshop included hard conversations, problem solving, and development of strategies that best suited the community. Since the Thompson Falls workshop, CIRD has completed workshops in Boswell, IN, Sunnyside, WA, and most recently Grenada, MS. Look out for other CIRD workshop updates here and sign up for the CIRD newsletter here.

HAC is hiring

HAC job listings, each with application instructions, are available on our website.

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’s office has moved

HAC’s new street address, effective on January 1, 2024, is 1828 L Street, N.W., Suite 505, Washington, DC 20036. Our phone number remains 202-842-8600.

Want to reprint a HAC News item?

Please credit the HAC News and provide a link to HAC’s website. Thank you!

 

Updated March 20 – What would a federal government shutdown mean for rural housing?

Updated, March 20, 2024 – Some parts of the government may shut down briefly this weekend while Congress finishes the process of passing a final funding measure, but the HUD and USDA housing programs will not be affected. Their final appropriations for fiscal year 2024 (October 1, 2023-September 30, 2024) were set earlier this month. HAC has posted more details about USDA’s funding levels here and about HUD’s here.

***   ***   ***

The information provided below is still accurate, but is no longer relevant for fiscal year 2024.

Update, October 2, 2023 – A last-minute agreement on a continuing resolution keeps the government running through November 17. It includes a provision allowing USDA to renew Section 521 Rental Assistance contracts as they expire, even if that requires a higher proportion of annual funding than the prorated amount for the first 48 days of the fiscal year.

The next steps towards funding for the entire fiscal year are not yet clear. The House and Senate have proposed different FY24 funding levels for USDA and HUD, and the House voted on but did not pass its USDA appropriations bill on September 28. Follow HAC’s reporting on appropriations in the HAC News (subscribe here) and on our web pages for USDA and HUD funding.

Update, September 29, 2023 – Congress has not made effective progress towards avoiding a shutdown on October 1. USDA has posted updated shutdown contingency plans, including one for Rural Development. The RD plan seems to be essentially the same as the 2021 version HAC originally summarized here. Since the updated plan indicates that USDA will be able to spend Rental Assistance funds so long as it has them, this post has been updated to remove questions about the lack of an advance appropriation for Rental Assistance.

The federal government, or parts of it, close when funding (appropriations) lapses. None of the fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills have been enacted yet, and ongoing differences between factions on Capitol Hill make temporary funding unlikely. A shutdown could begin on October 1, 2023, when fiscal year 2023 ends. If a continuing resolution (CR), or a series of them, keeps the government operating beyond October 1, a shutdown could occur whenever the final CR ends. Federal agencies have prepared shutdown plans.

A brief federal government shutdown probably would not impact most people who receive housing assistance but, at some point after the first few days, the housing effects would begin to be noticeable. In fiscal year 2019, a record 35-day shutdown from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 led some owners of USDA-financed rental properties, unaware that the agency had enough Section 521 Rental Assistance (RA) funding to last through January, to threaten to evict tenants who could not pay full rent on their own. Fortunately, Congress reached a funding agreement before any RA renewals were missed that February.

As HAC considers what a shutdown will mean, some important questions remain open and are included in the analysis below. HAC and other national rural housing organizations have reached out to USDA RD’s multifamily and political leadership with these questions and will update this information when we receive a response.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A brief federal government shutdown probably would not impact most people who receive housing assistance but, at some point after the first few days, the housing effects would begin to be noticeable.
  • Section 521 Rental Assistance contracts would continue to be renewed during a shutdown “if funding is available,” according to USDA Rural Development’s shutdown plan, dated September 2023.
  • If the agency has used up all its RA funds, “additional servicing options” could be provided to rental properties. When the government closed in December 2018 and January 2019, for example, USDA considered permitting owners to use project reserves to cover costs, but the shutdown ended before a final decision was made.
  • No new rural housing loans, grants, or loan guarantees would be committed during a shutdown.
  • HUD’s monthly subsidy programs – including public housing operating subsidies, housing choice vouchers, and multifamily assistance contracts – would operate only while funding remained available, according to HUD’s August 2023 contingency plan. If they ran out of money during a shutdown, they would cease to operate.

