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Is the Housing Crisis Over in Rural America?

by Lance George

In 2008 the U.S. economy fell off a cliff. Depending on your perspective it either slipped or was pushed from that precipice by the housing markets. In 2009 and 2010, when the crisis was arguably at its worst, the Housing Assistance Council began receiving frequent inquiries from the press and others asking, “How is the housing crisis affecting rural America?” We simply had no answer. Mortgage and foreclosure data were virtually nonexistent for most rural areas.

After six years and some hindsight, we are asking some questions ourselves. Is the crisis over? And what are the lingering effects? These seemingly basic inquiries still prove challenging, particularly from the rural perspective. So we sought assistance from four affordable housing experts to help answer these questions.

Read the complete blog post at Rooflines.

Is the Housing Crisis Over? And how did it impact rural America?

Download a pdf version of Rural Voices
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The July 2014 issue of Rural Voices takes another look at the housing crisis and asks some important questions. Knowledgeable experts in the affordable housing field share their expertise, insights, and strategies to improve housing conditions in light of the Great Recession.

VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

Discussing Community Reinvestment in Rural America
by Thomas J. Curry, Comptroller of the Currency

How banks and federal savings associations can more effectively serve the credit needs of rural communities

SPECIAL FEATURE

Is the Housing Crisis Over? And how did it impact rural America?
An interview with:

Eric Belsky, Director, Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University
Sheila Crowley, Executive Director, National Low Income Housing Coalition
Gail Burks, President & CEO, Nevada Fair Housing, Center, Inc.
Chuck Wehrwein, Acting President & CEO, NeighborWorks America

Four national leaders discuss the housing crisis and its impact on rural America

FEATURES

Repurposing Foreclosed Properties in Rural America
by Noel Poyo, Executive Director, and Christopher W. Sanchez, Program Director, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB)

A consortium of nonprofits works at the local level to reverse the devastating effects of the foreclosure crisis

Housing Counseling Services Offer More Than Just Counseling
by Keith L. Morris, President, Elder Law of Michigan

While housing counselors are instrumental in helping people avoid foreclosure, they also provide invaluable resources to help families improve their lives

Making a Difference in Rural America
by Tony Hernandez, Administrator, USDA Rural Housing Service

Newly appointed Rural Housing Service administrator shares his thoughts and priorities for USDA’s housing initiatives

MAPS

the housing crisis and its wake in RURAL AmericaThe housing crisis and its wake in rural America– (Interactive Prezi)

Add your Response

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

Is the Housing Crisis Over? And how did it impact rural America? – Shelia Crowley Responds

For more on this topic, read the July 2014 issue of

Sheila-Crowley-webSheila Crowley, Executive Director, National Low Income Housing Coalition What caused the home foreclosure crisis that came to a head in the fall of 2008 and precipitated the “Great Recession” is hotly debated. Explanations fall along predictably partisan lines. One side cites too much government interference in the marketplace, while the other side sees an unfettered marketplace allowed to run amok.

For more on this topic, read the July 2014 issue of

In 2008 the U.S. economy fell off a cliff. Depending on your perspective it either slipped or was pushed from that precipice by the housing markets. But after six years where are we? How were rural Americans impacted, and are there lingering effects from the crisis? Rural Voices assembled four of the most knowledgeable experts in the affordable housing world to help answer these complex questions and provide insights on how to improve rural housing conditions in the wake of the housing crisis.

Sheila-Crowley-webSheila Crowley, Executive Director, National Low Income Housing Coalition What caused the home foreclosure crisis that came to a head in the fall of 2008 and precipitated the “Great Recession” is hotly debated. Explanations fall along predictably partisan lines. One side cites too much government interference in the marketplace, while the other side sees an unfettered marketplace allowed to run amok.

The undisputed result was that too many people took out home mortgages that they could not afford and too many lenders made loans that they knew the borrowers could not afford. It did not matter to lenders, because they could sell off the loans to the secondary market, take the cash, and move on to the next borrower who confused home buying with a get-rich-quick scheme.

