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

Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Issues Formed

A new Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity was created by an Executive Order signed by President Donald Trump on April 25, 2017. The task force will “identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes” to promote agriculture, rural economic development, infrastructure improvements, food safety, energy security, and more. The Executive Order, titled “Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America,” tells the task force to provide state, local, and tribal officials, as well as “farmers, ranchers, foresters, and other rural stakeholders,” with an opportunity to make suggestions.

President Trump signed the Executive Order at a “Farmers Roundtable” held at the White House on April 25, Secretary Perdue’s first day on the job.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue will chair the task force, which will include representatives of at least 21 additional federal departments and agencies. A report is due in six months, recommending changes to carry out the Executive Order’s goals.

The Executive Order also eliminates the Obama Administration’s White House Rural Council.

Sonny Perdue Becomes Agriculture Secretary

Former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue was sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture on April 25, 2017, after an 87-11 Senate confirmation vote on April 24.

USDA’s announcement and profile of Perdue says his “policies as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will be guided by four principles which will inform his decisions.”

First, he will maximize the ability of the men and women of America’s agriculture and agribusiness sector to create jobs, to produce and sell the foods and fiber that feed and clothe the world, and to reap the earned reward of their labor. It should be the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers, and producers every opportunity to prosper. Second, he will prioritize customer service every day for American taxpayers and consumers. They will expect, and have every right to demand, that their government conduct the people’s business efficiently, effectively, and with the utmost integrity. Third, as Americans expect a safe and secure food supply, USDA will continue to serve in the critical role of ensuring the food we put on the table to feed our families meets the strict safety standards we’ve established. Food security is a key component of national security, because hunger and peace do not long coexist. And fourth, Perdue will always remember that America’s agricultural bounty comes directly from the land. And today, those land resources sustain more than 320 million Americans and countless millions more around the globe. Perdue’s father’s words still ring true: We’re all stewards of the land, owned or rented, and our responsibility is to leave it better than we found it.

Nominees have not yet been announced for other USDA appointed positions.

Trump Administration Requests Funding Cuts for Current Fiscal Year

March 28, 2017 – The Trump Administration has circulated a list of spending cuts it proposes for FY17 as Congress is considering funding from the April 28 end of the current Continuing Resolution (CR) to the September 30 end of the fiscal year. Many of them are similar to cuts proposed in the Administration’s FY18 “skinny budget,” and others cover items not mentioned in that document, including a reduction of $50 million or $68 million in USDA Section 521 Rental Assistance (RA).

The Administration’s list describes its $1.337 billion level for Section 521 RA as a $50 million cut. It is comparing that amount to the $1.387 billion level under the current CR. (For FY16, RA received $1.39 billion, and all programs were cut 0.19% in the FY17 CR.) The amount requested by the Obama Administration for FY17, however, and contained in last year’s House and Senate FY17 appropriations bills, is $1.405 billion. Compared to that, $1.337 billion would be a $68 million cut.

The justification given for the proposed RA reduction is: “The rental assistance program provides the project based rent to USDA financed properties. For FY17 USDA has excess funding available to forward fund October contract renewals in September. While this provides administrative efficiencies for USDA, the forward funding is not necessary, so those balances could be rescinded.”

It is not at all clear that Congress will implement any of the requested cuts in another Continuing Resolution or in individual appropriations bills.

Among the many other cuts proposed for FY17, the Administration would:

  • eliminate FY17 CDFI Fund funding;
  • eliminate the HUD account that includes SHOP, the Rural Capacity Building program, the Section 4 capacity building funds, and a rehab pilot program for veterans;
  • cut CDBG funding in half, from almost $3 billion to almost $1.5 billion;
  • eliminate HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative;
  • eliminate NeighborWorks’ pass-through funding for its members (while continuing its administrative funding, in contrast to the FY18 budget, which proposes to eliminate the organization entirely);
  • eliminate DOL migrant and seasonal farmworker training; and
  • cut the portions of FY17 LIHEAP and CSBG funding that have not yet been apportioned.

Read HAC Executive Director Moises Loza’s statement on the FY18 “skinny budget” proposal.

Moises Loza's Statement on the Trump Administration's "Skinny" Budget

Statement from Moises Loza, Housing Assistance Council (HAC) Executive Director in Response to the Administration’s Budget Proposal:

Moises Loza, HAC's Executive DirectorMoises Loza, HAC’s Executive DirectorI began my career in rural housing in 1973, and over the decades, I’ve been heartened as Republican and Democratic advocates for sensible rural priorities on Capitol Hill have worked together toward a stronger rural America. Such efforts are needed now more than ever.

