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HAC News: June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 12

TOP STORIES

HAC honors the legacy of Gordon Cavanaugh.

Gordon Cavanaugh, who served as HAC’s first Executive Director from 1971 until President Carter appointed him to lead the Farmers Home Administration in 1977, passed away on May 26 at the age of 93. Throughout his long career in affordable housing, Gordon was an inspiring leader and a fierce advocate. His commitment to serving the poorest of the poor still lies at the heart of HAC’s work.

USDA housing budget proposes increases in Section 502 mortgages and rental preservation, HUD budget would raise many programs’ funding.

The Biden administration’s first full budget request would increase the Section 502 direct loan program from $1 billion to $1.5 billion and Section 502 guarantees from $24 billion to $30 billion. Fiscal year 2022 funding for most other rural housing programs would remain at the same levels as in FY21. The budget proposes to eliminate some protections for Section 521 Rental Assistance. It also indicates that the American Jobs Plan – the administration’s infrastructure proposal – would provide an additional $2 billion in rural housing spending, without providing details. Under the administration’s FY22 HUD request, HOME and CDBG would see large funding increases, as would Native American and Native Hawaiian housing programs, tenant vouchers, and programs that serve people experiencing homelessness, elders, people with disabilities, people with AIDS, and more. The SHOP program would remain at its FY21 level of $10 million. In addition to the budget proposal, the infrastructure plan would provide significant funding for many HUD programs. Each house of Congress will now craft its own proposal and differences will be worked out in the months to come.

2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule partially reinstated, disparate impact changes expected soon.

HUD has issued an interim regulation, effective on July 31, 2021, that repeals its August 2020 AFFH regulation and reinstates definitions and certifications from the AFFH rule it adopted in 2015. This interim final rule does not require jurisdictions receiving HUD funding to undertake any specific type of fair housing planning to support their certifications, but HUD offers assistance to jurisdictions that choose to do so. HUD will issue a separate proposal on implementation of AFFH obligations, stating that it “will seek to build on and improve the processes set forth in the 2015 AFFH rule to further help funding recipients comply with their statutory obligation while reducing the regulatory burden on them.” Comments on this interim rule are due July 12. For more information, contact Sasha Samberg-Champion, HUD, 202-402-3413. HUD is also expected to announce revisions soon to its September 2020 rule on fair housing disparate impact.

As attacks on eviction moratorium continue in court, it remains in effect but will expire June 30.

A federal appellate court agreed with a lower court judge that the eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control should remain effective while the appellate court considers its validity. Landlord representatives appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could issue a decision as early as June 11. The moratorium is set to expire on June 30, even if there is no final court decision by that date.

June is National Homeownership Month.

Building on President Biden’s proclamation, USDA and HUD are observing the occasion. Follow HAC on social media for relevant policy recommendations, homeownership stories, and more.

June is Pride Month.

President Biden proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month. HAC recognizes and celebrates the diversity that makes every community unique.

RuralSTAT

There are more than 2,000 rural and small-town census tracts where racial and ethnic minorities make up the majority of the population. Source: Housing Assistance Council tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014-2018 American Community Survey.

OPPORTUNITIES

Section 533 Housing Preservation Grant applications open.

USDA Rural Development will make HPG grants to public agencies and nonprofits to assist low- and very low-income rural homeowners in repairing and rehabilitating their homes, and to cooperative housing complexes and rental property owners to repair and rehabilitate units in rural areas available to low- and very low-income persons. Pre-applications are due July 19. For more information, contact Bonnie Edwards-Jackson, RD, 202-690-0759.

USDA expands water/wastewater programs.

The Rural Decentralized Water Systems Grant program funds nonprofit or tribal lenders to make affordable loans to homeowners who need new household water systems in places with populations up to 50,000 including tribal lands and colonias. The program now includes building or repairing septic systems, and lenders can provide grants to homeowners with incomes under 60% of area median. Deadline is July 19. For more information, contact Taylor Marable, RD, 615-772-8726, or an RD state office. The Water and Wastewater Projects Revolving Funds Program enables nonprofits to make loans for water and wastewater treatment projects’ pre-development costs or for short-term and small capital improvement projects. Places, including tribal lands and colonias, with populations up to 10,000 are eligible. The maximum loan amount for FY21 is $200,000 rather than the previous $100,000. Deadline is July 16. For more information, contact Lois East, RD, 660-492-4268, or an RD state office.

