News

Jennifer Emerling / There Is More Work To Be Done

HAC News: May 9, 2024

TOP STORIES

USDA warns of shortfalls in single-family programs

USDA has announced its single-family housing programs will serve fewer people this year because the FY24 consolidated appropriations act reduced funding for most of USDA’s rural housing programs. The Section 502 direct mortgage loan program dropped from $1.25 billion in FY23 to $880 million this year, so USDA says application processing may encounter significant delays. Processing timeframes will differ among states. The Section 504 home repair grant program for elderly homeowners with very low incomes fell from $32 million last year to $25 million this year, and the funding bill also rescinded $28 million carried over from prior years. As a result, USDA will be able to make fewer of these grants. It has also reduced the maximum amount for Section 504 disaster home repair grants from $42,920 to $15,000. The disaster grants have different age and income qualifications than regular Section 504 grants.

Farm Bill proposals released

The chairs of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees have announced their proposals for the 2024 Farm Bill, though not enough details are available to compare the two. The legislators have not yet made public the full text of either bill.

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) provided both a brief outline and a detailed summary of her Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act. HAC supports the bill’s inclusion of a proposed $50 million per year for the Rural Partnership Program, a new capacity building effort. HAC also hopes that the Rural Housing Service Reform Act introduced by Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), which is being considered separately by the Banking Committee, will eventually be added to the Farm Bill as a floor amendment.

Rep. GT Thompson (R-PA) released an overview of his draft 2024 Farm Bill, which will be marked up by the House Agriculture Committee on May 23. The summary of the bill’s Rural Development title mentions broadband connectivity, precision agriculture, health care, childcare, workforce challenges, private capital investments, and the permitting process for USDA RD projects; it is not clear which of these provisions, if any, would apply to housing.

HAC publishes research brief on farmworker housing

Creating a Better Understanding of Farmworker Communities and Their Housing Conditions reviews available data on the social and economic characteristics of farm laborers in the U.S. and on their housing conditions. While their demographics have shifted and the H-2A visa program has grown, farmworkers’ incomes remain low and their housing conditions inadequate. HAC recommends more research on farmworker housing and more resources devoted to improving conditions.

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

President Biden’s proclamation is posted here.

RuralSTAT

Although farmworkers are much more likely to rent their homes than other U.S. residents, they own homes at higher rates than ever before. Around one-third of farmworkers own a home or manufactured home in the U.S., compared to nearly two-thirds of all households in the U.S. Source: HAC tabulations of U.S. Department of Labor NAWS data set 2017-2018.

OPPORTUNITIES

HUD will modify PRICE manufactured housing program funding notice, extend deadline

The deadline for Preservation and Reinvestment Initiative for Community Enhancement applications will be changed to June 24 rather than June 5, according to a HUD “intent to modify” announcement. HUD plans to make other changes to the funding notice, it says, but specifics will not be available until the modification is published. For more information, email PRICE@HUD.gov.

HAC offers two new training and assistance opportunities

Applications for both programs will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so early submission is recommended. For answers to questions, email apply@ruralhome.org and put the name of the program in the subject line.

  • The One Rural Capacity Building Program is specifically designed for nonprofit organizations and Tribally Designated Housing Entities (TDHEs) eager to advance their mission. Participants will receive customized technical support, a wealth of training materials and informational guides, and reimbursable scholarships for HAC-sponsored training events. Apply by May 29.
  • The Empowering Organizations for Successful Homeowner Rehabilitation Learning Cohort is aimed at nonprofits undertaking homeowner rehabilitation efforts. It will guide you through every step of the rehabilitation process, from strategic marketing to project completion. Apply by May 15.

Farmworker housing funding notice corrected

USDA has published a corrected paragraph about commitment letters for third-party funding in its notice offering Section 514 and 516 funds for off-farm farmworker housing. The deadline for preapplications remains July 3.

USDA clarifies Strategic Economic and Community Development set-aside

In February, USDA announced it would set aside FY24 funds in the community facilities, water and waste, and Rural Business Development Grants programs for the Strategic Economic and Community Development priority, which emphasizes projects that support multi-jurisdictional and multi-sectoral strategic community investment plans. A recent correction notice says that Community Facilities Grant Program funds will not be reserved for SECD this year. The correction does not impact CF loans or guarantees. It also clarifies that community and economic development plans created in association with approved USDA Rural Partners Network networks will be accepted as plans under SECD.