In the name of “wealth-building,” the home buying push that led to the Great Recession will be remembered as a massive transfer of wealth out of low and moderate income African-American and Hispanic communities into the hands of major financial institutions and their investors. Not only has no one in a position of responsibility at these institutions been punished for the devastation of individual lives and whole neighborhoods, but the federal taxpayers bailed out most of these institutions, while providing too little, too late to the people who lost their homes and their assets.

Today, there is much consternation about the “softness” of the home-buying market and constraints on access to credit for potential home-buyers. We should ask ourselves why a low income renter whose neighborhood was blighted, who has not had a raise in years, who has friends and relatives who are still out of work or are underemployed, would believe that buying a house is a good thing to do. Low income people have every reason not to trust anyone who tells them buying a house is good investment. What happened to their homes is fueling mistrust that will stay with foreclosed families for at least a generation.

The conflation of “house” with “asset” in the policy and political narrative of the 1990s and 2000s led us lose sight of the meaning of “home.” Home came be idealized as a single family residential structure that the occupants “owned” by virtue of having borrowed money from a bank that is to paid off with interest in 30 years. Home as sanctuary and the center for family life became a secondary meaning and renting was relegated to a second class form of tenure. The federal government subsidizes home-owners through its support of the mortgage market, through the tax code, and through direct expenditures by HUD and USDA in amounts that dwarf support for renters.

Meanwhile, through the housing boom and bust and tepid recovery, the rental housing crisis only has gotten worse. The Joint Center on Housing Studies at Harvard University issues its “State of the Nation’s Housingreport each year. The 2000 report cited 5.4 million very low income1 renter households who received no housing assistance paying over half of their income for housing and/or living in substandard housing.2 The 2014 report shows that two-thirds of renter households with incomes less than $15,000 a year spend more than half of their income for housing, as do 34% of renters with household income between $15,000 and $29,999.3

Analysis of 2012 American Housing Survey data by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows there are 10.16 million extremely low income

Redland - Tom Caswell - Creative Commons

The rental housing shortage has been exacerbated by the foreclosure crisis, as former homeowners moved into the rental market and potential homebuyers stayed in the rental market. An already inadequate affordable rental housing market has had to absorb the growing renter demand. In 2013, rental vacancy rates declined again to their lowest level since 2000 and rent increases continued to rise well above inflation.7

A major contributor to the rental housing crisis for very low and extremely low income households is the reduction of federal government support with cuts to HUD and USDA programs. A fiercely divided Congress and a worrisome federal deficit have resulted in severe cuts to all direct spending on low income housing. Both parties refuse to raise revenue to reduce the deficit, much less invest in affordable housing, schools, transportation, infrastructure, or a host of other neglected core social needs.

In the name of “wealth-building,” the home buying push that led to the Great Recession will be remembered as a massive transfer of wealth out of low and moderate income African-American and Hispanic communities into the hands of major financial institutions and their investors.

Why is rental housing a good investment? First, over one third of all American households are renters and virtually everyone is a renter at some point in his or her life. Second, renting makes the most sense for people who expect to live somewhere for less than a few years, because the transaction costs of buying and selling will likely exceed any equity they might accrue. Renting also makes more sense than buying for people whose employment has any uncertainty to it, like variable hours or the potential of lay-offs. Responding to reduced economic circumstances is much easier with a lease than a mortgage. Third, people at different stages of the life cycle may be better off renting than owning, especially if they are not in a position to maintain a house. People whose jobs require a lot of travel or older people may be happy without the bother of yard work or roof repairs. Certainly many people prefer the freedom and flexibility that renting offers.

Most importantly, extremely low income and many very low income families would be better served by strong rental housing market that offer them choices of where to live than they are by an array of inadequate, under-resourced, and outdated programs or being prematurely thrust into the mortgage market.