WHAT SHUTS DOWN

USDA Rural Development

Rural Development’s contingency plan, dated September 2023, indicates that State Directors, their staff, and some employees in the Washington, DC national office and the Customer Servicing Center in St. Louis would continue working during a shutdown.

Rental Assistance

RD’s plan says that Section 521 Rental Assistance would continue “if funding is available.”

The amount needed for RA can vary considerably from month to month. The RA payments each month are for the RA contracts that expired during that month, and each payment obligates a full year of RA funding. For example, the RA contracts that expired during August 2023 and were renewed in late August or early September will not be impacted again until they expire in August 2024. How much RA funding does USDA have on hand? How long will that amount last?

The contingency plan provides that, if the agency has used up all its RA funds, “additional servicing options” could be provided to rental properties. In 2019, for example, USDA was considering permitting owners to use project reserves to cover costs. The shutdown ended before the agency completely ran out of RA money, so they did not have to decide whether to allow the use of reserves. Has USDA RD planned for such a possibility this year?

Has RD developed plans for communicating with property owners/managers and with tenants if a shutdown occurs and while it continues?

Loans, grants, and servicing

According to USDA’s contingency plan, no new loans or grants would be committed during a shutdown. No new loan guarantees would be issued under any of the housing programs or the community facilities program. For Section 502 guaranteed loans only, lenders and borrowers could choose to proceed with closing if USDA had already issued a valid conditional commitment. The lender would be assuming the risk until the shutdown ended and a guarantee was issued.

RD activities that are considered necessary to preserve the government’s property would continue during a shutdown, and loans and escrow accounts are considered to be government property. Therefore RD would keep processing nightly updates for each RD financial system, making insurance and tax payments from borrowers’ escrow accounts, and “reconciling and submitting for initial processing” collection activity including amortized payments and payoff activity. Some foreclosure sales would go forward. Servicing of existing guaranteed loans would continue, including processing loss claims.

HUD

HUD’s plan is dated August 30, 2023. It explains that, since 2019, appropriations language has allowed HUD’s salaries and expenses funding to be carried over into the next fiscal year, with wording similar to that used for the Rental Assistance advance appropriations. Thus, if FY24 begins without an appropriation, HUD may have some FY23 funds remaining for staff to continue working at full force, at least temporarily. The department’s senior leadership would decide how much of that funding to use and for what functions.

Programs operating with HUD funding that was obligated before a shutdown would continue to operate. Much of the Federal Housing Administration’s and Ginnie Mae’s work would continue during a shutdown. Monthly subsidy programs, however – including public housing operating subsidies, housing choice vouchers, and multifamily assistance contracts – would operate only while funding remained available. If they ran out of money during a shutdown, they would cease to operate.

Treasury

The Treasury Department’s plan, dated December 2022, states that the CDFI Fund’s programs would not operate during a shutdown, without providing any further details.

WHO KEEPS WORKING

Generally, during a shutdown, federal staff in the affected agencies do not work unless their functions are considered essential. Furloughed employees are also not allowed to do their jobs voluntarily while the government is closed. In the past, Congress and the President have usually agreed to pay furloughed employees retroactively after a shutdown ends, but they are not required to do so.

Presidential appointees (i.e., agency officials who were confirmed by the Senate) are not furloughed. They are not paid, however, unless funds for their salaries are appropriated after the shutdown ends. “Schedule C” employees, also known as political appointees (these jobs do not require Senate confirmation), are subject to the same rules as civil service employees to determine whether their roles are essential during a shutdown.

WHAT A SHUTDOWN MEANS FOR GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS

An Office of Management and Budget document explains that during a shutdown a federal contractor can proceed with work that is not impacted by the lapse in funding. For example, if an agency has already obligated funds representing the entire price under a contract or task order before the funding lapse began, the contractor can conduct the work. At the agency, however, routine operational and administrative activities relating to contract or grant administration cannot continue.

WHAT HAPPENED IN FY19

Fiscal year 2019 began on October 1, 2018 with parts of the federal government, including USDA and HUD, open under continuing resolutions. After a final CR expired, they did close down on December 22. The government reopened on January 25, 2019, under another CR that expired on February 15. A final consolidated appropriations act was signed into law by President Trump on February 15.

