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 CEO Statement on Biden-Harris Housing Supply Action Plan

by David Lipsetz

The Biden-Harris Administration released a Housing Supply Action Plan on May 16 that can bring the cost of housing back in line with families’ incomes. This is particularly important in small towns where incomes remain stubbornly low, while the cost of buying or renting a place to live is soaring. The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) applauds the Administration for designing and including several provisions specifically with rural markets in mind.

The Plan includes administrative and legislative proposals to improve existing housing finance mechanisms. It establishes new housing production programs. It calls for changes to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit that will attract private investment in affordable rental housing. It provides grants—such as the HOME Investment Partnerships Program—to states, cities and towns to do what locals know will be best for their local housing market.  It calls on Congress to establish a Housing Supply Fund and incentivize zoning reform to accelerate the building of more housing across the Nation.

Critically, the Administration proposes reforms that prioritize homeowners living in the homes that they own. This is a welcome change for rural Americans who need high-quality affordable homes in which to live far more than they need high-priced vacation homes. For rental housing, the Administration focuses investment on small-scale 2–4-unit buildings instead of high-rise apartment complexes. It calls for new rentals where few are being built and recognizes the urgency of preserving affordable rentals that already exist. And for the first time in decades, an Administration released a housing plan that calls for improved financing for manufactured housing, an important resource in rural places.

The shortage of affordable housing in rural America is a serious issue. Rental units are being lost at an alarming rate. Single-family homes are significantly older than elsewhere in the Nation. The Administration’s framework recognizes the unique need for affordable housing and proposes solutions built to work in small town and rural America.

Many of the Administration’s actions just announced reflect HAC’s policy priorities. But it remains critical that these actions be complemented by initiatives to address another essential factor in improving housing for rural Americans—building the capacity of local organizations to improve their own communities. Because rural places often have small and part-time local governments, they often find it particularly difficult to navigate the complexities of federal programs and modern housing finance, and to compete for government resources. Philanthropy has not stepped in to address this inequity built into our systems, instead concentrating its resources in already-prosperous high-cost regions. Targeted capacity building through federal investments in training and technical assistance is how most local organizations build skills, tap information, and gain the wherewithal to do what they know needs to be done.

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 families in need. We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress to ensure that these initiatives move us closer to the day when every American has access to a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.

Policy News from Congress

HAC Supports a Variety of Rural and Tribal Housing Funding Priorities

HAC’s Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations Priorities

As the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 appropriations process gets underway, HAC is supporting a variety of rural and tribal housing funding priorities. This year, we saw the most robust Administration’s Budget for rural housing in recent memory, and we are hopeful that this will contribute to some momentum in the appropriations process. Among others, HAC supports the following rural housing funding priorities. (This list is not exhaustive and for Rural Housing Service programs not specifically mentioned, HAC supports the funding levels in the Administration’s FY23 Budget.)

