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.

Policy News from Congress

Updated Sept. 14 – Rural Rental Housing and Repairs for Homeowners Included in Draft Bill

UPDATE September 14, 2021 – More rural housing funding has been added to the House Financial Services Committee’s portion of the reconciliation package. It now includes:

  • $4.36 billion for new construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of Section 515 rental housing and Section 514/516 farmworker housing;
  • $200 million for Section 521 Rental Assistance;
  • $70 million in budget authority for Section 502 direct homeownership loans (estimated to support loans totaling about $3.7 billion);
  • $95 million for Section 504 repair grants; and
  • $25 million for Section 523 self-help.

The bill sets no time limits for spending most of these funds, although the Rental Assistance money would expire on September 30, 2024.

Funding for HUD’s Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) was also added when the draft was revised. An additional $50 million would be available for SHOP over 10 years. As noted below, the bill provides substantial new funding for numerous HUD programs.

The Financial Services Committee began its consideration of the bill on September 13 and is continuing on September 14. The markup session will also consider a bill to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), which would establish a new annual 5 percent setaside for tribes under USDA’s Section 502, 504, 515, 533, and 538 programs, as well as the Rural Utilities Service programs.

The Financial Service Committee’s portion of the reconciliation bill will be combined with pieces from other committees to create the full $3.5 trillion package. The House is expected to approve it. Then it will be considered in the Senate, where it needs only a majority vote to pass, but it is not yet clear whether enough Senators will vote for it.

 

September 9, 2021 – Congress’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation package includes $5 billion for USDA’s rural rental housing programs and $100 million for repairs to rural owner-occupied homes. The House Financial Services Committee released legislative text on September 9, providing details that were not previously available.

The $5 billion rural rental total would be used for new construction of Section 515 rental housing and 514/516 farmworker housing, and for preserving existing properties through the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program.

USDA’s Section 504 grant program, which covers the costs of health and safety repairs to owner-occupied homes in rural areas, would receive $100 million. These grants are usually available only to homeowners age 62 or older, but that age restriction would be waived for this pool of funds. The requirement that homeowners have very low incomes would remain in place.

The bill would also provide significant funding for numerous HUD programs including $35 billion for HOME and $8.5 billion for Community Development Block Grants. The colonias on the U.S.-Mexico border would receive a $1 billion setaside of CDBG funds.

The  Financial Services Committee will mark up this bill on September 13. (At the same session the committee will also consider two other bills, one to assist renters in the wake of the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the federal eviction moratorium, and one to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act.)

All funds appropriated through the reconciliation bill would be in addition to the usual annual funding for these programs. Congress has not completed work on USDA’s or HUD’s annual appropriations for fiscal year 2022, which begins on October 1, 2021. The year is likely to begin with a continuing resolution holding programs at their FY21 levels.

Policy News from the Administration

HAC’s Statement on the End of the CDC’s Eviction Moratorium

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is concerned by the Supreme Court’s decision ending the national eviction moratorium. Without federal protection, hundreds of thousands of families now face the threat of eviction. Across America, many of these families will lose their homes.

“This pandemic and the unprecedented job loss it caused have exacerbated the housing challenges that rural communities have faced for a long time,” stated HAC CEO David Lipsetz. Millions of tenants, homeowners, and landlords across the country have fallen behind on rent and mortgage payments. Rural residents including Native Americans and farmworkers are among the Americans hardest hit by the pandemic and its housing impacts.

The end of the eviction moratorium is particularly troubling because housing loss poses serious dangers for renters’ health, as well as their finances. Eviction increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission and falls hardest on people of color, who are most likely to be evicted. Plus, renters with eviction records find it much harder to rent decent housing in the future since landlords often screen applicants with prior evictions.

Assistance to help cover rent, utilities, mortgages, and other costs is available from the federal government, states, and county or city governments. HAC has compiled links to resources for tenants, homeowners, and landlords on our website: ruralhome.org.

HAC works to ensure that everyone has a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. We will continue to serve rural communities with dedication and compassion, just as we have for the last 50 years.

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Agrees with HUD Fair Housing Rule

HAC has submitted a comment letter supporting HUD’s proposed cancellation of a fair housing regulation issued by the Trump administration in September 2020. This rule governs fair housing violation claims based on policies or actions with “disparate impacts” on categories of people protected by the Fair Housing Act.

The 2020 HUD rule, which would have made it more difficult to prove a disparate impact claim, never went into effect. A federal judge issued an injunction that left a 2013 disparate impact regulation in place while a lawsuit against the 2020 version was underway.

In June 2021, HUD proposed to reinstate the 2013 rule. HAC – along with thousands of others – supports that action.

