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HAC News: February 20, 2020

News Formats. pdf

February 20, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 4

February is National African American History Month • Administration’s budget proposes cuts in many housing programs, but not rural rental preservation CRA comment period extended to April 8 VA offers per diem funds for veterans’ housing stabilization HUD joins in proposing rule changes for faith-based organization FCC launches fund to spread broadband in rural America, legislators concerned White House releases guide to help local communities tackle the rural opiod and drug crisis Comments requested on alternative measures of poverty HUD asks tribes for input on two-year funding notices CEOs and nonprofit leaders sought for Achieving Excellence program Appalachia Gets Special Funding. The Black Rural South Deserves It Too Colorado’s Housing Crisis has Gotten So Bad that Small Towns are Now Building People Homes The Rural Health Safety Net Under Pressure: Rural Housing Volunerability The Trump Administration’s Latest Attack on Fair Housing Where Light Pollution is Seeping into the Rural Night Sky • HAC Seeks is Hiring an Executive Assistant • SAVE THE DATE FOR HAC’S 2020 RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE!Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

February 20, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 4

February is National African American History Month.

Administration’s budget proposes cuts in many housing programs, but not rural rental preservation.

Like its past budgets, the Administration’s proposal for Fiscal Year 2021 proposes to eliminate many housing programs, including USDA’s Section 502 direct loans for homebuyers, Section 515 and 514/516 loans and grants for rental housing production, and HUD’s CDBG, HOME and SHOP, while supporting renewal of Section 521 Rental Assistance contracts and Section 542 vouchers. Unlike previous versions, the budget proposes to increase USDA’s MPR preservation program to $40 million from $28 million in FY20. It would also fund two repair programs, Section 504 grants for very low-income elderly homeowners and Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants. The House and Senate usually do not follow the budget closely when developing their appropriations legislation for the year.

CRA comment period extended to April 8.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have extended the deadline for input on their proposed changes to Community Reinvestment Act regulations. Comments will be due on April 8 rather than on March 9, as originally scheduled.

VA offers per diem funds for veterans’ housing stabilization.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program will fund nonprofits, state and local governments and tribes to provide per diem payments to facilitate housing stabilization for veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Apply by April 22. For more information, contact Jeffery Quarles, VA, 813-979-3570.

HUD joins in proposing rule changes for faith-based organizations.

Like the proposed rules published by USDA and other agencies in January, HUD’s proposal would delete the requirement for faith-based social service providers to refer beneficiaries to an alternative provider if desired. Faith-based organizations would not be required to provide notices unless secular organizations have the same requirements. Comments to HUD are due April 13. (Comments on the USDA proposal are due February 18.) For more information, contact Richard Youngblood, HUD, 202-402-5958.

FCC launches fund to spread broadband in rural America, legislators concerned.

The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules on January 30 for its new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. Up to $20.4 billion will be released in two phases. The first phase will begin later this year and target areas wholly without broadband, while the second phase will open to those partially served by broadband. The FCC’s report includes details and the final regulations. Members of the House have written to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressing concerns about the RDOF’s coordination with state-level broadband efforts.

White House releases guide to help local communities tackle the rural opioid and drug crisis.

The Rural Community Action Guide aims to educate the public by providing an overview of the challenges rural communities face when addressing prescription opioid misuse and the use of illicit substances. It also showcases localized efforts implemented to help mitigate the impact of substance use disorder. HAC provided the housing chapter for the guide.

Comments requested on alternative measures of poverty.

OMB invites the public to comment by April 14 on questions asked by the Interagency Technical Working Group on Evaluating Alternative Measures of Poverty to help inform its recommendations on producing additional measures of poverty. The Working Group has issued a consensus interim report but has not yet decided whether to recommend development of a new poverty measure. For more information, contact Kerrie Leslie, OMB, 202-395-1093.

HUD asks tribes for input on two-year funding notices.

For recent tribal funding competitions, HUD has experimented with offering two years of appropriations in a single Notice of Funding Availability. It requests comments from tribes by March 13 about this approach, sent to ONAP_ICDBG@hud.gov or by mail to the address provided in the request.

CEOs and nonprofit leaders sought for Achieving Excellence program.

The NeighborWorks Achieving Excellence program, in collaboration with Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, offers senior leaders of nonprofits a 16-month program that addresses an organizational challenge or opportunity defined by each participant. Applications are due April 15.

Recent publications and media of interest

HAC is hiring an Executive Assistant.

The Executive Assistant supports the work of HAC’s CEO and Board of Directors. Based in Washington, DC, the position is a blend of administrative work and project assignments for an earlycareer professional. The candidate will manage the CEO’s calendar, organize meetings, plan events and make travel arrangements while working on special initiatives and assignments as the candidate grows into a career in policy, program administration or nonprofit management. Email a resume and brief cover letter to jobs@ruralhome.org with “Executive Assistant” in the subject line. Applications will be considered as received. HAC is an equal opportunity employer and lender.


SAVE THE DATE FOR HAC’S 2020 RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE!

The conference will be held in Washington, DC on December 2-4, 2020 with pre-conference meetings on December 1. The HAC News will announce more details, including registration, as they become available.


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 News: January 10, 2020

News Formats. pdf

January 10, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 1

Deadline set for Community Reinvestment Act commentsMajor changes proposed for Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rulesHomeless Veterans Grant and Per Diem funds offeredYou know what your rural community needs…help us understand too!Changes proposed for relocations caused by federally funded projectsHomeland Security to share citizenship information with Census BureauPuerto Rico still waiting for disaster relief fundsVA offers telehealth services at rural WalmartsHAC seeks Senior Portfolio ManagerNational Self-Help Housing Conference will be Feb. 4-6Housing affordability policy symposium set for Feb. 132019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to CongressCensus 2020: It Takes Effort to Reach People in Rural, Remote AreasCowboy Entreprenuership: The Business Model to Invigorate Rural America in the Next DecadeDebt in America: An Interactive MapAn Interactive Exploration of the Geography of ProsperityNew Index Reveals the “Hidden Innovation” of Rural AmericaPeople in Jail in 2019 SAVE THE DATE FOR HAC’S 2020 RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE!HAC offers Section 512 packaging training for nonprofits, March 10-12 in Virginia • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

January 10, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 1

Deadline set for Community Reinvestment Act comments.