HUD offers Lead Hazard Reduction funds.

Grants are available to help local governments and some states and tribes undertaking comprehensive programs to identify and control lead-based paint hazards in privately owned rental or owner-occupied housing where children under age six are at risk. Deadline is July 12. For more information, contact Yolanda Brown, HUD, 202-903-9576.

HOPWA Special Projects of National Significance grants available.

Nonprofits, states, and local governments are eligible for grants to produce new projects that align with initiatives aimed at ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic and elevate housing as an effective structural intervention in ending the epidemic. Apply by July 6. For more information, contact HUD staff.

Hometown Grants aim to revitalize community spaces.

Grants of up to $50,000 are available from T-Mobile, in partnership with Smart Growth America and Main Street America, to build, rebuild, or refresh community spaces that help foster local connections in cities and towns with populations under 50,000. Local governments or nonprofits are eligible. Deadlines are June 30, September 30, and December 31.

Conference Coordinator and Community Facilities Housing Specialist positions open at HAC.

For details, visit HAC’s website.

 

CORONAVIRUS

Forbearance for multifamily property owners extended.

Owners of multifamily rental properties with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac can now request mortgage forbearance through September 30. Owners must inform tenants about their rights and cannot evict tenants for nonpayment of rent during the forbearance period.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Changes proposed for USDA single-family guaranteed loan program regulations.

The revisions to the Section 502 guaranteed program would update the requirements for federally supervised lenders, minimum net worth and experience for non-supervised lenders, approved lender participation requirements, treatment of applicants with delinquent child support payments, and builder credit requirements. Comments are due August 9. For more information, contact Ana Placencia, USDA, 254-721-0770.

GAO study recommends ways to increase 10-20-30 impact in persistent poverty counties.

Areas with High Poverty: Changing How the 10-20-30 Funding Formula Is Applied Could Increase Impact in Persistent-Poverty Counties examines the requirement for some programs of USDA Rural Development, the Economic Development Administration, and the CDFI Fund to allocate at least 10% of their funds to counties with poverty rates of at least 20% over the last 30 years. The report recommends using the formula selectively, since some programs achieve this allocation without a requirement and others cannot achieve it because of program design. It also supports creation of a single list of persistent poverty counties.

Interim appraisal requirements adopted for USDA’s Community Facilities loan programs.

Because of the coronavirus emergency, USDA RD has established interim requirements, effective until December 31, for appraisals of real estate being used as collateral for direct or guaranteed Community Facilities loans.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Building materials’ costs and shortages increase.

A National Association of Home Builders survey in May found costs for building materials have increased an average of 26.1% over the last 12 months. NAHB also reports an all-time high in the number of builders experiencing material shortages.

“Doubly disadvantaged: rural communities left out in federal income limits formula.”

Flaws in the use of area median incomes to determine aid eligibility are described in a Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity op-ed, written by Joshua Stewart from Fahe and H. Luke Shaefer from the University of Michigan. Where rural poverty is concentrated, AMIs are low, so fewer households qualify for aid. The problem is particularly common in Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, the colonias, and tribal lands.

“Redefine rural.”

The Katy (Texas) Times notes the dramatic implications of OMB’s proposal to change the minimum population threshold for identifying metropolitan areas from 50,000 to 100,000. This definition is used to determine how certain federal program funds are distributed. For more information on this issue, see HAC’s website.

“Evictions at a Kentucky trailer park highlight Ohio Valley’s lack of affordable housing.”

The Ohio Valley Resource reports on manufactured home community evictions in Morehead, KY and draws attention to the larger affordable housing crisis happening in rural areas, including limited housing stock and looming mass evictions if the federal eviction moratorium is not extended beyond its June 30 expiration date. In addition to barriers to transportation, “a lack of tenant protections, rising rents, and high poverty rates” leave few options for low-income renters.

