HAC News: May 25, 2023

TOP STORIES

Researchers predict consequences of debt limit stand-off

While congressional leaders and President Biden work to agree on provisions for raising the U.S. debt limit before the country’s borrowing reaches it in early June, economists and others are attempting to predict possible consequences of various scenarios.

  • If the House-passed Limit, Save, Grow Act becomes law, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates, it would require a 33% cut in “the two-fifths of the discretionary budget outside of defense and veterans’ medical care.” As a result, over 2 million people would lose rental assistance and 119,000 people experiencing homelessness would not receive aid. Because the spending reductions would increase over time, the cut would grow to 59% in 2033. CBPP provides an interactive graphic showing how protecting some programs changes the level of cuts to others.
  • If there is no agreement before the debt limit is reached, a short-term default of less than a week would lead to a “mild” recession in the second half of 2023, according to Moody’s Analytics. Real GDP would decline by 0.7 percentage point, employment would fall by 1.5 million jobs, and the unemployment rate would rise from 3.4% to a peak of almost 5%. There would be little long-term fallout on the economy, although global investors would demand higher interest on Treasury debt to compensate for the risk of future debt limit breaches, creating a significant cost to taxpayers in the long run.
  • If the debt limit breach lasts for a month or longer, Moody’s predicts a “cataclysmic” blow to the economy. The federal government would have to slash its spending, leading to an economic downturn comparable to that in 2007-2008. More than 7.8 million jobs would be lost, and unemployment would rise to 8%. The effects would still be felt a decade in the future. In both the short and long term, healthcare providers would likely become more hesitant to see Medicare and Medicaid patients. Confidence in other government supports would weaken spending and confidence, especially in areas with more lower-income or elderly households.

House subcommittee approves FY24 USDA spending bill

The House has begun working on appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024, which begins on October 1, 2023. The Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee passed a bill on May 18 that would fund many rural housing programs at levels lower than those requested in the administration’s budget, and in some cases lower than the amounts appropriated for FY23 or FY22. HAC has posted details on its website. The bill will move next to the full House Appropriations Committee, which has postponed a markup originally set for May 24.

RuralSTAT

According to the 2020 Census, there are approximately 697,000 rural Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Source: Housing Assistance Council Tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 Census of Population and Housing. For more information on race and ethnicity in rural America visit HAC’s website.

OPPORTUNITIES

USDA offers Native CDFIs funds to relend

Certified Native CDFIs can apply to USDA for loans from the Native Community Development Financial Institution Relending Demonstration Program. Awardees will relend money to low- and very low-income households to acquire, build, rehabilitate, improve, or relocate dwellings on Tribal land in rural areas. The deadline is July 17. For more information, contact Brian Hudson, USDA, 608-697-7725.

Powering Affordable Clean Energy Program to finance renewable energy

The Rural Utilities Service is launching the Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) Program, appropriated $1 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act to serve places with populations of 20,000 or less, or service areas of current RUS Borrowers or former RUS and Rural Electrification Act borrowers. The program will provide loans for projects that generate and/or store electricity from renewable energy resource systems. Nonprofits, for-profits, state and local governments, Tribes, institutions of higher education, community-based organizations, distribution electric cooperatives, and generation and transmission electric cooperatives are eligible and may submit letters of interest between June 30 and September 29. Loans are potentially partially forgivable, with the forgivable portion varying depending on the geography served. For more information, contact Christopher A. McLean, USDA, 202-690-4492.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

USDA proposes to waive Buy America requirements for some community facilities and water and environmental projects

USDA has requested a one-year exemption from Build America, Buy America procurement requirements for infrastructure projects funded by USDA’s water and environmental or community facilities programs that were planned prior to May 14, 2022. The waiver would apply to projects that were awarded funds before that date, submitted an application to USDA, or held “substantial public engagement” such as having public meetings or publishing a notice related to project selection. Comments on the waiver request are due June 2. For more information or to submit comments, email ffac@usda.gov with the subject “RD Waivers: Public Interest Waiver for Projects Planned Prior to BABAA Implementation.”

FEMA seeks comments on risk assessment data

FEMA requests public input as it implements new statutory requirements that include designating “community disaster resilience zones” for targeting disaster mitigation efforts. Its questions address methodology and data, the designation process, and the types of assistance to be provided to resilience zones. Comments are due July 25. For more information, contact Pamela Williams, FEMA, 202-212-8007.

HUD releases income limits

Income limits that determine eligibility for programs including public housing, Section 8 project-based, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Section 202, and Section 811 have been posted online and took effect May 15. Income limits for Community Planning and Development programs including CDBG and HOME are available here and will be effective June 15.

Tribal input invited on environmental review

A Tribal/Interagency Environmental Streamlining Toolkit developed by the HUD-led Tribal Housing and Related Infrastructure Interagency Task Force is available for Tribal consultation. The toolkit is intended to provide Tribes with information and tools to create one environmental review when multiple agencies are involved in a Tribal housing project. The website can also serve as a hub providing environmental requirements for Tribal housing and related infrastructure from eight different federal agencies, and it offers guidance and best practices for coordination, including coordinating endangered species and historic preservation reviews. The task force requests feedback by June 9.