A long-awaited proposal to revise the Community Reinvestment Act regulations of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency would make changes intended to quantify the CRA scoring system that rates banks’ service to their communities and to broaden their responsibilities to include locations where they receive deposits, rather than only where their branches are located. Comments are due March 9. For more information, contact OCC’s compliance office, 202-649-5470. A separate request for information, issued by OCC only, asks for data that was not already available when the agencies were developing the proposed rule, with a March 10 deadline.

Major changes proposed for Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rules.

Calling the Obama Administration’s 2015 AFFH rule “overly burdensome” and “ineffective,” HUD has proposed a substantial revision. Evaluation of AFFH efforts would be based on whether fair housing claims are made within a jurisdiction and whether the area has an adequate supply of affordable housing and an adequate supply of affordable housing accessible to people with disabilities. Comments will be due 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register.

Homeless Veterans Grant and Per Diem funds offered.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has funding available for nonprofits, state and local governments and tribes to provide transitional housing and/or service centers for veterans who are homeless or at risk for becoming homeless. Apply by March 2. For more information, email GPDgrants@va.gov or contact Jeffery Quarles, VA, 813-979-3570.

You know what your rural community needs…help us understand too!

To better understand the landscape of organizations doing development work in rural America, the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group and the Housing Assistance Council are conducting a survey. The information you share will shine light on what it takes for you (practitioners) to do what you do. It will also help better tailor the work of our organizations to address current situations, concerns and opportunities.

Changes proposed for relocations caused by federally funded projects.

The Federal Highway Administration is the lead federal agency for implementation of the Uniform Relocation Act, which applies to anyone who moves or whose real estate is acquired as a result of a project receiving federal funds, including HUD and USDA housing projects. FHWA is proposing to amend its regulations. Among other changes, the proposal would implement a 2012 statute that increases relocation benefits and reduces length of occupancy requirements; HUD put those provisions into effect through a 2014 notice. Comments are due March 17. For more information, contact Arnold Feldman, FHWA, 202-366-2028.

Homeland Security to share citizenship information with Census Bureau.

The Department of Homeland Security will share records, including information that identifies individuals, with the Census Bureau. In the past it has provided Census with anonymized data only. The change is based on an Executive Order issued by President Trump in July, which states that such information may not be used “to bring immigration enforcement actions against particular individuals.”

Puerto Rico still waiting for disaster relief funds.

Puerto Rico has been approved for disaster relief after earthquakes in early January, but has not yet received substantial funds that were approved by Congress following Hurricane Maria in 2017. The statutory deadline for HUD to release the aid was September 4, 2019. Separately, on December 10, 2019, FEMA and Puerto Rico’s recovery office approved nearly $59 million in funds for recovery projects on the island including emergency protective measures and building and road repairs.

VA offers telehealth services at rural Walmarts.

VA’s distribution of health services and information through electronic media, called Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations (ATLAS), has been offered at American Legion and VFW posts. Now the VA has started a public-private partnership with Walmart stores to better reach the 5.6 million veterans living in rural areas. Pilot ATLAS programs are located in Walmarts in Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

HAC seeks Senior Portfolio Manager.

The Senior Portfolio Manager provides leadership and oversight to a team that performs a range of lending activities – closing, disbursement, monitoring, servicing and asset management of single-family and multifamily housing development loans – in HAC’s Loan Fund Division, based in Washington, DC. Email a resume and brief cover letter to jobs@ruralhome.org with “Senior Portfolio Manager” in the subject line. Applications will be considered as received.

National Self-Help Housing Conference will be Feb. 4-6.

Organizations receiving self-help funds from USDA can learn and network with other grantees and USDA RD staff at this event in Albuquerque. For more information, contact Little Dixie Community Action Agency, 580-326-5165.

Housing affordability policy symposium set for Feb. 13.

Habitat for Humanity’s Cost of Home campaign, in which HAC is an affiliate, is hosting “Local Voices Informing Federal Action: A Symposium on Home Affordability” in Washington, DC on February 13. Attendees will hear from state and local practitioners and federal policy experts focusing on four policy areas: increasing the supply and preservation of affordable homes, equitably increasing access to credit, optimizing land use for affordable homes and ensuring access to and the development of communities of opportunity. For more information, email costofhome@habitat.org.

Recent publications and media of interest

  • The 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress from HUD says homelessness nationwide increased by 3% from 2018 to 2019, due mostly to increases in West Coast states, including a 16% rise in California. Largely rural continuums of care accounted for 18% of all homeless people in the U.S. and 41% of those in largely rural CoCs were unsheltered.
  • Census 2020: It Takes Effort to Reach People in Rural, Remote Areas describes the importance of the upcoming 2020 decennial census. The article focuses on Montana – a mostly rural state – and the $2 billion in federal funding the state receives, based primarily on census data. While 2020 is the first time most people can fill out the census form online, census takers will visit many remote rural areas in person where residents do not have internet access.
  • Cowboy Entrepreneurship: The Business Model to Invigorate Rural America in the Next Decade, an article for Forbes, argues that rural America is in prime position to take advantage of the sharing economy. According to the piece, by tapping into idle assets like unused farm equipment, rural people and communities can increase their income and unlock the potential of their existing industries.
  • Debt in America: An Interactive Map from the Urban Institute allows users to view data on various kinds of debt at the state and county level, with details for white communities and communities of color.
  • An Interactive Exploration of the Geography of Prosperity offers an online tool to evaluate a county’s vitality based on median household income, poverty rate, unemployment rates, prime-age employment rate, life expectancy and housing vacancy rate.
  • New Index Reveals the “Hidden Innovation” of Rural America describes research on business innovation, conducted by the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development at Penn State. Counties with higher innovation scores also have greater employment and income growth. A map shows counties with these high scores scattered widely across the U.S.
  • People in Jail in 2019, a study by the Vera Institute of Justice, reports that populations in local jails have been increasing over the last four years. Notably, while incarceration rates are on the decline in urban areas, they are increasing in rural jurisdictions.