The most fundamental goal of housing policy should be housing security, which is what the 1949 U.S. Housing Act prescribed: a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family. Housing security means paying what you can afford to live in a home that is adequate for your needs and from which you move only by your own choice. Housing security means not living in fear of eviction or exploitation or violence or hazards to your health. Housing security means also being able to afford healthy food, appropriate medical care, transportation to get where you need to go, and other necessities, with enough left over to be able to save for emergencies, education, retirement, and maybe even a down payment on a house. Housing security as a renter is a necessary precursor to borrowing to buy a house.

Recovery from the foreclosure crisis will take a long time; people need to heal from the trauma and reestablish trust with the institutions that failed them. Public policy should focus on getting back to basics. Does every community have enough housing that all the people who live there can afford? Or enough housing so that no child in its schools is homeless or churning from one home to another and one school to another? Or enough housing to assure that its elders live out their years with dignity? Or enough housing that its citizens with disabilities can lead productive lives?

The problem is not a lack of resources. The federal government will subsidize home-ownership through the tax code to the tune of $241 billion in 2015. These tax “expenditures” are the mortgage interest deduction, the property tax deduction, the capital gains exclusion, and the net imputed rent exclusion.8 NLIHC has proposed modest changes to the mortgage interest deduction9 that would not only raise enough revenue to solve the rental housing shortage, but will give a tax break to many more low income homeowners than claim the mortgage interest deduction now. NLIHC’s proposal will not cost the federal government any more than it already spends on housing and it will make the tax code fairer and simpler.

The solution to the rental housing crisis is in plain view. Modest adjustments to the mortgage interest deduction will raise enough revenue to fund rental housing programs for ELI households. All it takes is bipartisan political will, which unfortunately is in short supply.


1 Very low income is 50% of the area median or less.

2 Joint Center for Housing Studies. (2000). The State of the Nation’s Housing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

4 Extremely low income is 30% of area median or less.

5 The general accepted standard of housing affordability is no more than 30% of household income.

9 Learn more about NLIHC’s proposal at https://nlihc.org/unitedforhomes

Is the Housing Crisis Over? And how did it impact rural America? – Eric Belsky Responds

For more on this topic, read the July 2014 issue of

Eric Belsky, Director, The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard UniversityEric Belsky, Managing Director, The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University

Do you believe that the housing crisis is over?

I think we have turned a corner in many places. Housing prices have started to move up again. Housing starts for both single family and multi-family are picking up. Home sales are also increasing. From a broad perspective, many markets are starting to head higher.

For more on this topic, read the July 2014 issue of .

In 2008 the U.S. economy fell off a cliff. Depending on your perspective it either slipped or was pushed from that precipice by the housing markets. But after six years where are we? How were rural Americans impacted, and are there lingering effects from the crisis? Rural Voices assembled four of the most knowledgeable experts in the affordable housing world to help answer these complex questions and provide insights on how to improve rural housing conditions in the wake of the housing crisis.

Eric Belsky, Director, The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard UniversityEric Belsky, Managing Director, The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University

Do you believe that the housing crisis is over?

I think we have turned a corner in many places. Housing prices have started to move up again. Housing starts for both single family and multi-family are picking up. Home sales are also increasing. From a broad perspective, many markets are starting to head higher.

Some places continue to struggle to recover from such a significant downturn. Employment levels in these areas have not returned to the previous peak. There are still places with abandoned and vacant units as a result of foreclosure problems. For these areas, it is harder to get capital flowing again.

What factors defined the “housing crisis?”

Housing markets had enormous amounts of stress placed on them. This is partly due to the lending craze that resulted in many people buying homes that they could not afford. The bigger issue was the larger financial crisis and how that affected the broader economy. Many people became unemployed because of job losses that occurred in 2007 and 2008. They could not pay their mortgages or rents. Not everyone lost their job, many people found their hours curtailed. Some people replaced lost full time work with a part-time job. So, you had reductions in people’s incomes. All of those things created enormous stress on the housing market after a period of time where low interest rates and the availability of credit were driving up property values.

How, was the housing crisis different for rural areas than the nation as a whole?