USDA Rural Development

The first HAC News issue after the shutdown began, published on January 15, 2019, reported that limited functions were continuing at USDA’s national office in Washington, DC and the Customer Service Center in St. Louis. Loan closings were not taking place and applications were not being processed.

Rental Assistance

USDA RD was able to renew Section 521 Rental Assistance contracts that expired in December and January. If the shutdown had continued, however, the agency would not have had enough money to renew the approximately 700 RA contracts that expired in February and 1,000 in March.

By January 25, 2019, when a deal was reached for a three-week CR, the HAC News reported that USDA was considering short-term measures, such as allowing owners to use project reserves to cover costs, but had not yet finalized any plans or notified property owners/managers. The need for providing information directly from USDA had become clear when managers of USDA-financed properties in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Mississippi sent notices to tenants telling them their RA was ending in January and they would be responsible for paying their full rent, then backpedaled when informed by USDA the RA would be paid.

After the shutdown ended, the February 11, 2019 HAC News quoted a notice USDA sent to owners and managers of USDA-financed properties with Section 521 Rental Assistance: “We are pleased to inform you that Rental Assistance for Section 514/515 properties has been obligated through April. … We understand that the most recent lapse in appropriations created anxiety and uncertainty regarding the status of your contract obligations. We are hopeful that this communique and the fact that all contracts are obligated through April will provide you reassurance and operational predictability in your management of these critical low-income resources throughout rural America. Thank you for your partnership in delivering the Rural Housing Service affordable housing mission.”

A January 2019 memo from the National Housing Law Project explained the rights of federally assisted tenants during the government shutdown. NHLP is preparing an updated memo for a possible October 2023 shutdown.

Homeownership Programs

On February 1, 2019, after the shutdown ended, USDA’s single-family programs office announced it would issue new Certificates of Eligibility to all Section 502 direct applicants who had valid COEs on December 21 before the government shut down. The agency did not have enough money to obligate additional Section 502 direct loans until it received funding beyond February 15, however.

Section 504 repair loans and grants were available on February 1. USDA planned to prioritize applicants with immediate health and safety hazards.

Other Impacts

There were additional housing-related impacts from the FY19 shutdown, and only a few are summarized below.

Some HUD Project-Based Rental Assistance contracts expired early in the shutdown, as reported in the January 15, 2019 HAC News. About 21,500 households with average incomes under $13,000 per year were impacted by the expiration of 650 PBRA contracts that ended in December. More were expiring in January and February and HUD would need to determine whether it had funds available to renew them. Property owners could use their reserves, if available, to cover shortfalls. Public housing capital funding was unavailable, and operating funds would not be able to carry public housing authorities beyond February.

The shutdown’s effect in Indian Country was “substantial and unique,” the Center for Indian Country Development at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve reported, although calculating a dollar amount was not possible. Because of the unique relationship between the U.S. and Tribes, Tribal services are often closely tied to federal funding. Government employment is disproportionately high in Indian Country, Tribal staff such as those who plow reservation roads were furloughed, and Tribal education funds were in danger.

Disaster spending, particularly funding for Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017, was also delayed by the 2019 shutdown. Congress had appropriated $20 billion in CDBG-DR funds for Puerto Rico, but only $1.5 billion of that money was approved before the shutdown, and HUD did not disburse it during the shutdown. HUD approval of disaster spending plans or amendments from California, Florida, Georgia, Missouri and the U.S. Virgin Islands was also put on hold.

 

HAC News, March 14, 2024

HAC News: March 14, 2024

TOP STORIES

Administration’s FY25 housing budget proposes new programs for HUD

The Biden Administration released its request for the upcoming fiscal year on March 11. Tables and analyses are available on HAC’s website for USDA and HUD. The recording and slides from HAC’s annual budget webinar, held March 13, are also posted.

For most of USDA’s rural housing programs, the FY25 budget would hold funding at FY23 (not FY24) levels. The administration also repeats some proposals from last year’s budget request. Congress included in the FY24 final bill a limited pilot to decouple up to 1,000 units of Section 521 Rental Assistance from Section 515 and 514 mortgages so that, when a USDA rental housing mortgage ends, the tenants can continue to receive RA. The FY25 budget requests broader decoupling authority without caps. For homebuyers, the budget proposes to eliminate subsidy “recapture” for the Section 502 direct program, an expensive change that was requested but not adopted in FY24.