SAVE THE DATE FOR HAC’S 2020 RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE!

The conference will be held in Washington, DC on December 2-4, 2020 with pre-conference meetings on December 1. The HAC News will announce more details, including registration, as they become available.


ICYMI: The Dec. 20 HAC News covered federal funding for FY20; NOFAs for fair housing, aid to human trafficking victims, and African American cultural heritage; final Opportunity Zones regulations; the latest on the ERS/NIFA move; and more.

HAC offers Section 502 packaging training for nonprofits, March 10-12 in Virginia. This three-day advanced course trains experienced participants to assist potential borrowers and work with RD staff, other nonprofits and regional intermediaries to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages. The training will be held in Glen Allen, VA on March 10-12. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

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 News: October 31, 2019

News Formats. pdf

October 31, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 22

Senate passes USDA and HUD funding bill for FY20Comments sought on changes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s Duty to Serve plans, and new documents releasedCIRD hosts 2019 learning cohort summit in Thomas, WVSenate’s USDA funding bill includes money to address black land lossBill to legalize farmworkers and revise H-2A program would also raise rural housing fundingFamily Unification Program vouchers availableImproving CRA for Rural AmericaThe Older Population in Rural America: 2012-2016Adversity and Assets: Identifying Rural OpportunitiesEvaluation of HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD): Final ReportLenders: To Preserve Affordable Housing, Manage Climate RiskRural Minnesota’s Lack of Shelters Make Homeless an “Invisible” PopulationUrban and Rural Homeless ComparisonsApply by Nov. 15 for HAC grants to support housing to rural veteransREGISTER BY NOV. 1 FOR 502 OR HOUSING COUNSELOR TRAINING! • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

October 31, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 22

November is Native American Heritage Month.

Senate passes USDA and HUD funding bill for FY20.

The Senate’s first FY20 appropriations bill passed on October 31, a “minibus” package that includes funding for HUD and USDA, along with other agencies. Amendments adopted on the Senate floor included two rural housing provisions. One, sponsored by Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-ND), would allow owners of USDA-financed rental properties to request Rental Assistance agreements with terms of 20 years rather than one year; the funding for longer contracts would still be subject to annual appropriations. The other, from Sens. Smith and Marco Rubio (R-FL), tells USDA to prioritize rental properties’ maintenance needs. Differences between the Senate and House bills will need to be resolved, so these agencies may still be included in a second continuing resolution that is expected to fund the government after the current CR ends on November 21.

Comments sought on changes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s Duty to Serve plans, and new documents released.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, requests input by November 15 on modifications to the enterprises’ plans for achieving their Duty to Serve obligations for manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation and rural housing. FHFA also released a strategic plan that sets out a framework for preparing to end the entities’ conservatorships, a 2020 scorecard explaining how their activities will be assessed, and a report covering their 2018 affordable housing activities. The report concludes that in 2018 both exceeded the benchmarks for all their housing goals and complied with their Duty to Serve requirements.

CIRD hosts 2019 learning cohort summit in Thomas, WV.

Working with local host partners and regional community lenders, Woodlands Development Group welcomed 34 participants from 17 states to the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design Cohort Learning Summit. CIRD is a collaboration among HAC, the National Endowment for the Arts and buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. The two-and-a-half-day event included workshops on different design and creative placemaking concepts, site visits to ongoing economic development projects in the town of Thomas, WV, and peer exchange activities that provided participants an opportunity to advance their own rural design challenges.

Senate’s USDA funding bill includes money to address black land loss.

The Senate’s FY20 USDA appropriations bill includes $5 million to launch a program authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill that will make loans to intermediaries to help resolve ownership issues for farmers with “heirs property” – land that has multiple legal owners after ownership passed through several generations without wills or clear titles. African-American farmers in the South have been deemed ineligible for USDA loans when they could not prove title to their land, and in some cases have lost the land. The issue, along with other causes of black land loss, has been covered in recent articles by the Atlantic, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Food Economy, the Pew Trusts and others.

Bill to legalize farmworkers and revise H-2A program would also raise rural housing funding.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, introduced on October 30 by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA), would create a process for farmworkers and their families to obtain legal status in the U.S., tweak the H-2A visa program for temporary farmworkers, increase the number of green cards available for farmworkers and establish a mandatory E-Verify system for farm employers to check their workers’ legal status. Its housing provisions include the text of the Strategy and Investment in Rural Housing Preservation Act, H.R. 3620, which passed the House on September 10, with some additions including the 20-year Rental Assistance contract provision that is also in the Senate’s FY20 USDA appropriations bill. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would also allow Rental Assistance to cover up to half the operating costs of Section 514/516 housing that is occupied by H-2A workers if the units were previously unoccupied or underutilized by other workers. Finally, it would authorize up to $200 million for Section 514 loans and $30 million for Section 516 grants, as well as $2.7 billion for Section 521 Rental Assistance, each year through fiscal year 2029.

Family Unification Program vouchers available.

HUD will award new FUP vouchers to PHAs that partner with public child welfare agencies and Continuums of Care to administer assistance on behalf of families for whom the lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in a potential loss of custody or on behalf of young people between 18 and 24 at risk of homelessness upon discharge from foster care. Applications are due December 17. For more information, contact HUD staff.