ReConnect regulatory changes confirmed

USDA has adopted the changes it proposed in January for the Rural eConnectivity Program, effective May 1. For more information, contact Laurel Leverrier, USDA, 202-720-3416.

HUD and USDA move towards revising energy standards

Taking the first step in adopting revisions to their energy standards, HUD and USDA announced a preliminary determination that the changes do not negatively affect the availability or affordability of new construction of single- and multifamily housing covered by the relevant law. They relied on studies showing the incremental costs of the additional efficiency measures pay for themselves with energy cost savings on a life-cycle basis. Comments are due July 17. For more information, contact Michael Freedberg, HUD, 202-402-4366 or Meghan Walsh, USDA, 202-573-3692.

Feedback sought on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s single-family pricing

After canceling fees it had previously announced, the Federal Housing Finance Agency is requesting input on the goals and policy priorities it should pursue in overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s single-family pricing framework, as well as the process for setting their single-family upfront guarantee fees. Comments are due August 14.

HAC comments on Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund framework

Responding to an implementation framework released by the Environmental Protection Agency for the new $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, HAC asked EPA to address the unique needs of rural and persistent poverty communities; ensure that nonprofit CDFIs and their nonprofit housing development partners are explicitly eligible for GGRF resources; increase clarity and reduce administrative burden on recipients; and exempt housing from Build America, Buy America requirements. EPA expects to announce funding availability as early as June.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Digital technology can help elders age in place but has limitations

Centering the Home in Conversation about Digital Technology to Support Older Adults Aging in Place, published by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, explores how digital technology can enable older adults to age in place by supporting activities of daily living as well as monitoring health and communicating information to healthcare providers. Barriers like housing problems and the digital divide, however, may limit effectiveness for rural elderly households.

Study examines U.S. trends for people experiencing homelessness

The State of Homelessness: 2023 Edition, published by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, uses HUD and Census Bureau data to provide information about homelessness in the U.S. on a given night in 2022 and to illustrate emerging trends by race/ethnicity, age, sheltered or unsheltered status, and other characteristics. Data is presented at the national, state, and Continuum of Care levels through an interactive dashboard.

Energy efficiency programs can become more equitable, research finds

Some customers and communities are underserved by energy efficiency efforts, according to Toward More Equitable Energy Efficiency Programs for Underserved Households, a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Utilities and other program administrators can use a variety of approaches to better serve low- and moderate-income consumers, renters, Black, Latino/a, rural, tribal, and non-English speakers, the study explains, with examples from both rural and urban areas. ACEEE also provides a variety of other energy equity resources, including Advancing Equity through Energy Efficiency Resource Standards, a report recommending state policies that could target energy savings for underserved households; an Energy Equity for Renters Toolkit; and a factsheet that summarizes the toolkit.

Rental incentive program makes workforce housing possible

Vermont Digger reports that the town of Woodstock will provide financial incentives to landlords in nearby towns to build or renovate units to house renters working at least 25 hours per week in Woodstock. Funding ranges from $2,500 for a qualified tenant with a one-year lease to $10,000 for four or more tenants with two-year leases.

HAC

National Rural Housing Conference set for October

Mark your calendars and save the date! HAC’s National Rural Housing Conference will be held October 24-27 in Washington, DC and online.

HAC invites poster session proposals for national conference

Researchers and policymakers at all levels can apply by June 2 to share their research and innovative ideas through a series of poster sessions at the 2023 National Rural Housing Conference, October 24-27 in Washington, DC. The research must be related to rural America and can be on housing or another field such as public health, community development, race and ethnicity, or creative placemaking. Posters will be reviewed and judged by a distinguished panel of rural experts. For more information, contact Manda LaPorte and Natasha Moodie, HAC.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

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

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

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HAC in the News

HAC receives $6,325,000 from HUD to invest in rural communities and rural housing

Contact: Dan Stern, dan@ruralhome.org
(202) 516-6882

Washington, DC, May 15, 2023 – The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has been awarded a total of $6,325,000 funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to invest in the capacity of rural communities and help rural families achieve homeownership. HAC was awarded $4,000,000 from the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) and $2,325,000 in Rural Capacity Building (RCB) funding. The funds represent a portion of HUD’s $22 million investment into rural communities through the SHOP and RCB programs.

The funding was announced in conjunction with an event in Russellville, AR at which HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman toured several homes that are being built using funds from HAC’s SHOP program with local partner Universal Housing Development Corporation.

HUD’s official press release announcing the award included the following statement from Secretary Marcia L. Fudge “Today, we are investing in homeownership and expanding access to affordable housing to rural communities. The SHOP program provides a unique pathway for first-time homeowners and underserved groups to buy a home. At HUD, we care about rural America and these capacity building grants are further evidence of our commitment.”

SHOP funding will allow rural homebuyers to invest their sweat equity and hard work towards the construction of their own homes in rural communities. HAC will use its RCB funding to assist a group of eligible rural organizations to undertake affordable housing and community development activities in disadvantaged and other target communities around the country.

“HAC’s decades long partnership with HUD has provided affordable homes for people and increased capacity for organizations in rural communities across the United States,” said David Lipsetz, President & CEO of the Housing Assistance Council. “These awards will improve the lives of countless rural people and highlight HUD’s commitment to rural America!”