Many of the HUD programs that help produce housing, including HOME, CDBG, SHOP, and Native American housing, would receive funding cuts under the budget request. It proposes to produce new units, as well as assisting renters and people experiencing homelessness, through several large new programs. They would receive mandatory funding, which would not be subject to the caps on discretionary spending imposed by the 2023 debt limit agreement, and therefore are unlikely to be adopted. They would include the first-ever voucher guarantees, offered to all extremely low-income veterans and all youth aging out of foster care. The budget does continue current support for tenants, with a total of almost $32.8 billion to renew all Housing Choice Vouchers and provide 20,000 new incremental vouchers.

FY24 housing spending set

USDA and HUD are among the federal agencies that now have final appropriations for fiscal year 2024, which began on October 1, 2023. Summaries are available on HAC’s website. Negotiations continue in Congress for the remaining agencies, whose funding is scheduled to run out on March 22.

Most of USDA’s rural housing programs received spending cuts. The Section 502 direct mortgage loan program, for example, was reduced from $1.25 billion in FY23 to $880 million in FY24. The final measure also rescinds $28 million in unused Section 504 grant funds and $35 million in unused Section 542 voucher monies from past years. Many HUD programs were reduced also, with HOME falling from $1.5 billion to $1.25 billion and SHOP from $13.5 million to $12 million. Native American housing saw an increase, however, from $1.02 billion last year to $1.344 billion in FY24.

Secretary Fudge to depart HUD

Secretary Marcia L. Fudge has announced she will leave HUD on March 22 for family reasons. Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman will serve as Acting Secretary.

HAC announces new rental preservation center

The Center for Rural Multifamily Housing Preservation, a cross-disciplinary initiative to preserve rural rental housing, will focus on USDA-financed Section 515 properties, providing technical assistance and expertise to preserve the long-term affordability of this critical housing stock. It will draw on HAC’s unique combination of resources – lending, research, policy, and direct technical assistance – to both preserve individual properties and redefine the preservation process. For more information, contact Kristin Blum, HAC, kristin@ruralhome.org.

March is Women’s History Month

President Biden’s proclamation is posted here and information about federal events and exhibits is here.

RuralSTAT

85% of U.S. counties and Puerto Rico’s municipios have at least one USDA Section 515 property. As of February 2024, USDA’s portfolio included 12,398 Section 515 properties providing 388,572 rental homes for rural households and families. Source: HAC tabulations of USDA data.

OPPORTUNITIES

Indian Housing Block Grant application deadline extended

HUD has extended the original March 19 deadline for the competitive Indian Housing Block Grant to April 19. It also made technical changes in the announcement. For more information, email IHBGCompetitiveProgram@hud.gov.

HUD changes deadline for Service Coordinator funding

Applications for the Service Coordinators in Multifamily Housing program are now due April 9 rather than March 11. For more information, email ServiceCoordinatorNOFO@hud.gov.

Domestic violence survivors support programs include housing

The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women has several open funding competitions that include housing and/or related services for domestic violence survivors as eligible activities. Deadlines range from March to early May. These include Transitional Housing Assistance Grants (deadline April 11) as well as a program focused on rural residents (deadline April 16), one supporting people with disabilities and deaf people (deadline April 2), two programs for tribes, here and here (deadline for both is April 25), and others.

Funds offered for Building Communities of Recovery program

Provision of recovery housing is an allowable activity under BCOR. Through this program, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) supports the development, enhancement, expansion, and delivery of recovery support services for persons with substance use disorders (SUD) and co-occurring substance use and mental disorders (COD). Eligible applicants are independent nonprofits wholly or principally governed by people in recovery from SUD and/or COD who reflect the community being served. Applications are due April 29. Information contacts vary by topic and are listed at the end of the funding notice.

