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Policy News from the Administration

HAC CEO Statement on Biden-Harris Housing Supply Action Plan

by David Lipsetz

The Biden-Harris Administration released a Housing Supply Action Plan on May 16 that can bring the cost of housing back in line with families’ incomes. This is particularly important in small towns where incomes remain stubbornly low, while the cost of buying or renting a place to live is soaring. The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) applauds the Administration for designing and including several provisions specifically with rural markets in mind.

The Plan includes administrative and legislative proposals to improve existing housing finance mechanisms. It establishes new housing production programs. It calls for changes to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit that will attract private investment in affordable rental housing. It provides grants—such as the HOME Investment Partnerships Program—to states, cities and towns to do what locals know will be best for their local housing market.  It calls on Congress to establish a Housing Supply Fund and incentivize zoning reform to accelerate the building of more housing across the Nation.

Critically, the Administration proposes reforms that prioritize homeowners living in the homes that they own. This is a welcome change for rural Americans who need high-quality affordable homes in which to live far more than they need high-priced vacation homes. For rental housing, the Administration focuses investment on small-scale 2–4-unit buildings instead of high-rise apartment complexes. It calls for new rentals where few are being built and recognizes the urgency of preserving affordable rentals that already exist. And for the first time in decades, an Administration released a housing plan that calls for improved financing for manufactured housing, an important resource in rural places.

The shortage of affordable housing in rural America is a serious issue. Rental units are being lost at an alarming rate. Single-family homes are significantly older than elsewhere in the Nation. The Administration’s framework recognizes the unique need for affordable housing and proposes solutions built to work in small town and rural America.

Many of the Administration’s actions just announced reflect HAC’s policy priorities. But it remains critical that these actions be complemented by initiatives to address another essential factor in improving housing for rural Americans—building the capacity of local organizations to improve their own communities. Because rural places often have small and part-time local governments, they often find it particularly difficult to navigate the complexities of federal programs and modern housing finance, and to compete for government resources. Philanthropy has not stepped in to address this inequity built into our systems, instead concentrating its resources in already-prosperous high-cost regions. Targeted capacity building through federal investments in training and technical assistance is how most local organizations build skills, tap information, and gain the wherewithal to do what they know needs to be done.

Rural communities hold vast potential to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life for all Americans. Access to quality, affordable housing is key to jumpstarting that potential. Building and preserving homes creates jobs, improves education and health outcomes, and provides much-needed financial and physical stability to families in need. We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress to ensure that these initiatives move us closer to the day when every American has access to a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.

Policy News from Congress

HAC Supports a Variety of Rural and Tribal Housing Funding Priorities

HAC’s Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations Priorities

As the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 appropriations process gets underway, HAC is supporting a variety of rural and tribal housing funding priorities. This year, we saw the most robust Administration’s Budget for rural housing in recent memory, and we are hopeful that this will contribute to some momentum in the appropriations process. Among others, HAC supports the following rural housing funding priorities. (This list is not exhaustive and for Rural Housing Service programs not specifically mentioned, HAC supports the funding levels in the Administration’s FY23 Budget.)

