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.

HAC Submits Comments on USDA Civil Rights Changes

On March 24, 2018 HAC submitted comments to USDA on proposed changes to its civil rights functions. HAC’s comments encourage USDA to stay focused on protecting the civil rights of its customers and staff, and providing information about how the proposed changes were identified as necessary.

HAC’s comments are available here (PDF).

FY18 Spending Agreement Increases Funds for Some Housing Programs

Congressional negotiatiors agreed March 21, 2018 on an omnibus appropriations package for FY18, the fiscal year that began October 1, 2017. The bill is expected to pass both the House and Senate, and to be signed into law by President Trump, before midnight on March 23. The bill maintains or increases funding levels for both USDA and HUD housing programs. In fact, because the cap on FY18 spending levels was raised, funding levels for several programs were increased above the amounts in both the House and Senate FY18 bills. These include Section 502 direct homeownership loans, Section 515 direct rental loans, Section 542 vouchers, and others at USDA. At HUD, there are increases for HOME, CDBG, Section 202, Section 811, the Public Housing Capital Fund, tenant-based and project-based vouchers, and others.

The final bill does not include the Rural Economic Infrastructure Grants proposed in the Administration’s FY18 budget.

Congress has recently taken the first steps towards FY19 funding decisions, beginning to hold hearings on the Administration’s budget requests. HAC will continue to report on this process as it moves forward.

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USDA Rural Dev. Prog.
(dollars in millions)

FY16 Approp.

FY17 Approp.

FY18 House Bill (H.R. 3268)

FY18 Senate Bill (S. 1603)

FY18 Final Approp.

502 Single Fam. Direct
Self-Help setaside

$900
5

$1,000
5

$900
5

$1,000
5

$1,100
5

502 Single Family Guar.

24,000

24,000

24,000

24,000

24,000

504 VLI Repair Loans

26.3

26.3

24

26.3

28

504 VLI Repair Grants

28.7

28.7

a

28.7

30

515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns.

28.4

35

28.4

35

40

514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns.

23.9

23.9

15

23.8

23

516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts.

8.3

8.3

6

8.3

8.4

521 Rental Assistance

1,390

1,405

1,345

1,345

1,345

523 Self-Help TA

27.5

30

25

30

30

533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants

3.5

5

a

5

10

538 Rental Hsg. Guar.

150

230

230

230

230

Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR)

22

22

15

22

22

542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers

15

19.4

20

19.4

25

Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init.

4

4

0

4

4

a. Section 504 grants and Section 533 grants would have been rolled into a new Rural Economic Infrastructure Grant program. This change is not included in the final bill.

HUD Program
(dollars in millions)

FY16 Approp.

FY17 Approp.

FY18 House Bill (H.R. 3353)

FY18 Senate Bill (S. 1655)

FY18 Final Approp.

CDBG

$3,000

$3,000

$2,900

3,000

3,300

HOME

950

950

850

950

1,362

Self-Help Homeownshp. (SHOP)

10

10

10

10

10

Veterans Home Rehab

5.7

4

0

4

4

Tenant-Based RA
VASH setaside
Tribal VASH

19,628
60
0

20,292
40
7

20,487
577b
7

21,365
40
5

22,015
40
5

Project-Based Rental Asstnce.

10,622

10,816

11,082

11,507

11,515

Public Hsg. Capital Fund

1,900

1,942

1,850

1,945

2,750

Public Hsg. Operating Fund

4,500

4,400

4,400

4,500

4,550

Choice Neighbrhd. Initiative

125

137.5

20

50

150

Native Amer. Hsg. Block Grant

650

654

654

655

655

Homeless Assistance Grants

2,250

2,383

2,383

2,456

2,513

Hsg. Opps. for Persons w/ AIDS

335

356

356

330

375

202 Hsg. for Elderly

432.7

502.4

573

573

678

811 Hsg. for Disabled

150.6

146.2

147

147

230

Fair Housing

65.3

65.3

65.3

65.3

65

Healthy Homes & Lead Haz. Cntl.

110

145

130

160

230

Housing Counseling

47

55

50

47

55

FY19 Budget Proposes to Eliminate Most Rural Housing Programs

Guarantees for bank loans would remain at current levels and basic rent aid for tenants would continue, but other rural housing assistance would be wiped out under the Trump Administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 released on February 12, 2018. Although tenants would continue receiving assistance, they would face a new requirement to pay at least $50 per month in rent unless they are deemed to experience economic hardship.

