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HAC News: June 23, 2022

TOP STORIES

House proposes increasing some rural housing funding.

On June 23, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill to fund USDA for fiscal year 2023, which begins on October 1, 2022. The measure would provide less funding for several rural housing programs than the administration’s budget requested. It would increase the Section 515 rental housing program and the MPR rental preservation program above current levels, but not as much as the administration proposed. It would raise the Rural Community Development Initiative capacity building program from this year’s $6 million to $8 million in FY23 rather than the $12 million USDA requested. The House bill does not adopt USDA’s proposal to “decouple” the Section 521 Rental Assistance program from the Section 515 and 514/516 programs, a change that would allow properties to continue to receive RA after their USDA mortgages end. Like USDA’s budget, the House bill would expand USDA’s pilot program for Native American mortgage lending, which provides funds to Native CDFIs to be reloaned to homebuyers. More details are available on HAC’s website.

House HUD appropriations bill proposes new vouchers and new manufactured housing program.

The House’s draft FY23 HUD funding bill would increase the department’s total funding above both its FY22 level and the amount requested in the administration’s budget. The House Appropriations Committee estimates the bill would fund more than 140,000 new housing vouchers and approximately 5,600 new units for seniors and persons with disabilities. It would provide $500 million for a new Manufactured Housing Improvement and Financing Program to preserve and revitalize manufactured homes and their communities (including pre-1976 mobile homes). It would also set aside $50 million in HOME funds for down payment assistance for first-time, first-generation home buyers. More details are available on HAC’s website. The House Transportation-HUD appropriations subcommittee will hold a markup on June 23 and the full House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider the bill on June 30.

Rural setaside included in major new HUD homeless funding initiative.

On June 22 HUD announced a $365 million Initiative for Unsheltered and Rural Homelessness. The funds will be distributed through Continuums of Care and public housing authorities; the application deadline for COCs is October 20. The initiative includes $54.5 million in CoC program grants designated for rural communities, prioritizing places that have high need but a history of being unable to access CoC grants. HUD is using congressionally granted authority to expand the eligible uses for these funds. Another $267.5 million will be targeted to 20-40 communities with high incidences of unsheltered homelessness. Finally, $43 million – approximately 4,000 new incremental vouchers – will be allocated to PHAs with a priority for those that are partners in comprehensive community approaches to solve homelessness. More details are available on HAC’s site.

Inequality widening despite some good news in overall housing markets, says annual study.

Higher interest rates are cooling the demand for market-rate housing and rental construction is increasing, but the affordability crisis is not likely to improve for lower-income households and households of color, according to a new State of the Nation’s Housing 2022 report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. Purchases of second homes add to the stress in rural areas, JCHS reports, although remote work is less common now than earlier in the pandemic. The paper also notes that the existing housing stock needs investment to meet the demands of the aging population and the threats posed by climate change.

Rural Voices celebrates HAC.

With the title 50 Years of HAC, the latest issue of HAC’s Rural Voices magazine celebrates this milestone anniversary by considering the past 50 years while focusing on the next 50. It revisits some of the many rural communities in which HAC has worked, and it features visions of the future from rural places and rural housing leaders around the country.

RuralSTAT

Seven of 10 rural bankers in the Midwest described their local economy as expanding at the beginning of 2022, while only 6.7% indicated that their local economy was in a modest economic downturn. Source: Survey by Creighton University’s Heider College of Business.

OPPORTUNITIES

USDA offers water system funding.

  • The Rural Decentralized Water Systems Grant Program enables nonprofits and Tribal lending institutions to create revolving loan funds or make sub-grants to low-income homeowners who need assistance constructing, refurbishing, or servicing household water well or wastewater systems. This program can be used in places with populations of up to 50,000. Applications are due July 31. For more information, contact Lola Maratita, USDA, 615-714-8883.
  • The Revolving Fund Program makes grants to nonprofits to create revolving loan funds to build and improve water and wastewater disposal systems operated by state and local governmental entities, nonprofits, and Tribes in places with populations of 10,000 or less. Applications are due July 31. For more information, contact a local USDA RD office.

Lead hazard reduction and research funds announced.

  • HUD’s Lead Hazard Reduction Program funds efforts to identify and control lead-based paint hazards in privately owned rental or owner-occupied housing. Local governments, some state governments, and some Tribes are eligible, and consortium applicants may include nonprofits. Apply by August 8. For more information, contact Yolanda Brown, HUD, 202-903-9576.
  • The Lead and Healthy Homes Technical Studies Grant Program funds state, local, and Tribal governments, nonprofit and for-profit entities, and others to conduct studies to improve knowledge of housing-related health and safety hazards and to improve or develop new hazard assessment and control methods. Applications are due July 17. For more information, contact Kofi Berko, Jr., HUD, 202-402-7696.

Creative placemaking grants available from NEA.

Our Town or Nuestra Ciudad, the creative placemaking grants program of the National Endowment for the Arts, offers grants from $25,000 to $150,000 with a 1:1 match requirement. The program supports activities that integrate arts, culture, and design into local efforts to advance local economic, physical, or social outcomes. These projects require a partnership between a nonprofit organization and a local government entity, with one of the partners being a cultural organization. The first part of the application is due August 4. For more information, contact NEA staff, OT@arts.gov.

USDA 502 packaging class offered online.