As HAC’s comments pointed out:

Fair access to housing is essential. Research shows that decent, affordable housing improves residents’ physical and mental health, their ability to hold jobs, their children’s performance in school. Children’s life chances are deeply impacted by the neighborhoods where they grow up. Enforcing the Fair Housing Act against discrimination, both intended and incidental, helps our nation move towards inclusive and equitable rural, urban and suburban communities, where all residents can thrive.

Policy News from Congress

Senate Proposes Some Increases for USDA Housing

August 5, 2021 – The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY22 USDA funding bill on August 4. While the House bill proposes a substantial increase in funding for the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program, the Senate bill would increase Section 515 funding rather than MPR. The Senate bill suggests increases in some other programs, but most of its figures are lower than the House’s.

The Senate bill would retain a provision in FY21 appropriations law, dropped by the administration’s budget and the House, that allows rental property owners to request 20-year terms for Rental Assistance contracts, subject to annual appropriations. The Senate and House would both keep provisions calling for incentives to nonprofits to preserve rental housing, reuse of recaptured Rental Assistance (RA), and use of recaptured RA from farmworker housing in other farmworker housing when possible, although those were left out of the administration’s budget request.

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.

(dollars in millions)

FY20 Final Approp. FY21 Final Approp. Amer. Rescue Plan Act FY22 Admin. Budget FY22 House Bill FY22 Senate Bill
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,000 $1,000 $656.6a $1,500 $1,500 $1,250
502 Single Family Guar. 24,000 24,000 30,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 28 18.3a 28 28 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 30 30 30 40 30
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 40 40 40 40 92
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 28 28 28 28
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 10 15 10
521 Rental Assistance 1,375 1,410 100 1,450 1,450 1,450
523 Self-Help TA 31 31 32 32 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 15 15 15 25 15
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 230 230 230 230 250
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 28 28 32 60 32
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 32 40 45 45 45
Rental Prsrv. TA 1 2 0 2 2
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 4 6 6 6 6

a. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $39 million in budget authority to refinance Section 502 direct loans and Section 504 loans for homeowners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. USDA expects this funding to generate $656.6 million in Section 502 direct loans and $18.3 million in Section 504 loans.

 

July 27, 2021 – The House passed H.R. 4502, a “minibus” package of seven appropriations bills, including USDA’s (see table below) and HUD’s.

July 1, 2021 – The full House Appropriations Committee approved its FY22 USDA funding bill on June 30, including increases in some rural housing programs as described below. The bill will be considered later this summer by the full House. The Senate has not yet released a proposal.

The House committee also released its report on the bill, providing additional information and directives from the committee, including a paragraph about farmworker housing.

Farm Labor Housing.—The Committee encourages USDA to explore opportunities to leverage its resources including its Food and Nutrition Programs, Community Facilities Programs, Housing Preservation Grants, and other programs, and to create partnerships with the Department of Labor’s Farmworker Housing outreach and technical assistance program, Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Center Program, and the Administration for Children and Families Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program, to coordinate and align resources to address the housing, nutrition and healthcare needs of this vulnerable population of essential workers who play a critical role in America’s food security. The Committee further encourages USDA to explore including service coordinators as an allowable expenditure for farm labor housing projects.

June 24, 2021 – As congressional action begins for fiscal year 2022 federal funding, the House Appropriations Committee has released a bill proposing increases in several of USDA’s rural housing programs.

Like the administration’s budget, the House bill would raise funding for Section 502 direct and guaranteed mortgage loans, Rental Assistance, and self-help housing. While the budget would increase the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) program to $32 million from $28 million in FY21, the House bill would provide a far larger boost, to $65 million. The House would also grow the Section 504 grant program for elderly low-income homeowners and the Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants program.

The House bill retains several provisions that are in current appropriations law but were dropped in the administration’s budget. These call for incentives to nonprofits to preserve rental housing, reuse of recaptured Rental Assistance (RA), and use of recaptured RA from farmworker housing in other farmworker housing when possible. Like the budget, however, it eliminates a provision from the FY20 and FY21 appropriations laws that allowed property owners to request RA contracts with 20-year terms.

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will review the draft bill at a mark-up on June 25, 2021. The full House Appropriations Committee will consider it on June 30. The Senate has not yet begun its appropriations process.

 

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.