Recent publications and media of interest

  • Improving CRA for Rural America, written by HAC researcher Keith Wiley for Shelterforce, argues that Community Reinvestment Act regulations should be recrafted to incentivize investments in underserved and economically distressed communities, many of which are rural.
  • The Older Population in Rural America: 2012–2016, a recent Census Bureau report, discusses “new and important ways” that aging populations could impact rural America including housing and public transportation options. Research shows that while seniors want to remain in their own homes, those in rural areas frequently face challenges related to having few housing options and the limited availability of nearby social services.
  • Adversity and Assets: Identifying Rural Opportunities, part of a series by the Center for American Progress, examines economic trends and indicators in counties across the rural-urban continuum.
  • Evaluation of HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD): Final Report concludes that initial implementation of HUD’s RAD program for conversion of public housing to project-based Section 8 housing accomplished its principal goals of leveraging capital, preserving affordable housing and mitigating relocation effects on tenants.
  • Lenders: To Preserve Affordable Housing, Manage Climate Risk, a National Resources Defense Council blog post, argues that disaster recovery funding favors financially better-off homeowners and needs to change to equally prioritize recovery funding for renters and homeowners.

Apply by Nov. 15 for HAC grants to support housing aid to rural veterans.

HAC’s Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans initiative supports local nonprofit housing development organizations that meet or help meet the affordable housing needs of veterans in rural areas. Grants typically range up to $30,000 per organization and must support bricks-and-mortar projects that assist low-income, elderly and/or disabled veterans with home repair and rehab needs, support homeless veterans, help veterans become homeowners and/or secure affordable rental housing. This initiative is funded through the generous support of the Home Depot Foundation. Applications are due November 15 by 5:00 pm Eastern time. For more information, contact HAC staff, ahrv@ruralhome.org.

*REGISTER BY NOV. 1 FOR 502 PACKAGING OR HOUSING COUNSELOR TRAINING!*

Only a few spaces remain. Both courses will be held in Tampa, FL on November 12-14.The Section 502 packaging advanced coursetrains experienced participants to assist potential borrowers and work with RD staff, other nonprofits and regional intermediaries to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages. The housing counseling course sets you up for success in meeting HUD’s new certification requirements for housing counselors. For more information, contactHAC staff, 404-892-4824.

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 Shares Comments on OCC's "Reforming the Community Reinvestment Act Regulatory Framework" ANPR

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is presenting its comments to the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC) on its “Reforming the Community Reinvestment Act Regulatory Framework” Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR). Through this ANPR, the OCC is seeking stakeholder comments on avenues to modernize CRA and increase lending and investment where it is needed most, reduce reporting burden, and assess performance, all in a manner consistent with the statute’s original purpose. Given its organizational focus on rural housing, HAC has prioritized its remarks related to questions and issues that most impact rural communities and consumers. 

Download HAC’s Comments: PDF

Materials Posted: Proposed Changes to CRA – What Does It Mean for Rural America?

Materials Posted

PowerPoint Presentation | Webinar Recording | HAC Reports on CRA in Rural America

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) recently issued a call for input on its regulations implementing the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to help meet the credit needs of the communities they serve. OCC’s notice says it is building a new framework to transform and modernize its CRA rules.

Please Join the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) for an overview of the proposed changes and a discussion on how rural communities can weigh in on the proposal.

HAC News: October 25, 2018

HAC News Formats. pdf

October 25, 2018
Vol. 47, No. 22

EARLY BIRD RATE ENDS OCTOBER 31 FOR 2018 HAC RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE• Comments on USDA income banding proposal due October 30, HAC posts draft response • Proposed regulations released for Opportunity Zones • HUD reports homelessness fell in cities over past ten years, increased in suburban and rural areas • Indian Community Development Block Grant funds available • Information from HAC’s Community Reinvestment Act webinar posted • USDA used all Section 502 direct funding in FY 2018, Section 504 fell short • Water infrastructure bill becomes law • Census data guide the targeting of over $30 billion in federal funds per year for rural areas • New poll shows rural optimism, mixed with concern for jobs and the opioid epidemic • Changes proposed for H-2A temporary farmworker visa forms • Economic growth is uneven within rural and urban places, not just between rural and urban, researcher notes •Framing the conversation helps build support for affordable housing • Interactive maps show who’s most impacted by Hurricane Florence • Almost one-quarter of housing tax credit units may lose affordability by 2030, says new report • Housing tax credit target area designations released

HAC News Formats. pdf

October 25, 2018
Vol. 47, No. 22

EARLY BIRD RATE ENDS OCTOBER 31 FOR 2018 HAC RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE.
Register now for the conference, to be held December 4-7 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. HUD Secretary Ben Carson is confirmed as one of the keynote speakers.

Comments on USDA income banding proposal due October 30, HAC posts draft response.
On August 31 USDA published a proposed rule for its single-family housing direct loan and grant programs that would adopt a two-tier income limit structure, revise the methodology to determine area loan limits and make other changes. The proposed change to the income limit structure is intended to minimize the observed disconnect between minimum wages and the low median income in many areas. The proposed change to the methodology is intended to streamline the process and improve the reliability of the data set used to establish the area loan limits. HAC agrees that these are desirable goals, but HAC’s draft comment letter expresses concern that the proposed solutions will divert limited program resources to applicants with much higher incomes. HAC strongly urges USDA to take positive steps to assure the program continues to serve those who are most in need.

Proposed regulations released for Opportunity Zones.
The IRS’s proposed regulations and other guidance were released on October 19, explaining how individuals, corporations and others can delay or eliminate capital gains taxes by investing in Qualified Opportunity Funds that undertake development in designated Opportunity Zones. Comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which has not yet been scheduled. The IRS will hold a public hearing on the proposal on January 10, 2019. For more information, contact Erika C. Reigle, IRS, 202-317-7006.

HUD reports homelessness fell in cities over past ten years, increased in suburban and rural areas.
The first part of HUD’s 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, released in December, focused on people who were homeless on a single night in January 2017. The just-released second part presents nationwide data on those who were homeless at any time during fiscal year 2017. It includes figures for rural (nonmetropolitan) areas, usually combining them with numbers for suburbs. From 2007 to 2017, the share of people experiencing homelessness decreased in principal cities from 76.9% to 72.5% and increased in suburban and rural areas from 23.1% to 27.5%, while the shares of population and poverty population did not change.

