HAC has learned that the following message was sent by USDA’s Office of Congressional Relations to members of Congress on August 20.
. . . RHS will forego the release of the NOFA for Sec. 515 new construction projects. This decision not to fund new construction was due to the need to conform with the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court (Salazar v. Ramah), which stated that if agencies had outstanding contracts and sufficient appropriations, they must fund any of those contracts. OGC determined that the decision was relevant to the contracts, known as Rental Assistance Incentive contracts, entered into by the Rural Housing Service to avert prepayment of Section 515 rental housing through offers of prepayment incentives to the project owners.
We understand our stakeholders’ disappointment in RD’s decision not to fund 515 new construction. RD had intended to issue a NOFA; the notice was in clearance at the time of the Salazar decision. The delay led to insufficient time for Federal Register notice of a NOFA, application process and ultimate obligation prior to the end of the fiscal year. The Supreme Court’s decision has forced RD to change its priorities and use 515 appropriations to fund prepayment incentives (equity loans and RA). However, the limited funding left in the 515 program will be used to rehabilitate existing 515 housing, or facilitate the sale of RD inventory properties to owners adept at finding additional resources to revitalize the properties. There is an urgent need for RD to revitalize its existing portfolio of aging rental housing. Since the cost to rehabilitate our existing housing is less than the cost of new construction, the limited funding left in the 515 program will go further and in the time required, prior to fiscal year end.