Rural home prices did not rise as much as they did in the suburbs or in urban areas. The drop in rural home prices was also less severe but it was still significant. Even so, rural areas did experience a strong house price cycle and prices remain well below the previous peak.

Parts of rural America have been struggling with chronic employment issues for a really long time. Add on to that a fall-off in construction, which is a very local activity, and the result is more damage in places that are already struggling.

The hole created by all of this fall-out tends to be cumulative. Consumer spending fell. Savings rates went up. People were feeling that they had better spend less and borrow less. Those things translated into job losses across the country.

New construction jobs are starting to appear in some rural areas located on the edges of metropolitan areas. Although these jobs are not actually in rural areas, they are close enough for commuting. Resource extraction, for example fracking, makes a place look very different. The classic case was North Dakota. If the whole country experienced the job growth over the last six years, as did North Dakota, which is mostly a rural state, we would have had a strongly growing national economy.

Houses - Matthew - jargon777 - Creative CommonsHouses – Matthew – jargon777 – Creative Commons

What are some of the indirect or secondary impacts of the housing crisis?

Well established literature shows that people’s spending behaviors are influenced by their perceived wealth. When people think the values in their homes are higher, they are more likely to spend more freely than if the value of their home has gone down. When they do not have the cash to spend, they will borrow in order to do it. Many people refinanced their mortgages during the 2004-2006 period and they took cash out of their home equity in record amounts.

Today, it is very hard to get a loan against the equity in your home and a lot of people do not have equity in their home. This is starting to improve but it certainly is not completely in the rear view mirror. Job losses and employment continue to be a drag on many local economies.

There are both direct and indirect effects of the falloff in construction activity. Construction workers spend their wages in the local economies; they support the local stores and their local movie theater.

Were the various federal responses to the housing crisis effective? If so, how?

Certainly one of the most important aspects of the federal response is the very strenuous effort by the Federal Reserve to drive down long term interest rates.

When you look at some of the more specific tailored programs intended to address the housing crisis, I would say that both HARP and HAMP helped. Millions of borrowers were reached by these programs.

Some people, who otherwise might not have been able to, were able to reduce their mortgage payments because of HARP. The HAMP program has not affected as many homeowners, The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) was undersized relative to the extent of the need.

Certainly one of the most important aspects of the Federal response is the very strenuous effort by the Federal Reserve to drive down long-term interest rates.

What are the long term ramifications for affordable housing?

If the economy continues to improve, which it does look like it will, house prices will also recover. This will restore people’s home equity, their ability to borrow, and their ability to spend. Some of the drag from government cuts is starting to abate and the economy seems to have forward momentum.

The housing market is very closely related to the broader economy. If the broader economy is doing better I would expect housing to get back on the road to recovery.

Higher interest rates have the potential contain the recovery on the homeownership side. In addition, credit standards still quite tight but they are getting a little less so.

Rental markets have been strong. Because of rental construction coming back and because many of the single family homes previously lost to foreclosures are coming back on the market for rent, you should see some moderation of rent increases.

The hardest thing to project is on the “for sale” side. What we are seeing is very unusual. There is a very low level of inventory of homes on the market. for sale Even though you see softness in sales, house prices are going up. The number of homes for sale is starting to creep back up which suggests moderation in house prices. This could help maintain the recovery but higher prices and rising interest rates will diminish affordability.

Is the Housing Crisis Over? And how did it impact rural America? – Gail Burks Responds

For more on this topic, read the July 2014 issue of

gail-burks-webGail Burks, President & CEO, The Nevada Fair Housing Center, Inc.

Do you believe that the housing crisis is over?

As I contemplated this question, my mind wandered to a quote given to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart by his law clerk in an effort to define obscenity – “you’ll know it when you see it”. In rural America, no other quote could so aptly describe the housing scene. From an evidence based perspective, three continuing themes support the premise that we have not seen a recovery. First, to date, proposed solutions have not been tied to real time field data from rural areas of the country. Rent a vehicle and drive in any direction and you will know rural America when you see it, along with the attendant housing problems…

For more on this topic, read the July 2014 issue of .