Indian Community Development Block Grant funds available.
Tribal governments and tribal organizations can apply by January 7, 2019 for HUD ICDBG grants to provide housing, living environments, or economic opportunities primarily for low- and moderate-income people. For more information, contact HUD staff.

Information from HAC’s Community Reinvestment Act webinar posted.
A recording and slides from HAC’s October 24 webinar on “Proposed Changes to CRA – What Does it Mean for Rural America?” is posted online. Comments on the proposed CRA changes are due to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency by November 19.

USDA used all Section 502 direct funding in FY 2018, Section 504 fell short.
USDA obligated about $1.1 billion for 7,199 Section 502 direct loans, up from $999.99 million (7,187 loans) last year. Obligations to very low-income borrowers accounted for 33% of that total, less than last year’s 38%. Only 71% of the $28 million available for Section 504 homeowner repair loans was used, along with 94% of the $30 million for Section 504 grants; there were 206 fewer loans than in FY17 and 178 fewer grants. On the multifamily side, USDA obligated the entire $1.35 billion available for 268,514 Section 521 Rental Assistance units. Last year, it funded 302,451 units ($1.37 billion). There were also 6,353 rural housing vouchers totaling $26.7 million in FY18, compared to last year’s 5,609 vouchers representing $22.0 million. More information is provided in HAC’s obligation report, and a more detailed HAC report on FY18 performance is forthcoming.

Water infrastructure bill becomes law.
On October 23, President Trump signed into law the bipartisan Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. Intended to provide safe drinking water for communities across the country, the act includes new programs with specific priorities benefiting rural Americans.

Census data guide the targeting of over $30 billion in federal funds per year for rural areas.
The annual total for all 320 census-guided federal assistance programs – including those that are not specifically rural – was $850 billion in FY16, according to George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy, which presented findings and other details to the Congressional Rural Caucus on October 11. For more information, contact Prof. Andrew Reamer, GWU, 202-994-7866.

New poll shows rural optimism, mixed with concern for jobs and the opioid epidemic.
According to a new poll from National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, rural Americans are largely concerned about opioids and economic conditions in their communities, but are optimistic overall. Eight in 10 said they feel their lives are turning out either as expected, or better. Nationally 25% of rural residents cited drug addiction/abuse as the biggest problem facing their community, compared to 21% who cited economic concerns.

Changes proposed for H-2A temporary farmworker visa forms.
The Department of Labor has suggested revisions to the forms and information employers submit to DOL for its determination whether U.S. farmworkers are available and whether conditions for U.S. workers would be affected by hiring workers from other countries through the temporary H-2A visa program. Comments are due in mid-December. For more information, contact William W. Thompson II, DOL, 202-513-7350.

Economic growth is uneven within rural and urban places, not just between rural and urban, researcher notes.
Rural America is not a monolithic entity mired in economic depression while urban/suburban areas are thriving, writes scholar Richard Florida in the first of a series of articles for CityLab. Other pieces in the series cover jobs, economic mobility, and wages, with future items on the urban-rural divide expected to cover population growth, college grads, and the knowledge-based creative class.

Framing the conversation helps build support for affordable housing.
Finding a Frame for Affordable Housing, by the FrameWorks Institute and Enterprise Community Partners, presents research findings and a companion piece, Piecing it Together: A Framing Playbook for Affordable Housing Advocates, illustrates ways for advocates to use these techniques in their communications. The authors recommend describing housing and development issues in terms of fairness.

Interactive maps show who’s most impacted by Hurricane Florence.
Maps for North and South Carolina, posted along with information about the need for civil legal aid after disasters, show where vulnerable groups such as children, people with disabilities, farmworkers and more live in the storm-affected parts of the states.

Almost one-quarter of housing tax credit units may lose affordability by 2030, says new report.
Balancing Priorities: Preservation and Neighborhood Opportunity in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program Beyond Year 30, published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation, reports that the Low Income Housing Tax Credit has financed about 3 million affordable rental housing units nationwide. Federal law requires most of them to remain affordable for at least 30 years, with some states extending the affordability period beyond that. Eleven percent of these properties, and 5.6% of the units, also have loans from USDA’s Section 515 program. Nationwide, almost 500,000 LIHTC units will reach the 30-year mark by 2030. Around the same time, unless preventive action is taken, rural places will also experience significant annual loss of Section 515 properties, as detailed in HAC’s recent report, Rental Housing for a 21st Century Rural America: A Platform for Preservation.

Housing tax credit target area designations released.
HUD has published its annual designations of Difficult Development Areas and Qualified Census Tracts for purposes of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. For more information, contact Michael K. Hollar , HUD, 202-402-5878.

HAC offers Section 502 packaging training in December.
This three-day advanced course trains experienced participants to assist potential borrowers and work with RD staff, other nonprofits, and regional intermediaries to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages. The training will be held December 5-7 in Washington, DC (simultaneously with HAC’s conference). For more information, contact HAC staff , 404-892-4824.

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 News: October 12, 2018

HAC News Formats. pdf

October 12, 2018
Vol. 47, No. 21

HUD SECRETARY TO SPEAK AT THE 2018 HAC RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE • USDA will reallocate rental assistance that was held in reserve • New report on rural rental housing production released • HAC updates disaster guide and issues supplement for recent hurricanes • Public charge proposal would limit admission to U.S. for immigrants who have used assistance or may need it in the future • AmeriCorps grant competition open • Fannie Mae offers funds for innovative health and housing ideas • Data map shows social mobility for every census tract • USDA launches interactive data tool to help address opioid epidemic • Bi-partisan opioid response bill to become law • USDA moves to modernize homeownership programs’ field staff functions as staffing levels decline • Public input sought for modifications to Fannie Mae’s Duty to Serve plan • Research indicates rural families benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit • USDA manufactured housing pilots expanding further • HAC webinar to cover proposed changes to Community Reinvestment Act

HAC News Formats. pdf

October 12, 2018
Vol. 47, No. 21

HUD SECRETARY TO SPEAK AT THE 2018 HAC RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE.
Register now for the conference, to be held December 4-7 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. HUD Secretary Ben Carson is confirmed as one of the keynote speakers.