The proposed budget would upend efforts by hard-working low-income families who put forth sweat equity to construct their own modest homes.  It eliminates clean water and sewer investments which are essential to poor rural and tribal communities. The elimination of HOME and CDBG programs would undermine local efforts to provide decent housing, community facilities, and a foundation for economic development in rural communities. And de-funding national rural capacity building programs sends a stark message to the private sector:  Rural America is not worthy of investment. 

I have and will continue to invite Administration officials to see the firsthand impact of the investments that they propose to eliminate.  I am confident that such interactions with rural America’s most vulnerable and the HAC partners working to meet their needs would convince even the most cynical of the impact of the programs slated for de-funding.

Moreover, the wholesale nature of the proposed cuts and the accompanying austerity would exacerbate the opioid crisis, which is also a housing infrastructure issue. The strains on the rural social fabric are many, and the budget proposal, if enacted, would represent a breaking point for local and county governments in the persistently poor communities where HAC works.

I join my colleagues and HAC’s partners across the country in hoping that members of Congress will see the disproportionately deep impact of the proposed cuts on our rural and tribal communities. 

Trump Administration Budget Outline Released

Updated March 16, 2017, 4:30 p.m. Eastern – Links added at the bottom of this page to some relevant information from other housing organizations and news media.

March 16, 2017, 11:15 a.m. Eastern – The notes below cover the parts of the Trump Administration’s budget outline relevant to rural housing and community development. The budget document, named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” is the first step in a long process. Its contents are proposals, not law. A more detailed budget request from the Administration will be released later, probably in May.


  • Total funding reduced by 21% from the FY17 CR level; the CR level is too low for Sec. 521 Rental Assistance and Sec. 542 vouchers
  • No specific mention of RHS or rural housing programs
  • Eliminates Water and wastewater loan and grant program. “Rural communities can be served by private sector financing or other Federal investments in rural water infrastructure, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Funds.”
  • “Reduces staffing in USDA’s Service Center Agencies to streamline county office operations, reflect reduced Rural Development workload, and encourage private sector conservation planning.”
  • Eliminates RBS “discretionary activities,” “a savings of $95 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.”


  • Total funding 13.2% lower than the FY17 CR; the CR level is too low for HUD’s rental assistance programs
  • Eliminates CDBG, HOME, SHOP, Choice Neighborhoods, Section 4 (which funds Enterprise Community Partners, LISC, and Habitat for Humanity)
  • Increases lead funding to $130, an increase of $20 million over FY17 CR
  • Native American housing programs are not mentioned

Agencies and offices eliminated include:

Other programs eliminated include:

  • Weatherization Assistance in Energy Dept.
  • LIHEAP, calling it “a lower-impact program” that “is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes.”
  • CSBG, saying it duplicates other federal programs “and is also a limited-impact program.”
  • “Federal support for Amtrak’s long distance train services, which have long been inefficient and incur the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses”
  • CDFI Fund grants, $210 million savings from FY17 CR
  • Energy Star
  • “infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border” from EPA

Other notes:

  • “Supports substance abuse treatment services for the millions of Americans struggling with substance abuse disorders. The opioid epidemic, which took more than 33,000 lives in calendar year 2015, has a devastating effect on America’s families and communities. In addition to funding Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration substance abuse treatment activities, the Budget also includes a $500 million increase above 2016 enacted levels to expand opioid misuse prevention efforts and to increase access to treatment and recovery services to help Americans who are misusing opioids get the help they need.”
  • “Supports VA programs that provide services to homeless and at-risk veterans and their families to help keep them safe and sheltered.”
  • “All Federal agencies will be responsible for reporting critical performance metrics and showing demonstrable improvement. OMB will also regularly review agency progress in implementing these reforms to ensure there is consistent improvement.”
  • “Provides $1.5 billion, an increase of more than $100 million, for the U.S. Census Bureau to continue preparations for the 2020 Decennial Census. This additional funding prioritizes fundamental investments in information technology and field infrastructure, which would allow the bureau to more effectively administer the 2020 Decennial Census.”


  • This is FY18 only; FY17 funding still up in the air; current CR for FY17 expires April 28
  • This is federal “discretionary” funding only; the full budget will cover mandatory spending (e.g., Social Security) and tax proposals, as well as more details on discretionary
  • Congress has to approve funding levels, and is expected to disagree with many of the cuts proposed by the Administration

Some links:

Carson Confirmed as HUD Secretary

U.S. Senate has confirmed Dr. Ben Carson as the 17th Secretary of HUD on Thursday, with a vote of 58 to 41.

In his confirmation hearing on January 24, Carson committed to taking a more “holistic” approach to housing, advocating for expanded public-private partnerships. He indicated his criticism of ineffective government programs that create dependency. With no prior experience in government or housing, Carson plans to surround himself with experts and conduct a countrywide listening tour to learn from HUD employees and public servants.