In 2008 the U.S. economy fell off a cliff. Depending on your perspective it either slipped or was pushed from that precipice by the housing markets. But after six years where are we? How were rural Americans impacted, and are there lingering effects from the crisis? Rural Voices assembled four of the most knowledgeable experts in the affordable housing world to help answer these complex questions and provide insights on how to improve rural housing conditions in the wake of the housing crisis.

gail-burks-webGail Burks, President & CEO, The Nevada Fair Housing Center, Inc.

Do you believe that the housing crisis is over?

As I contemplated this question, my mind wandered to a quote given to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart by his law clerk in an effort to define obscenity – “you’ll know it when you see it”. In rural America, no other quote could so aptly describe the housing scene. From an evidence based perspective, three continuing themes support the premise that we have not seen a recovery. First, to date, proposed solutions have not been tied to real time field data from rural areas of the country. Rent a vehicle and drive in any direction and you will know rural America when you see it, along with the attendant housing problems. Second, the design of programs such as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) did not contemplate rural development issues such as the additional due diligence required on wells, open range, etc. Third, the foreclosure numbers are a consistent moving target. Depending on the state, defaults are not necessarily finalized within a set timeframe. The rule of law within the local community may extend, sometimes for years, the actual trustees’ sale. When obtaining data on foreclosure, it’s important to define the parameters. Until we can clearly identify the problem based on reality, solutions will continue to be illusive at best.

What factors defined the “housing crisis?”

Depending on which day and commentator you listen to it is the fault of the homeowner, bank or society in general. They all got it wrong. Nothing in society rises or falls based on one thing. In our sworn testimony for the Congressional body known as the Federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, we highlighted how various factors converged simultaneously to create the current market in our state or on a broader scale.

It is also important to note that the housing crisis must be viewed within the context of the greater economy in both the U.S and abroad.

Nevada consumers initially complained about predatory lending practices in 1999. By 2001, the Nevada Fair Housing Center, Inc. began to see an average of over four hundred clients per month with predatory lending issues. Clients presented cases that included such loan practices as appraisal fraud, flipping, high interest rate loan products, excessive prepayment penalties and violations of Federal law in the servicing of these loans.

No one can debate the need for legitimate non-prime (subprime) lending products. The subprime market served individuals with little or no credit, along with those recovering from a financial setback.

Until we can clearly identify the problem based on reality, solutions will continue to be illusive at best.

Traditional equity enhancements allowed a non-prime borrower to obtain credit. These often included verification of non-traditional credit (i.e. rental payments, utility bills, etc.), proof of one month’s reserve, establishment of an impound account and private mortgage insurance (PMI.) While the non-prime borrower might pay more for the cost of credit, that cost was directly related to lender risk.

However from approximately 2004 – 2007, the purpose and role of non-prime became lost in the zest to create profit driven securitized products. Non-prime mortgages mutated into fantasy financing. Out of this mutation grew a new breed of mortgage product, fueled by:

  • No underwriting
  • Lender failure to determine the ability to repay the loan
  • Failure to fully amortize the payment
  • Failure to establish impounds for insurance and property taxes

Many consumers received loan products that were not suitable based on their credit and income. When payments on “option” adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) and pick-a-payment mortgages began to adjust, many consumers experienced payment shock.

No document loans also fueled the crisis. Traditionally, this standard product was only offered to self employed individuals with twenty percent down. However, brokers began offering the product to consumers on fixed incomes such as seniors and working families.

This crisis was further fueled by the joining of strange bed fellows. Providers of services- brokers, correspondent lenders, title companies, appraisers, real estate agents- formed alliances to make money. Sadly, some consumers sought to grab the brass ring and become ‘investors’ and share in the new get rich craze.

How, was the housing crisis different for rural areas than the nation as a whole?