USDA Multifamily Preservation:
  • $1 billion for USDA’s Multifamily Housing Preservation & Revitalization Demonstration (MPR) program
    • The cost to preserve the current USDA rental portfolio over the next 30 years is estimated to be over $30 billion. MPR is USDA’s most effective, and many times only feasible preservation funding tool. Applications have, however, been closed for four years as the Agency works through its waiting list, which is projected to take another four years.
  • $200 million for USDA Section 515, including new construction
    • This funding would allow for new construction to resume and is expected to be accompanied by a commensurate increase in Section 521 rental assistance to cover new units.
  • $350 million above the level needed for renewals to extend USDA Section 521 rental assistance to currently unassisted households
    • This funding would allow for the extension of rental assistance to cover all currently unassisted units. An estimated 67,000 households in USDA rental housing do not receive rental assistance from USDA, HUD or state sources (not including those that were covered by the American Rescue Plan). With an average annual income of only $13,500, these households are uniformly low income and often very or extremely low income. The vast majority also pay more than 30% of their income for rent. Providing this assistance will not only help families in need, but also shore up the finances of many developments, encouraging preservation.
  • $2 million for USDA Multifamily Housing Transfer & Prepayment Technical Assistance Grants
    • HAC is seeking to ensure that these funds support both transformational preservation research and the provision of technical assistance to improve transaction-level preservation deal flow.
  • $3 million for USDA’s Multifamily Housing Preservation Revolving Loan Fund Demonstration Program (PRLF)
    • PRLF was funded through appropriations for several years between 2005 and 2011 and provided loan capital to private non-profit organizations and state and local housing finance agencies to provide revolving loans for preservation.
Capacity Building:
  • $12 million for the Rural Community Development Initiative at USDA
    • The Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) is the sole capacity building resource provided through USDA’s Rural Development, and facilitates community development efforts in rural areas. Grants are competitively awarded to nonprofit housing and community development organizations, low-income rural communities and federally recognized tribes in order to support housing, community facilities, and economic development projects in rural areas.
  • $10 million for the Rural Capacity Building Program at HUD
    • The Rural Capacity Building Program (RCB) is a powerful and flexible program funded by HUD to build capacity of nonprofits and tribes to undertake affordable housing and community development activities in rural areas. Participating organizations are offered a suite of services for a comprehensive, customized approach of technical assistance, training, information products and resources, and low-cost rural housing development loans.
Rural & Tribal Homeownership:
  • $20 million for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program at HUD
    • Created in 1996, the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) is a small but unique program that helps low-income families achieve homeownership through sweat equity. Competitively awarded SHOP funds from HUD go to a network of local nonprofits, distributed via intermediaries. SHOP funds can be used to acquire land, purchase foreclosed or abandoned properties, and improve the infrastructure of homes for lower-income homeowners. Often these are some of the most difficult items for local nonprofits to finance. Families invest a minimum of 100 hours of sweat equity into the construction of their homes, but many families invest much more — often in excess of 500 hours.
  • $50 million for the Section 502 Single Family Housing Direct Loan Relending Program for Native Americans
    • In 2018, the USDA and two Native community development financial institutions (Native CDFIs) in South Dakota implemented a successful $2 million demonstration which sought to improve the deployment rate of the 502 direct program in Native communities in South Dakota. The pilot made Native CDFIs eligible borrowers under the 502 direct loan program and enabled them to relend to qualified families for the construction, acquisition, and rehabilitation of affordable housing on trust land. Through this demonstration, the two Native CDFIs in partnership with USDA made nearly double the number of loans on these two reservations than USDA deployed on its own on the same two reservations during the previous ten years. The President’s FY 2023 Budget request includes funding for the continuation and expansion of the Native American 502 home loan relending program as part of the existing USDA 502 single family housing direct loan program.
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 Congress

Some Rural Housing Programs Increase in Omnibus Funding Bill

Information on FY22 HUD funding

UPDATE March 11, 2022 – Both the House and Senate have passed the omnibus bill and President Biden will sign it into law, avoiding a government shutdown and funding federal programs through fiscal year 2022, which ends on September 30, 2022.

March 9, 2022 – Several USDA rural housing programs will receive modest funding increases in the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022. The bill’s text, released overnight, does not include the significant boosts for rental housing that were included in House and/or Senate versions, instead compromising on smaller raises.

The bill expands eligibility for Section 542 vouchers, which have previously been available only to tenants living in Section 515 properties where the mortgage has been prepaid since September 30, 2005. This language is revised to apply to tenants in properties where Section 515 loans are “prepaid or otherwise paid off after September 30, 2005″ (emphasis added), potentially extending eligibility to tenants of every property that has left the portfolio since that date. USDA could set some limits on this expansion, as it has for tenants in properties with prepaid mortgages, who can obtain vouchers only if they live in the property on the date the prepayment occurs.

Other provisions in the final bill are retained from past appropriations measures. These include language allowing rental property owners to request 20-year Rental Assistance contracts, subject to appropriations. The bill also retains provisions calling for incentives to nonprofits to preserve rental housing, reuse of recaptured Section 521 Rental Assistance (RA), and use of recaptured RA from farmworker housing in other farmworker housing when possible.

The bill continues the 10-20-30 requirement that at least 10 percent of most USDA Rural Development programs, including most housing programs, be set aside for persistent poverty counties (counties where the poverty rate has been at least 20 percent for 30 years).

The omnibus establishes one new program related to rural housing and community development: an Institute for Rural Partnerships, which “shall dedicate resources to researching the causes and conditions of challenges facing rural areas, and develop community partnerships to address such challenges.” The institute will be housed at the University of Vermont and three land-grant universities to be selected by USDA. Each institution will receive a $10 million grant.

The continuing resolution that currently funds the federal government ends at midnight on March 11. The House is expected to pass the omnibus bill on March 9. Another continuing resolution, lasting just a few days, may be needed to give the Senate enough time to act.