About the SHOP Program

The Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) awards grant funds to eligible national and regional nonprofit organizations and consortia. Funds must be used for eligible expenses to develop decent, safe, and sanitary non-luxury housing for low-income persons and families who otherwise would not become homeowners. Examples are for purchasing home sites and developing or improving the infrastructure needed to set the stage for sweat equity and volunteer-based homeownership programs for low-income persons and families. Homebuyers must be willing to contribute significant amounts of their own sweat equity toward the construction or rehabilitation of their homes.

About the RCB Program

The Rural Capacity Building (RCB) program enhances the capacity and ability of rural housing development organizations, Community Development Corporations (CDCs), Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDOs), local governments, and Indian tribes to carry out affordable housing and community development activities in rural areas for the benefit of low- and moderate-income families and persons. The Rural Capacity Building program achieves this by funding national organizations with expertise in rural housing and rural community development who work directly to build the capacity of eligible beneficiaries.

About the Housing Assistance Council

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.

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Policy News town

HAC’s Comments on Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund

HAC has submitted its second comment letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the the new $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) created by the Inflation Reduction Act. In late April, EPA released an implementation framework explaining that it plans to divide the program into three competitions. The $14 billion National Clean Investment Fund will fund two or three national nonprofits to partner with private capital providers to deliver financing at scale to businesses, communities, community lenders, and others. The $6 billion Clean Communities Investment Accelerator competition will fund two to seven hub nonprofits to build the capacity of lenders such as CDFIs and housing finance agencies to finance clean technology projects. The $7 billion Solar for All competition will make grants to states, Tribal governments, municipalities, and nonprofits to prepare low-income and disadvantaged communities for residential and community solar. EPA expects to issue Notices of Funding Opportunity as early as June.

HAC first commented in December after EPA asked for general feedback. In its second letter, HAC repeats some of the suggestions made in December and makes some additional points about the implementation framework, asking EPA to:

  • Address the unique needs of rural and persistent poverty communities.
  • Ensure that nonprofit CDFIs and their nonprofit housing development partners are explicitly eligible for GGRF resources.
  • Increase clarity and reduce administrative burden on recipients.
  • Exempt housing from Build America, Buy America requirements.

Read HAC’s full comments here.

HAC GGRF Comment Letter

HAC News: May 11, 2023

TOP STORIES

HAC’s CEO testifies to Senate Banking Subcommittee on rural housing reforms, two bills are introduced

  • On May 2 HAC’s President & CEO, David Lipsetz, spoke before the Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on bipartisan reforms to USDA’s rural housing programs.
  • The hearing covered the Rural Housing Service Reform Act of 2023, S. 1389, introduced by Subcommittee Chair Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). The bill includes a slate of provisions, many of which were recommended by HAC, to improve the multifamily, single-family, and capacity building programs at USDA.
  • The Strategy and Investment in Rural Housing Preservation Act was re-introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), who have introduced it in past Congresses as well, and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). Its provisions would enhance USDA’s ability to preserve Section 515 rental properties.

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

Resources available online include President Biden’s proclamation and a compilation of federal events.

RuralSTAT

Researchers estimate that, while the 2020 census overcounted both Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) at the national level, it undercounted Asian Americans in 68% of counties and undercounted NHPIs in 55% of counties, with the estimated undercounts tending to cluster in more rural areas in the Midwest, South, and Mountain West. Source: The Quality of the Decennial Census for Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Communities: An Expanded Approach by Advancing Justice | AAJC and Demographic Analytics Advisors.

OPPORTUNITIES

New Green and Resilient Retrofit Program launches

HUD-assisted rental properties are eligible for funding through three “cohorts” under the new Green and Resilient Retrofit Program, designed to meet the needs of applicants with varying levels of green retrofit expertise. HUD has also provided implementation guidance in Housing Notice H 2023-05. Elements awards target properties that are already advanced in a rehabilitation transaction and need gap financing to fund specific utility-efficient or resilient elements. Leading Edge awards target properties that are in the early stages of recapitalization planning and will achieve a high-level third-party green certification. Comprehensive awards target properties with high needs where HUD-procured contractors will support owners by commissioning third-party reports and assessments to develop a scope of work. HUD has posted information online and will hold a webinar on May 23. For more information, contact grrp@hud.gov.

HUD offers lead hazard funding

  • The Lead Hazard Reduction Capacity Building Grant Program will fund states, Tribes, and units of local government to develop the infrastructure necessary to undertake comprehensive programs to identify and control lead-based paint hazards in privately owned rental or owner-occupied housing. Apply by June 27. For more information, contact Victoria Jackson, HUD, 202-402-3167.
  • The Lead Risk Assessment Demonstration offers competitive grants to PHAs administering Housing Choice Voucher Programs to evaluate for lead-based paint hazards in HCV units constructed before 1978 and occupied or to be occupied by children under six. Applications are due June 20. For more information, contact Bruce Haber, HUD, 202-402-7699.

Veterans housing rehab pilot funds announced

The Veterans Housing Rehabilitation and Modification Pilot Program will provide competitive grants of up to $1 million each to nonprofits with nationwide or statewide programs that primarily serve veterans and/or low-income individuals. The funds may be used to modify or rehabilitate eligible veterans’ primary residences or to provide grantees’ affiliates with technical, administrative, and training support in connection with those services. Applications are due August 31. HUD’s Rural Gateway will hold a webinar on May 16 offering a program overview. For more information, contact Jovette G. Bryant, HUD, 877-787-2526.