CAPITOL HILL

Senate committee hearing covers rural housing reform bill

The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing March 12 on bipartisan housing bills. Many Senators at the session focused their comments on support for the RHS Reform Act (S. 2790), in hopes of a committee markup for the bill in the near future. HAC supports the RHS Reform Act, which includes a slate of commonsense modernizations to the rural housing programs at USDA, and HAC CEO David Lipsetz testified on the bill in a subcommittee hearing last year. Several other bills that HAC supports were also mentioned during the hearing, including the new Tribal Rural Housing Access Act (S. 3906) introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

FY24 area loan limits in effect for USDA RD single-family programs

The area loan limits for fiscal year 2024 are now available and are reflected in online resources for the Section 502 direct loan program and the Section 504 loan and grant programs. For more information, contact an RD service center.

USDA will not make some HOTMA changes to income calculations

Recent HUD regulations implement changes in calculations of tenant income and assets required by the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act. A waiver notice from USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Joaquin Altoro announces that USDA will not use one part of HUD’s rule for its tenants, though it will use others. For more information, contact USDA’s multifamily servicing staff.

Buy America FAQs published for some HUD programs

Programs run by HUD’s Community Planning and Development office, including HOME, SHOP, and many others, are covered by a new set of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Build America, Buy America Act. The answers are based on the more detailed implementation guidance recently issued in Notice CPD-2023-12.

Survey seeks Buy America experiences

The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials is collecting information to respond to HUD’s recent request for information about the impact of the Build America, Buy America Act. Please take NAHRO’s brief survey by April 5 to help NAHRO advocate for a workable implementation of the law. NAHRO requests one response per agency. This survey will help affordable housing providers complete the work that their communities need. For more information, contact Andrew Van Horn, NAHRO, avanhorn@nahro.org.

EVENTS

CIRD webinars to address design and rural disaster planning

Two webinars on Design and Disaster Planning for Rural Communities, hosted by the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, seek to demystify the process of planning for disasters. Disaster resiliency and response practitioners who center design, arts, and culture in their work will share their approaches and some successful projects, along with concrete best practices and key considerations for rural communities. Part 1 will be held on March 27 and Part 2 on April 17.

Conference will cover heirs’ property and the racial wealth gap

Boston College Law’s Heirs’ Property and the Racial Wealth Gap Conference will take place on March 21-22 and is free to attend either virtually or in person.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Report documents shortage of affordable rentals

The U.S. has a shortage of 7.3 million rental homes affordable and available to renters with extremely low incomes, as documented in The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Nationwide, only 34 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. The report provides data for each state and for major metro areas.

Disease-related death rates growing for working age rural Americans

Twenty-five years ago, “natural-cause mortality” rates were similar in metropolitan areas and places outside metropolitan areas. By 2019, however, the age-adjusted natural-cause mortality rate for the prime working-age population (aged 25-54) was 43% higher outside metropolitan areas, USDA’s Economic Research Service reports. A new ERS study, The Nature of the Rural-Urban Mortality Gap, finds that both an increase in the rural prime working-age rates and a decrease in the corresponding urban rates contribute to this growing gap. Natural-cause death rates did not increase for other age groups. The largest increases were for women in two racial/ethnic groups – non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Natives and non-Hispanic whites – though rates for men in these groups increased also. The more rural an area was, the greater its death rate increase was. ERS researchers did not address possible reasons for their findings, but Covid was not a factor in the data they used, which did not cover periods after 2019.

HAC

HAC is hiring

HAC job listings, each with application instructions, are available on our website.

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’s office has moved

HAC’s new street address, effective on January 1, 2024, is 1828 L Street, N.W., Suite 505, Washington, DC 20036. Our phone number remains 202-842-8600.

Want to reprint a HAC News item?

Please credit the HAC News and provide a link to HAC’s website. Thank you!

Administration’s Budget Requests Substantial New HUD Funding

The Biden Administration’s budget for fiscal year 2025, released on March 11, 2024, includes proposals for HUD and other housing programs – USDA, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and others – that are part of broader Administration efforts to help meet increasing housing costs and address homelessness. If the budget were adopted as proposed, several pieces of this mosaic would be mandatory funding rather than discretionary, and others would be tax credits. Discretionary funds are subject to annual appropriations, while mandatory spending is not, so it is not subject to the caps on discretionary spending imposed by the 2023 debt limit agreement.

Details are provided in the table below.

