The Housing Assistance Council is an independent, non-partisan and regularly responds to Congressional committees, Member offices, federal agencies, and policy advocacy coalitions with the research and information needed to make informed policy decisions. Our research work, Rural Data Portal, and Veterans Data Central all provide valuable, educational context to frame the rural policy conversation. If you want to know how a new program or policy could impact America’s small towns and rural places, please don’t hesitate to contact us at policy@ruralhome.org.

What would a federal government shutdown mean for rural housing?

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.

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 most recent shutdown plan, dated September 2021.
  • 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

Federal agencies have prepared shutdown plans, some of which have been updated more recently than others.

USDA Rural Development

Rural Development’s most recent plan, dated September 2021, 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.” It is not clear, however, whether the agency’s ability to spend RA money is contingent on the existence of advance appropriations – which existed when the FY19 shutdown occurred and when the 2021 plan was written, but are not available for FY24.

Advance appropriations are included in one fiscal year’s appropriations act but apply to a future fiscal year. The final FY18 appropriation act included language specifying that $40 million of the total Section 521 RA amount would remain available through September 30, 2019, the end of FY19. Similarly, in 2021, the RA appropriation included $40 million available until the end of FY22. But there was no such language in USDA’s FY23 appropriation, so there are no RA dollars specifically made available in advance for FY24.

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.

If USDA has no advance appropriation to begin FY24 on October 1, 2023, is there some other legal authority that would allow it to spend any RA funds it may have on hand? If it can spend those funds, how much will it have available and how long will that amount last? If it has funds available now beyond the amount needed for September renewals, can it and will it renew in advance the RA contracts that will expire in October and beyond?

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 ahead 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 in the News

Groups Urge HUD and USDA to Finalize Efficiency Requirements for U.S.-Backed Homes

ACEEE, HAC, and Sierra Club logos

A federal proposal to ensure new homes supported by U.S.-backed mortgages and federal housing programs meet updated energy efficiency criteria garnered widespread support from stakeholders today. Groups advocating for affordable housingenergy efficiency, and climate mitigation united in urging the administration to finalize the action promptly.

The groups were joined by more than 6,000 individuals across the country who supported the proposal in public comments gathered by Sierra Club and submitted to regulators today.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed updating their efficiency requirements in May by issuing a preliminary determination. If the action is finalized, future residents of the homes at issue compared to homes under the current criteria will save an estimated $14,500 for single-family homes and $6,000 per multifamily unit overall, net of costs, over the lifetime of the homes thanks to lower energy bills, HUD and USDA calculated. It would avert 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions for each year of new homes, the agencies said.

Jonathan Harwitz, director of public policy at the Housing Assistance Council, said: “Keeping housing affordable includes making utility costs affordable. We encourage HUD and USDA to move forward with this determination, and also to find ways to help cover upfront costs and to educate those who finance and build affordable housing.”

Lowell Ungar, federal policy director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said: “The longer we build brand-new inefficient homes, the more needless energy costs and climate pollution we’ll see for decades ahead. Just by meeting their legal mandate, the agencies will help ensure tens of thousands of new homes have lower energy bills and less risk of spiking costs. The analysis is clear; now they need to act promptly to get the job done.”

Jessica Tritsch, building electrification campaign director at the Sierra Club, said: “Too often renters and folks in low-income housing are left behind from programs that offer energy efficient housing and lower utility bills. This move by HUD will help ensure better access to climate-friendly appliances and healthier, more affordable homes. Adopting these new energy efficiency building codes is long overdue. We are committed to holding HUD, and other federal and state agencies, accountable to help low-income homeowners and renters access clean, safe, energy efficient housing.”

Background:

In bipartisan laws in 1992 and 2007, Congress directed HUD and USDA to periodically strengthen efficiency criteria for new homes purchased with federally backed loans such as Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and USDA mortgages, along with new homes with funding from other HUD programs, like the HOME Investment Partnerships grants for affordable housing. These homes—about 200,000 new ones each year—are primarily for low- and moderate-income homeowners and renters.

These criteria follow a model building energy code known as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for single family houses and smaller multifamily buildings, and ASHRAE Standard 90.1 for high-rise multifamily buildings. The law requires HUD and USDA to update the criteria when the codes are updated every three years as long as the agencies determine that doing so would not negatively affect the availability or affordability of covered housing. But the regulators have not updated the criteria since 2015.