Grant Application Bootcamp registration opens

Local governments with 150,000 or fewer residents can register by May 31 for bootcamps intended to help them submit competitive applications for federal infrastructure opportunities. The National League of Cities will offer five separate bootcamps covering new programs addressing broadband, railroad crossings, drinking water, neighborhood access and equity, and bridges. There is no cost to participate. For more information, contact LocalInfrastructureHub@nlc.org.

Funds available for asphalt art

Cities of all sizes in Canada, Mexico, and the United States are invited to apply for $25,000 grants and technical assistance from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative, which funds visual art on roadways, pedestrian spaces, and public infrastructure in cities. The deadline is June 12. For more information, contact arts@bloomberg.org.

NeighborWorks network invites applications

NeighborWorks America is seeking up to five nonprofit community-based organizations that focus on community revitalization, homeownership, and the production of affordable housing to join the NeighborWorks network. The initial application is open through June 9 and is in two parts. NWA strongly encourages applicants to submit part 1 no later than May 15 to ensure there is enough time to complete and submit part 2 by June 9. For more information, email affiliations@nw.org.

CAPITOL HILL

Tribal representatives support HUD programs

An April 28 oversight hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, titled Tribal Perspectives on Housing and Transportation, included testimony from several witnesses about the dire need for housing in Indian Country. They emphasized the importance of increasing funding for HUD’s Indian housing programs to meet that need.

Torres Small confirmation hearing held

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing May 10 to consider the nomination of Xochitl Torres Small, who has been serving as USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development, to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. The committee has not yet voted on recommending her nomination to the full Senate, which will make the final decision.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD issues final rule on new NSPIRE inspection program

HUD’s National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE) are intended to strengthen HUD’s physical condition standards and improve HUD oversight. The program’s final rule also incorporates provisions to reduce administrative burden on small rural PHAs. The rule is effective on July 1 for public housing and on October 1 for the Multifamily Housing (including Section 202 and 811), Housing Choice Voucher, Project Based Voucher, Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation, HOME, Housing Trust Fund, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, Emergency Solutions Grant, and Continuum of Care programs. HUD will issue “Subordinate Notices” covering NSPIRE standards, scoring, and administration, as well as notices for some specific programs and to implement the small rural assessment requirements. For more information, contact Tara J. Radosevich, HUD, 202-708-1112.

Deadline extended for floodplain comments

Comments regarding HUD’s proposed rule on floodplain-related building standards are now due June 6 rather than May 23.

Revisions final for Section 306C water and waste program for colonias and Tribes

The Rural Utilities Service has finalized, without change, the proposed rule published in February.

FHFA cancels upfront fees based on debt-to-income ratio

In January the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced changes to its upfront fee structure for single-family guaranteed loans purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, including the addition of a new upfront fee for borrowers with a debt-to-income ratio above 40%, effective May 1. In March, FHFA delayed implementation of those fees until August 1. Now it has announced that it is rescinding the DTI ratio fees and will “shortly” issue a request for more information from stakeholders.

EVENTS

HAC offers USDA 502 packaging training in Albuquerque

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 Albuquerque, NM on June 13-15. Registration is $750. For more information, contact HAC staff, registration@ruralhome.org, 202-516-6271.

Rural Assembly Everywhere set for June 28

The Center for Rural Strategies will host its annual virtual convening, Rural Assembly Everywhere, on June 28. The event features stories, keynotes, and performances that are designed to celebrate and protect the dignity of rural people and neighbors. Register online here.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Interim agreement reached in Alabama environmental justice case

On May 4 the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services announced an “interim resolution agreement” in their environmental justice investigation into the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Lowndes County Health Department. They determined that the state and county agencies engaged in a consistent pattern of inaction and/or neglect concerning the health risks associated with raw sewage affecting the county’s primarily Black, low-income residents; failed to take meaningful actions to remedy sewage issues; and threatened residents with criminal penalties and even potential property loss for sanitation conditions they could not alleviate. The state now must undertake remediation efforts. Media coverage about the settlement, including from Alabama TV station WSFA, the Associated Press, and the Washington Post, provides additional details.

Housing and environmental justice must be addressed together, issue paper says

Housing Policy is Environmental Policy: The Complementary Aims of Fair Housing and Environmental Justice, an issue brief from the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, examines the links between race, income, exposure to pollution and toxic waste, climate change, and the locations and conditions of housing. It considers federal efforts to address the issues and makes recommendations to improve both housing and environmental justice.

Guide offers ways to connect homelessness and mental health treatment

For Mental Health Awareness Month in May, SAMHSA is highlighting its Expanding Access to and Use of Behavioral Health Services for People at Risk for or Experiencing Homelessness guide, which highlights strategies for housers and behavioral health providers to conduct outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness. Case studies include both rural and urban places.