USDA Multifamily Preservation:
  • $1 billion for USDA’s Multifamily Housing Preservation & Revitalization Demonstration (MPR) program
    • The cost to preserve the current USDA rental portfolio over the next 30 years is estimated to be over $30 billion. MPR is USDA’s most effective, and many times only feasible preservation funding tool. Applications have, however, been closed for four years as the Agency works through its waiting list, which is projected to take another four years.
  • $200 million for USDA Section 515, including new construction
    • This funding would allow for new construction to resume and is expected to be accompanied by a commensurate increase in Section 521 rental assistance to cover new units.
  • $350 million above the level needed for renewals to extend USDA Section 521 rental assistance to currently unassisted households
    • This funding would allow for the extension of rental assistance to cover all currently unassisted units. An estimated 67,000 households in USDA rental housing do not receive rental assistance from USDA, HUD or state sources (not including those that were covered by the American Rescue Plan). With an average annual income of only $13,500, these households are uniformly low income and often very or extremely low income. The vast majority also pay more than 30% of their income for rent. Providing this assistance will not only help families in need, but also shore up the finances of many developments, encouraging preservation.
  • $2 million for USDA Multifamily Housing Transfer & Prepayment Technical Assistance Grants
    • HAC is seeking to ensure that these funds support both transformational preservation research and the provision of technical assistance to improve transaction-level preservation deal flow.
  • $3 million for USDA’s Multifamily Housing Preservation Revolving Loan Fund Demonstration Program (PRLF)
    • PRLF was funded through appropriations for several years between 2005 and 2011 and provided loan capital to private non-profit organizations and state and local housing finance agencies to provide revolving loans for preservation.
Capacity Building:
  • $12 million for the Rural Community Development Initiative at USDA
    • The Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) is the sole capacity building resource provided through USDA’s Rural Development, and facilitates community development efforts in rural areas. Grants are competitively awarded to nonprofit housing and community development organizations, low-income rural communities and federally recognized tribes in order to support housing, community facilities, and economic development projects in rural areas.
  • $10 million for the Rural Capacity Building Program at HUD
    • The Rural Capacity Building Program (RCB) is a powerful and flexible program funded by HUD to build capacity of nonprofits and tribes to undertake affordable housing and community development activities in rural areas. Participating organizations are offered a suite of services for a comprehensive, customized approach of technical assistance, training, information products and resources, and low-cost rural housing development loans.
Rural & Tribal Homeownership:
  • $20 million for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program at HUD
    • Created in 1996, the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) is a small but unique program that helps low-income families achieve homeownership through sweat equity. Competitively awarded SHOP funds from HUD go to a network of local nonprofits, distributed via intermediaries. SHOP funds can be used to acquire land, purchase foreclosed or abandoned properties, and improve the infrastructure of homes for lower-income homeowners. Often these are some of the most difficult items for local nonprofits to finance. Families invest a minimum of 100 hours of sweat equity into the construction of their homes, but many families invest much more — often in excess of 500 hours.
  • $50 million for the Section 502 Single Family Housing Direct Loan Relending Program for Native Americans
    • In 2018, the USDA and two Native community development financial institutions (Native CDFIs) in South Dakota implemented a successful $2 million demonstration which sought to improve the deployment rate of the 502 direct program in Native communities in South Dakota. The pilot made Native CDFIs eligible borrowers under the 502 direct loan program and enabled them to relend to qualified families for the construction, acquisition, and rehabilitation of affordable housing on trust land. Through this demonstration, the two Native CDFIs in partnership with USDA made nearly double the number of loans on these two reservations than USDA deployed on its own on the same two reservations during the previous ten years. The President’s FY 2023 Budget request includes funding for the continuation and expansion of the Native American 502 home loan relending program as part of the existing USDA 502 single family housing direct loan program.

HAC News: December 14, 2018

HAC News Formats. pdf

December 14, 2018
Vol. 47, No. 25

2018 HAC Rural Housing Conference educates, inspires, and advances the rural housing community. • Federal Reserve Board of Governors chairman Jerome Powell addresses HAC conference • HAC awards recognize national, local and federal leadership for rural housing • USDA and HUD spending now expiring December 21 • Congress passes Farm Bill • Increased staff specialization planned for USDA Rural Development • Mark Calabria named to lead Federal Housing Finance Agency • Kathy Kraninger becomes head of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau • Perdue announces RD initiative for broadband and e-connectivity • Executive Order encourages development in Opportunity Zones • HAC’s Rural Voices magazine covers capacity building • Census Bureau releases new data for counties, towns, Native lands and more • Study examines trust lands and manufactured homes in Indian Country

HAC News Formats. pdf

December 14, 2018
Vol. 47, No. 25

2018 HAC Rural Housing Conference educates, inspires, and advances the rural housing community.
Over 600 registrants from 48 states heard from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell (see item below), Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Rusty Smith from Rural Studio , HAC CEO David Lipsetz, former HAC Executive Director Moises Loza and former Deputy Director Joe Belden, as well as USDA and HUD staff and dozens of other experts. Materials from conference sessions are available through the conference app . Check out photos, comments and daily wrap-up videos on HAC’s social media: Twitter , Facebook , and YouTube . Watch HAC’s website and the HAC News for announcements as additional items, including videos of plenary sessions, become available.

Federal Reserve Board of Governors chairman Jerome Powell addresses HAC conference.
Speaking at the HAC Rural Housing Conference on December 6, Chairman Powell discussed the strength of the economy while acknowledging that not everyone has enjoyed the benefits of the strong economy equally. He stressed the importance of the Community Reinvestment Act and praised HAC’s research on the subject as beneficial to the Fed’s plans around potential CRA reform. His remarks garnered press coverage from the New York Times and Reuters.