USDA will reallocate rental assistance that was held in reserve.
Over 2,900 units of Section 521 Rental Assistance, which had been used in properties that left USDA’s portfolio during FY 2017 and 2018 and have been held in the Rural Housing Service Administrator’s reserve, are now being reallocated to the states where they were formerly used. USDA’s Unnumbered Letter (dated September 19, 2018) lists the number of units for each state. These units cannot be used as incentives for owners who want to prepay their USDA mortgages. For more information, contact a USDA RD State Office.

New report on rural rental housing production released.
HAC, in conjunction with the Urban Institute, published Rental Housing for a 21st Century Rural America: A Platform for Production. The report analyzes the demand for new affordable rental housing in rural places and suggests ways to increase funding and capacity to deliver new units. It acts as a companion piece to HAC’s Rental Housing for a 21st Century Rural America: A Platform for Preservation.

HAC updates disaster guide and issues supplement for recent hurricanes.
The full disaster guide provides updated contact lists and information on relevant organizations to contact after a disaster including FEMA, HUD and USDA, while a Florence-specific supplement provides more detailed information on short- and long-term resources to residents and communities affected by Florence in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia and a supplement for Hurricane Michael covers Florida and other states. A recent GAO blog post and report explain how decisions about disaster declarations and individual assistance are made, along with recommendations.

Public charge proposal would limit admission to U.S. for immigrants who have used assistance or may need it in the future.
The Department of Homeland Security proposes to revise the standards used to determine whether noncitizens may become “public charges” who need government assistance and to require them “to demonstrate that they have not received, are not currently receiving, nor are likely to receive, public benefits.” Housing Choice Vouchers, project-based Section 8 and public housing are specifically mentioned. The changes would apply to those who are in the U.S. and want to adjust their status (for example, to obtain a green card), as well as to those wanting to enter the U.S. as nonimmigrants or immigrants. Comments are due December 10. For more information, contact Mark Phillips, DHS, 202-272-8377.

AmeriCorps grant competition open.
Nonprofits, tribes, local and state governments and institutions of higher education can compete for grants that will be used to engage AmeriCorps community service members. FY19 funding priorities are economic opportunity, education, prescription drug and opioid abuse, veterans and military families, rural intermediaries, public safety and faith-based organizations. Deadlines vary by state. For more information, contact Corporation for National and Community Service staff.

Fannie Mae offers funds for innovative health and housing ideas.
Applications are due November 1 for a new round of Fannie Mae’s Innovation Challenge, seeking innovative technologies, policies, practices and/or programs at the intersection of affordable housing and health and wellness. Public, private and nonprofit organizations, as well as individuals and teams, are eligible, with cross-sector teams encouraged.

Data map shows social mobility for every census tract.
A Harvard University team worked with the Census Bureau and Brown University to create a new tool, the Opportunity Atlas. Using data from Census and IRS, it shows average outcomes in adulthood of people who grew up in each census tract, including data on income, graduation, incarceration, and employment rates. It is the first dataset that provides such longitudinal information at a detailed neighborhood level.

USDA launches interactive data tool to help address opioid epidemic.
USDA Assistance Secretary Anne Hazlett has announced the creation of an opioid misuse Community Assessment Tool. It combines substance misuse data with socioeconomic, census and other public information to provide community leaders and policymakers with a more complete understanding of how to address the opioid epidemic on a local level. This tool was launched following President Trump’s declaration of October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.

Bi-partisan opioid response bill to become law.
Passed overwhelmingly by the Senate on October 3 and the House on September 28, H.R. 6 addresses the opioid crisis, which has hit hard in rural areas. Among the legislation’s many provisions are amendments to Medicare regulations and authorization of federal funding, to be distributed through states, to provide temporary housing for people in recovery. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

USDA moves to modernize homeownership programs’ field staff functions as staffing levels decline.
Recognizing that RD’s overall staffing has been declining, an Unnumbered Letter (August 31, 2018) explains agency plans to standardize state staffing for the single-family housing programs. The letter also says that, because vacant positions cannot be filled, “core SFH functions in some states will be impacted, in some cases severely,” and promises more information about that impact soon. For more information, contact an RD State Office.

Public input sought for modifications to Fannie Mae’s Duty to Serve plan.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency asks for comments on four of 22 requests from Fannie Mae (none from Freddie Mac) tomodify its Underserved Markets Plan under the Duty to Serve program. The proposed changes relate to distressed properties, manufactured housing chattel loans, rural LIHTC properties and small financial institutions in rural areas. Comments are due November 2. For more information, contact FHFA staff.

Research indicates rural families benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit.
A new research brief from the Carsey School of Public Policy highlights the Earned Income Tax Credit’s impact on families with children. EITC Continues to Reach Families in Poor Places shows that the share of people who file for the EITC who are also families with children is especially high in the poorest counties, many of which are nonmetropolitan. The researchers argue this data suggests that EITC can provide additional support for families in places where other services may not be readily available or accessible.

USDA manufactured housing pilots expanding further.
One pilot allows the Section 502 direct and guarantee programs to finance existing manufactured homes that are not already financed by USDA. The second reduces the required land lease term for energy-efficient homes in nonprofit communities. RD State Directors can ask for their states to be added to either pilot. For more information, contact an RD State Office.

HAC webinar to cover proposed changes to Community Reinvestment Act.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency recently issued a call for input on a proposed new framework to transform and modernize its Community Reinvestment Act rules. Join HAC on October 24 at 2:00 pm Eastern for an overview of the proposed changes and a discussion on how rural communities can weigh in. Registration is free.