“In rural South Carolina, a groundbreaking broadband project takes root.”

Roll Call describes how the town of Allendale, SC has used existing broadcasting towers to make high-speed internet available to residents. The state broadband coordinator says other communities can use the same system by mounting equipment on water towers or other tall structures.

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).

 

HAC News: May 27, 20221 Featured Image

HAC News: May 27, 2021

May 27, 2021

Vol. 50, No. 11

TOP STORIES

Full Biden budget to be released May 28.

When the Biden administration’s first complete budget request is released on May 28, HAC will post a summary on our website.

Eviction moratorium still effective, court still reviewing it.

A federal judge has extended the stay on her May 5 order invalidating the eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control, leaving the moratorium in place while the Justice Department appeals the ruling in Alabama Association of Realtors v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A federal appellate court is now considering the case. The moratorium is set to expire on June 30, even if there is no final court decision by that date.

OCC reconsiders its Community Reinvestment Act rule.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has announced it is reconsidering its June 20, 2020 CRA regulation and does not plan to finalize proposed evaluation measure benchmarks. It expects banks to comply with portions of the rule that have October 1, 2021 deadlines but will not require them to move towards implementing portions with 2023 and 2024 deadlines. For more information, contact Vonda Eanes, OCC, 202-649-5470.

USDA accepting refinance applications from homeowners with payment moratoriums.

Homeowners who have had payment moratoriums on their USDA direct Section 502 or Section 504 loans because of the coronavirus pandemic can now apply to refinance their loans at more favorable terms. USDA is sending letters to eligible borrowers. For application forms and more information, visit USDA’s servicing website or contact a USDA Rural Development service center.

HAC celebrates 50 years of helping build rural communities.

The Housing Assistance Council, incorporated on May 21, 1971, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. A week-long series of posts on HAC’s social media feeds, tagged #HAC50, featured some highlights from the past 50 years for HAC and for rural affordable housing. Check out the posts and share your memories on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

New HAC website launched.

HAC invites readers to the redesigned ruralhome.org, which debuted on May 25.

RuralSTAT

Only 35% of hazard-prone communities in the U.S. have the latest hazard-resistant building codes as of April 1, 2021. Source: FEMA, Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study of Loss Prevention.

OPPORTUNITIES

Creative placemaking funds available from NEA, USDA.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town program supports projects that integrate arts, culture, and design activities into efforts that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes. Applicant partnerships must include local government entities, cultural organizations, and others. The deadline is August 5. For more information, contact NEA, OT@arts.gov.
  • USDA’s Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge offers funds for nonprofits, public bodies, tribes, small businesses, and institutions of higher education to provide technical assistance and training to rural communities for placemaking planning and implementation. The deadline is July 26. For more information, contact Angela Callie, RD, 202-568-9738.
Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program funds offered.

HUD will select 50 awardees, including eight rural communities, to develop and execute coordinated community approaches to preventing and ending youth homelessness. Entities designated as Collaborative Applicants by Continuums of Care are eligible and must apply by July 27. For more information, contact HUD, YouthDemo@hud.gov.

HUD will fund technical research on lead and healthy homes.

Nonprofits, for-profits, state and local governments, tribes, and others are eligible for Lead and Healthy Homes Technical Studies grants, studies to improve HUD’s and the public’s knowledge of housing-related health and safety hazards and to improve or develop new hazard assessment and control methods, with a focus on lead and other key residential health and safety hazards. The deadline is June 21. For more information, contact J. Kofi Berko Jr., HUD, 202-402-7696.

Conference Coordinator and Community Facilities Housing Specialist positions open at HAC.

For details, visit HAC’s website.

