Vol. 51, No. 8
Nominations open for Rural Community Economic Development Subcommittee, other advisory bodies.
- USDA Equity Commission: The commission requests nominations by May 6 for its new Rural Community Economic Development Subcommittee, which will be charged with providing recommendations to the department on issues and concerns related to rural development, persistent poverty, and underserved communities. For more information, contact Cecilia Hernandez, USDA, 202-913-5907.
- Treasury Department: The Treasury Advisory Committee on Racial Equity will provide information, advice and recommendations relating to the advancement of racial equity. Nominations are due April 25. For more information, contact Janis Bowdler, Treasury, 202-622-3002.
- Government Accountability Office: Nominations are due May 20 for GAO’s first standing Tribal Advisory Council, which will advise GAO on issues affecting tribes and Indigenous peoples relevant to the agency’s work evaluating federal programs serving tribes and related topics. For more information, contact Paige Gilbreath, GAO, 214-777-5724.
Majority of persistently poor counties are rural and have had high poverty for many decades.
The Persistence of Poverty in Rural America, a new Rural Research Brief from HAC, estimates that in 2020 there were 377 U.S. counties and county equivalents where poverty rates remained at 20% or more for three consecutive decades. For the first time, HAC also calculated persistent poverty status for Puerto Rico; including that territory, there are a total of 455 Persistent Poverty Counties. Approximately 78% of Persistent Poverty Counties in 2020 have been in this status consistently since 1980.
All 78 of Puerto Rico’s municipios (county equivalents) were classified as having persistent poverty status in 2020. Source: HAC tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016-2020 American Community Survey, the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, and the 2000 Decennial Census of Population and Housing.
HAC offers rental preservation financing.
USDA recently issued a Notice of Solicitation of Applications regarding its “no cost debt deferral” through the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program for Section 515 and 514 properties that have an obligation date after 10/1/1991. USDA will defer loan payments for 20 years to free up property funds for rehabilitation and improvements. Lower debt service payments will allow properties to leverage new financing or accumulate additional reserves for larger improvements. HAC has flexible, low-cost financing available for properties seeking debt deferrals through this program. Please reach out to Kristin Blum or Alison Duncan if you need financing for your Section 515 or 514 property or have questions on preservation of these properties.
REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES
Departments issue equity action plans.
On April 13 the White House announced that more than 90 federal agencies were releasing equity action plans. The plans generally acknowledge the particular barriers faced by rural places and tribal entities. USDA’s plan asserts the department’s intentions to “establish a place-based model to deliver federal rural development resources” and to prioritize RD projects that assist in recovering from the pandemic, ensure equitable access, and reduce climate impacts and increase resilience. One section of the plan specifically addresses tribal access to USDA programs. HUD’s plan focuses on four topics: widening the entities it funds, fair housing, homeownership, and homelessness. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness developed its own plan as well. The Treasury Department’s document summarizes actions taken and plans for the future in its various pandemic relief programs, which include Emergency Rental Assistance, the Homeowner Assistance Fund, and the Child Tax Credit. The Department of Commerce expects to work towards closing the digital divide, particularly for rural and tribal communities.
Rural infrastructure information released.
The White House released a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Rural Playbook and launched a tour for administration officials, including Cabinet secretaries, “to engage rural communities throughout the country.” The playbook describes efforts funded by the law – which focused on traditional infrastructure and did not include housing – and provides links to government sites for more information. An accompanying USDA factsheet emphasizes broadband and climate resilience.
Some foreclosures suspended while homeowners seek aid.
Companies that service mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be required to suspend foreclosure activities for up to 60 days if the servicer has been notified that a borrower has applied for assistance under the Homeowner Assistance Fund, which is run through state, local, and tribal governments. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer online lookup tools to determine whether one of them owns the mortgage on a property. For more information, contact the bank or company where mortgage payments are made. For information on USDA direct Section 502 loans, which are not owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, contact USDA’s Customer Servicing Center, 1-800-414-1226.
Treasury to reallocate more Emergency Rental Assistance funds.
The Treasury Department has issued its reallocation guidance for the second Emergency Rental Assistance program (ERA2), along with updated ERA1 guidelines and data on aid distributed through the end of February. Because Treasury expects relatively few ERA2 funds will be available for reallocation, it encourages state, local, and tribal governments to use other sources, including their State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, to assist more renters.
PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA
Rural housing voucher use fell, homeowner repair grants not fully used in FY21.
HAC’s Fiscal Year 2021 USDA Rural Development Housing Activity Report shows that in FY21 USDA obligated about $1.0 billion for 5,355 Section 502 direct loans, with just over 36% of the obligated funds going to very low-income borrowers. The Section 502 guaranteed loan program covered 137,970 mortgages. Section 504 repair loans for homeowners were underutilized, as is usually the case, but Section 504 grants, fully used in most years, left more than $5 million unobligated in FY21. Multifamily housing financing included 96 Section 538 loan guarantees totaling nearly $230.0 million, 47 Section 515 direct rental housing loans totaling $38.3 million to repair or rehabilitate 1,343 units, and two loans and one grant from the Section 514/516 farm labor housing program. Section 521 Rental Assistance funded 284,194 units totaling $1.5 billion. For the first time, the number of Section 542 housing vouchers fell, dropping from 7,489 in FY20 to 7,261 in FY21.
Tribal housing aid finder launched online.
The Tribal Housing Assistance Resource Hub, created by the National American Indian Housing Council, is intended to enable American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian homeowners, individuals, and families, to find mortgage, utilities, and rental assistance services. It covers two federal programs administered by state and tribal governments – the Homeowner Assistance Fund and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program – as well as services offered by tribal housing programs, such as home loan assistance, homebuyer education, elder and veteran housing, and others.
Redlining Toolkit addresses fair and equitable access to credit.
A new publication from the National Fair Housing Alliance is intended to help understand the public data relating to redlining risk in order to take action and promote racial equity. It includes information about the history and legal framework for redlining, provides tools to identify specific lenders with high redlining risk, and offers guidance for taking action when a lender shows high redlining risk in a community of color.
Report looks at lessons learned for designing rent aid.
Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) During the Pandemic: Implications for the Design of Permanent ERA Programs, released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Housing Initiative at Penn, discusses the findings from a survey of 100 administrators of the Emergency Rental Assistance program during the pandemic. Lessons in the report include the need for permanent emergency rental assistance programs and flexibility in requirements for applications.
Water contaminants mapped at county level.
A Drinking Water Dashboard compiled by Columbia University offers an interactive map and links to datasets showing contaminant exposure estimates in community water systems across the U.S. It accompanies a study titled Sociodemographic Inequalities in Uranium and Other Metals in Community Water Systems Across the USA, 2006-11: A Cross-Sectional Study.
Child Tax Credit payments used for essentials, including housing.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey and found that from July through December 2021 the most common reported uses of monthly Child Tax Credit payments were for basic needs, including food (65%), utilities and telecommunications (40%), rent and mortgage (39%) and clothing (34%). The Pulse Survey does not break down data by geography below the state level, but previous analyses found that families living outside metro areas were more likely than those in metro areas to benefit from the tax credit.
Rural leaders talk policy for 2071.
A new post on HAC’s Vision 2071 site reports on eight experts’ visions for how federal housing policy could solve the toughest challenges facing rural America. In Policy 2071: How Do We Help Rural America Thrive?, they put forward approaches that incorporate strategy, funding, and flexibility that deepen local capacity, lift up the natural advantages found in rural places, and result in a coordinated set of federal policies designed purposefully for small towns and rural regions.
Need capital for your affordable housing project?
HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at email@example.com, 202-842-8600.
Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).