HAC awards recognize national, local and federal leadership for rural housing.
At the 2018 HAC Rural Housing Conference, the Cochran/Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing for the Rural Poor went to Starry Krueger, President of the Rural Development Leadership Network. Four local leaders received the Skip Jason Community Service Award: Salvador Estrada (Tierra del Sol, NM), Cassie Hicks (University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies, MS), Dennis Lalor (South County Housing, CA) (posthumous) and Joe Myer (NCALL Research, DE). Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) received the Henry B. González Award for an elected official.

USDA and HUD spending now expiring December 21.
The deadline for negotiations on FY19 appropriations was extended to December 21 because congressional activity was slowed by the death of former President George H.W. Bush on November 30. Various end results, including a government shutdown, are still possible.

Congress passes Farm Bill.
House and Senate conferees reached an agreement on a new five-year Farm Bill, dropping provisions that would have imposed stricter work requirements on food stamp recipients. The Senate passed it on December 11 and the House on December 12. President Trump is expected to sign it into law. The bill requires USDA to have an Under Secretary for Rural Development and requires the appointee be confirmed by the Senate. The Under Secretary position had been eliminated in a 2017 reorganization, replaced by an Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development. Anne Hazlett has served in that role since June 2017. The bill also maintains local eligibility for USDA rural housing programs after the 2020 Census, so long as a place’s population does not exceed 35,000 and it remains “rural in character.” The bill authorizes a new Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant program, a concept HAC supported, to create rural job accelerators and related programming. HAC and others suggested additional improvements to the bill’s Rural Development title, but in general the 2018 RD title is much like the 2014 version.

Increased staff specialization planned for USDA Rural Development.
At the 2018 HAC Rural Housing Conference, RD officials explained some staffing changes, which are also described in letters from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to members of the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees. An October 10 letter says that applications for the Section 538 rental guarantee program and Section 515 rental loan program will no longer be processed or underwritten in each state office. Twenty-five staff, who will remain in their current state office locations, will work exclusively on either 538 or 515. According to a November 30 letter, instead of handling the Section 502 guaranteed program in each of the 47 state offices, the agency will create a single unit, so the program will be delivered by 275 employees rather than 300. In addition, appraisers, architects, engineers, and others will be “realigned” into the RD Business Center. The November letter says that affected staff will remain in their current locations and implies that unneeded staff will be reassigned rather than laid off. The November letter enumerates other changes being made in the RUS, RBS, and Community Facilities staffs, and additional changes are described in the HAC News, 11/30/18.

Mark Calabria named to lead Federal Housing Finance Agency.
President Trump will nominate Calabria, currently chief economist for Vice President Mike Pence, to serve a five-year term as director of FHFA, which regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Bank system. The term of Melvin Watt, the current director, ends in January. FHFA director nominees must be confirmed by the Senate.

Kathy Kraninger becomes head of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Kraninger, most recently an associate director at the Office of Management and Budget, was confirmed by the Senate on December 6 and sworn in on December 10. She takes over from Mick Mulvaney, head of OMB, who has been CFPB’s acting director.

Perdue announces RD initiative for broadband and e-connectivity.
On December 13 Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a new ReConnect Program to provide broadband infrastructure in rural areas with populations under 20,000. State and local governments, tribes, nonprofits, for-profits, limited liability companies, and coops are eligible for funding. Applications for grants are due April 29, for loan and grant combinations May 29, and for low-interest loans June 28. For more information, contact Chad Parker, RUS, 202-720-9555.

Executive Order encourages development in Opportunity Zones.
On December 12, President Trump signed an order creating a White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, to be comprised of 13 federal agencies and chaired by HUD Secretary Ben Carson. The council is charged with targeting existing federal programs to “urban and economically distressed areas,” including Opportunity Zones, and to engage with all levels of government on revitalizing low-income communities. A list and map of all Opportunity Zones are available on the CDFI Fund’s website. A supportive statement issued by Anne Hazlett, USDA Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, says “USDA Rural Development programs will award priority points on applications from private sector intermediaries for projects built in opportunity zone census tracts as well as in other select programs for projects that directly benefit communities located in Opportunity Zones.”

