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HAC Applauds New Farm Bill Framework

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



ACEEE – Ben Somberg, bsomberg@aceee.org

AFREF – Carter Dougherty, carter@ourfinancialsecurity.org

HAC – Dan Stern, dan@ruralhome.org 

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

NCLC – Stephen Rouzer, srouzer@nclc.org

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

NAIMA – Patrick Kiker, pkiker@naima.org

RMI – Leah Komos, leah.komos@rmi.org 

USGBC – Deisy Verdinez, dverdinez@usgbc.org


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HAC Comments on Duty To Serve Plan Modifications – December 2023

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) put out a call for comments on the Enterprises’ (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s) proposed 2023 Duty to Serve Plan modifications. Both Enterprises proposed cutting a variety of their loan purchase goals in rural areas, citing market conditions as the justification. HAC pushed back on these proposed cuts in our comments. Specifically, HAC made in following points in our comment:

  • HAC is generally agnostic as to which section of Freddie Mac’s Duty to Serve plan USDA Section 515 purchases fall under, but strongly supports their continued inclusion and tangible results. We support mainlining the Section 515 purchases currently included in the rural section of the plan because they focus on rural-targeting of properties.
  • HAC opposes cuts to loan purchase goals in high-needs rural regions and from small, rural financial institutions.
  • HAC opposes cuts to loan purchase goals for manufactured housing communities.
  • HAC supports Fannie Mae’s new proposed objective to better serve the manufactured housing needs of Native communities.
  • HAC support permitting the Enterprises to make equity investments in CDFIs – a decision which relies on approval from the FHFA.
HAC DTS Plan Modification Comments 12.06.23 FINAL
Policy News from the Administration

HAC Comments on OMB Guidance on Grants and Agreements – December 2023

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) put out a call for comments on their guidance for Grants and Agreements, with a lens toward making grants processes more equitable. HAC submitted comments in support of more proactive geographic equity in the federal grants process. In addition to recognizing capacity building and access to capital as two essential equity issues in rural places, HAC’s comments focused on the recommendations below.

  • Instituting a Rural Impact Analysis for New Regulations
  • Investing in Capacity Building and Rural Intermediaries
  • Eliminating, Reducing or Modifying Cost-sharing and Matching Requirements that Disparately Impact Rural Communities
  • Streamlining and Increasing Uniformity in Applications
  • Including or Increasing Administrative and Predevelopment Costs as Eligible Activities in Rural Places
  • Recognizing the Rural Challenges in Metrics and Data Reporting
HAC Comments on OMB Guidance on Grants and Agreements 12.04.23
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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