The agencies finally issued a preliminary determination for public comment in May for the 2021 IECC and Standard 90.1-2019 (the current requirements are the 2009 IECC and 90.1-2007). A provision in the omnibus spending bill enacted at the end of 2022 also requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to update its loan requirements based on the HUD-USDA criteria.

Houses and multifamily buildings meeting these criteria generally have more insulation in the walls and roofs, better air sealing and windows, and more energy-efficient systems, including better-sealed ducts. The homes waste less heat and allow more efficient heating and cooling with smaller HVAC systems.

Today is the final day for stakeholders to comment on the preliminary determination. When the agencies issue a final determination, they will implement the updated efficiency criteria in each covered program over a few months.

Media contacts:

ACEEE – Ben Somberg, 202-658-8129, bsomberg@aceee.org

HAC – Dan Stern, 202-516-6882, dan@ruralhome.org

Sierra Club – Shannon Van Hoesen, 202-604-2464, shannon.vanhoesen@sierraclub.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.

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 Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.

Policy News from the Administration

HAC’s Comments on Rental Assistance Decoupling – August 2023

The Fiscal Year 2023 President’s Budget included a request to decouple USDA Section 521 Rental Assistance from Section 515 Multifamily Loans to facilitate the rehabilitation and preservation of the multifamily portfolio. To explore the potential impacts, Congress directed USDA to conduct a series of stakeholder meetings and provide a report on how decoupling would be implemented. HAC submitted comments in support of decoupling, with a focus on the topics below.

  • Making Long Term Affordability Parameters the Top Priority
  • Considering A Pilot Concept When Implementing Decoupling
  • Clarifying the Annual Rent Increase Process for Decoupled RA Units
  • Establishing A Plan for Units Without Rental Assistance in Decoupled Properties
  • Maintaining Support for the Entire Suite of Preservation Programs, Even If Decoupling Becomes an Option
  • Establishing A Plan for Prepayments, Since the Bulk of Units Are Lost to Prepayments
  • Improving Data Transparency At RHS

Read HAC’s full comments.

HAC Decoupling Comments 2023
Policy News from the Administration

Senate Funding Bill Supports Most HUD Programs

On July 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a bill to fund HUD for fiscal year 2024. Like the House bill, the Senate’s version maintains aid for tenants. It holds many other programs at their FY23 funding levels, rejecting the House’s proposed cuts to HOME, Section 202 elderly housing, Section 811 housing for people with disabilities, and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP). It includes no funding, however, for the new Preservation and Reinvestment Initiative for Community Enhancement (PRICE) program for preservation of manufactured housing.

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

 

HUD Program (dollars in millions) FY22 Final Approp. FY23 Final Approp. FY24 Admin. Budget FY24 House Bill, H.R. 4820 FY24 Senate Bill, S. 2437
CDBG $3,300* $3,300* $3,300 $3,300 $3,300
HOME 1,500 1,500 1,800 500 1,500
PRICE Manuf. Hsg. Preserv.

225 0 20 0
Self-Help Homeownshp. (SHOP) 12.5 13.5 10 10 13.5
Veterans Home Rehab 4 1 4 1 0
Rural Cap’y Bldg 5 6 5 7 6
Tenant-Based Rental Asstnce. 27,370 27,600 32,703 31,132 31,738
    VASH setaside 50 50 0 ** 30
    Tribal VASH 5 7.5 5 5 7.5
     Replacemts. for 521 RA 20***
Project-Based Rental Asstnce. 13,940 13,938 15,904 15,820 15,790
Public Hsg. Capital Fund 3,388 3,200 3,225 3,235 3,200
Public Hsg. Operating Fund 5,064 5,109 5,133 5,128 5,530
Choice Neighbrhd. Initiative 350 350 185 0 150
Native Amer. Hsg. 1,002 1,020 1,053 1,344 1,082
Homeless Assistance Grants 3,213 3,633 3,749 3,729 3,908
Hsg. Opps. for Persons w/ AIDS 450 499 505 505 505
202 Hsg. for Elderly 1,033 1,075 1,023 913 1,075
811 Hsg. for Disabled 352 360 356 208 360
Fair Housing 85 86 90 85 86
Healthy Homes & Lead Haz. Cntl. 415 410 410 345 350
Housing Counseling 57.5 57.5 66 57.5 57.5

* This table does not show amounts for Community Projects/Congressionally Directed Spending (popularly known as “earmarks”), which were included in the CDBG account beginning in FY22.

** The bill does not specify an amount for HUD-VASH vouchers but the National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that the broader Tenant-Based Rental Assistance funding in the bill will cover those renewals.