HAC’s Rural Voices magazine covers capacity building.
The conference issue of Rural Voicesdescribes what it means to build the capacity of rural housing organizations, why it is important, who does it, how it is done and how it is financed.

Census Bureau releases new data for counties, towns, Native lands and more.
The newest American Community Survey data has been released on the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder website. This five-year data provides estimates of demographic characteristics, income, housing, education and other subjects for states, counties, and smaller areas such as zip codes, census tracts, and American Indian Areas/Alaska Native Areas/Hawaiian Home Lands. For the first time, broadband-related data is included.

Study examines trust lands and manufactured homes in Indian Country.
The Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has released new research, reported in a blog post titled “Race, Location, and Manufactured-Home Loans on American Indian Reservations.” They examine the statistically higher rate of loan applications at the intersection of manufactured housing, American Indian identity, and reservation trust land. Much of this research was shared at the 2018 HAC Rural Housing Conference session “Homeownership in Indian Country – Creating the Opportunity for Choice.”

Happy holidays from HAC!
The board and staff of the Housing Assistance Council wish peace, prosperity and affordable housing to all! HAC’s offices will be closed from December 24 to January 1.

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).

Rural Voices: Building Capacity for Rural America

Affordable rural housing and stronger rural communities are a longterm endeavor. There are no quick fixes. But there is one constant magic elixir, and it is worthy of ongoing investment: capacity building. That is how local organizations learn skills, tap information, and gain the wherewithal to do what they know needs to be done.

This issue of Rural Voices magazine describes in more detail what it means to build the capacity of rural housing organizations, why it is important, who does it, how it is done, and how it is financed. These stories show that capacity building succeeds. They also show that capacity building is an ongoing process – when an organization masters one set of tasks, it can move on to tackle something different or more complex. Affordable housing development, like life, requires continual learning.

VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

Rural America Will Thrive
Representative Bennie G. Thompson

The Delta’s future depends on a sustained investment in local economies and residents’ well-being.

FEATURES

The U.S. Must Invest in Capacity Building for Affordable Rural Housing
by David Lipsetz

HAC works to empower local entities in rural regions and tribes so they may flourish.

Thinking Nationally, Building Locally
with Suzanne Anarde, Marietta Rodriguez, Terri Ludwig, and Sue Henderson

Rural Voices interviewed four national intermediaries to learn more about how they assist with capacity building needs unique to rural organizations.

Intermediary Support Continues to be Invaluable
by Fannie Brown

Central Mississippi Housing and Development Corporation benefits from intermediary partnerships.

Building Help Improve Texas Colonias Housing
by Jose Alvarez

Building AYUDA’s capacity has empowered them to build the capacity of other local organizations.

A Communitywide Capacity Building Approach is Key

A West Virginia organization works with their community to find solutions to their housing issues.

Learn from Our Experience
by Randall Hrabe

Northwest Kansas Housing offers advice about building capacity.


Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please comment on these stories by sending a tweet to #RuralVoices, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

HAC CEO David Lipsetz contributes to CDFI Connect blog

HAC: Building Capacity for Rural Communities

by David Lipsetz, CEO of the Housing Assistance Council

It was the mid-1970s. Gerald Ford was in office. CDFIs like the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) were just getting started. And Peggy Wright was growing up in Forrest City, Arkansas.

Forrest City is part of Arkansas’ long-struggling Delta region, where rich soil rarely led to riches for the largely African American population toiling in the fields. Housing conditions were dire, and indoor plumbing was hardly commonplace. Within a few years, Peggy had grown up and joined the Arkansas Delta Housing Development Corporation (ADHDC). Despite the barriers of the times, she rose to the position of housing director at ADHDC, running a “Self-Help” housing model which allows those of modest means to put forth hundreds of hours of sweat equity toward construction of their own homes.

Read the complete post on the CDFI Connect Blog.

Rural Housing Project Planning and Capacity Building Initiative 2012

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is pleased to announce a new 2012 rural housing project planning and capacity building initiative. HAC will make grant awards to ten experienced affordable housing organizations. Selected groups will use the approximately $20,000 grant funds to plan the new construction, or rehab/preservation, of affordable ownership or rental housing in rural communities. Funding can support certain early feasibility and pre-development activities as well as build the housing staff capacity while they pursue an identified project during the grant period. Please note that applications are due October 2, 2012. Download the application for further details.

Download the application.