HAC

HAC is hiring an Asset Manager Associate and three interns

  • The Asset Manager Associate will assist in a range of lending activities, including loan department reports, loan payments, underwriting, credit analysis and various aspects of monitoring, and servicing single- and multifamily housing development loans. This is an entry-level position and is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Portfolio Management Intern, Loan Asset Management Intern, and Resource Development Intern are part of HAC’s lending team. The interns will have the opportunity to participate in the Fannie Mae Future Housing Leaders program throughout the summer. The positions will be approximately 37.5 hours per week, with stipends of $15-18 per hour commensurate with experience/responsibilities, and will run from the end of May through August 2023. These positions are eligible for telecommuting.

HAC invites poster session proposals for national conference

Researchers and policymakers at all levels can apply by June 2 to share their research and innovative ideas through a series of poster sessions at the 2023 National Rural Housing Conference, October 24-27 in Washington, DC. The research must be related to rural America and can be on housing or another field such as public health, community development, race and ethnicity, or creative placemaking. Posters will be reviewed and judged by a distinguished panel of rural experts. For more information, contact Manda LaPorte and Natasha Moodie, HAC.

National Rural Housing Conference set for October

Mark your calendars and save the date! HAC’s National Rural Housing Conference will be held October 24-27 in Washington, DC and online.

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 President & CEO, David Lipsetz, testifies in front of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development

HAC’s CEO Testifies to Senate Banking Subcommittee on Rural Housing Reforms

HAC was honored to be invited to testify on May 2, 2023 before the Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs to discuss commonsense, bipartisan reforms to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) programs. HAC’s President & CEO, David Lipsetz, was one of five witnesses on the hearing panel.

The hearing was held to discuss the bipartisan Rural Housing Service Reform Act of 2023, which has been introduced by Subcommittee Chairwoman Tina Smith (D-MN) and Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD). The RHS Reform Act includes a slate of provisions to improve the multifamily, single-family, and capacity building programs at RHS. Senators Smith and Rounds engaged deeply with stakeholders on the creation of the bill, including offering a call for policy recommendations in the summer of 2022. HAC’s response to that comment opportunity can be seen here. We were thrilled to see many of our recommendations included in the bill, and applaud Senators Smith and Rounds on their thoughtful engagement with stakeholders and their commitment to improving the RHS programs.

Highlights from the RHS Reform Act include:

  • Multifamily

    • Authorizing the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) program and Multifamily Preservation Technical Assistance Program
    • Allowing for the decoupling of a Section 515 mortgage and Section 521 Rental Assistance
    • Allowing Section 542 rural vouchers to be adjusted based on changes in tenant income
    • Streamlining the process for Section 515 nonprofit transfers and increasing the Section 515 nonprofit set aside
  • Single Family

    • Establishing the Native CDFI Section 502 relending program
    • Increasing the threshold for the mortgage requirement on a Section 504 home rehab loan from $7,500 to $15,000
    • Extending the loan term for a Section 502 loan up to 40 years
  • Capacity Building

    • Authorizing the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) and waiving the matching funds requirement for groups working in areas of persistent poverty
    • Requiring RHS to publish more data on their housing programs
    • Authorizing funding for much needed technology upgrades at RHS
Watch the Recording Read David’s Testimony HAC’s 2023 Policy Priorities

HAC News: April 27, 2023

TOP STORIES

House narrowly passes debt ceiling bill

By a 217-215 vote on April 26, the House passed the Limit, Save, Grow Act (H.R. 2811), which would raise the debt ceiling, cut federal spending, and rescind or repeal previously authorized spending. The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, however, and the White House has said President Biden would veto it. USDA issued a press release quantifying possible impacts of the bill’s proposed cuts, including loss of rental assistance for up to 63,000 households and reduced support from the Rural Partners Network.

Senate committee considers rural housing

HAC CEO David Lipsetz is scheduled to testify on May 2 at a Rural Housing Legislation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee’s Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee. The event will focus on a bill intended to improve several USDA rural housing programs, expected to be introduced by Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). Testimony at Building Consensus to Address Housing Challenges, a hearing before the full Senate Banking Committee on April 26, also recognized the distinct housing issues facing rural America.

HAC invites poster session proposals for national conference

Researchers and policymakers at all levels can apply by June 2 to share their research and innovative ideas through a series of poster sessions at the 2023 National Rural Housing Conference, October 24-27 in Washington, DC. The research must be related to rural America and can be on housing or another field such as public health, community development, race and ethnicity, or creative placemaking. Posters will be reviewed and judged by a distinguished panel of rural experts. For more information, contact Manda LaPorte and Natasha Moodie, HAC.

RuralSTAT

Nationally, shipments of new manufactured homes have eclipsed 100,000 for the past two years. In 2022 113,000 new manufactured homes were shipped. Source: Housing Assistance Council tabulations of HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Manufactured Home Survey.

OPPORTUNITIES

Youth homelessness funding offered with rural priority

State, local, and Tribal governments, TDHEs, and nonprofits may apply by June 27 for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, which supports communities in developing and implementing coordinated community approaches to preventing and ending homelessness among youth aged 24 and under. HUD will support projects in up to 25 communities, with a priority for up to eight with substantial rural populations. For more information, contact Caroline Crouse, HUD, 612-843-6451.