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.

(dollars in millions)

FY20 Final Approp. FY21 Final Approp. Amer. Rescue Plan Act FY22 Admin. Budget FY22 House Bill FY22 Senate Bill FY22 Final
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,000 $1,000 $656.6a $1,500 $1,500 $1,250 $1,250
502 Single Family Guar. 24,000 24,000 30,000 30,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 28 18.3a 28 28 28 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 30 30 30 40 30 32
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 40 40 40 40 92 50
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 28 28 28 28 28
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 10 15 10 10
521 Rental Assistance 1,375 1,410 100 1,450 1,450 1,450 1,450
523 Self-Help TA 31 31 32 32 32 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 15 15 15 25 15 16
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 230 230 230 230 250 250
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 28 28 32 60 32 34
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 32 40 45 45 45 45
Rental Prsrv. TA 1 2 0 2 2 2
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 4 6 6 6 6 6

a. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $39 million in budget authority to refinance Section 502 direct loans and Section 504 loans for homeowners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. USDA expects this funding to generate $656.6 million in Section 502 direct loans and $18.3 million in Section 504 loans.

 

August 5, 2021 – The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY22 USDA funding bill on August 4. While the House bill proposes a substantial increase in funding for the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program, the Senate bill would increase Section 515 funding rather than MPR. The Senate bill suggests increases in some other programs, but most of its figures are lower than the House’s.

The Senate bill would retain a provision in FY21 appropriations law, dropped by the administration’s budget and the House, that allows rental property owners to request 20-year terms for Rental Assistance contracts, subject to annual appropriations. The Senate and House would both keep provisions calling for incentives to nonprofits to preserve rental housing, reuse of recaptured Rental Assistance (RA), and use of recaptured RA from farmworker housing in other farmworker housing when possible, although those were left out of the administration’s budget request.

July 27, 2021 – The House passed H.R. 4502, a “minibus” package of seven appropriations bills, including USDA’s (see table below) and HUD’s.

July 1, 2021 – The full House Appropriations Committee approved its FY22 USDA funding bill on June 30, including increases in some rural housing programs as described below. The bill will be considered later this summer by the full House. The Senate has not yet released a proposal.

The House committee also released its report on the bill, providing additional information and directives from the committee, including a paragraph about farmworker housing.

Farm Labor Housing.—The Committee encourages USDA to explore opportunities to leverage its resources including its Food and Nutrition Programs, Community Facilities Programs, Housing Preservation Grants, and other programs, and to create partnerships with the Department of Labor’s Farmworker Housing outreach and technical assistance program, Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Center Program, and the Administration for Children and Families Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program, to coordinate and align resources to address the housing, nutrition and healthcare needs of this vulnerable population of essential workers who play a critical role in America’s food security. The Committee further encourages USDA to explore including service coordinators as an allowable expenditure for farm labor housing projects.

June 24, 2021 – As congressional action begins for fiscal year 2022 federal funding, the House Appropriations Committee has released a bill proposing increases in several of USDA’s rural housing programs.

Like the administration’s budget, the House bill would raise funding for Section 502 direct and guaranteed mortgage loans, Rental Assistance, and self-help housing. While the budget would increase the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) program to $32 million from $28 million in FY21, the House bill would provide a far larger boost, to $65 million. The House would also grow the Section 504 grant program for elderly low-income homeowners and the Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants program.

The House bill retains several provisions that are in current appropriations law but were dropped in the administration’s budget. These call for incentives to nonprofits to preserve rental housing, reuse of recaptured Rental Assistance (RA), and use of recaptured RA from farmworker housing in other farmworker housing when possible. Like the budget, however, it eliminates a provision from the FY20 and FY21 appropriations laws that allowed property owners to request RA contracts with 20-year terms.

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will review the draft bill at a mark-up on June 25, 2021. The full House Appropriations Committee will consider it on June 30. The Senate has not yet begun its appropriations process.

 

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.