The recording and slides from HAC’s March 13 webinar on Rural Housing in the Fiscal Year 2025 White House Budget are posted here.

— HAC’s analysis of FY24 appropriations for USDA housing programs is available here. —

Discretionary Funds

The budget would reduce funding for many of HUD’s housing production programs, including HOME, CDBG, SHOP, and Native American housing. It requests a total of $1.053 billion for Native American housing, just barely above the $1.02 billion provided in FY23 and notably lower than the $1.34 billion just adopted for FY24.

Tenant support fares somewhat better. For example, the budget proposes a total of almost $32.8 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (Housing Choice Vouchers), of which $29.25 billion is intended to renew all existing vouchers. An additional $241 million would provide 20,000 new incremental vouchers. (Separately, the mandatory funding proposals would guarantee vouchers to all extremely low-income veterans and all youth aging out of foster care.)

The budget also requests $30 million for the Recovery Housing Program, which allocates funds to states to provide temporary housing for individuals recovering from substance use disorders, including opioids.

Proposed New Mandatory Spending

The Administration’s proposals for mandatory spending programs cover production of new units, tenant assistance, and homelessness solutions.

  • Extremely low-income housing supply subsidy: $15 billion
    • New Project-Based Rental Assistance: $7.5 billion
    • Preserve distressed public housing: $7.5 billion
  • Innovation Fund for Housing Expansion: $20 billion
  • Housing vouchers for vulnerable low-income populations: $22 billion
    • all youth aging out of foster care: $9 billion
    • extremely low-income veterans: $13 billion
  • First-generation homebuyer down payment assistance: $10 billion
  • Sustainable eviction prevention reform: $3 billion
  • Homelessness grants: $8 billion
  • Emergency rental assistance for older adults at risk of homelessness: $3 billion

Tax Credit Proposals

  • The budget would expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to build or preserve 1.2 million more affordable rental units. It asks Congress to increase per capital credit allocations, reduce the bond financing threshold, and revise the “qualified contract” and “right of first refusal” provisions for future developments.
  • A mortgage relief credit would provide middle-class first-time homebuyers with an annual tax credit of $5,000 a year for two years. The White House says that “this is the equivalent of reducing the mortgage rate by more than 1.5 percentage points for two years on the median home, and will help more than 3.5 million middle-class families purchase their first home over the next two years.”
  • A separate one-year tax credit is intended to assist homeowners who could purchase a larger or more expensive home but hesitate to sell their starter home because of high mortgage rates or high housing costs. A middle-class homeowner would receive a credit up to $10,000 for selling a home below the area median home price in the county to another owner-occupant. The White House estimates this proposal would help nearly 3 million families.
  • A new Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit would allocate credits to developers and other sponsors of new construction or substantial rehabilitation of homeownership units in distressed areas. The White House estimates this would generate over 400,000 homes.

The Administration also proposes requiring each Federal Home Loan Bank to contribute 20 percent, rather than the current 10 percent, of annual income to the Affordable Housing Program. It calculates the change would raise an additional $3.79 billion for affordable housing over the next decade and assist nearly 380,0000 households.

Program
($ in millions)
FY23 Final FY24 Final FY25 Budget FY25 House FY25 Senate* FY25 Final*
CDBG $3,300 $3,300 $2,900
HOME 1,500 1,250 1,250
PRICE Manuf. Hsg. Prsrv. 225 10 0
Self-Help Hmownrshp (SHOP) 13.5 12 9
Veterans Home Rehab 1 0 0
Rural Cap’y Bldg (RCB) 6 6 5
Tenant-Based Rental Asst. 27,600 32,387 32,756
     VASH 50 15 0
     Tribal VASH 7.5 7.5 5
     Replacemts for 521 RA 20**
Project-Based Rental Asst. 13,938 16,010 16,686
Public Hsg. Capital Fund 3,200 3,410 3,312
Public Hsg. Operating Fund 5,109 5,501 5,238
Choice Neighborhd. Initiative 350 75 140
Native Amer. Hsg. 1,020 1,344 1,053
Homeless Asst. Grants 3,633 4,051 4,060
Hsg. Oppties for Persons w/ AIDS (HOPWA) 499 505 505
202 Hsg. for Elderly 1,075 913 931.4
811 Hsg. for Disabled 360 208 256.7
Fair Hsg. 86 86.4 86.4
Healthy Homes & Lead Control 410 345 350
Hsg. Counseling 57.5 57.5 57.5

* These columns will be filled in as the FY25 funding process progresses.