  • The Conference Coordinator supports every part of preparing and delivering HAC’s 2021 National Rural Housing Conference. Excellent communication skills and attention to detail are vital, along with proven experience in conference and/or event planning to include logistic coordination. This is a full-time, temporary position and is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Community Facilities Housing Specialist identifies and engages community stakeholders and provides direct technical assistance to rural organizations that are developing facilities such as parks, community centers, public libraries and childcare centers. This includes helping them identify, utilize, and apply for financial resources such as USDA Community Facilities grants and loans. This a two-year position and is eligible for telecommuting.

CORONAVIRUS

“One year into COVID-19, pandemic’s negative effects persist in Indian Country.”

The Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis  provides an overview of how tribal governments, businesses, and communities have weathered the pandemic so far. Tribal governments have experienced increased operational costs and revenue losses, resulting in spending cuts for services like parks and recreation, economic development grants, and cultural programming.

“GOP Governors’ Cutoff of COVID Benefits Hits Hard in Rural America.”

A Pew Trust Stateline article describes the potential negative impacts of governors discontinuing the federal extended unemployment funding their states initially accepted. Extended benefits can be particularly important in rural areas where jobs are limited, and for rural minorities are disproportionately impacted.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD allocates Emergency Housing Vouchers.

EHVs, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, do not operate the same way as other Section 8 vouchers. PHAs must work jointly with Continuums of Care to issue them to people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, or recently homeless and risking becoming homeless again. HUD resources, including a detailed notice governing the program’s operation as well as FAQs, are posted online.

Proposed Duty to Serve plans posted for review and comment.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s proposed Underserved Markets Plans for 2022-2024 are available online. The plans explain how the secondary market hopes to meet needs for rural housing, affordable housing preservation, and manufactured housing. Comments are invited by July 17.

USDA begins Process to pay loans of disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

A Farm Service Agency notice explains the process created by the American Rescue Plan Act for FSA to pay off socially disadvantaged farmers’ and ranchers’ direct loans under the Farm Loan Programs and Farm Storage Facility Loan Program. Within four months a separate notice will be issued for guaranteed loans. Eligible recipients do not need to take any action until they receive a payment offer directly from FSA, although they can contact their local FSA service center to update their demographic information if needed. For more information, contact Bruce Mair, FSA, 202-720-1645.

NEA announces 2021 Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design Awards.

Four workshops across the country will bring together local leaders and residents with design professionals to work on local design challenges. The members of the Design Learning Cohort come from 15 communities as diverse as Skagway, Alaska and Manchester, Georgia. CIRD is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts that has partnered with the Housing Assistance Council for the past two years to provide design and planning assistance to rural communities.

USDA shifts staff operating Housing Preservation Grants program.

USDA Rural Development State Offices are switching staff responsibility for training and day-to-day operation of the Section 533 HPG program from multifamily staff to single-family staff. The announcement also updates guidance on the program. For more information, contact a State Office.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Essay collection considers racial justice in housing finance.

Essays from diverse viewpoints, collected by the Poverty and Race Research Action Council in Racial Justice in Housing Finance: A Series on New Directions, explore ways to harness housing finance towards the ends of residential integration, equitable investment, and housing security.

Rent debt estimates available for most counties.

The National Equity Atlas and the Right to the City Alliance offer a rent debt dashboard with regularly updated data on the number and characteristics of renters who are behind on rent for the U.S., 41 states, and 15 metro areas. It also estimates the number of households with debt and the amount owed for every county in the 41 states.

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).

HAC News: March 10, 2020

News Formats. pdf

March 10, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 5

USDA and HUD offer resources on coronavirus Household Water Well System Grants available HAC research brief tackles tax relief for sellers of affordable rental properties HUD guidance describes new provisions for small rural PHAs File information regarding a regional plan by June 30 to garner extra points for some USDA RD funding Housing legislation moves forward in the House CFPB provides FAQs for mortgage disclosure rule New RD Deputy Under Secretary named Census to replace American FactFinder Affordable Homes at Risk Many Living in Rural America Struggling with Housing as Cost of Living Outstrips Wages Toolkit for State and Local Government Officials Understanding Rural Attitudes Toward the Environment and Conservation in America • SAVE THE DATE FOR HAC’S 2020 RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE!Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

March 10, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 5

USDA and HUD offer resources on coronavirus.