USDA opens Housing Preservation Grants competition

The Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants program funds state and local governments, Tribes, and nonprofits for repair or rehabilitation of housing owned or rented by low- and very low-income rural residents. Part of this year’s funding is set aside for repairs to units damaged in presidentially declared disasters in calendar year 2022. Applications are due June 5. For more information, contact a USDA RD State Office.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD requests input on disability-based discrimination

HUD is considering changes to its regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. HUD wants to update its federal accessibility standard and clarify recipients’ obligations, including accounting for advances in accessible design, information and communication technology, and assistive technologies. Comments are due July 24. For more information, contact Amy Gioletti, HUD, 405-609-8561.

Fair housing, fair lending, and equitable finance rule proposed by FHFA

A proposed Federal Housing Finance Agency regulation would cover Equitable Housing Finance Plans for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as fair housing and fair lending for those entities and the Federal Home Loan Banks. Comments are due June 26. For more information, contact James Wylie, FHFA, 202-649-3209.

EPA releases framework for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund

EPA’s implementation framework divides the new $27 billion GGRF, created by the Inflation Reduction Act, into three competitions. The $14 billion National Clean Investment Fund will fund two or three national nonprofits to partner with private capital providers to deliver financing at scale to businesses, communities, community lenders, and others. The $6 billion Clean Communities Investment Accelerator competition will fund two to seven hub nonprofits to build the capacity of lenders such as CDFIs and housing finance agencies to finance clean technology projects. The $7 billion Solar for All competition will make grants to states, Tribal governments, municipalities, and nonprofits to prepare low-income and disadvantaged communities for residential and community solar. The agency will hold public listening sessions on this framework during the week of May 1. Comments can also be emailed to ggrf@epa.gov by May 12. EPA expects to issue Notices of Funding Opportunity as early as June.

USDA updates lender submission process for Section 538 guarantees

Changes for lenders submitting requests for rental housing guarantees under the Section 538 program will take effect on April 28, when USDA’s notice is published in the Federal Register. They include revisions to the priority criteria and the fee structure. For more information, contact Jonathan Bell, USDA, MFHprocessing1@usda.gov, 254-742-9764.

New comment deadline set for extending HUD’s Buy America waiver for Tribes

Comments are now due May 8 on HUD’s proposal to extend its waiver of Buy America requirements for Tribes and Tribal entities. For more information, contact Faith Rogers, HUD, 202-402-7082.

HUD announces rural-targeted funding awards

Following an earlier round of awards announced in February, the second set of communities receiving resources to address unsheltered and rural homelessness will get $171.2 million in grants for 115 new projects in 29 Continuums of Care, and approximately 3,300 Stability Vouchers will go to 139 PHAs that partnered with CoCs. Separately, HUD’s Older Adults Home Modification Program will provide $14.5 million to modify over 1,900 housing units, 1,100 of which are in “substantially rural” places, so that low-income elderly residents can remain in their homes.

HAC comments on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

HAC submitted comments this month on a proposed HUD regulation that is intended to ensure that HUD and entities receiving funding from HUD will “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing.” In addition to supporting many aspects of HUD’s proposal and supporting suggestions made by other organizations, HAC wrote its own comment letter to address some specifically rural issues. HAC suggested that community engagement must be offered in many different ways, analyses must be conducted in smaller geographic areas, and data on USDA-supported housing must be specifically included.

EVENTS

Online placemaking conference set for May 23

USDA and the University of Kentucky will host an online conference May 23 on expanding access to placemaking resources for people in rural America. Rural leaders and placemaking experts will discuss ways to help advance placemaking strategies to create successful, thriving communities, as well as the importance of preserving and sustaining rural culture. Register here.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Farm Bill may be opportunity to address rural rental preservation

Advocates Eye Farm Bill to Avert Drop in Affordable Rural Housing, a CQ Roll Call article, covers the anticipated loss of Section 515 rental units. HAC’s Director of Public Policy, Jonathan Harwitz, is quoted explaining legislative changes that could assist with preservation and could be adopted in the Farm Bill.

Report covers links between reentry and housing

The Council of State Governments Justice Center published Building Connections to Housing During Reentry, a report on a national survey of state Departments of Corrections highlighting connections between reentry after incarceration and housing.

HBO reports on farmworkers

A recent 25-minute segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver covers the working and living conditions of farmworkers in the U.S.

Rural placemaking article features CIRD

A Daily Yonder piece, Rural Renewal: Placemaking in Small Towns Through Good Design, describes the role of design and creative placemaking in building rural communities. It features the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD), a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with HAC, and quotes Shonterria Charleston, HAC’s Director of Training and Technical Assistance.

Feedback sought on substance use recovery mapping tool

The Fletcher Group, Inc., NORC at the University of Chicago, and East Tennessee State University seek participants for virtual focus groups to provide feedback on the Recovery Ecosystem Index Mapping Tool. The system maps county-level factors that are in place to support individuals in recovery from substance use disorder.

Diversifying child population described

The Changing Child Population of the United States: First Data from the 2020 Census, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, reports that the U.S. child population is decreasing in size, increasing in diversity, and changing substantially. The nation’s child population fell from 74.2 million in 2010 to 73.1 million in 2020. Children of color, who represented just 26% of all kids in 1980, were a majority – 53% – in 2020. Data is presented at the state and city levels.