** Up to $20 million would be set aside to provide tenant protection vouchers to tenants who had USDA Section 521 Rental Assistance but are losing it because their building is losing or ending its USDA mortgage.

 

Administration Proposes Small Increases in Many Rural Housing Programs

The Biden Administration’s budget for fiscal year 2025, released on March 11, 2024, would hold funding at FY23 levels for most of USDA’s rural housing programs. In effect, it would restore the cuts made in the final FY24 appropriations bill, which was passed after the budget was prepared. Details are provided in the table below.

The recording and slides from HAC’s March 13 webinar on Rural Housing in the Fiscal Year 2025 White House Budget, are posted here.

— HAC’s analysis of FY24 appropriations for HUD programs is available here. —

Homeownership Housing

Like last year’s budget proposal, this year’s would eliminate subsidy “recapture” for the Section 502 direct program. Recapture requires that, when a low- or very low-income homeowner with a Section 502 direct loan sells the house or moves, they must repay the subsidy amounts they have received over the life of the loan. The administration estimates that eliminating this penalty for current borrowers would cost USDA $1.12 billion. It also proposes that Section 502 direct loans made in 2025 will not to be subject to recapture.

The budget would require that funding for housing construction or rehabilitation be targeted to projects that improve energy or water efficiency, implement green features, including clean energy generation or building electrification, electric car charging station installations, or address climate resilience of properties.

The budget also proposes three changes that were just adopted in the final FY24 funding bill, which had not been passed yet when the budget was prepared. These include extending the length of self-help and site-development loans from two years to five, and standardizing foreclosure procedures consistent with HUD’s.

Rental Housing

The administration again asks for legislative language to “decouple” Section 521 Rental Assistance from Section 515 and 514 mortgages, so that when a USDA rental housing mortgage ends for any reason, the tenants can continue to receive Rental Assistance. The final FY24 bill authorized a limited pilot to decouple up to 1,000 units of RA, but the budget does not propose any limits.

The budget requests Section 542 voucher funding be used only to renew “legacy vouchers,” $11.79 million in unobligated voucher funds be rescinded, and $20 million be added to provide HUD tenant protection vouchers for tenants “in USDA properties that are unable to refinance, participate in the multi-family preservation and rehabilitation options, or decouple.”

 

Program
($ in millions)
FY23 Final FY24 Final FY25 Budget FY25 House* FY25 Senate* FY25 Final*
502 SF Direct Loans $1,250 $880 $1,250
     Nat. Amer. SF Demo 7.5 5 7.5
502 SF Guar. Loans 30,000 25,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 25 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 32 25 30
515 MF Direct Loans 70 60 70
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Loans 20 15 25
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grants 10 7.5 10
521 Rental Asst. 1,488 1,608 1,690
523 Self-Help TA 32 25 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 16 10 16
538 MF Guar. Loans 400 400 400
542 Vouchers 48 48 38**
Rental Prsrv. Demo (MPR) 36 34 90
Rental Prsrv. TA 2 1 0
Rural Cmty. Dev’t Init. 6 5 6
Cmty. Facil. Direct Loans 2,800 2,800 1,250
Cmty. Facil. Grants 25 5 22
Tribal Colleges CF Grants 10 8 10
Energy Cmties. Grants 10
Cmty. Facil. Guar. 650 650 650

Abbreviations key

  • MF: Multfamily (Rental)
  • SF: Single-Family (Homeownership)
  • TA: Technical Assistance
  • VLI: Very Low-Income

* These columns will be filled in as the FY25 funding process progresses.

** This $38 million is to renew vouchers already issued. Most tenants in USDA-financed rental properties where mortgages end or are paid off would receive Section 521 Rental Assistance under the Administration’s decoupling proposal. An additional $20 million is included in the HUD tenant protection vouchers account to provide new vouchers for tenants “in USDA properties that are unable to refinance, participate in the multi-family preservation and rehabilitation options, or decouple.”