This budget is much the same as last year’s proposal for rural housing. Last year the Section 504 grant program – which offers small grants to elderly homeowners with very low incomes to repair health and safety hazards in their homes – would have been rolled into a new pool of money called the Rural Economic Infrastructure Grant program. This year’s budget does not include that infrastructure grant proposal, and would simply eliminate Section 504 grants. The House incorporated the infrastructure grant idea into its FY18 appropriations bill, but both the House and the Senate rejected most of the program eliminations proposed by the Administration last year.

The guarantee programs that would remain – Section 502 guarantees for homebuyers and Section 538 guarantees for builders of rental housing in rural places – cover their own costs through fees, so the government pays only the costs of administering them.

USDA’s Section 521 Rental Assistance and Section 542 voucher programs, which assist tenants in two different sets of circumstances, would be funded at levels similar to current amounts. The $20 million proposed for vouchers, however, is too low to help all eligible tenants who want vouchers. HAC believes at least $27 million will be needed for these renters whose landlords pay off their USDA mortgages, either early or at maturity.

In addition to the new $50 rent requirement, the budget proposes to allow USDA to recapture Rental Assistance funds from past years’ agreements if the department determines a property no longer needs RA, and to use those funds for other properties. It would also let USDA transfer unneeded RA or voucher funds to any other rural housing programs. [tdborder][/tdborder]

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.
(dollars in millions)

FY16 Approp.

FY17 Approp.

FY18 House Bill (H.R. 3268)a

FY18 Senate Bill (S. 1603)a

FY19 Admin Budget Proposal

502 Single Fam. Direct
Self-Help setaside

$900
5

$1,000
5

$900
5

$1,000
5

0
0

502 Single Family Guar.

24,000

24,000

24,000

24,000

24,000

504 VLI Repair Loans

26.3

26.3

24

26.3

0

504 VLI Repair Grants

28.7

28.7

c

28.7

0

515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns.

28.4

35

28.4

35

0

514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns.

23.9

23.9

15

23.8

0

516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts.

8.3

8.3

6

8.3

0

521 Rental Assistance

1,390

1,405b

1,345

1,345

1,331.4b

523 Self-Help TA

27.5

30

25

30

0

533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants

3.5

5

a

5

0

538 Rental Hsg. Guar.

150

230

230

230

250

Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR)

22

22

15

22

0

542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers

15

19.4

20

19.4

20

Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init.

4

4

0

4

0

a. FY18 appropriation is not yet final.
b. Includes $40 million in advance funding for FY18, so total available in FY17 was $1.365 billion and total available in FY18 would be $1.385 billion. The FY19 budget assumes that this “forward funding” continues, so more than $1.331 billion would be available in FY19.
c. Section 504 loans and other non-housing loans would have been rolled into a new Rural Economic Infrastructure Grant program.

Broadband to house - USDA

Gonzalez Named RD Chief of Staff

Gil Gonzalez, who served in USDA Rural Development from 2001 to 2005, has been named Chief of Staff for RD. Anne Hazlett, who heads the agency, announced his appointment on January 18, 2018.

Administration Calls for Rural Broadband, Jobs, Housing, and More

President Trump addressed rural issues on January 8, 2018 at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s convention, and signed two documents related to improving rural broadband connections. A Presidential Memorandum instructs the Department of Interior to allow rural broadband installation on federal property. An Executive Order requires agencies to use standardized forms and contracts in order to streamline the process for these installations on federal property.

At the event, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue also presented the President with a report from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, which he chaired.

The report groups its comments and recommendations into five sections: e-connectivity, quality of life, rural workforce, technological innovation, and rural economy. Affordable housing is included in the quality of life category along with education, healthcare, transportation, utilities, other infrastructure, and community resiliency planning.

Improving access to technology, reducing duplicative programs and regulatory burdens, and attracting private capital are among the recurring themes in the report.

The report describes housing issues this way:

In some places, housing affordability has become a major challenge, either because housing costs have risen rapidly or because incomes are insufficient for self-supported housing at market rates. These burdens are increasing among rural renters, in both high-amenity areas and in communities with high poverty rates. In such parts of rural America, addressing the shortage of local jobs and a lack of connection to those job opportunities will be a major factor in overcoming these challenges.