HAC

HAC is hiring a Chief Financial Officer

The Chief Financial Officer is a newly created position responsible for overseeing the accounting, finance, capital markets, and administrative functions of HAC, while also providing overall leadership and strategy to the organization. This executive must have a background in accounting or finance, managing staff, and serving as a senior leader at a sophisticated and multidimensional organization, such as another CDFI, community lending institution, or housing-related nonprofit. The CFO is expected to work in HAC’s downtown Washington, DC office with a portion of their week eligible for remote work.

National Rural Housing Conference set for October

Mark your calendars and save the date! HAC’s National Rural Housing Conference will be held October 24-27 in Washington, DC and online.

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 town

HAC’s Comments on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

In February 2023, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requested public comments on a proposed regulation that is intended to ensure that HUD and entities receiving funding from HUD will “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing” (AFFH). This rule would implement the Fair Housing Act’s requirement for HUD and its awardees to proactively take meaningful actions to overcome patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, eliminate disparities in housing-related opportunities, and foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination. The 2023 proposed rule is based on a 2015 rule that was never fully implemented.

HAC supports many aspects of HUD’s proposal. HAC also supports suggestions for improvements made in comment letters prepared by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and National Housing Law Project, and HAC — along with many other organizations — signed those letters. In addition, to emphasize some points that are particularly relevant to AFFH efforts in rural America, HAC submitted its own comment letter.

In its letter, HAC makes three primary points regarding state and local governments’ development of AFFH Equity Plans:

  • Community engagement must be offered in many different ways.
  • Analyses must be conducted in smaller geographic areas.
  • Data on USDA-supported housing must be specifically included.

Read HAC’s full comments here.

HUD AFFH 2023 Comment Letter
HAC News: 4/13/2023

HAC News: April 13, 2023

TOP STORIES

Deadline approaching for rural community design support

Rural communities are invited to apply to the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) by April 21 for design support and technical assistance to host an on-site Local Design Workshop or participate in the Design Learning Cohort. Reach out to CIRD staff at HAC via cird@ruralhome.org with questions or for assistance with the application – even last minute. HAC carries out CIRD in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional background is available here.

Help HAC plan its future

HAC is currently developing its strategic plan for the next three to five years and seeks involvement from the HAC community! Please help by filling out HAC’s Strategy Survey before April 21. The survey should take no more than five to seven minutes, and asks about our strengths, challenges, and commitment to rural communities. For more information, contact strategicplanning@ruralhome.org.

Colonias definition based on HAC’s research will be used for Duty to Serve

The Federal Housing Finance Administration announced on April 12 it is adopting a new way to determine what geographic areas are considered colonias for purposes of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Duty to Serve activities, based on HAC research. FHFA made no changes from its original proposal, which HAC largely supported.

April is Fair Housing Month

HUD offers events and resources to celebrate the month and the 55th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

RuralSTAT

The U.S. Department of Labor certified around 370,000 temporary jobs for H-2A temporary farmworker visas in FY22, more than seven times the number certified in 2005 and double the number in 2016. Source: USDA Economic Research Service.

OPPORTUNITIES

Recovery community services applications due May 30

The Recovery Community Services Program will make grants of up to $300,000 to state, territorial, local, or Tribal governments, Tribal organizations or health programs, or other public or private nonprofit entities. The provision of recovery housing is an allowable activity. For more information, contact Timothy Jean, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 240-276-1034.

Choice Neighborhood Planning Grants available

PHAs, local governments, Tribal entities, and nonprofits with distressed HUD-assisted housing are eligible for Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants to assist communities with severely distressed public or HUD-assisted housing in developing a comprehensive neighborhood transformation plan and beginning to build the momentum for implementation. Apply by June 6. For more information, contact HUD, ChoiceNeighborhoods@hud.gov.

EPA offers grants to prepare for wildfire smoke

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new Wildfire Smoke Preparedness in Community Buildings Program will make grants to states, Tribes, nonprofits, and some educational entities for the assessment, prevention, control, and/or abatement of wildfire smoke hazards in community buildings and related activities, particularly those that serve disadvantaged communities or vulnerable populations. The deadline is May 9. For more information, contact EPA, IEDGrantsAdminTeam@epa.gov.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Extension of HUD’s Buy America waiver for Tribes proposed

HUD waived application of Buy America requirements for Tribes and Tribal entities through May 14, 2023, and now hopes to extend that waiver for another year to obtain more specific Tribal feedback and information. Comments are due April 24. For more information, contact Faith Rogers, HUD, 202-402-7082.

HUD gives more time for fair housing feedback

The deadline for comments on HUD’s proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule has been extended to April 24. For more information, contact Tiffany Johnson, HUD, 202-402-2881.

OMB extends comment period on race and ethnicity

Comments are now due April 27, rather than April 12, on proposals for updating OMB’s race and ethnicity statistical standards. For more information, contact Bob Sivinski, 202-395-1205.

Section 502 guarantee program sets forbearance deadline

Although the national emergency declaration for the coronavirus pandemic is scheduled to end on May 11, servicers of USDA guaranteed homeownership loans have until May 31 to approve borrower requests for initial COVID-19 forbearances. For more information, contact USDA, sfhglpServicing@usda.gov, 202-720-1452.

Equitable Housing Finance Plans for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac revised

The Government-Sponsored Enterprises have prepared annual updates to their Equitable Housing Finance Plans, as well as performance reports on their 2022 progress.