Rural America experienced a crisis. In part, the financial meltdown contributed to a decrease in the ability to develop and leverage housing. Not only did consumers in rural America experience foreclosures but the development side was also impacted.

Mississippi County Home - Jimmy Smith - Creative CommonsMississippi County Home – Jimmy Smith – Creative Commons

What are the long term ramifications for affordable housing?

No. As previously stated, the design of programs such as NSP did not contemplate the additional due diligence required for rural properties. In addition, foreclosure numbers are a consistent moving target. Until we can clearly identify the problem based on reality, solutions will continue to be illusive at best.

The guidelines for HARP failed to take into account the local real estate markets (all real estate is local) and the refinance rules that were in place with Fannie and Freddie due to receivership. In other words, if some markets were so upside down from an equity standpoint, refinancing was obviously not an option. Public trust is very important. Press announcements about programs that were not practical for the market caused many consumers to lose hope.

The goal of the HAMP program was admirable. However, execution was inconsistent. Consumers received various degrees of assistance. The common denominator with all the programs, lender participation, was voluntary. The consistent loss of paperwork by lenders, inability to reach lender staff, lack of coordination between lender departments, made the program difficult. Lenders do not do “one offs”; therefore, their goal was to incorporate the program into the lender’s automated systems. This took years. Moreover, from a legal standpoint, many lenders could not make the final decision absent investor sign off. Marketing indicated that all lenders utilized the same process. In reality, this was not the case. Later in the program, an effort at centralization to send consumers through one computer system hurt past efforts. Due to various lender pools, investors, and legal pooling service agreements for mortgage backed securities, the marketing of assistance did not match the reality. Despite the good field work again, consumers lost faith in the system.

As consumers lost faith in various announced programs, the rise in strategic defaults increased. The attitude of “why pay for something that is worth less” seemed to overshadow the idea of contract obligations.

In Nevada, the passage of legislation to create a mediation program actually encouraged lenders to work with consumers more than all the federal programs. Similarly, litigation in some areas provided relief.

What are the long term ramifications for affordable housing?

Sometimes old methods work best. As a product of rural America, many programs have disadvantaged communities in providing a false sense of security. The long term ramifications are a stunted growth in outlying areas

Today, the housing crisis is defined by different factors

For more on this topic, read the July 2014 issue of

chuck-wehrwein-webChuck Wehrwein, Acting President & CEO, NeighborWorks America

Do you believe that the housing crisis is over?

While it is true that there are a lot of signs of recovery for the nation as a whole, the housing crisis is not over in many communities around the country. Many of the communities that we work in are still dealing with a backlog of vacant and abandoned properties.

For more on this topic, read the July 2014 issue of .

In 2008 the U.S. economy fell off a cliff. Depending on your perspective it either slipped or was pushed from that precipice by the housing markets. But after six years where are we? How were rural Americans impacted, and are there lingering effects from the crisis? Rural Voices assembled four of the most knowledgeable experts in the affordable housing world to help answer these complex questions and provide insights on how to improve rural housing conditions in the wake of the housing crisis.

chuck-wehrwein-webChuck Wehrwein, Acting President & CEO, NeighborWorks America

Do you believe that the housing crisis is over?

While it is true that there are a lot of signs of recovery for the nation as a whole, the housing crisis is not over in many communities around the country. Many of the communities that we work in are still dealing with a backlog of vacant and abandoned properties.

Particularly feeling the brunt are families who are still under water on their mortgages and younger people who are unable to buy their first home because that can’t qualify for a loan or can’t find an affordable house – often due to crushing student debt.

To put it in perspective, in April there were 46,000 completed foreclosures, according to CoreLogic. That represents a significant decline year over year, and foreclosures have been falling for two and a half years. But, it is also important to note that the monthly number of completed foreclosures is still almost double what it was in the average pre-crisis month between 2000 and 2006. The Urban Institute estimates that, mostly because of tight credit, as many as 1.2 million loans that would have been made in 2001 are “missing” from today’s market.

And let’s not forget the families who can’t even afford to think about buying, yet are paying more than 50 percent of their incomes on rent or are homeless.