The Committee of Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs offered unanimous support and despite initial hesitancy from Democrats based on his criticism of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, he received support from both sides of the aisle.

As HUD Secretary, he will be in charge of HUD’s annual budget of nearly $49 billion and over 8000 employees who oversee affordable housing programs.

Carson succeeds Julián Castro, who stepped down after two and a half years.

Duty to Serve Final Rule Issued

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 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 with “webinar question” in the subject line. Please submit your questions by COB Thursday, Dec. 15.

Rural Rental Preservation Data Dashboards Launched

Oct. 28, 2016 – USDA Rural Development/Rural Housing Service has launched a website providing data that can be searched and manipulated by users interested in preservation of rural rental housing. RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez sent the following email to stakeholders.

Subject: Great news and opportunity with MF Property Preservation Dashboards

Multifamily Partners,

I am happy to announce USDA Rural Housing Service has unveiled a set of five dashboards designed to provide key data to help preserve the affordability of USDA’s Multi-Family Housing (MFH) properties. The publicly accessible, user-friendly set – currently available in beta – is designed to help policymakers and industry leaders collect, track and analyze the timeframe for when the USDA mortgages could be paid off exiting USDA’s MFH program. These dashboards and their information can facilitate preservation discussions such as the transfer of properties and other efforts to protect our tenants.

Using this data will help you and the department take strategic action to preserve MF properties as appropriate, using RHS financing tools, including re-amortization, deferring loan payments, seeking new loans for rehabilitation, transferring properties to new owners, or take other actions to preserve affordable rental housing in rural areas.

The beta Property Preservation Dashboards can be publicly accessed on the Tableau Public Website. They complement data resources released by USDA earlier this year, including its rural housing investment data, program exit data, and mapped data overlaid with thousands of other indicators in PolicyMap. The Dashboard enable users to obtain such critical information as the number of USDA MFH properties exist in each state and details on projected dates for mortgage pay-offs.

When using the dashboards, you can narrow the data by location, program and other indicators. The dashboards also feature a user guide and data dictionary.

I am very excited to see the great work you will be able to do with access to this information. Thank you for working with USDA RHS to preserve multifamily properties and improve lives in rural America!


Tony Hernandez
Rural Housing Service

USDA to Help Nonprofits Preserve Rental Housing

October 26, 2016 – USDA has announced a new effort to increase nonprofit participation in preservation of Section 515 rural rental housing. Changes will take effect on March 1, 2017. USDA’s Rural Housing Service hopes its staff and interested nonprofits will use the intervening time to identify preservation deals. Nonprofits can reach out to USDA Rural Development state offices for additional information and assistance.

The changes include:

  1. Return on Investment (ROI):
    • Eligible nonprofits will earn a return based on the investment of their own resources following the ROI methodology.
    • Grant funds used for hard costs of construction will be included in the ROI methodology.
    • Loans made by nonprofits (aka Developer Loans) to a nonprofit purchasing entity will be included in the ROI methodology subject to certain conditions being met.
  2. Security Value: USDA will include the value of state or local loans provided at favorable rates in the determination of Security Value (loan to value ratio).
  3. Hard Cost Contingency: Hard cost contingency will be an eligible Section 515 loan purpose, allowing it to be included in the ROI methodology subject to certain conditions being met.

USDA Releases Maturing Mortgage Dates for Multifamily Loans

In an update to the issue of maturing rural multifamily mortgages, USDA released a loan level database of all rural multifamily loans and their projected “exit” or maturity date. These data can be accessed on USDA’s data site.

USDA’s Section 515 rental properties were financed with USDA loans that could be amortized over terms as long as 50 years. Once the USDA loan is paid in full, owners are under no obligation to maintain the properties as affordable housing. After the loan matures, tenants living in these properties are also no longer eligible for USDA’s Rental Assistance.

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) analyzed data on USDA’s multifamily loan portfolio as of the end of March 2016. At that time, there were about 13,830 Section 515 properties with over 416,000 rental units. Nearly two-thirds of the households in these properties receive USDA Rental Assistance. The average tenant household has an income of about $13,600.

USDA calculated a “exit date’ which includes a loan maturity, or estimated payoff date. According to HAC analyses, these projections indicate that an average of 74 properties (1,788 units) per year will leave the program over the next 12 years (2016 – 2027). In 2028, the number properties exiting the program is expected to increase significantly with an average loss of 556 properties (16,364 units) per year through 2032. For the following eight years after 2032, the numbers of properties exiting the program increases for an average loss of roughly 22,500 units per year until peaking in 2040.

For a summary analysis of the updated maturing mortgage estimates see HAC’s Rural Policy Note.

To view an interactive map of properties and estimated exit dates for each property visit HAC’s Mapping Rural America page at

The data and corresponding data dictionary are available on USDA’s Rural Development Datasets page.