Under “objectives and recommended actions,” the housing section proposes:

Innovate Options for Rural Housing – Develop a set of shared best practices for increasing homeownership, reducing homelessness in rural communities, and building robust community infrastructure. Such practices should include recommendations for federal, state, tribal and local action to strengthen investments in rural housing and provide technical assistance. The Task Force recommends options such as the Department of Housing & Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, and Department of Education jointly evaluating federal rural housing policies and programs, and targeting existing resources to best support sustainable housing in rural communities. To optimize rural housing options for the workforce needed in the current and future economies, private sector organizations’ resource deployment to rural areas can also be incentivized.

The report’s section on the rural workforce notes that “farmers often have difficulty finding American citizen and lawful permanent resident workers to fill” production agriculture jobs.

As labor instability grows, seasonal farmers are increasingly turning to [the] H-2A visa program to ensure that their foreign-born workers are working legally in the United States. The inefficiencies and administrative burden of the H-2A program are well-communicated by farmers. The White House is addressing farmers’ concerns through an interagency effort to implement policy and regulatory changes to improve the … H-2A program. The goal of this initiative is to ensure that farmers have access to the lawful workforce that is needed.

The task force proposes a three-part structure to continue its work and implement actions:

  • a Federal Commission on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity;
  • a Stakeholder Advisory Council to advise the commission; and
  • a Managing Director office to oversee and coordinate the work.

HUD Suspends Fair Housing Rule, Requests Comments

Local Assessments of Fair Housing will not be required until 2020 at the earliest, HUD announced on January 5, 2018. The delay relates to part of a 2015 HUD regulation, which changed the requirement for plans developed by local governments and public housing authorities that receive funding under some of HUD’s programs, including the CDBG and HOME programs, important resources for affordable rural housing. Each funded entity would develop an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), a more data-driven and standardized replacement for the previous Analysis of Impediments (AI). The AFH requirement was to be phased in over time, with small entities having the most time to comply.

The new announcement says that 35 percent of the first 49 AFH plans HUD evaluated did not meet the requirements. It explains that program participants need additional technical assistance in developing their AFHs. It delays the phase-in period, so plans will not be due until after October 31,2020.

HUD’s notice reminds funding recipients that in the meantime, they are still required by law to affirmatively further fair housing. They will be required to continue developing and updating the older Analyses of Impediments until the AFH requirement takes effect.

While the notice is effective immediately, HUD invites public comment by March 6, 2018.

FHFA Publishes Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Duty to Serve Underserved Market Plans

Updated: December 18, 2017

FHFA Publishes Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Duty to Serve Underserved Market Plans

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has published Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Underserved Markets Plans for 2018-2020 under the Duty to Serve program. The Plans become effective January 1, 2018.

Fannie Mae’s Underserved Markets Plan

Freddie Mac’s Underserved Markets Plan

HAC Comments on Duty to Serve Underserved Market Plans – July 10, 2017

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) appreciates the opportunity to comment on Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Duty to Serve Underserved Markets Plans for Rural Markets. As a strong advocate for the Duty to Serve provisions of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, HAC appreciates the time, effort, and resources FHFA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac have undertaken to develop these underserved market plans. The core of HAC’s work for over four decades has been rural and underserved communities. HAC understands the complexities and difficulties of working in these communities. HAC also understands the promise and possibility of Duty to Serve to affect real and measurable change in these long overlooked and largely forgotten communities and people. We appreciate that FHFA and the Enterprises have not forgotten them, and we look forward to assisting you and the Duty to Serve effort generally to achieve its mandate to improve liquidity and access to affordable housing in underserved markets.

Given its organizational focus on rural housing, HAC focused largely on the Rural Markets component of the plans. HAC presents comments on each Enterprise’s plan separately. After the Enterprise-specific comments, HAC presents general comments and suggestions to the Enterprises and FHFA on issues of rural multifamily housing and preservation.

Read HAC’s full comments.


Fannie Mae Rural Purchase Activity, 2013-2015

dts-fannie-mae

Freddie Mac Rural Purchase Activity, 2013-2015

dts-freddie-mac


The Federal Housing Finance Agency issued a final rule to implement the Duty to Serve provisions which require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to serve three specified underserved markets – manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation and rural housing – by improving the distribution and availability of mortgage financing in a safe and sound manner for residential properties that serve very low-, low- and moderate-income families.

