Policy News from Congress

Over 300 Organizations Express Support for SHOP and RCB Programs

With the help of our network of organizations working across the country in rural areas, more than 300 organizations signed on to support increased funding for SHOP and the Rural Capacity Building (RCB) programs at HUD. HAC has helped almost 10,000 rural families achieve homeownership using the SHOP program, and has provided thousands of hours of customized technical assistance to more than 750 local organizations using the RCB program. Check out the letter below to learn more. Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, Community Frameworks, and Tierra del Sol for their partnership on this effort!

FY23 SHOP and RCB Organizational Sign-on Letter
Policy News from the Administration

HAC’s Recommendations to the CFPB on HMDA Rule Assessment

HAC submitted comments in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Request for Information regarding the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) Rule Assessment. HAC and our rural stakeholders have relied on HMDA data for decades to improve our understanding of rural mortgage markets. The CFPB will use these stakeholder comments to help better evaluate the effectiveness of these changes in meeting the purposes and objectives of Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Key takeaways:

  • Reporting Threshold

    HAC strongly urges the CFPB to return to the 25-origination reporting threshold, for closed-end loans, as opposed to the new 100-origination threshold, in order to more accurately capture rural markets that are disproportionately served by small financial institutions.

  • Reliability Index

    HAC Recommends that the CFPB resource and publish a HMDA “Reliability Index.” While not a fix for overly limited reporting thresholds, the development of an indicator would be helpful for the CFPB, data users, and consumers.

  • Additional Data

    HAC applauds increased HMDA data reporting, but additional data and reporting are still needed. While the new housing data points – specifically those on manufactured housing – enhance the HMDA data usefulness, more data could improve an understanding of certain underserved markets. This is particularly true when it comes to tribal lands and specific loan programs.

  • Data Browser

    HAC applauds CFPB’s HMDA data browser, which offers improved access to HMDA data over previous interfaces.

Rory Doyle/ There is More Work to be Done

Historic Housing & Capacity Building Investments in Build Back Better Framework

Statement from HAC’s CEO

This is a moment housing advocates have been waiting for. Today, President Biden announced a Build Back Better framework that would make robust investments in affordable housing and capacity across the country. This historic investment would drive prosperity and equity for small towns and rural places.

Rural communities hold vast potential to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life for all Americans. Access to quality, affordable housing is key to jumpstarting that potential. Building and preserving homes creates jobs, improves education and health outcomes, and provides much-needed financial and physical stability to low-income families.

The framework includes a $150 billion investment in affordable housing nationwide, which would build more than a million new affordable homes, expand rental assistance, and help families afford down payments. It would also establish a new Rural Partnership Program, empowering rural communities (including Tribal Nations) with capacity building resources.

Everyone deserves a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. The Build Back Better framework would bring our country much, much closer to achieving that vision.

 

David Lipsetz

CEO, Housing Assistance Council

 

Shawn Poynter/ There is More Work to be Done

UPDATE – 120 organizations sign on to Support rural housing and capacity building in the Build Back Better Act

Thank you! With your help 120 organizations signed on Congressional leadership yesterday in support of the robust rural housing and rural capacity building investments in the House bills for the Build Back Better Act. Nearly 120 organizations from across the country signed on to support these important investments.

Read the Letter

HAC Rural Housing Reconciliation Sign-On

 

Congress is currently working to negotiate the Build Back Better Act. Rural housing and capacity building programs are currently included in the bill and we want to make sure they continue to be top priorities. HAC is circulating a sign-on letter to Congressional leadership in support of maintaining rural housing and capacity building investments in the Build Back Better Act. You can view the text of the letter below. As a valued friend of HAC, we hope that you will add your organization’s name to this effort.

If you have any questions, please reach out to HAC’s Government Relations Manager, Samantha Booth, at samantha@ruralhome.org. The deadline to sign on is Tuesday, October 12. We appreciate your help.

 

BJ Kinds (center), construction manager with Delta Design Build Workshop, frames a house in Eastmoor on Sept. 2, 2020.Rory Doyle/ There is More Work to be Done

Transformational Rural Resources & Reconciliation

We are living through a momentous time. Trillions of dollars are flowing into communities to help address the impacts of the pandemic and position our nation to lead into the future. But, like water, federal funding often flows to the path of least resistance and historically this inertia has left behind rural areas, persistently poor counties, and communities of color. As Congress enters discussions on infrastructure, a focus on targeting these transformational resources to address long-existing patterns of rural poverty has never been more important.

There has been no lack of news coverage over the last year about Americans fleeing the big city for a quieter, more socially distanced small-town life. High-amenity rural communities across the country are seeing explosive growth that has led some to announce the beginning of a rural renaissance for American millennials. But this trend does not hold true for under-resourced rural places, which have often suffered under the weight of persistent poverty for decades.

Fortunately, Congress has recognized this need and infrastructure reconciliation conversations have included critical resources for rural affordable housing and community development. Many of these resources align with HAC’s 2021 Rural Housing Policy Priorities. Here are some highlights on these resources:

  • USDA Rural Housing Service Resources

    • A transformational investment in rural multifamily housing, including $4.36 billion for new construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of Section 515 rental housing and Section 514/516 farmworker housing, as well as $200 million for Section 521 Rental Assistance. With thousands of USDA multifamily units maturing and leaving the program each year and no funding for new construction in a decade, this investment could right the ship and preserve an estimated 38,720 units.
    • Additional support for rural affordable homeownership, including $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.
  • Rural Partnership Program (RPP)

    • The Rural Partnership Program (RPP) is a newly proposed program that is funded at nearly $4 billion and would provide flexible grants to support rural and tribal community development and capacity building. The proposed program has two parts: grants to support direct activities and projects, and grants to support the organizations responsible for providing technical assistance and capacity to administer the grants.
  • Other critical resources for rural housing

    • $25 million in additional funding for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) at HUD, which is a critical tool for rural affordable homeownership. HAC’s SHOP program has created nearly 10,000 homes in rural places across the country.
    • A $1 billion setaside of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for colonias on the U.S.-Mexico border. These generally unincorporated communities along the U.S.-Mexico border in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are characterized by high poverty rates and substandard living conditions, often lacking potable drinking water, water and wastewater systems, paved streets, and access to standard mortgage financing. This investment in colonias will allow these communities to develop the basic infrastructure they desperately need.

The new Administration has made geographic equity for rural places a priority, and we are hopeful that Congress will recognize the unique needs of rural areas and maintain these resources as the negotiations move forward. Rural communities are worthy of investment—and now is the time to make that investment in the future of rural America. If you would like to learn more about HAC’s policy priorities, click here.

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 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 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.