HAC offers Section 502 packaging training courses in Nebraska and DC.
This three-day advanced course trains experienced participants to assist potential borrowers and work with RD staff, other nonprofits, and regional intermediaries to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages. The training will be held October 30-November 1 in Lincoln, NE and again December 5-7 in Washington, DC (simultaneously with HAC’s conference). For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

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 News: August 30, 2018

HAC News Formats. pdf

August 30, 2018
Vol. 47, No. 18

Rental Housing for a 21st Century Rural America to be released by HAC on Sept. 6 • Community Reinvestment Act comments requested • Court dismisses fair housing challenge • USDA launches broadband web page • HAC sets webinar on veterans’ supportive housing for September 12 • State of Homelessness in America data online • Members sought by August 31 for new USDA Rural Workforce Innovation Network • USDA considers changes to interest cap and regulations for guaranteed loans • Census Bureau plans to reach hard-to-count groups in 2020 evaluated • Area Agencies on Aging develop services and programming tailored to rural clients • Senate committee narrowly approves Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nomination • Young people eligible for the FOCUS Climate Gap Year, deadline August 31

HAC News Formats. pdf

August 30, 2018
Vol. 47, No. 18

Rental Housing for a 21st Century Rural America to be released by HAC on Sept. 6.
The report, subtitled A Platform for Preservation, presents HAC’s examination of the loss of USDA-financed rural rental housing. HAC conducted a comprehensive assessment of USDA’s multifamily housing investments to better understand this issue and inform strategies that preserve this resource for rural communities and residents. Register for a live-streamed release event on September 6. For more information, contact Lance George, HAC.

Community Reinvestment Act comments requested.
On August 28 the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a call for input on its regulations implementing the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to help meet the credit needs of the communities they serve. OCC’s notice says it is building a new framework to transform or modernize its CRA rules. In the past the three agencies that regulate banks and thrifts have developed CRA regulations together, but for this change OCC is acting on its own. OCC is part of the Treasury Department, which released a report in April identifying possible CRA changes. Comments will be due in mid-November, 75 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register. For more information, contact Vonda J. Eanes, OCC, 202-649-5470. In 2015-2016, HAC conducted one of the few analyses of CRA specifically in rural America; the three resulting reports are available here, here, and here.

Court dismisses fair housing challenge.
On August 17 a federal judge dismissed a suit filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance, Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, and Texas Appleseed that challenged HUD’s withdrawal of the assessment tool intended to help local governments meet their obligations to affirmatively further fair housing. The judge ruled the plaintiffs did not prove they were harmed by the tool’s withdrawal, and therefore they lacked legal standing to challenge HUD’s action.

USDA launches broadband web page.
The new page offers information about existing USDA broadband programs and the e-Connectivity pilot program currently in development. It includes ways for internet service providers and users to share feedback.

HAC sets webinar on veterans’ supportive housing for September 12.
The first of two free webinars on the subject will provide an overview of the HUD-VASH program for veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Topics will include who is eligible for services and how to make a referral for a veteran to be assessed for admission, how HUD-VASH vouchers are allocated, and the difference between tenant-based and project-based HUD-VASH vouchers. Register online. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

State of Homelessness in America data online.
Maps, charts, and narrative from the National Alliance to End Homelessness show trends in homelessness, homeless assistance, and at-risk populations at the national and state levels.

Members sought by August 31 for new USDA Rural Workforce Innovation Network.
USDA’s Rural Development Innovation Center invites organizations to join a national network of public-private partners to support rural workforce development and skills management. Email RD.Innovation@osec.usda.gov by August 31.

USDA considers changes to interest cap and regulations for guaranteed loans.
USDA requests comments by October 16 as it considers raising or eliminating the maximum allowable interest rate cap on Section 502 guaranteed loans. Comments are due October 22 on proposed changes to the Section 502 guaranteed regulation. For further information, contact Kate Jensen, USDA, 503-894-2382.

Census Bureau plans to reach hard-to-count groups in 2020 evaluated.
The Government Accountability Office reports the Census Bureau will use a variety of outreach strategies to reach people in hard-to-count groups such as minorities, rural residents, and homeless persons. 2020 Census: Actions Needed to Address Challenges to Enumerating Hard-to-Count Groups recommends administrative changes to improve Census Bureau efforts for 2020 and the future.

Area Agencies on Aging develop services and programming tailored to rural clients.
An issue brief from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging reports that rural AAAs have smaller budgets and fewer staff than non-rural AAAs. There are no statistically significant differences in program offerings based on geography, though rural AAAs are less likely to provide some services, such as adult day care. Rural AAAs Structure and Services includes case examples of innovation by rural agencies, including home repair and housekeeping services that help seniors in rural Maine to age in place.

Senate committee narrowly approves Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nomination.
The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee passed the nomination of Kathleen Kraninger to serve as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by a 13-12 party-line vote on August 23. Consideration by the full Senate has not yet been scheduled.

Young people eligible for the FOCUS Climate Gap Year, deadline August 31.
U.S. rural (and urban) young people can apply by August 31 for a FOCUS Climate Gap Year, “a hands-on leadership program for young people interested in exploring the world, and immersing themselves in climate impacts and solutions.”

HAC offers Section 502 packaging training in September.
This three-day advanced course trains experienced participants to assist potential borrowers and work with RD staff, other nonprofits, and regional intermediaries to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages. The registration fee is $750. The training will be held September 24-26 in Liverpool, NY. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

Nominate local and national leaders for HAC awards by SEPTEMBER 14.
HAC is still accepting nominations for its 2018 Cochran/Collings National Service and Skip Jason Community Service Leadership Awards. The awards will be presented at the 2018 HAC Rural Housing Conference in December. Past awardees are listed on HAC’s site. Complete the online nomination form. For more information, contact Lilla Sutton, HAC, 202-842-8600.