(dollars in millions)

FY20 Final Approp. FY21 Final Approp. Amer. Rescue Plan Act FY22 Admin. Budget FY22 House Bill
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,000 $1,000 $656.6a $1,500 $1,500
502 Single Family Guar. 24,000 24,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 28 18.3a 28 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 30 30 30 c
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 40 40 40 40
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 28 28 b
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 10 b
521 Rental Assistance 1,375 1,410 100 1,450 1,450
523 Self-Help TA 31 31 32 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 15 15 15 c
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 230 230 230 230
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 28 28 32 60
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 32 40 45 45
Rental Prsrv. TA 1 2 0 2
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 4 6 6 6

a. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $39 million in budget authority to refinance Section 502 direct loans and Section 504 loans for homeowners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. USDA expects this funding to generate $656.6 million in Section 502 direct loans and $18.3 million in Section 504 loans.

b. The House bill provides a total of $17.8 million in budget authority for the Section 514 and 516 farm labor housing programs. When the Appropriations Committee prepares a report on the bill, that document will state the program amounts.

c. The House bill provides a total of $65 million for Section 504 grants and Section 533 grants. When the Appropriations Committee prepares a report on the bill, that document will show how the total is to be divided between the two programs.

 

Policy News from Congress

HUD Programs Slated for Funding Increases

Information on FY22 USDA funding

UPDATE March 11, 2022 – Both the House and Senate have passed the omnibus bill and President Biden will sign it into law, avoiding a government shutdown and funding federal programs through fiscal year 2022, which ends on September 30, 2022.

March 9, 2022 – Many HUD programs will receive more funding in fiscal year 2022 than in 2021 under the provisions of the omnibus appropriations bill released overnight. Generally, however, the final figures fall below the highest increases proposed by the Biden administration, the House, or the Senate.

The SHOP program was increased from $10 million in FY21 to $12.5 million – the first increase in the program since FY15. The spending agreement also encourages HUD to consider increasing the per-unit cap for the combined cost of land acquisition and infrastructure improvements under the SHOP program, which is currently $15,000 per unit.

The bill includes funds for 25,000 new rental vouchers, a step towards the 300,000 new vouchers that would have been provided by the Build Back Better Act.

The substantial increase in CDBG funding was driven nearly entirely by the return, after a 10-year absence, of $1.5 billion for the Economic Development Initiative for the purpose of funding Community Projects/Congressionally Directed Spending (popularly known as “earmarks”).

The continuing resolution that currently funds the federal government ends at midnight on March 11. The House is expected to pass the omnibus bill on March 9. Another continuing resolution, lasting just a few days, may be needed to give the Senate enough time to act.

 

HUD Program

(dollars in millions)

FY20 Final Approp. FY21 Final Approp. FY22 Admin. Budget FY22 House Bill FY22 Senate Bill FY22 Final
CDBG $3,425 $3,475 $3,770 $4,688 $4,190 $4,841
HOME 1,350 1,350 1,850 1,850 1,450 1,500
Self-Help Homeownshp. (SHOP) 10 10 10 15 15 12.5
Veterans Home Rehab 4 4 4 4 4
Tenant-Based Rental Asstnce. 23,874 25,778 30,442 29,216 27,719 27,370
    VASH setaside 40 40 20 50 50
    Tribal VASH 1 5 5 5 5 5
Project-Based Rental Asstnce. 12,570 13,465 14,060 14,010 13,970 13,940
Public Hsg. Capital Fund 2,870 2,942 3,678 3,718 3,794 3,388
Public Hsg. Operating Fund 4,549 4,864 4,917 4,922 5,044 5,064
Choice Neighbrhd. Initiative 175 200 250 400 200 350
Native Amer. Hsg. 825 825 1,000 950 1,000 1,002
Homeless Assistance Grants 2,777 3,000 3,500 3,420 3,260 3,213
Hsg. Opps. for Persons w/ AIDS 410 430 450 600 450 450
202 Hsg. for Elderly 793 855 928 1,033 956 1,033
811 Hsg. for Disabled 202 227 272 352 227 352
Fair Housing 70.3 72.6 85 85 85 85
Healthy Homes & Lead Haz. Cntl. 290 360 400 460 400 415
Housing Counseling 53 57.5 85.9 100 57.5 57.5

October 20, 2021 – The Senate Appropriations Committee has released nine proposed appropriations bills, including the Transportation-HUD bill, for the fiscal year that began on October 1. The committee would increase many programs above their FY21 funding levels, though generally it would not raise them to the figures proposed in the House bill. The Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) is an exception, set in both the House and Senate bills at $15 million rather than the $10 million it received in FY21. Native American housing would also receive more under the Senate bill than from the House. Details are provided in the table below.

Federal programs are currently funded through a continuing resolution that keeps them at FY21 levels. It will expire on December 3, 2021.

