50 Years, 50,000 Homes

Successful Federal-Local Partnerships

rvsummer15-coverThis story appears in the 2015 Summer Edition of Rural Voices

by U.S. Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers

Local partners help USDA housing programs make meaningful impacts to the lives of local rural residents

In May 2015, Governor Steve Beshear (KY-D) and I joined over a thousand residents of southern and eastern Kentucky at the second SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) Summit. Our shared goal in this truly grassroots initiative is to expand job creation, enhance regional opportunity, innovation and identity, improve the quality of life, and support all those working to achieve these goals in Appalachian Kentucky. Ensuring that everyone in our rural communities has access to quality, affordable housing options is a critical component of our strategy to advance a thriving, vibrant region.

For years, I have had the pleasure of witnessing local organizations like the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises and Kentucky Habitat for Humanity foster critical federal partnerships in order to make a meaningful impact at the community level. Unquestionably, the relationship forged with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development in southern and eastern Kentucky, and communities around the country, plays an important role in improving the economy and the quality of life in these rural areas.


As Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, I have the responsibility of overseeing the allocation of federal spending, and during a recent budget hearing with the USDA for fiscal year 2016, I had the opportunity to highlight a number of important USDA Rural Development programs that impact rural citizens nationwide. For example, I applauded the agency’s support for the single-family direct loan program. This program helps the poorest in rural America achieve the dream of owning a home, and for this reason, it continues to be one of USDA Rural Development’s most successful initiatives.

Another successful federal-local partnership which has been impactful in my region is the USDA Rural Development Section 504 Home Repair program, which is designed to help very low-income rural homeowners repair, improve, or modernize their homes and remove potential health and safety hazards through low-interest loans or grants. Many elderly homeowners in my district take advantage of the Section 504 Home Repair program, which allows them to safely stay in their own
homes longer.

The USDA Rural Development Mutual Self-Help Housing program has also proved life-changing in my rural Eastern Kentucky district, and other rural districts across the country. Those collaborating on Mutual Self-Help have made homeownership an option for countless low-income families that are willing to contribute sweat equity. The value of this housing program to families is best illustrated through the smiles on a family’s face when they are moving in to the home that they helped complete.

For example, a single mother in my district recently shared her inspiring story of success with the Self-Help program. She initially signed up because she wanted a safer environment to raise her son. Determined to improve the future for herself and her son, she tirelessly worked nights and weekends to build her own home. Not only did she improve the living situation for her small family, she also says her son’s attitude and grades have even improved. Simply put, without the Self-Help Housing Program that allowed her to contribute to the process, she would not have been able to afford her new home.

This year, the 50,000th family will have utilized the program to complete their homes, and I hope many more in the future will have the opportunity to turn their lives around in the same manner.

Serving Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District since 1981, Hal Rogers is currently in his 18th term representing the people of southern and eastern Kentucky, and is the longest serving Kentucky Republican ever elected to federal office. Focused on economic development, job creation, fighting illegal drug use and preserving the natural treasures of Appalachia, Rogers has a reputation for listening to his constituents and fighting for the interests of the region where he was raised. Nationally, as Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, his focus is on reducing the size and scope of the government by reining in federal spending, conducting rigorous but thoughtful oversight of federal agencies, and restoring fiscal discipline and transparency to our budget process.