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Defining “Rural” for USDA’s Housing Programs

Defining “Rural” for USDA’s Housing Programs

By Leslie Strauss
June 8, 2012

This part is simple: a property must be in a rural place to be eligible for USDA rural housing funding. Beyond that simple statement, things get complicated. What places are rural, and why does it matter?

Congress used three characteristics to define rural for USDA’s housing programs: population size, rural character, and a serious shortage of mortgage credit. In various circumstances, the maximum population size can be 10,000 or 20,000 or 25,000. As a practical matter, it’s far easier to enter a property address at USDA’s property eligibility Web site than to try to figure out whether it fits the definition. And note that everything in this paragraph applies only to USDA’s housing programs; the rural eligibility definitions for community facilities, utilities, and business programs are different.

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