All of that points to a housing crisis that is not over yet.

What factors defined the “housing crisis?”

Five or six years ago, the “housing crisis” that was in the news every day was defined by foreclosures. People were losing their homes to foreclosure at a truly alarming pace.

Today, the housing crisis is defined by different factors. One is the lack of affordable rental housing, another is housing affordability, a third is tight lending standards, and a fourth is home values that is still leaving many borrowers underwater.

Of course, there other severe housing challenges that are much more long-standing, particularly in rural areas. These include a general lack of affordable housing and, historically, widespread poor housing conditions.

How, was the housing crisis different for rural areas than the nation as a whole?

Most rural areas didn’t see the wild price fluctuations that we saw in urban and suburban areas during the boom and bust years. So, while families lost value in their homes, they probably didn’t lose as much equity as urban and suburban residents.

But that is not to say that the housing crisis—and the foreclosure crisis—didn’t impact rural areas. There certainly was—and is—a housing crisis in rural areas – although it hasn’t been as well covered by the media. NeighborWorks has seen firsthand through our administration of the Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) program the impact of foreclosures in rural areas and the need for education and counseling. Through July 2013, almost 180,000 families in rural areas had received foreclosure counseling through NFMC.

Five or six years ago, the “housing crisis” that was in the news every day was defined by foreclosures. People were losing their homes to foreclosure at a truly alarming pace. Today, the housing crisis is defined by different factors.

What are some of the indirect or secondary impacts of the housing crisis?

At NeighborWorks America, we definitely see some of the impacts of the housing crisis on NeighborWorks organizations and the residents they serve, including those in rural areas. The decrease in government funding for housing—both from UDSA and HUD—has meant they are able to develop fewer new rental housing units, and that they are concerned about finding the resources to preserve existing units.
Homeownership has also been impacted. NeighborWorks organizations tell us anecdotally that it is harder for their customers to get mortgage loans due to tightened lending standards.
The Center on American Progress reported recently that nearly half of all mortgages made today go to borrowers with credit scores of more than 750, compared to 2001, when more than two-thirds of mortgages went to borrowers with scores lower than 750. That means more customers are looking to FHA and USDA loans for help. In addition, some of our organizations say the consolidation of USDA offices are leading to longer processing times for mortgage loans issued by the agency – a mainstay in rural communities. NeighborWorks organizations who have CDFIs are working hard to fill in the gaps in the mortgage market.

Empty - Ruin RaiderPhoto: Empty – Ruin Raider – Creative Commons

What are the long term ramifications for affordable housing?

Let me start by saying that it is our experience at NeighborWorks that nonprofit community development organizations serving rural areas are some of the most creative groups out there. I am very confident they will continue to go a long way toward serving the housing needs of their rural communities.

However, there still are many people in rural areas who are in need decent, affordable housing. Additional resources are needed to expand opportunities on a broader scale, and given the current funding environment, that will be very challenging.

But there is always a silver lining. The quality and energy efficiency of new manufactured housing have improved greatly and this type of construction could help serve some of the unmet needs if ramped up. Some states and organizations are working to improve the energy efficiency by doing replacements of older manufactured homes as well. And we have seen in the NeighborWorks network and through ROC USA, the value that resident-owned manufactured housing communities bring to residents and to communities. It is my hope that the challenging funding environment will lead local policy makers to, for example, reconsider their ownership laws for manufactured housing, and lenders to find new ways to finance them.

Basic Challenges Outlast Housing Crisis in Rural America

Basic Challenges Outlast Housing Crisis in Rural America

By Lance George
December 20, 2012

The United States is emerging from one of the most extensive and painful economic crises in memory. It is well established that housing markets were at the heart of this crisis, and millions of American households lost, or continue to lose, their homes to foreclosure. While the recent housing crisis is not to be overlooked, far too many rural residents have struggled with housing problems and inadequacies for years, if not decades, before the national crisis hit. Read the full blog post…