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 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.

HAC’s 2022 Rural Housing Policy Priorities

Federal policy has an important and lasting impact on rural places. For the last 50 years, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has been the voice for the poorest of the poor in the most rural places. Our deeply rooted work in communities across the country informs our research and drives our policy positions. Our independent and non-partisan work with members of Congress, federal agencies, affordable housing and community development organizations, and other stakeholders ensures the most vulnerable rural populations – especially those in high-needs regions like the Mississippi Delta, rural Appalachia, farmworker communities, the Southwest border colonias and Indian Country – have improved access to safe and affordable housing opportunities.

Rural America is home to about 20 percent of the U.S. population and covers more than 90 percent of the U.S. landmass. Its small towns and rural regions are diverse demographically and economically, and face a wide array of local challenges and opportunities for developing their communities and housing. While each place is unique, HAC has documented several themes. Persistent poverty is a predominantly rural condition. Habitable rural housing is in severely short supply. The adequate housing that does exist is often unaffordable because rural incomes are low and run well below the national median. Rural housing lacks adequate plumbing and kitchen facilities at a rate above the national average. Overcrowding is not uncommon in some rural regions. Decades of stagnant rural house prices have denied owners the wealth and mobility so often associated with buying a home. And racial inequity is endemic as the result of housing policies and banking practices that excluded rural people of color. Complicating these challenges, a lack of reliable rural data obscures rural realities.

In addressing these issues, HAC’s policy priorities include:

  1. Building the capacity of local affordable housing and community development organizations deeply rooted in rural places;
  2. Expanding access to credit and safe, affordable lending in underserved rural communities;
  3. Improving the overall quality, availability and affordability of housing to buy and rent in small towns and rural places; and
  4. Preserving, increasing and tailoring resources for federal affordable housing programs serving rural populations.

We invite you to view our 2022 Policy Priorities and explore the various policy issues facing rural communities.

HAC's Policy Priorities for 2022
Policy News from Congress

Federal Funding Extended to February 18

Hours before a temporary spending measure was set to expire on December 3, both houses of Congress passed and President Biden signed another continuing resolution that will carry funding through February 18, 2022. Fiscal year 2022 began on October 1, 2021.

The measure holds most government programs, including housing programs at USDA and HUD, at their fiscal 2021 funding levels. Bills proposing increased resources for housing at both USDA and HUD passed the House of Representatives in July 2021 and have been introduced in the Senate.

 

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Applauds OCC Rescinding 2020 CRA Rule

HAC submitted comments in response to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) proposal to rescind its June 2020 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rule. HAC applauds the OCC’s move to rescind and replace this rule, and we look forward to working together in the future to improve and modernize the CRA in a way that equitably serves rural places. To explore HAC’s 2016 CRA research series, “The Community Reinvestment Act in Rural America,” click here [https://ruralhome.org/rural-cra-resources/].

Key takeaways:

  • Support the CRA

    HAC unequivocally supports the Community Reinvestment Act

  • Opposed June 2020 Rule

    For numerous reasons, HAC did not support the OCC’s June 2020 rule and is glad to see this proposed rescinding

  • CRA Modernization

    OCC should work together with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to thoughtfully modernize CRA

  • Promote Equity

    Any CRA modernizations should seek to equitably serves rural places

HAC OCC CRA Rule Rescinded Comment
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

 

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Recommends a Focus on Racial and Geographic Equity in FHFA Comments

HAC submitted comments in response to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Request for Input (RFI) on the Enterprise Equitable Housing Finance Plan framework. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) have been instructed to submit Equitable Housing Finance Plans to FHFA by the end of 2021. The Plans will frame the Enterprises’ goals and action plans to advance equity in housing finance for the next three years. These plans will work alongside other FHFA efforts, including Duty to Serve, the importance of which HAC has long championed. HAC applauds the focus on equity outlined in this RFI, and encourages consideration of the unique needs of rural communities of color in the creation of the Equitable Housing Finance Plans.

Key Takeaways

  • Limited Activity

    Enterprise activity in rural communities of color has been very limited.

  • Support Capacity Building

    Enterprise support for capacity building and access to capital are critical factors necessary to build racial and geographic equity in rural places

  • Rural is Different

    Rural realities must be considered in the creation of the plans

  • Stakeholder participation

    Stakeholder engagement in the process of creating and revising the plans will be key

FHFA Equitable Housing Finance Plan Comments 10.25.21
Policy News from the Administration

HAC Urges Census Bureau to Expand Data Offerings

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has submitted comments to the U.S. Census Bureau on its new 2020 Census Data Product Planning Crosswalk

HAC urges the U.S. Census Bureau to provide sub-county geographies in all elements of the new Data Product Planning Crosswalk, as well as all public-use data products it produces. Political and economic geography is an important consideration when determining the population and residential patterns of an area. The county is a commonly used unit of geography. In many rural areas, the county is often identified within political, social, and economic contexts.  However, county-based designations are not the optimum criteria on which to assess or research social, economic and housing conditions.

The Housing Assistance Council is pleased to have this opportunity to provide comments to the U.S. Census Bureau on its new 2020 Census Data Product Planning Crosswalk. HAC looks forward to working with the Census Bureau to continually improve the provision of data for all communities – urban, suburban, and rural.

Read HAC’s Comments.

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 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.