Save the date for the 2018 HAC Rural Housing Conference!
The conference will be held December 4-7 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. The HAC News will announce when conference registration opens and when the hotel room block is available for reservations.

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 News: April 12, 2018

HAC News Formats. pdf

April 12, 2018
Vol. 47, No. 8

Executive Order addresses work requirements • Draft Farm Bill includes SNAP work requirements • CRA recommendations released by Treasury Department • Opportunity Zones designated in 18 states and territories • HUD invites Choice Neighborhood Planning Grants applications • Stakeholders suggest Rural Development provisions for Farm Bill • RD clarifies asset management fee for nonprofits • Section 538 industry calls planned • HUD income limits set • CFPB requests comments on its guidance and its consumer financial education • Appraisal threshold increased • Comments requested to improve FHFA regulations • Wage gap for rural women quantified • Disaster survivors’ stories sought

HAC News Formats. pdf

April 12, 2018
Vol. 47, No. 8

Executive Order addresses work requirements.
On April 10 President Trump issued an “Executive Order Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.” It establishes “Principles of Economic Mobility” that include strengthening or imposing work requirements for those receiving means-tested federal aid; increasing state and local flexibility in administering aid; combining or eliminating “duplicative or ineffective” programs; and involving the private sector in poverty solutions. Cabinet departments that run assistance programs, including USDA and HUD, must submit reports within 90 days recommending changes consistent with these principles. They must also list which programs restrict benefits to lawful U.S. residents and which do not.

Draft Farm Bill includes SNAP work requirements.
The House Agriculture Committee released the text of H.R. 2, the 2018 Farm Bill, on April 12. It proposes new requirements for SNAP participants to work or enroll in work training. The only housing provision updates the definition of rural areas eligible for the RHS housing programs so that it refers to the 2020 Census as well as 2010. The bill reauthorizes several RUS and RBS programs. It also reauthorizes the Delta Regional Authority and the Northern Great Plains Regional Authority, but cuts the authorized funding for the DRA from the current $30 million per year to $12 million and for the NGPRA from $30 million to $2 million. (The DRA’s FY18 appropriation is $25 million. The NGPRA has never received an appropriation.)

CRA recommendations released by Treasury Department.
Treasury published a report on April 3 identifying regulatory and administrative improvements for the Community Reinvestment Act. The suggestions would broaden bank assessment areas to account for technological access in places without physical branches, expand the range of eligible CRA activities, clarify rating criteria and subjective terms such as “excellent,” require timely examinations, and strengthen incentives for banks to avoid low performance ratings.

Opportunity Zones designated in 18 states and territories.
The first round of Opportunity Zones were announced by the Treasury Department and the IRS for the states and territories that nominated areas by March 21. Other states requested 30-day extensions and must make their submissions by April 20. The IRS invites comments as it develops guidance for the program on topics including the certification of Qualified Opportunity Funds and eligible investments in Qualified Opportunity Zones. It does not provide a deadline.

HUD invites Choice Neighborhood Planning Grants applications.
Nonprofits, PHAs, local governments, and tribal entities are eligible for planning grants or planning and action grants focusing on transforming a neighborhood by redeveloping at least one severely distressed public or HUD-assisted housing project. Applications are due June 12.

Stakeholders suggest Rural Development provisions for Farm Bill.
HAC and other interested organizations sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees listing recommendations for provisions related to USDA Rural Development that could be included in this year’s Farm Bill. Among the suggestions are incentives for investing in the rural communities with the greatest need, including those with populations under 10,000; authorization for the multifamily housing preservation technical assistance program; and support for infrastructure, including broadband.

RD clarifies asset management fee for nonprofits.
An Unnumbered Letter dated March 30, 2018 explains that nonprofit and cooperative owners of Section 515 and 514/516 properties are eligible for a $7,500 asset management fee per property, rather than per owner. For more information, contact a USDA RD state office.

Section 538 industry calls planned.
During 2018 and 2019, USDA will hold a series of teleconference and/or web conference meetings regarding the Section 538 guaranteed rental housing program. To register to receive information when calls are scheduled, contact Monica Cole, USDA, 202-720-1251.

HUD income limits set.
FY18 median area incomes and income limits for metro areas and nonmetro counties are available online.

CFPB requests comments on its guidance and its consumer financial education.
Comments to help CFPB assess the overall effectiveness and accessibility of its guidance materials and activities (including implementation support) to members of the general public, including regulated entities, are due July 2. For more information, contact Kristin Switzer, CFPB, 202-435-7700. Comments on CFPB’s consumer financial education programs are due July 9. For more information, contact Davida Farrar, CFPB, 202-435-9523.

Appraisal threshold increased.
Effective on April 9, the federal agencies that regulate banks and savings and loans require appraisals for lenders’ real estate transactions above $500,000. The previous threshold was $250,000. Loans secured by residential properties with one to four units are exempt from the appraisal requirement; for those, lenders must instead obtain evaluations that are consistent with safe and sound banking practices. Contacts for further information vary by regulatory agency.

Comments requested to improve FHFA regulations.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency invites comments by June 4 on how its regulations can be made more effective and less burdensome, except for rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice, or regulations adopted or substantially amended since April 2016. For more information, contact Ellen S. Bailey, FHFA, 202-649-3056.

Wage gap for rural women quantified.
The Center for American Progress reports that rural women who work full time, year round, make 76 cents for every dollar that rural men make. Rural African-American and Hispanic women make 56 cents for every dollar made by rural white, non-Hispanic men, while Rural Native American women make 69 cents and rural Asian American and Pacific Islander women make 75 cents.

Disaster survivors’ stories sought.
The Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition developed an online tool to capture disaster survivors’ individual stories. These accounts of unmet need will be used to illustrate the unique housing challenges low-income survivors face after a disaster and to build support for solutions. The coalition asks organizations serving disaster survivors from the hurricanes and wildfires of 2017 to fill out the online questionnaire for any client/individual with a compelling need for direct rental assistance.

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).