*** This $20 million request is explained in HAC’s summary of the USDA rural housing budget proposal.

 

House FY24 Funding Bill Supports Tenants, Cuts HOME

The House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee approved an FY24 spending bill on July 12 that would maintain funding for tenant vouchers, public housing, and Native American housing programs but would cut programs including HOME, Section 202 elderly housing, Section 811 housing for people with disabilities, and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP).

HOME would be most drastically impacted, with its funding cut by two-thirds, from $1.5 billion in FY23 to $500 million in FY24. SHOP would fall back to the $10 million funding level it had for several years before being increased to $13.5 million in FY23. The Choice Neighborhoods Program would be eliminated and the new Preservation and Reinvestment Initiative for Community Enhancement (PRICE) program for preservation of manufactured housing would be cut from $225 million in FY23 to $20 million in FY24.

The bill would rescind $564 million appropriated in past years for the Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes programs but not yet spent.

The bill also proposes to block HUD’s February 9, 2023, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) proposed regulations and HUD’s ability to require specific changes to existing zoning laws under its June 10, 2021 AFFH interim final rule.

The Senate has not yet released its FY24 Transportation-HUD appropriations bill, but its version is likely to be substantially different from the House’s proposal.

HUD Budget Proposes to Shrink Small Programs, Expand Support for Others

March 13, 2023 — The administration’s budget for fiscal year 2024 requests funding increases in many HUD programs and calls for legislation expanding support to far more tenants and homebuyers. At the same time, however, the budget would cut some of HUD’s smallest programs, including two that are particularly important for rural residents: the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) and the Rural Capacity Building (RCB) program. Details are provided in the table below.

HAC presented a webinar on “Rural Housing in the Fiscal Year 2024 White House Budget” on Wednesday, March 15. Watch the recording and view the slides here.

Two Steps Back for Rural Places and Native Americans

SHOP and RCB both saw small increases from FY22 to FY23, but the administration’s budget would roll those back for FY24. SHOP grew from $12.5 million in FY22 to $13.5 million in FY23 and would get only $10 million under the budget request. RCB received $6 million for the current year, but the budget would reduce it to its FY23 level of $5 million.

The administration requests no funding for manufactured housing grants through the Preservation and Reinvestment Initiative for Community Enhancement (PRICE), which was created in the FY23 omnibus appropriations bill.

The pool of funding that covers most of HUD’s Native American housing efforts would be increased from $1.02 billion in FY23 to $1.053 billion. But the much smaller Section 184 loan guarantee program, which has $5.5 million in FY23, would be cut to less than one-fifth of that, $905,700. At the same time, the budget asks Congress to expand Section 184, making it available to all Tribal members regardless of where they purchase a home.

Support for Renters

The budget proposes to create new, substantial assistance for tenants through mandatory spending proposals. These efforts, which would not be funded through the annual appropriations process, would need to be approved separately by Congress. That is extremely unlikely to happen in the current political climate.

Proposed mandatory spending would include:

  • $9 billion to provide vouchers for all youth aging out of foster care annually;
  • $13 billion for the estimated 450,000 extremely low-income veteran families
  • $7.5 billion for new Project-Based Rental Assistance contracts for extremely low-income households;
  • $7.5 billion to modernize public housing; and
  • $3 billion for competitive grants to states and localities for eviction reduction efforts such as emergency rental assistance and access to legal counsel.

The budget also proposes to extend assistance to tenants through some existing programs:

  • $565 million for new incremental vouchers for 50,000 additional households, specifically including those who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness or fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence or similar violence; and
  • $300 million for capital investments in public housing.

The budget proposals for the Treasury Department would expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, as well as the New Markets Tax Credit.

Homeowner Aid and Removing Barriers

The administration’s budget calls for $10 billion in mandatory funding for a new First-Generation Down Payment Assistance program to help address racial and ethnic homeownership and wealth gaps. Homeowner assistance would also be supported by $100 million to states and territories through the existing HOME program. HOME’s funding would increase from $1.5 billion in FY23 to $1.8 billion in FY24.

The Community Development Block Grant program would again receive $3.3 billion, including $85 million to continue the “Yes In My Back Yard” or YIMBY program created in FY23 for removing regulatory barriers to housing production and preservation.

