News

HAC News: January 20, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 2

TOP STORIES

Over $1.1 billion in pandemic rental aid reallocated.

On January 7 the Treasury Department announced the first reallocation of Emergency Rental Assistance from jurisdictions that had not used it. Voluntary reallocations between jurisdictions within the same state accounted for a large portion of the shift. Treasury did take about $91 million from states and localities that did not voluntarily relinquish it. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s analysis of Treasury’s data notes that it is not clear how Treasury is prioritizing recipients of reallocated funds.

As homeowner assistance plans are approved, states begin taking applications.

The Treasury Department has now approved plans for distribution of Homeowner Assistance Fund monies in 30 jurisdictions. States, territories, and tribes or tribal entities will use the funds for homeowners with incomes under 150% of area median or 100% of the U.S. median who experienced financial hardship and need help to prevent mortgage delinquency, default, foreclosure, loss of utilities or home energy services, or displacement. The National Council of State Housing Agencies provides links for more information from each state.

HAC sets 2022 policy priorities.

HAC’s policy priorities for 2022 call for building the capacity of local affordable housing and community development organizations deeply rooted in rural places; expanding access to credit and safe, affordable lending in underserved rural communities; improving the overall quality, availability, and affordability of housing to buy and rent in small towns and rural places; and preserving, increasing, and tailoring resources for federal affordable housing programs serving rural populations.

RuralSTAT

In the rural parts of Texas’s border with Mexico, there were 35 loans for every 1,000 owner-occupied units in Colonias Investment Areas from 2015 through 2017, compared with 73 loans per 1,000 outside Colonias Investment Areas. Source: Colonias Investment Areas: A More Focused Approach, Cityscape.

OPPORTUNITIES

NEW! HAC seeks Community Development Specialist, Loan Processor Associate, and Housing Specialist.

  • NEW! The Community Development Specialist works with nonprofits and local governments on all facets of developing community resources such as parks, community centers, public libraries, childcare centers, health care facilities, or other public spaces. Requirements include four years of relevant work experience. This position is eligible for telecommuting. The job description and application instructions will be posted on HAC’s site when available.
  • The Loan Processor Associate is an entry-level position and will assist in managing HAC’s portfolio of loans made to entities engaged in affordable housing activities throughout the rural U.S. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Comments sought on broadband funding distribution.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which will distribute billions of dollars for broadband provided in the recent infrastructure bill, requests public input on a set of broad questions, including some on access, digital equity, geography, and affordability. Written comments are due February 4. NTIA will also hold virtual public listening sessions and plans to conduct a tribal consultation. For more information, contact NTIA, 202-482-2048.

USDA offers guidance on accessibility for rental properties.

Recently released guidance for complying with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and other federal requirements applies to properties with financing from USDA RD multifamily programs (Sections 515, 514/516, 521, or 538/515). For more information, contact a USDA multifamily housing regional director.

IRS pandemic relief for housing tax credits extended.

Internal Revenue Service Notice 2022-05 extends several deadlines and flexibilities for Low Income Housing Tax Credit developers that were initiated earlier in the coronavirus pandemic but had expired.

Committee reviews Thompson for FHFA.

Sandra Thompson’s nomination to be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency was considered by the Senate Banking Committee on January 13. Thompson’s opening statement noted FHFA’s important role in supporting underserved markets like rural and tribal areas, manufactured housing, and preservation of affordable housing. The committee has not yet voted whether to recommend her for approval by the Senate.

Final regulations set for state and local fiscal recovery funds.

The State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program, enacted as a part of the American Rescue Plan, supports state, local, and tribal governments’ response to the coronavirus pandemic across a variety of activities including affordable housing. Recipients have already spent much of the funds and the Treasury Department has issued a final rule, effective April 22, intended to increase the program’s flexibility.

Three more Rural Development State Directors named.

Appointees for Florida and the Virgin Islands, Idaho, and Washington were recently announced. A list of all USDA RD State Directors named by President Biden to date is now available on HAC’s website. These positions do not require Senate confirmation.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

HAC and Fannie Mae identify Colonias Investment Areas.

Colonias Investment Areas: A More Focused Approach, an article in HUD’s Cityscape journal, considers ways to target Fannie Mae’s Duty to Serve efforts in colonias by identifying Colonias Investment Areas. Written by Keith Wiley and Lance George from HAC and Sam Lipshutz, formerly of Fannie Mae, the analysis shows the need for more affordable home lending options in areas with substandard housing and considers possible solutions.

Harvard to release rental housing report January 21.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies’ announcement of the pending release of America’s Rental Housing 2022 states that, “While unprecedented levels of federal assistance have helped keep evictions down, the need for a permanent, fully funded housing safety net is more urgent than ever, and a key element of that support must be to protect existing rental housing from the threat of climate change.”

Research yields proposals to combat appraiser bias.

Reviewing the appraisal industry and evidence on appraisal bias, Identifying Bias and Barriers, Promoting Equity presents recommendations regarding the industry’s governance, training and education on fair housing, barriers to entry to the profession, and compliance and enforcement. The study was prepared by the National Fair Housing Alliance and two law firms for the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.

Factors leading to housing losses examined.

More than half of all U.S. counties lost housing units during the 2010s. Housing Losses in the 2010s, a white paper published by Enterprise Community Partners, reports that almost two-thirds of these housing loss counties were outside metropolitan areas and had small and shrinking populations. Stagnant economies and aging housing supply were also common among these counties, while some had recently suffered major natural disasters.

Study in Ohio finds different rurals attract different populations.

Researchers at Ohio State University have outlined five types of rural communities, three near metropolitan areas that have attracted more residents and two farther away from cities that experienced loss or only minor gains in population. An analysis of migration between Ohio census tracts found that each rural type is attracting a specific kind of residents and thus becoming less diverse internally.

Varying rural definitions challenge small towns.

What Counts as Rural? The Qualifications are Keeping Grants from Some Small Towns, a National Public Radio story, explains that varying definitions of rural can impact which communities receive federal funding. More information about rural definitions, including the definition used in HAC’s data analyses, is available here.

Despite investments in California’s farmworker housing, crisis persists.

Farmworkers Bear the Brunt of California’s Housing Crisis, a recent article on the digital news site Civil Eats, discusses the continuing affordable housing shortage for farmworkers throughout California. Even with $100 million in recent investments for the construction and rehabilitation of permanent farmworker housing, unsafe and cramped housing conditions remain.

Modeling examines impact of increased earnings on benefits and other factors.

Balancing at the Edge of the Cliff: Experiences and Calculations of Benefit Cliffs, Plateaus, and Trade-Offs reports on the combined effects when increased earnings lead to declines in public assistance benefits, growth in taxes owed and other expenses, and availability of refundable tax credits. Overall, most families with a $2,300 increase in income would be better off, especially those with starting incomes below the poverty level, Urban Institute researchers found. Because tax refunds and benefit reductions often happen on different timelines, however, families might not feel the full payoff from work in their monthly budgets. Interviews with TANF recipients identified housing, and the impact of earnings changes on housing benefits, as one of their biggest financial concerns.

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 hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 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).