CFPB requests input on “abusive” practices

The 2010 statute that created the CFPB banned “abusive” conduct towards consumers by providers of goods and services, including housing financing, in addition to the “unfair” and “deceptive” practices previously prohibited. CFPB is now accepting comments through July 3 on a policy statement that summarizes how abusive activities have been defined and identified. For more information, contact Bradley Lipton, CFPB, 202-435-7700.

Habibi leaves USDA Rural Housing Service

Jamal Habibi, who has served as Chief of Staff for USDA’s Rural Housing Service since February 2021, has been promoted to Chief of Staff for Trade and Foreign Affairs at USDA.

FEMA’s National Risk Index updated

New data and information have been used to update the National Risk Index, which offers an interactive map and related material for 18 natural hazards. Scores for counties and census tracts indicate their risks from natural hazards, expected annual loss, social vulnerability, and community resilience.

EVENTS

Few spaces remain for workforce housing training

HAC will offer The Future of Rural Workforce Housing: Exploring New Models and Approaches on May 1-3 in Gatlinburg, TN. Participants will explore new and innovative models for creating affordable housing for the rural workforce, with a focus on community-driven solutions. Space is limited to staff of nonprofit, Tribal, and local governmental agencies in rural communities working on affordable housing activities, and the event is nearly full. Register soon! For more information, contact HAC staff, registration@ruralhome.org.

HAC offers webinars on construction

Overcoming Cost Barriers: Innovative Approaches to Construction with Smart Building Techniques, Volunteers, and Sweat Equity is a series of five webinars:

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Legislative efforts to preserve rural rental housing described

Advocates Eye Farm Bill to Avert Drop in Affordable Rural Housing, an article published by Roll Call, describes efforts in Congress to decouple Section 515 mortgages and Section 521 Rental Assistance. Bills to institute decoupling have been introduced in the last few Congresses but have not yet been adopted. HAC’s Public Policy Director Jonathan Harwitz is one of the experts quoted in the article.

Online disaster guide supports survivors of Midwestern and Southern tornadoes

To assist our rural partners and communities affected by the recent tornadoes in the Midwestern and Southern U.S., HAC offers an online resource guide with information for individuals and families in the disaster area. Other disaster resources from HAC include Rural Resilience in the Face of Disaster and a Disaster Response for Rural Communities Guide.

Reports seek to reveal inequality and its history

Columbia Journalism School commissioned research teams to develop overviews of social science research on inequality in housing, economics, education, criminal justice, and healthcare. Housing Inequality in 20th-century America: A Report is one of five resulting Uncovering Inequality papers.

HAC

HAC is hiring a Chief Financial Officer

The Chief Financial Officer is a newly created position responsible for overseeing the accounting, finance, capital markets, and administrative functions of HAC, while also providing overall leadership and strategy to the organization. This executive must have a background in accounting or finance, managing staff, and serving as a senior leader at a sophisticated and multidimensional organization, such as another CDFI, community lending institution, or housing-related nonprofit. The CFO is expected to work in HAC’s downtown Washington, DC office with a portion of their week eligible for remote work.

National Rural Housing Conference set for October

Mark your calendars and save the date! HAC’s National Rural Housing Conference will be held October 24-27 in Washington, DC and online.

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!

Damages from flooding in the Midwest

USDA makes home repair grants available for disaster impact in rural Kentucky

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development announced the availability of grants to help people repair their homes that were damaged by historic flooding and other destructive weather in 2022.

The homes must be located in Presidentially declared disaster areas. People living in 26 Kentucky counties are eligible for the funding.

The grants are being made available through supplemental disaster funding under the Rural Disaster Home Repair Grant Program. Through this program, people may apply to receive grants of up to $40,675 directly from USDA to repair their homes.

For more information on how to apply, contact Rural Development Kentucky’s Single-Family Housing team at 859-224-7322 or visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/contact-page/kentucky-contacts.

HAC in the News

Advocates eye farm bill to avert drop in affordable rural housing – CQ Roll Call

Posted April 11, 2023 at 5:00am

Housing advocates are turning to this year’s farm bill in an effort to steer rural communities away from an affordable housing cliff ahead.

Without action from Congress, rural communities stand to lose more than 100,000 affordable rental units in the next decade as federally subsidized loans used to build the apartments are paid off, ending landlords’ obligations to keep rents low. In a second blow for those renters, they will lose their eligibility for the Agriculture Department’s rental assistance.

“It’s a big problem, and it’s going to only get worse,” said Sarah Saadian, senior vice president of public policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“The heyday or the peak of rural housing was in the ’70s and ’80s, when their rental housing program was nearly a billion-dollar program, and it’s been cut really dramatically over the last several decades,” Saadian said in an interview. “All of those properties that were built at that time are now reaching the end of the maturity on their 515 mortgage, or the 515 loans that USDA provides in order to get those properties built.”

Advocates are pushing Congress to include provisions in the farm bill that would decouple the two programs, allowing the Agriculture Department to provide rental assistance even after a building’s owner has paid off the subsidized mortgage.


“The biggest issue in rural housing is the rapid loss of the 515 units due to mortgage maturity, prepayments, foreclosures. That is the 800-pound gorilla, or really the $31 billion gorilla over the next 30 years to preserve.”