 

HUD Program(dollars in millions) FY22 Final Approp. FY23 Final Approp. FY24 Admin. Budget
CDBG $3,300* $3,300* $3,300
HOME 1,500 1,500 1,800
Self-Help Homeownshp. (SHOP) 12.5 13.5 10
Veterans Home Rehab 4 1 4
Tenant-Based Rental Asstnce. 27,370 27,600 32,703
    VASH setaside 50 50 0
    Tribal VASH 5 7.5 5
    Replacemts. for 521 RA 20**
Project-Based Rental Asstnce. 13,940 13,938 15,904
Public Hsg. Capital Fund 3,388 3,200 3,225
Public Hsg. Operating Fund 5,064 5,109 5,133
Choice Neighbrhd. Initiative 350 350 185
Native Amer. Hsg. 1,002 1,020 1,053
Homeless Assistance Grants 3,213 3,633 3,749
Hsg. Opps. for Persons w/ AIDS 450 499 505
202 Hsg. for Elderly 1,033 1,075 1,023
811 Hsg. for Disabled 352 360 356
Fair Housing 85 86 90
Healthy Homes & Lead Haz. Cntl. 415 410 410
Housing Counseling 57.5 57.5 66
Rural Capacity Bldg 5 6 5

* Substantial increases in CDBG funding for FY22 and FY23 was driven nearly entirely by the return, after a 10-year absence, of $1.5 billion for the Economic Development Initiative for the purpose of funding Community Projects/Congressionally Directed Spending (popularly known as “earmarks”). In FY23, just under $3 billion is added for earmarks. These figures are not included in the table.

** This $20 million request is explained in HAC’s summary of the USDA rural housing budget proposal.

Policy News town

HAC’s Comments on Duty to Serve – July 2023

The FHFA requested comments on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s Duty to Serve plans as part of their annual Duty to Serve Listening Sessions. Jonathan Harwitz, HAC’s Director of Public Policy, provided oral comments, accompanied by longer written comments, on behalf of HAC. If implemented robustly, Duty to Serve has the potential to improve the lives of people living in the most underserved communities. HAC’s comments focused on:

  • Maintaining USDA Section 515 preservation as a core goal of the rural Duty to Serve Plans;
  • Permitting targeted equity investments in CDFIs;
  • Using, and further refining, the new Colonias Census Tract definition; and
  • Meeting rural LIHTC equity investment goals.

Read HAC’s full comments.

HAC DTS Rural Listening Session Comments
Policy News field

HAC’s network supports improvements to USDA’s Rural Housing Service in letter to Congress

With the help of our network of organizations working across the country in rural areas, more than 100 organizations signed on to support bipartisan, cross-Committee collaboration to consider improvements to USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) programs as part of the larger Farm Bill. Historically, the RHS programs have not been included in the Rural Development Title of the Farm Bill because they fall within the jurisdiction of the Banking Committee. But in recent months there has been increased cross-Committee momentum to include some bipartisan RHS modernizations in the Farm Bill, and we want to encourage that momentum to keep building. Check out the letter below to learn more. Thanks to all the organizations who signed on in support!

HAC Rural Housing Farm Bill Sign-on 2023 FINAL
Policy News town

Senate and House Committees Adopt Different Figures for FY24 USDA Spending

On June 22, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of USDA’s funding bill for fiscal year 2024. Senate appropriators are using the spending limits set in the Fiscal Responsibility Act —  the debt ceiling compromise — while the House is developing spending bills to fit lower caps. As a result, the Senate bill proposes higher amounts than the House for most rural housing and community facilities programs. It would keep most of them at FY23 levels.

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

Funding Levels

While keeping most programs at FY23 spending levels, the Senate bill would reduce funding for the flagship Section 502 direct mortgage program. It proposes $850 million rather than this year’s $1.25 billion. It would also increase the lowest possible subsidized interest rate for Section 502 direct loans to 2% from the current 1%.

Rescissions

The bill would cancel some funds appropriated in prior years but not yet spent: $3 million in the rural voucher account and $30 million intended for Section 504 grants.

Rental Preservation

The Senate bill, unlike the House’s version, adopts the administration’s proposal for decoupling Section 521 Rental Assistance from Section 515 and 514 mortgages in limited circumstances. When a USDA mortgage is paid off, an owner could continue to receive RA if the property has RA already and there is no other way to preserve the property as affordable housing. Decoupled RA could be provided for a maximum of 15,000 units in FY24.

Other Provisions

The report that accompanies the Senate bill “encourages” USDA to increase maximum grants for the Rural Community Development Initiative from $250,000 to $500,000 and “to allow an advance of 25 percent of grant funds prior to a match being supplied.”