Both departments provide basic resources and a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most up to date information. HUD suggests housing providers can share CDC fact sheets to help stakeholders understand the virus and steps to protect themselves. It also offers an infectious disease toolkit for Continuums of Care, noting that people experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable. The National Health Care for the Homeless Council has collected other resources and information on the subject. USDA provides additional information about food safety and pet safety. Articles published by the Daily Yonder and the Center for American Progress present differing perspectives about rural risk: “Rural Areas at Less Risk of Coronavirus Currently” because people have contact with fewer others, or Rural Americans are Vulnerable to the Coronavirus” because they have larger proportions of vulnerable populations, residents often cannot work at home, and access to health care is limited.

Household Water Well System Grants available.

USDA offers grants to nonprofits to establish revolving loan funds that will make loans for household water well systems in places with populations under 50,000, tribal lands and colonias. Apply by May 31. For more information, contact Derek Jones, USDA RD, 202-720-9640.

HAC research brief tackles tax relief for sellers of affordable rental properties.

As the rural rental housing crisis builds, often the best way to preserve a property’s affordability is to sell it to an entity that will keep operating it as an affordable rental. Among the many issues involved in arranging such a sale is the need to cover the seller’s tax bill. A new HAC research brief, Tax Considerations for Rural Housing Preservation, looks at this issue and possible solutions.

HUD guidance describes new provisions for small rural PHAs.

While HUD is developing regulations to implement provisions of a 2018 law related to small PHAs in rural places, it has published initial guidance explaining how it is defining small and rural, and how it is currently implementing provisions that take effect without regulations. Just over 1,500 PHAs fit the definition; see the list of Section 209 Small Rural PHAs. They can inspect voucher units less often than other PHAs and are exempt from environmental review requirements for development or rehab projects costing under $100,000. For more information, contact Harold Katsura, HUD, 202-402-3042.

File information regarding a regional plan by June 30 to garner extra points for some USDA RD funding.

Applicants for community facilities, water and waste, or business programs may receive priority points if their projects support strategic economic and community investment plans. Applicants must submit a form by June 30 to be eligible. For more information, contact an RD state office.

Housing legislation moves forward in the House.

On March 2 the House of Representatives passed the Yes In My Backyard Act (H.R. 4351), which would require governments receiving CDBG funding to report on land use policies that support affordable housing production, and the Improving FHA Support for Small Dollar Mortgages Act (H.R. 5931), which would require the FHA to review its policies, practices and products to identify barriers to supporting mortgages under $70,000. Two other measures were approved by the House Financial Services Committee on February 28 but have not yet been considered by the full House. The Housing is Infrastructure Act (H.R. 5187) would authorize substantial funding increases for numerous housing programs, including USDA’s MPR and Section 504 programs. The Housing Fairness Act (H.R. 149) would fund nationwide housing discrimination testing as well as research and education and would increase appropriations for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program.

CFPB provides FAQs for mortgage disclosure rule.

The consumer agency’s questions and answers pertain to compliance with the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID) for home mortgage closing cost estimates. Specific topics include corrected closing disclosures and the three business-day waiting period, model forms, construction loans, loan estimates and lender credits.

New RD Deputy Under Secretary named.

Donald “DJ” LaVoy, who has served as Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at USDA since September, is retiring. Bette Brand will move into the deputy position. She has most recently been the Administrator of the Rural Business-Cooperative Service. The Under Secretary position, eliminated by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and reinstated by the 2018 Farm Bill, remains vacant.

Census to replace American FactFinder.

The U.S. Census Bureau will take its American FactFinder tool offline on March 31. The AFF tool will be replaced with the new data.census.gov utility. While the transition takes place, data and information on rural communities across the country will always be available at HAC’s Rural Data Portal. For more information on HAC’s data portal, contact dataportal@ruralhome.org.

Recent publications and media of interest

Need capital for your affordable housing project? HAC’s loan funds provide 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, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development and construction/rehabilitation. 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).

