Pandemic emergency declarations ending May 11
President Biden plans to end the coronavirus pandemic national emergency and public health emergency on May 11. Agencies are now preparing to wind down pandemic-related assistance programs, regulatory waivers, and other measures that were based on the existence of the emergency declarations. (Others may be scheduled to end on specific dates.) FEMA announced its Public Assistance funding related to the pandemic will end May 11. HAC will report other notifications as they are made.
Torres Small nominated as USDA Deputy Secretary
On February 15 President Biden announced he is nominating Xochitl Torres Small, who has been serving as USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development, to become Deputy Secretary. Secretary Tom Vilsack released a statement describing her as “a dedicated advocate for rural communities.” Torres Small’s nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate.
HAC testifies before Senate Banking Committee
HAC was invited to testify at the first hearing held in the new 118th Congress before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Titled The State of Housing 2023, the session featured Lance George, HAC’s Director of Research and Information, as one of three witnesses. His testimony covered key factors contributing to the state of rural housing including the pandemic, housing costs, manufactured housing, and race and ethnicity. His policy recommendations addressed homeownership, rental housing, and capacity building.
HAC launches USDA-backed placemaking program
HAC has selected ten communities to participate in our Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge (RPIC) cohort. RPIC is a USDA program that funds planning support, technical assistance, and training to encourage placemaking activities in rural communities. HAC’s cohort communities will receive 15 months of capacity building support, connection to a peer cohort, and seed grant funding.
In fiscal year 2022, the average loan amount for a USDA guaranteed home mortgage was $185,241 – up 31% from 2019. Source: HAC tabulations of USDA Data (increase represented in nominal dollars).
Buildings Upgrade Prize offered by Department of Energy
The Buildings Upgrade Prize (Buildings UP) will award cash and technical assistance for ideas to accelerate widespread, equitable energy efficiency and building electrification upgrades. In Phase 1, teams will submit innovative concepts to increase building energy upgrades. Winning teams will receive $200,000 or $400,000 in cash as well as expert technical assistance and coaching to help bring their ideas to life. The Phase 1 application period is open from February 18 to July 18. New and under-resourced teams can also apply, until funds are expended, for Application Support Prizes of $5,000 and 10 hours of technical assistance to help complete their Phase 1 applications. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES
New requests for comments issued
- Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: HUD’s proposed AFFH rule has been officially published, with a comment deadline of April 10. For more information, contact Tiffany Johnson, HUD, 202-402-2881.
- Build America, Buy America: OMB proposes to revise its guidance for federal agencies on grants and agreements to include Build America, Buy America Act requirements. Comments are due March 13. For more information, contact Dede Rutberg, OMB, 202-881-7359.
- Radon in HUD environmental reviews: HUD has drafted a Departmental Policy for Addressing Radon in the Environmental Review Process. Comments are due April 14. For more information, contact Kristin Fontenot, HUD, 202-402-7671.
- Broadening public engagement in the regulatory process: OMB suggests tactics for increasing public participation in developing federal regulations. Comments are due March 10 and a virtual listening session will be offered on March 7.
- FHA 203(k) rehab mortgages: The Federal Housing Administration requests input by April 17 on barriers to the use of the FHA 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance Program by lenders and consumers. For more information, contact Elissa Saunders, HUD, 202-402-2378.
- Rural broadband technical assistance and planning: The Rural Utilities Service will host two online listening sessions to collect feedback on how best to use new funding for TA and planning to provide broadband in the most rural communities. A session for rural communities interested in receiving TA will be held February 23 and one for TA providers will be February 28. For more information, use the online broadband program contact form.
Resources offered to help protect domestic violence survivors in HUD properties
HUD launched a new website as a clearinghouse for its resources on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and changes made when the law was reauthorized in 2022. Also, a new notice explains that HUD will implement and enforce VAWA in the same way it enforces the Fair Housing Act. Finally, HUD’s Community Compass funding notice includes VAWA among priorities for provision of technical assistance.
HAC welcomes rural homelessness funding awards
HUD has announced its selection of Continuums of Care in 27 states that will receive a total of over $54 million to address rural homelessness. Another $260 million will be used to assist people experiencing unsheltered homelessness around the country. HUD plans to make additional awards in the coming weeks and to allocate new incremental Stability Vouchers as well. HAC issued a statement hailing the attention to rural needs.
USDA RD updates guidelines on COVID-related loan refinances
Guidance for using Section 502 and 504 direct loan funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act has been revised. The monies can be used through September 30 to refinance outstanding loans to existing direct loan borrowers who received payment moratoriums under pandemic guidelines.
Supportive services use at Section 202 properties explained
HUD has issued updated guidance for Section 202 elderly housing properties explaining the purpose and allowable uses of supportive services funds and how to include them in a property’s annual operating budget. Owners are required to have Supportive Services Plans and to update them every three years. HUD’s announcement also reminds staff at Section 202 properties they can order COVID tests free online.
PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA
Drop in rural mortgage guarantees reported in HAC research note
Home Mortgage Demand Declined in Rural America Too: Signs and Trends from a USDA Housing Finance Product reports that USDA’s Section 502 loan guarantees plummeted by more than 40% from FY21 to FY22 level, from 120,000 to 72,000. Increases in interest rates and home prices likely contributed to this decline.
Continuum of Care information for Tribes published
HUD has published the first set of resources from the Continuum of Care Program Series for Tribal Communities and Organizations New to the CoC Program. Tribes and Tribal housing entities became eligible for CoC funding in HUD’s FY21 appropriations act, and the series is intended to inform them about the program, its purpose, eligible activities, and funding opportunities. For more information, contact a HUD Native American Programs area office or submit a question through the online Ask-a-Question portal (select “CoC Program” at step 2).
Case studies cover “what’s working in rural”
Brief rural-focused case studies from the Aspen Institute’s Community Strategies Group cover developing leaders in historically excluded communities, competing for federal funds despite limited resources, and empowering leaders from all backgrounds. Other topics will be added.
Major media report on homeless counts in rural places
Recently published stories describe the point-in-time count conducted nationwide in late January. In the Washington Post, Rural America has Homeless People Too. But They’re Hard to Find describes the difficulty in finding people in rural Cumberland County, PA, where volunteers must cross miles of territory. The New York Times piece, 582,462 and Counting, describes the count in four places, including rural Mississippi. It points out that people experiencing homelessness in rural areas are often locals who are now “homeless in their hometown.”
Remote workers are relocating back to metro areas, but high rural housing costs persist
Remote work during the pandemic led to a migration of residents out of metropolitan areas, which contributed to increases in average rural home prices. The push for employees to return to office has led to workers returning to cities. High housing costs and supply shortages persist in rural communities, however, described by NBC News in The Remote Workers Have Left, But the Housing Havoc They Created Remains.
Prosperity Now Scorecard updated
Prosperity Now has released the 2023 version of its Scorecard, an interactive site providing data on household financial health, housing, and more. Data is available for states, counties, cities, congressional districts, tribal areas, and metro areas. This year the Scorecard increased its focus on racial economic inequality and reviews states’ implementation of policies to expand economic opportunity.
National Rural Housing Conference set for October
Mark your calendars and save the date! HAC’s National Rural Housing Conference will be held October 24-27 in Washington, DC and online.
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).
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