(dollars in millions)

FY20 Final Approp. FY21 Final Approp. Amer. Rescue Plan Act FY22 Admin. Budget FY22 House Bill
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,000 $1,000 $656.6a $1,500 $1,500
502 Single Family Guar. 24,000 24,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 28 18.3a 28 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 30 30 30 c
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 40 40 40 40
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 28 28 b
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 10 b
521 Rental Assistance 1,375 1,410 100 1,450 1,450
523 Self-Help TA 31 31 32 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 15 15 15 c
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 230 230 230 230
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 28 28 32 60
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 32 40 45 45
Rental Prsrv. TA 1 2 0 2
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 4 6 6 6

a. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $39 million in budget authority to refinance Section 502 direct loans and Section 504 loans for homeowners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. USDA expects this funding to generate $656.6 million in Section 502 direct loans and $18.3 million in Section 504 loans.

b. The House bill provides a total of $17.8 million in budget authority for the Section 514 and 516 farm labor housing programs. When the Appropriations Committee prepares a report on the bill, that document will state the program amounts.

c. The House bill provides a total of $65 million for Section 504 grants and Section 533 grants. When the Appropriations Committee prepares a report on the bill, that document will show how the total is to be divided between the two programs.

 

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Recommends FHFA and the GSEs Prioritize Addressing Inequity

HAC submitted comments in response to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Request for Input on the Enterprises’ 2022-2024 Duty to Serve Underserved Markets Plans. Through the Duty to Serve mandate, the Enterprises (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are tasked with increasing liquidity and investment capital in three traditionally underserved markets: Rural Housing, Manufactured Housing, and Affordable Housing Preservation. HAC’s comment noted that secondary housing market policy is and has historically been part of a system that is delivering vastly different outcomes for people depending on where they are born – and this inequity must be addressed by more ambitious Duty to Serve investment and purchase goals.

Key Takeaways from HAC’s Comments

  • Be Ambitious

    More ambitious purchase and investment goals are needed as we enter the next phase of Duty to Serve.

  • Prioritize Equity

    Racial and geographic equity should be core to the Duty to Serve mission.

  • Encourage Partnership

    Strong rural partnerships are essential to Duty to Serve’s success.

  • Measure Success

    More transparent data is needed for stakeholders to truly understand and evaluate the success of Duty to Serve.

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Supports USDA’s Interest in Racial Justice, Equity, and Underserved Communities

Federal policy and programs benefit some areas of the United States while harming others. HAC was pleased to see the Administration’s Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, published on President Biden’s first day in office. In Section 2 of that Order, we were glad to see “persons who live in rural areas” included in the list of groups who need to be granted “consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment.” Further, we were glad to see “geographic communities” a category that should be considered when determining an “underserved community.”

On this basis, HAC supports USDA’s efforts to advance justice and equity for communities underserved by USDA itself and by others. HAC’s comments submitted in response to USDA’s request for information on Identifying Barriers in USDA Programs and Services; Advancing Racial Justice and Equity and Support for Underserved Communities at USDA address actions that are necessary in several areas. Building capacity, improving access to capital, increasing flexibility, and engaging with stakeholders are among the subjects addressed in HAC’s comments.

In a similar vein, HAC also recently commented on an administration request for input on equity across all federal agencies.

Policy News from Congress

Updated July 29 – FY22 Funding Bill Moves Forward in House

Updated, July 29, 2021 – The full House passed H.R. 4502, a “minibus” containing several FY22 appropriations bills, including the bills for both HUD and USDA.

 

Update, July 16, 2021 – The House Appropriations Committee has approved the Transportation-HUD funding bill. It is expected to be considered by the full House as part of a “minibus” package of several FY22 appropriations bills, which will also include the Agriculture bill.

 

On July 16, 2021 the House Appropriations Committee will consider a fiscal year 2022 funding bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The bill was approved on July 12 by the T-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee.

The House bill would set funding levels for many HUD programs at or above the amounts requested in the President’s budget and would provide substantial increases above FY21 levels for almost all programs. Details are provided in the table below.

 

HUD Program

(dollars in millions)

FY20 Final Approp. FY21 Final Approp. FY22 Admin. Budget FY22 House Bill
CDBG $3,425 $3,475 $3,770 $4,688
HOME 1,350 1,350 1,850 1,850
Self-Help Homeownshp. (SHOP) 10 10 10 15
Veterans Home Rehab 4 4 4
Tenant-Based Rental Asstnce. 23,874 25,778 30,442 29,216
    VASH setaside 40 40 20
    Tribal VASH 1 5 5 5
Project-Based Rental Asstnce. 12,570 13,465 14,060 14,010
Public Hsg. Capital Fund 2,870 2,942 3,678 3,718
Public Hsg. Operating Fund 4,549 4,864 4,917 4,922
Choice Neighbrhd. Initiative 175 200 250 400
Native Amer. Hsg. 825 825 1,000 950
Homeless Assistance Grants 2,777 3,000 3,500 3,420
Hsg. Opps. for Persons w/ AIDS 410 430 450 600
202 Hsg. for Elderly 793 855 928 1,033
811 Hsg. for Disabled 202 227 272 352
Fair Housing 70.3 72.6 85 85
Healthy Homes & Lead Haz. Cntl. 290 360 400 460
Housing Counseling 53 57.5 85.9 100