HAC 2020 Conference Footer

HAC News: June 14, 2019

News Formats. pdf

June 14, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 12

Resources offered for local rural design activities • June is National Homeownership Month • House moves appropriations forward • House committee passes bills to block recent HUD proposals • Disaster funding bill becomes law • Flood insurance program extended • HUD offers grants for technical health and housing studies • USDA moving ERS and NIFA to Kansas City • Revised income limits for HUD programs posted • RuralSTAT • Iowa inmates learn to construct affordable housing • RAPIDO disaster recovery home celebrated in Texas • Comments sought on Fair Market Rent calculation changes • A Piece of Mississippi: Retrospective on Rural Generation for CIRDReservation ProfilesSpeak Your Piece: Rural Strength and Possibility •Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

June 14, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 12

Resources offered for local rural design activities.

The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design is accepting applications through July 22 for stipends and technical assistance to enable rural and tribal communities to host rural design workshops or participate in a Learning Cohort. A webinar offering application guidance from HAC, the National Endowment for the Arts and buildingcommunityWORKSHOP is available online. “Open office hour” events will also be hosted by [bc] on Facebook live on June 18 and July 10. For more information, contact CIRD@bcworkshop.org.

June is National Homeownership Month.

USDA’s press release highlights the department’s homeownership programs.

House moves appropriations forward.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the proposed FY20 spending bills for USDA and HUD on June 4. Those two measures have been combined with the bills for Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment and Military Construction-VA to create a second “minibus” that is scheduled for a vote in the full House the week of June 17. The House began debate June 12 on the first minibus, comprised of appropriations bills for Labor-HHS-Education, Defense, State-Foreign Operations and Energy. The Financial Services bill, not included in either minibus, passed the House Appropriations Committee on June 11 and includes $300 million for CDFI Fund programs, compared to $250 million in FY19. The Senate has not yet begun to consider its appropriations bills.

House committee passes bills to block recent HUD proposals.

H.R. 3018, passed by the House Financial Services Committee on June 12, would block HUD’s proposal to allow homeless shelters to treat transgender and gender non-conforming people according to the sex they were assigned at birth. Similar language is included in the House’s HUD appropriations bill for FY20. Also approved by the committee was H.R. 2763, prohibiting implementation of HUD’s proposed rule to end housing benefits for families with mixed immigration status. Finally, H.R. 3154 clarifies that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients cannot be denied federally backed mortgage loans based on their DACA status; after the bill passed, a letter from a HUD official to Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) became public confirming that FHA considers DACA recipients ineligible for its mortgage guarantees, a policy previously denied by HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

Disaster funding bill becomes law.

On June 6, President Trump signed the disaster relief bill into law, providing $17.2 billion for recovery from 2018 and 2019 natural disasters.

Flood insurance program extended.

The new disaster relief law extends authorization for the National Flood Insurance Program through September 30, 2019, the end of the current fiscal year. The program would be authorized through the end of fiscal 2024 by H.R. 3167, which received unanimous approval from the House Financial Services Committee on June 12. That bill and H.R. 3111, also passed unanimously by the committee, make other changes to the program as well.

HUD offers grants for technical health and housing studies.

Nonprofits, for-profits, PHAs, state or local governments, tribes and educational institutions can apply by July 11 for HUD Lead and Healthy Homes Technical Studies Grants to improve detection and control of housing-related health and safety hazards. For more information, contact J. Kofi Berko, HUD.

USDA says ERS and NIFA will move to Kansas City.

The Kansas City region has been selected as the new location for the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced on June 13. With its press release, USDA provided the first publicly available cost-benefit analysis for the controversial move. The House’s FY20 appropriations bill for USDA includes language prohibiting use of FY20 funds for the relocation, but a timeline in the cost-benefit document shows the Department intends to begin the relocation by August 1 and complete it by September 30, before FY20 begins on October 1. NIFA workers voted on June 11 to join the American Federation of Government Employees, as ERS employees did in May.

Revised income limits for HUD programs posted.