 

July 29, 2021 – The full House passed H.R. 4502, a “minibus” containing several FY22 appropriations bills, including the bills for both HUD and USDA.

 

July 16, 2021 – The House Appropriations Committee has approved the Transportation-HUD funding bill. It is expected to be considered by the full House as part of a “minibus” package of several FY22 appropriations bills, which will also include the Agriculture bill.

 

July, 2021 – On July 16, 2021 the House Appropriations Committee will consider a fiscal year 2022 funding bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The bill was approved on July 12 by the T-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee.

The House bill would set funding levels for many HUD programs at or above the amounts requested in the President’s budget and would provide substantial increases above FY21 levels for almost all programs. Details are provided in the table below.

 

HAC Names Jonathan Harwitz Director of Policy

Housing Assistance Council Names Jonathan Harwitz Director of Policy

Contact: Dan Stern
(202) 842-8600
dan@ruralhome.org

Housing Assistance Council Names Jonathan Harwitz Director of Policy

Jonathan will manage HAC’s policy initiatives.

Washington, DC, March 1, 2022 – The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is pleased to announce the hiring of Jonathan Harwitz as HAC’s new Director of Policy. He brings years of experience working with policymakers on affordable housing issues. Jonathan will spearhead and expand HAC’s place as the national source for independent, non-partisan policy solutions for rural housing and community development.

Jonathan joins HAC from his role as Director of Housing Community Development and Insurance Policy for the House Financial Services Committee.  Prior to that he served as Managing Director of Federal Policy and Government Affairs at the Low Income Investment Fund, a large national Community Development Financial Institution.  Earlier in his career, Jonathan served as: Deputy Chief of Staff for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development; Counsel to the Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee; Professional Staff to the Housing and Transportation Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee; and in various policy-related positions at the Corporation for Supportive Housing. Prior to entering the field of federal policy, he clerked for two federal District Court judges and was a lawyer in private practice.

Jonathan was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. He earned a Bachelor’s degree with honors from Yale College, and a JD from Harvard Law School. He currently resides near Washington, DC with his wife and kids.

“Federal policy has an important and lasting impact on rural places,” said HAC CEO David Lipsetz. “We are incredibly excited to have Jonathan join the HAC team and help us make the case for equitable investment in rural areas across the country.”

For the last 50 years, HAC has been the voice for the poorest of the poor in the most rural places. HAC’s policy priorities are focused on the importance of capacity building, access to capital, and geographic equity in federal policymaking – with a specific lens on persistently poor and high-needs regions like the Mississippi Delta, rural Appalachia, farmworker communities, the Southwest border colonias and Indian Country. Our independent and non-partisan policy work ensures the most vulnerable rural populations have improved access to safe and affordable housing opportunities.

To learn more about HAC’s policy work, visit https://ruralhome.org/our-work/policy/.

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House on Native American Land, ND

Self-Determination in Tribal Housing: Reflections on NAHASDA’s Impact

Twenty-five years ago, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) overhauled federal housing policy for tribal lands. One of its primary goals was to respect the sovereignty of tribes by giving them more power to determine how their federal housing funding is spent. Reauthorizing NAHASDA and making targeted improvements to build upon its first twenty-five years of achievements is one of HAC’s 2022 Rural Housing Policy Priorities.

We asked four experts on housing in Indian Country to reflect on NAHASDA and its impact.

 

Tony Walters

Tony Walters

Tony Walters, Executive Director, National American Indian Housing Council

Washington, DC

Tony Walters explains that NAHASDA “definitely has been a success.” By expanding the capacity of tribal housing authorities to meet the needs of their communities, the act has improved the quality and quantity of tribal housing.

Under NAHASDA, tribal housing authorities receive dedicated, reliable funding. As Walters points out, this steady stream of funds has “put tribes into a position where they can build homes quickly.” It has also increased their capacity, making other federal housing programs (like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit) more accessible. While tribes undoubtedly need increased resources to offset thirty years of flat funding, NAHASDA has put many tribal housing authorities closer to their goal of being “one stop shops” for all the housing needs of Tribe members. Simply put, there’d be fewer homes without NAHASDA, Walters explains.

Additionally, self-determination has given tribes more ability to tailor housing development to their specific needs. Unlike the former system of federally built homes, the current system allows tribes the flexibility to include important “cultural elements” like community centers and to decide the specific number and location of new homes.