The final section of the bill (Title VII) is separate from the main provisions relating to housing and CF programs but contains several housing-related provisions, including the Section 502 interest rate change (Sections 771 and 774) and rescissions (Sections 732 and 744). It would also extend the terms of Section 523 self-help land development loans and Section 524 site development loans to five years instead of the current two (Sections 761 and 762). It would raise the statutory cap on the number of rural housing vouchers, which has been raised for one year at a time in past appropriations bills, from 5,000 to 10,000.

 

USDA Rural Dev. Prog. (dollars in millions) FY22 Final Approp. FY23 Final Approp. FY24 Admin. Budget FY24 House Committee Bill
(H.R. 4368)
FY24 Senate Committee Bill
(S. 2131)
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,250 $1,250 $1,500 $900 $850
   Nat. Amer. SF Demo. 7.5 12 5 7.5
502 Single Family Guar. 30,000 30,000 30,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 28 50 25 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 32 32 40 25 32
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 50 70 200 60 60
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 20 50 13 25
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 18 5 10
521 Rental Assistance 1,450 1,488 1,650 1,607 1,608
523 Self-Help TA 32 32 40 25 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 16 16 30 10 16
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 250 400 400 400 400
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 34 36 75 34 35
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 45 48 38 48 48
Rental Prsrv. TA 2 2 0 0 2
Community Facil. Direct Loans 2,800 2,800 2,800 2,800 2,800
Community Facil. Grants – Earmarks* NA 325.5 NA 313 205.1
Community Facil. Grants – Other 40 25.3 87 3.6 32
Tribal Colleges CF Grts 10 10 10 6 10
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 6 6 22.8 5 6
Rural Hospital Pilot 0 0 2 0 0
Community Facil. Guarantees 650 650 650 650 650

* In this row of the table, the total earmark amounts (called “Congressionally Directed Spending” or “Community Project Funding”) are linked to documents that list the specific earmarks approved. Earmarks were not permitted in FY22 appropriations.

House Committee Passes FY24 USDA Appropriations

The full House Appropriations Committee approved a fiscal year 2024 funding bill for USDA on June 14, 2023. The committee made some changes in the bill passed by the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on May 18, but none were related to housing and community facilities. The measure retains the housing and CF program cuts adopted by the subcommittee.

New Details on Proposed Cuts

The full House committee released report language to accompany the bill, which provides some details not previously available. The report makes clear there would be a large cut to the pool of funding for standard community facilities grants that would be available through USDA’s competition: the total would plunge by 86%, from $25.3 million in FY23 to just under $3.6 million in FY24. Section 514 loans for farmworker housing would fall from $20 million in FY23 to $13 million in FY24, and Section 516 grants would drop from $10 million to $5 million. Section 504 grants and Section 533 would also decrease.

Like its subcommittee, the House Appropriations Committee states that its $1.607 billion will “fully fund the [Section 521 Rental Assistance] program,” without explaining why the amount differs from the administration’s budget request or whether “all” includes the 27,000 contracts added by the American Rescue Plan Act. (The administration’s total also includes $6 million for RA in new Section 515 units; that amount is not included in the House bill because it would not provide Section 515 funding for new units.)

Disadvantaged Farmers Program Cancellation Proposed

The full House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment, proposed by Agriculture Subcommittee Chair Andy Harris (R-Md.), to eliminate a program for disadvantaged farmers that was created in the Inflation Reduction Act. The IRA program replaced one created in the American Rescue Plan Act. The ARPA program would have aided “socially disadvantaged” farmers and ranchers because lawsuits previously determined that USDA discriminated against them. Then white farmers and ranchers sued, claiming it was discriminatory to pay people based solely on their race/ethnicity. While those suits were pending, Congress replaced the ARPA program with a new one in IRA to provide payments to anyone, regardless of race/ethnicity, who could show they experienced past discrimination in USDA farm lending programs. It also included grants and loans to improve land access (including heirs’ property and fractionated land issues) for underserved farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners. And it funded outreach, education, research, equity commissions, and other aid.

The House bill also cancels diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at USDA. During the markup Rep. Harris noted that it would not impact USDA’s civil rights office.

House Subcommittee Releases Rural Housing Funding Bill

On May 18, 2023, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee approved a fiscal year 2024 funding bill for USDA, proposing to 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 in FY23 or FY22.

The full House Appropriations Committee scheduled its own mark-up for May 24, then postponed it without setting a new date.