The 2019 income limits for CDBG, HOME, HTF, HOPWA and NSP will be effective June 29. The limits for ESG are effective as of April 24.

RuralSTAT. The citizenship question on the 2020 Census has been hotly debated as of late. Data on citizenship already exists in the American Community Survey. From the ACS, the Census Bureau estimates that 2.8% of the rural and small town population are not U.S. citizens. To view the data for your community and its reliability, visit HAC’s Rural Data Portal.

Iowa inmates learn to construct affordable housing.

A new Iowa program, based on one in South Dakota, aims to help alleviate the state’s rural affordable housing shortage by recruiting the state’s prison population to build modular affordable housing. The program also hopes to provide inmates with training and apprenticeships that can help them find jobs upon reentry.

RAPIDO disaster recovery home celebrated in Texas.

An open house event allowed visitors to see a finished home where a family lived throughout construction, beginning with a small “core” house erected in three days and intended to replace a FEMA trailer after a natural disaster. The family occupied the core while the rest of the home was built onto it. Texas Housers, one of the partners in developing and testing the concept, declared this RAPIDO home ready to move to large scale use in future disaster rebuilding. Other partners were buildingcommunityWorkshop, Enterprise Community Partners, the Texas Organizing Project and Covenant Community Capital. A past issue of HAC’s Rural Voices magazine (p. 27) describes how the concept can be used for affordable housing in non-disaster situations as well.

Comments sought on Fair Market Rent calculation changes.

HUD is proposing changes in how it calculates trend factors that are used in determining Fair Market Rents. The changes are intended to make the determinations more local. Comments are due July 5. For more information, contact HUD’s Program Parameters and Research Division, 202-402-2409.

Recent publications and media of interest

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan funds provide 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, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development and construction/rehabilitation. 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).

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2017

USDA’s yearly occupancy survey shows the total number of properties in USDA’s rural rental portfolio fell by 1.94% from September 2016 to September 2017, a decrease of 278 properties consisting of 246 Section 515 properties and 32 Section 514 properties. This represents a loss of 5,035 apartment units or 1.17 percent. The average annual income of Section 515 residents has increased to $12,776. For Section 515 tenants with RA, average income is $10,658.

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2016

USDA’s yearly occupancy survey shows the total number of properties in USDA’s rural rental portfolio fell by 1.86% from September 2015 to September 2016, a decrease of 217 properties consisting of 253 Section 515 properties and 18 Section 514 properties. This represents a loss of 4,220 apartment units or 0.97 percent. The average annual income of Section 515 residents has increased to $12,588. For Section 515 tenants with RA, average income is $10,504.

Housing as Infrastructure

by Stephen Sugg,Housing Assistance Council (HAC)

We know that decent and affordable housing does great (and cost-effective) things like prevent lead poisoning, improve health outcomes, and boost student achievement in school. Rural affordable housing is an economic driver. And a lack of rural affordable housing is thwarting economic growth and job creation. Thus, HAC and our rural partners in 50 states are among the growing number of voices viewing housing as infrastructure. One rural small business developer said it best, calling intertwined issues of workforce recruitment and housing stock availability the “two biggest challenges that rural areas tend to be worried about”.

Those working in the metro DC area and other relatively affluent enclaves are accustomed to construction cranes hovering, young professionals sipping lattes that are the price of a burger and fries in a rural diner, and paying outrageous rents.

It is different in rural America. Available housing is often dilapidated, not energy-efficient, and though comparatively cheap, still unaffordable for the working poor, or most vulnerable. Grandma might have a $800 heating bill for her Jimmy Carter era manufactured home. Rural incomes are 25% less on average than non-rural, and this statistic is worse for rural areas mired in persistent poverty. But bottom line focused rural leaders know that affordable housing creates jobs—short and long term, while offering “immediate fiscal benefits” for states and localities.

Rural businesses too often struggle, with lumber catching dust at the lumber yard; building supplies hardly moving at the hardware store. Immediate economic impact would come from investment that is guaranteed to stay local, help local people, and that is “shovel ready” (and then some). It might even help stem the onslaught of rural hospital closures.