Program will support rural artists in the Upper Great Plains

Ignite Rural is an eight-month residency program hosted by the Department of Public Transformation, a rural arts nonprofit. It is aimed at supporting rural artists who engage in social and civic work for their communities. This “at-home” cohort is open to artists who live in rural communities with populations of 20,000 or less within Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the 23 Native Nations that share that geography. Applications are due June 5.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD extends deadline for Buy America comments

Information on the cost and availability of materials covered by the Build America, Buy America Act is now due to HUD by June 17 rather than April 15. HUD requests details on domestic materials sourcing, market readiness, other product supply considerations, and whether specific housing products or their components are manufactured in the U.S.

HUD also recently posted materials from its most recent webinar on implementing BABA.

Rule covers fair lending and equitable housing finance for Fannie, Freddie, and Home Loan Banks

A final rule on fair lending, fair housing, and Equitable Housing Finance Plans will apply to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s oversight of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks. FHFA explains that the rule codifies existing FHFA practices in regulation and adds new requirements related to fair lending, fair housing, unfair or deceptive acts or practices, and Equitable Housing Finance Plans. Most parts of the rule will be effective 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. FHFA will hold a public listening session June 5 to hear interim feedback on Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s implementation of their current Equitable Housing Finance Plans and preparation of their 2025-2027 plans.

Revision to USDA guarantee program accounts for fee changes

Housing industry practices regarding real estate agent commission fees are changing, so USDA has made a corresponding change in the Section 502 single-family guaranteed loan program. The program has a 6% cap on seller concessions, which are funds from a seller or other interested party to incentivize a buyer to purchase a home. Real estate commission fees paid by the seller on behalf of the homebuyer will now be excluded from the 6% cap. USDA’s announcement says this update ensures that regardless of any possible changes to real estate commission requirements, rural homebuyers will continue to be able to affordably access guaranteed home loan financing from USDA.

HUD adopts changes to voucher programs

Amendments to HUD regulations implement changes to the Housing Choice Voucher and Project-Based Voucher programs made by the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016. HUD has also made other changes that are intended to reduce burden on public housing agencies.

H-2A farmworker visa program regulations revised

The Department of Labor has issued new regulatory provisions, adding to the 2022 overhaul of its rules for the H-2A temporary farmworker visa program. DOL says this rule adopts important provisions that will further strengthen protections for agricultural workers and enhance the department’s enforcement capabilities, thereby permitting more effective enforcement against fraud and program violations.

Two agencies allow homebuyers to request new appraisals

HUD’s Federal Housing Administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency worked together to develop new “reconsideration of value” policies for borrowers with mortgages insured by FHA or purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. A homebuyer will be able to request a re-assessment of the appraised value of their property if they believe that the appraisal was inaccurate or biased.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Thrive Rural Resource Center launched

HAC is honored to be part of the Thrive Rural Resource Center, a collaborative initiative hosted by the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group. Tailored for policymakers, philanthropists, and media professionals, the center provides information and strategies for equitable rural development.

USDA tenants’ rights explained

USDA has two new publications for residents of its multifamily housing properties. One explains Tenant Rights and Responsibilities. The other covers MFH Grievance Procedures Frequently Asked Questions.

U.S. wealth inequality hits record high

For the first time, the Urban Institute reports a seven-figure racial wealth gap: the average wealth held by white families is more than $1 million higher than that of Hispanic and Black families. Nine Charts about Wealth Inequality in America demonstrate disparities not just by race but also by gender. Accounting for educational attainment, women earn less than men with the same race. White women earn more on average than women of color and white men earn more on average than men of color.

Essays explore solutions for community development and climate resilience

What’s Possible: Investing Now for Prosperous, Sustainable Neighborhoods is a collection of essays exploring the intersection of community development and climate resilience. A number of the essays touch on housing issues. A collaboration of Enterprise Community Partners, LISC, and the New York Fed, What’s Possible is intended to offer practical solutions for clean energy, resilience, and equity. The entire book can be downloaded free. Print copies are also available.

National radio story features Rural Studio

What One Group’s Experiments Designing Affordable Housing in Rural America Show, a National Public Radio story on May 5, highlighted the work of Auburn University’s Rural Studio supporting affordable housing in Alabama. The story focuses on a resident of Hale County, AL and his house, which has a roof and foundation much larger than the current structure, allowing for future expansion.

HAC

HAC is hiring

HAC job listings, each with application instructions, are available on our website.

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).

Want to reprint a HAC News item?

Please credit the HAC News and provide a link to HAC’s website. Thank you!