“Housing is the foundation of any community,” Walters notes. While NAHASDA has helped strengthen the foundations of many communities, Walters cautions that increased funding, capacity, and cooperation between government programs are needed to prevent tribal housing projects from “falling through the cracks.” The solution, as Walters sees it, is to expand on the work of NAHASDA by strengthening capacity building and increasing resources.

 

Twila Martin-KeKahbah

Twila Martin-KeKahbah

Twila Martin-Kekahbah, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and HAC board member

Belcourt, ND

Twila Martin-Kekahbah opposed NAHASDA when it was proposed, and still believes that the law has failed to live up to its intentions. While the homes built under the law are successes, they’re nowhere near what is needed.

As she explains, the law recognizes the importance of tribal sovereignty, but it doesn’t provide the level of financial support or assistance necessary to help tribes build their capacity. In other words, NAHASDA’s model of self-determination doesn’t work if tribes don’t have the funding or capacity to act on it. Martin-Kekahbah noted that under NAHASDA, federal experts withdrew from areas where they’d been running housing programs, leaving tribal housing authorities unprepared for the responsibilities before them.

While the intentions of the act were noble, she is left asking a challenging question: “Why would housing be so bad right now if NAHASDA was so great?”

 

Rebecca Patnaude-Olander

Rebecca Patnaude-Olander

Rebecca Patnaude-Olander, Executive Director, Turtle Mountain Housing Authority

Belcourt, ND

Rebecca Patnaude-Olander explained that NAHASDA’s self-determination only allows her housing authority to “be self-determining within guidelines” established by the statute. The Turtle Mountain Housing Authority spends 90% of its budget on operations and upkeep of existing units, with very little left over for new development. While the choice of how to spend federal funds is useful, with so little funding, it’s a “moot point.”

Patnaude-Olander also noted concerns over the structure of funding under NAHASDA. Funding is tied to the homes in a housing authority’s portfolio, which in the case of the Turtle Mountain Housing Authority is “basically the housing stock built under the Housing Act of 1937.” When homes leave the portfolio for any reason—including when they are paid off by tribal families under previous home ownership programs or when it’s no longer feasible to continue to rehab an older unit—funding is affected and may decrease. This makes it even harder to maintain existing units, let alone develop new ones. Additionally, she noted that the law creates a “Catch 22”: many units are vacant because they are too expensive to repair, but vacant units may be subject to losing their federal funding, leaving even fewer resources to address tribal housing needs.

Still, Patnaude-Olander doesn’t have an entirely negative view of NAHASDA. As she explains, without NAHASDA, her community wouldn’t have the ability to maintain its current housing. Plus, the law’s built-in consultation mechanisms give tribes “a seat at the table” for new federal regulations. Still, the model is far from true self-determination. After all, NAHASDA’s housing programs, like all programs, “need the necessary funding allocated to effectively run them.”

 

Dave Castillo

Dave Castillo

Dave Castillo, CEO, Native Community Capital and HAC board member

Tempe, AZ

Dave Castillo began his career the year after NAHASDA was signed into law. As he explains it, his colleagues held the expectation that this law would open a new era in tribal housing. “NAHASDA created opportunity,” he explains, but it required tribes to seize it.

The opportunity created by NAHASDA hasn’t yet been fully actualized, in Castillo’s view. With a “severe lack of precedent” developing new properties, instead of just maintaining them, and without the necessary capacity building, many tribal housing authorities were unable to take full advantage of the opportunities before them.

Additionally, NAHASDA hasn’t completely succeeded at bringing more funding to tribal housing. Under the law’s “regressive” funding formula, housing authorities lose funding when homes leave their portfolio. Also, since there is an expectation that tribes will leverage their NAHASDA allocation with other grants or private investment—which has been difficult if not impossible to attract—many innovative tribal housing initiatives have stalled. To make matters worse, the legislation’s goal of stimulating mortgage lending on tribal trust lands has been undercut by a loophole which gives banks credit for loans made to tribal members living off-reservation.

While Castillo has seen little “recognition of [NAHASDA’s] shortcomings,” (reauthorization of the law has failed every year since 2013) the law still contains valuable opportunities. For example, it requires federal agencies to negotiate new housing rules with tribes, a process known as “negotiated rulemaking.” In the end, Castillo takes a nuanced view on NAHASDA’s legacy. It provides an incredible opportunity, yet “we are failing” to meet Indian Country’s housing needs, even with NAHASDA.

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.