I’d challenge folks from the Trump Administration, starting with HUD Secretary Ben Carson, to join a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders and my colleagues and me on a journey—perhaps over the next Congressional recess. Start in Appalachia, say rural eastern Kentucky, and ask the folks there if federal infrastructure investment in housing would be wise. Imagine out-of-work miners constructing “self-help” homes, their sweat equity again paying a dividend, along with de facto job training.

Then go north, to Pine Ridge in South Dakota, where 18 people crowding into a house is still too common, a place that Nicholas Kristof called “Poverty’s Poster Child”. Ask them about the immediate impact of improved housing conditions.

Traditional log home - between Oglala and Pine Ridge villageTraditional log home – between Oglala and Pine Ridge village

Next fly south, to the Colonias on the U.S.-Mexico border, where housing is in short supply, and modern sewage systems are too rare. In the Colonias, even modest investment does much good, as creative nonprofits are doing cutting-edge work. Going westward (or any direction, really), one could visit the homes of farmworkers, and see the substandard housing conditions of those responsible for making sure that we eat.

For those wanting some recreation with their fact finding mission, they would need not go to counties mired in persistent poverty—85% of which are rural. Rural resort towns (e.g., “tourist areas”) are filled with housing need. Those in the service industry are often part of rural America’s hidden homelessness epidemic. And make no mistake: investment in affordable rural housing plays a critical role in addressing rural America’s opioid crisis. Citylab called the opioid epidemic an “infrastructure issue”, citing the need for rural transitional housing.

In rural America, where costs are lower for construction and land, infrastructure spending targeted toward housing—preservation or new—can boost the outlook for Main Street while providing an anchor for our most vulnerable families to achieve stability, and a shot at the middle class.

Last year, over 7 million households in rural America experienced at least one major housing problem. We can do better, and political will is all that it takes.

This post is part of a series from members of the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding tying housing to infrastructure. Read the first post in the series from the National Housing Conference.

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2014

USDA’s yearly occupancy survey shows the total number of properties in USDA’s rural rental portfolio fell by 1.25% from September 2013 to September 2014, a decrease of 142 Section 515 properties and an increase of 45 Section 514 properties. The reduction covers 1,645 apartments (0.37% of total units). The average annual income of Section 515 residents has increased to $12,022. For Section 515 tenants with RA, average income is $10,054.

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2015

USDA’s yearly occupancy survey shows the total number of properties in USDA’s rural rental portfolio fell by 1.39% from September 2014 to September 2015, a decrease of 186 Section 515 properties and 19 Section 514 properties. The reduction covers 2,646 apartments (0.37% of total units). The average annual income of Section 515 residents has increased to $12,377. For Section 515 tenants with RA, average income is $10,332.

A Call for More Inclusive Community Planning, from Wonkblog

In a piece for The Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Emily Badger details a story of a town in California, which is instructive to organizations working to provide affordable housing across the country.

Brisbane, California, a town outside of San Francisco, has a chance to make a big change to relieve the area’s housing crisis. A local developer would like to use a former industrial land plot to build a mixed-use project, including public parkland and over 4,000 housing units. The location is also adjacent to a regional rail line that would make commuting easier for workers with jobs in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. One of the benefits of building on this currently unused space is that construction would not displace any current residents or negatively impact local traffic. However, some Brisbane officials and residents are resistant to this development for reasons that are all too familiar to affordable housing developers.

This situation reflects the realities of housing policy decisions across the country. Housing policies are generally set at the local level, which in turn provides a great deal of weight to the desires of local residents. HAC has long felt that the solutions to affordable housing start at the local level, and building local capacity should be a priority in any community development effort. In her piece, Badger argues that communities should be more inclusive in how they define “local.” Badger believes that decision making on a community level should also include commuters who spend their days in town, working, going to school, or spending money, but don’t technically live there. This would create a more inclusive community where all of the stakeholders have a say in local policy. However, she submits that local control of housing policy is a tradition that is unlikely to change in American communities.

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