Visit FHFA.gov/DTS for the press release, final rule, fact sheet, public listening session details, timeline and more.

HAC Will provide a summary of the Duty to Serve Rule soon.

Stakeholder Webinar

FHFA will provide a high-level overview of the final rule and answer stakeholder questions via webinar on Monday, Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. ET.

You may submit questions in advance by emailing DutyToServeStakeholders@FHFA.gov with “webinar question” in the subject line. Please submit your questions by COB Thursday, Dec. 15.


The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 mandates that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a ‘Duty to Serve’ three traditionally underserved markets of:

  • Rural Housing
  • Manufactured Housing
  • Affordable Housing Preservation

The GSEs are tasked with increasing liquidity and investment capital in these markets.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued a Proposed Rule on Duty to Serve on December 15, 2015. Comments to the Rule were due on March 17, 2016.

Link to Proposed Rule sent to Federal Register

HAC Resources on Duty to Serve

HAC Comments on Proposed Duty to Serve Rule – March, 17 2016

HAC Comments on Proposed Duty to Serve Rule – July 22, 2010

HAC Comments on Duty to Serve Advanced Notice of Rule Making – September 18, 2009

HAC Webinar on Duty to Serve

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) convened an interactive e-learning experience to assist housing providers and policymakers better understand the Duty to Serve Rule, and what it may mean for Rural America. The session was also intended to help inform comments to the Duty to Serve Rule.

Introduction | Power Point Presentation (22 MB) |Webinar Recording

Additional Resources on Duty to Serve

Interactive Map of Proposed Duty to Serve Rural Area

screen-capture-of-mapping-rural-america map

HAC’s Rural and Small Town Typology Database – Technical Documentation

Map of HAC’s Recommended Changes to FHFA Proposed Rural Area

DutyToServeMap FHFA HAC Recommended Changes

Map of GSE Loan Activity in Rural Areas

GSE Activity 2012 2014  Map

Map of FHFA Proposed Rural High-Need Areas and Persistent Poverty Counties

High Need Persistent Poverty Map

List of Suburban Tracts in FHFA Proposed Duty to Serve ‘Rural Areas’

List of Rural and Small Town Tracts Omitted From FHFA Proposed Duty to Serve ‘Rural Areas’

USDA Announces Chief of Staff for Rural Housing Service

Curtis Anderson has been named Chief of Staff for the Rural Housing Service. It is not clear whether this means there will be no RHS Administrator, since past Administrators have sometimes had Chiefs of Staff.

Anderson has worked at USDA’s Rural Utilities Service and, most recently, as an advisor on telecommunications issues. USDA’s bio does not mention any housing experience in his work history.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Can Again Make Equity Investments in LIHTCs

Affordable rental housing development has regained two important sources of financing with the November 16, 2017 announcement by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be allowed limited re-entry into the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) market as equity investors. Most of their investments, FHFA director Mel Watt said, will be used to facilitate transactions that support underserved markets and complement their Duty to Serve (DTS) requirements.

The DTS obligation requires Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make special efforts to serve three affordable housing priorities: rural housing, affordable housing preservation, and manufactured housing. LIHTC investments can be used to construct new affordable rental housing or to preserve existing rentals.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be subject to an annual investment limit of $500 million each, less than a 5 percent market share for each. Within this funding cap, any investments above $300 million in a given year are required to be in areas that have been identified by FHFA as markets that have difficulty attracting investors. These investments are designed to preserve affordable housing, support mixed-income housing, provide supportive housing, or meet other affordable housing objectives.

HAC has been among the many stakeholders supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s return to the LIHTC investment market.

Research shows federal housing assistance widespread but insufficient

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council, published research on the scope and limitations of federal rental assistance programs. The analysis was conducted using HAC’s data and definition of rural.

Key findings include:

  • When combined, federal rental assistance programs are proportionally distributed based on need and location.
  • Only about 1 in 4 households in need of assistance receive it due to insufficient funding.
  • Half of households receiving federal rental assistance live in suburbs or rural areas.
  • Rural communities more often rely on project-based rental assistance, while suburbs and urban areas see more tenant-based assistance.

For more information and the complete report, visit CBPP’s website.

Funding Limits Keep Rental Assistance from Many Who Need it Most