 

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Supports Fair Housing Rule

HAC has submitted comments strongly supporting HUD’s decision to replace a fair housing regulation it issued in 2020. The new interim final rule is a positive step in a years-long process to require states, localities, and public housing agencies that receive HUD funds to “affirmatively further fair housing” (AFFH). As HAC’s comments note, working towards equality is essential. It is inherently the right thing to do – and it is crucial because research shows children’s life chances are deeply impacted by the neighborhoods where they grow up. Taking active steps to eliminate discrimination and segregation in homes and neighborhoods through enforcement of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirement leads to inclusive and equitable rural, urban and suburban communities, where all residents can thrive.

The interim final rule does not mandate any specific fair housing planning mechanism for recipients of HUD funds. HUD plans to request comments on that subject through a separate notice.

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Recommends Federal Actions for Rural Equity

HAC submitted comments in response to an Office of Management and Budget request for input on whether federal agency policies and actions equitably serve all eligible individuals and communities, including rural residents. Noting that rural and persistently poor places have historically been and continue to be underserved by federal programs, HAC recommended a focus on capacity building, access to capital, and proactive and deliberate tailoring of federal programs to produce lasting rural equity.

Key Takeaways from HAC’s Comments

 

  • Rural Inclusion

    HAC is thrilled to see rural and persistently poor places included explicitly in the Executive Order on equity that President Biden released on his first day in office, and that is the basis for this OMB effort.

  • Historic Disinvestment

    Rural and persistently poor places have historically been and continue to be underserved by federal programs.

  • Focus on Equity

    We need federal focus on capacity building, access to capital, and proactive and deliberate tailoring of federal programs to produce lasting rural equity.

Policy News from the Administration

Biden’s USDA Housing Budget Proposes Increases in Section 502 Mortgages and Rental Preservation

The Biden administration’s first full budget request, covering the fiscal year that begins on October 1, 2021, would maintain this year’s spending levels on rural housing programs and make available more loans for rural homebuyers. The Section 502 direct loan program, though which USDA makes loans directly to first-time purchasers, would be raised from $1 billion to $1.5 billion. The Section 502 guarantee program, which guarantees mortgages made by banks, would increase from $24 billion to $30 billion.

Fiscal year 2022 funding for most rural housing programs would remain at the same levels as in fiscal year 2021, with modest increases for self-help housing, rental assistance, and rental vouchers. The budget also indicates that the American Jobs Plan – the administration’s infrastructure proposal – would provide an additional $2 billion in rural housing spending. It does not give any details about how that money would be used.

The budget proposes to eliminate some protections for Section 521 Rental Assistance (RA). It would delete a requirement that recaptured RA be reused for rehab, preservation, or RA, and it would eliminate longstanding provisions requiring a 12-month delay before recapturing unused RA from Section 514/516 farmworker housing and mandating that farmworker housing RA be reused in other farmworker housing if possible. Language that allows recaptured RA to be used for “current needs” would be left in place.

Also deleted would be a provision from FY20 and FY21 appropriations that allows owners to request RA renewals for 20-year periods, subject to annual appropriations, which fund RA contracts for one year at a time.

The Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) program, the Section 542 voucher program, and both farmworker housing programs would be shifted to new places in the budgetary scheme, an administrative move that would not alter the functioning of any of these programs.

The administration’s budget is the first step in the annual appropriations process. Each house of Congress will now craft its own proposal and differences will be worked out in the months to come.

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.

(dollars in millions)

FY20 Final Approp. FY21 Final Approp. Amer. Rescue Plan Act FY 22 Admin. Budget
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,000 $1,000 $656.6 $1,500
502 Single Family Guar. 24,000 24,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 28 18.3a 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 30 30 30
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 40 40 40
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 28 28
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 10
521 Rental Assistance 1,375 1,410 100 1,450
523 Self-Help TA 31 31 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 15 15 15
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 230 230 230
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 28 28 32
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 32 40 45
Rental Prsrv. TA 1 2 0
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 4 6 6

a The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $39 million in budget authority to refinance Section 502 direct loans and Section 504 loans for homeowners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. USDA expects this funding to generate $656.6 million in Section 502 direct loans and $18.3 million in Section 504 loans.