The administration’s budget documents state that its $1.65 billion request for Section 521 would renew all current Rental Assistance contracts, including 27,000 contracts added by the American Rescue Plan Act. The subcommittee’s summary says its $1.607 billion “fully funds existing rental contracts to ensure rural residents will not be displaced,” but does not specifically mention the ARPA units and does not explain the discrepancy between its figure and the budget’s. The administration’s total also includes $6 million for RA in new Section 515 units; that amount is not included in the House bill because it would not provide Section 515 funding for new units.

The House bill would also rescind unspent monies from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Inflation Reduction Act and would prohibit USDA spending on climate-change-related items including energy efficiency.

The Senate has not yet released proposed appropriations bills.

White House Budget Requests Increases in Rural Housing Funding

March 13, 2023 — The White House’s detailed budget request for fiscal year 2024 would increase funding for almost all of USDA’s rural housing and community facilities programs.

View a recording or the slides from HAC’s webinar on Rural Housing in the Fiscal Year 2024 White House Budget, which examined the budget’s contents and what to expect over the coming months.

Initiatives Requiring Legislation

The budget proposes legislative changes for Section 502 direct homeownership loans and for multifamily housing preservation.

For the Section 502 direct program, subsidy “recapture” would be eliminated. Recapture requires that, when a low- or very low-income homeowner with a Section 502 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 $996 million. It also proposes that Section 502 direct loans made in 2024 will not to be subject to recapture.

Like last year’s budget, the FY24 request proposes to provide HUD vouchers rather than USDA vouchers for tenants who lose Section 521 Rental Assistance when the USDA Section 515 or 514 mortgage ends for the property where they live. The HUD budget includes $20 million for these vouchers. USDA also again asks Congress to “decouple” RA from USDA mortgages so that some tenants can continue to receive RA after their properties’ mortgages end.

Funding Requests

The budget’s proposed $1.65 billion for Section 521 Rental Assistance would enable USDA to renew all of its RA contracts, including 27,000 contracts added by the American Rescue Plan Act.

The $200 million funding level for Section 515 is intended to provide enough for some new construction as well as preservation of existing properties. The Section 521 request includes $6 million to provide RA for the new Section 515 units.

The Rural Community Development Initiative, which funds capacity building for local organizations, would receive more than three times as much funding in FY24 as in FY23. The budget requests a leap from $6 million to $22.8 million, without explaining a particular reason for the increase. (RCDI is a setaside within the community facilities grants program but is not limited to recipients of CF funds.)

The budget asks Congress to authorize foreclosure authority for USDA RD’s multifamily office that would be equivalent to HUD’s.

All housing construction or rehabilitation would be required to improve energy or water efficiency, or address climate resilience.

Debt ceiling compromise limits spending, rescinds some HUD and USDA housing funds

The Fiscal Responsibility Act – the recently enacted compromise that suspends the debt ceiling until January 1, 2025 – makes fewer cuts than the Limit, Save, Grow Act passed by the House in April, but it almost certainly will limit federal spending on housing aid for the next two fiscal years. In addition to the well-publicized work requirements for SNAP and TANF recipients, reallocation of IRS funding, and revised environmental reviews, the measure includes a variety of other provisions, several of which impact rural housing.

  • It rescinds any unspent funds from the $39 million for Section 502 direct loans and 504 loans that was provided in the American Rescue Plan Act. (The June 8, 2023 HAC News reported incorrectly that $2 million in rental preservation technical assistance funds were also rescinded. The compromise did not rescind any preservation TA monies.)
  • It rescinds unspent monies appropriated by pandemic relief laws for the Emergency Rental Assistance and Homeowner Assistance Fund programs, and funds that were appropriated in the CARES Act but have not yet been spent by HUD for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, Project-Based Rental Assistance, Native American housing, Section 811, and Section 202.
  • It caps overall FY24 funding for discretionary programs at around FY23 levels. Despite this limit on total spending, specific programs may receive amounts that are higher or lower than their FY23 levels. As it does every year, the appropriations process in Congress will make key decisions for individual programs.
  • Overall discretionary spending can increase only 1% from FY24 to FY25. The annual appropriations bills will set amounts for individual programs.
  • If appropriations do exceed the limits in FY24 or FY25, a sequester would make across-the-board cuts to discretionary programs.
  • Discretionary spending increases are also capped at 1% for fiscal years 2026-2029, but Congress can waive these caps if it chooses. It has no such option for FY24 and FY25.
  • If Congress uses a continuing resolution to fund any part of the government beyond January 1 of FY24 or FY25, funding for that year would be reduced. If a CR were still in effect on April 30, the funding cut would be applied to the entire year.
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 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