This upcoming Section 502 Direct Certified Loan Packager Course is full, but the waitlist remains open! HAC will present a virtual five-day advanced course on July 25-29 preparing participants to take the loan packaging certification exam for USDA’s Section 502 direct loan program. This course is for those experienced in utilizing Section 502 and/or other affordable housing mortgage products. The registration fee is $500. For more information, contact HAC staff, registration@ruralhome.org, 202-516-6271.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Input requested on proposed inspection standards.

Comments are due August 1 on inspection standards that will become part of implementing HUD’s proposed rule on National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE), aligning housing quality requirements and inspection standards across programs. HUD is also suggesting changes to its previously proposed list of life-threatening conditions and incorporating them into the NSPIRE inspection standards. For more information, contact Marcel M. Jemio, HUD, 202-708-1112.

HUD to create Tribal advisory committee.

HUD requests comments on its planned creation of a Tribal Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, to be made up of duly elected Tribal leaders representing small, medium, and large federally recognized Tribes. The committee is intended to further communications between HUD and federally recognized Tribes on HUD programs, make recommendations and provide advice to HUD, and encourage peer learning and capacity building among Tribes and non-Tribal entities. Comments are due August 22. For more information, contact Heidi J. Frechette, HUD, 202-402-7598.

Changes in fair lending oversight recommended.

A Government Accountability Office review found problems in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s oversight of national banks’ compliance with fair lending laws. Fair Lending: Opportunities Exist to Enhance OCC’s Oversight of Banks’ Lending Practices explains that OCC made major process changes in 2018, after which the number of fair lending exams of smaller banks dropped sharply. It also used outdated examination guidance, examiners sometimes followed procedures inconsistently, and it did not assess the effects of its process changes. GAO reports that OCC has planned actions to address its recommendations.

Pilot aims to assist farmworkers and employers.

USDA has announced it will work with other federal agencies to develop a pilot program that will address challenges both workers and employers face in using the H-2A visa program and will improve working conditions for both U.S. farmworkers and H-2A workers. USDA plans to consult stakeholders and the United Farm Workers of America as it develops a competitive pilot program for launch ahead of the growing season in early 2023.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Interactive graphics show relief aided renters during pandemic but underlying issues remain.

Relief Measures Reduced Hardship for Renters During Pandemic, but Many Still Struggle to Pay Rent in Every State, developed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, shows how relief measures such as the national eviction moratorium and the Emergency Rental Assistance program reduced hardship for renters, but only temporarily. People of color and families with children, as well as low-income residents in the Southeastern U.S., were most likely to fall behind on rent payments.

3D-printed homes to be developed in rural Virginia.

Project Virginia will develop 200 3D-printed homes in Virginia to serve as workforce housing. The first two are being built in Pulaski, in a region seeing high growth for tech jobs. Project developer Alquist 3D anticipates that 3D-printed homes will help ease affordability issues as more jobs move in.

HAC

HAC seeks Loan Officer for Rental Preservation and Housing Specialist – Native American Communities.

  • The Loan Officer, Rental Preservation, conducts rental housing lending and preservation technical assistance activities. This work includes marketing, originating, and underwriting new loan transactions in the Loan Fund Division. The Loan Officer also provides hands-on technical assistance to nonprofits that are seeking to acquire and preserve existing USDA-financed (Section 515) rental developments. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Housing Specialist – Native American Communities is responsible for providing direct technical assistance, coaching, and training to tribal communities, tribal housing departments, tribal housing authorities, and nonprofit organizations serving tribal communities. Travel is required. This position is eligible for telecommuting.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

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Please credit the HAC News and provide a link to HAC’s website. Thank you!

HAC News: June 9, 2022

TOP STORIES

House committee to begin FY23 funding process.

The House Appropriations Committee has announced its schedule for considering funding bills covering the fiscal year that begins October 1. USDA appropriations will be marked up in subcommittee on June 15 and by the full committee on June 23. HUD’s mark-ups will be June 23 for the subcommittee and June 30 for the full committee.

Senators request input on USDA rural housing programs.

Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over housing programs, are asking for stakeholders’ input on USDA Rural Housing Service programs. Comments can be emailed to rural_housing@smith.senate.gov by July 8.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issue plans for equitable housing finance.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have developed Equitable Housing Finance Plans for 2022-2024, intended to help address the racial and ethnic disparities in homeownership and wealth. The plans’ activities include consumer education initiatives for renters and homeowners, credit reporting to help tenants build credit profiles, counseling services, technology use, and special purpose credit programs. The Federal Housing Finance Agency will also require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to maintain online lists of pilots and test-and-learn activities.

Administration supports building codes to improve climate resilience.

A National Initiative to Advance Building Codes aims to encourage states and territories, local governments, and tribes to adopt building codes requiring structures to resist extreme weather, and federal agencies will require federally funded housing and other buildings to meet high standards even in places without such codes. The Administration’s announcement notes the advantages of cost savings over time as well as the need to control upfront costs.

June is National Homeownership Month.

President Biden issued a proclamation and HUD’s press release notes that this is the 20th annual Homeownership Month. USDA Rural Development will honor the occasion by highlighting stories from rural, tribal, and underserved communities.

June is Pride Month.

President Biden declared June to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Pride Month. HAC celebrates the diversity that makes every community unique.

RuralSTAT

Of the $1.1 billion Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac invested in Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity in 2021, $287 million (26%) went to areas defined as rural under the Duty to Serve regulations. Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency, 2021 Mission Report: Affordable Housing Activities of the Regulated Entities.

OPPORTUNITIES

Website offers training information for Section 502 direct loan packagers.

Completion of a USDA-approved training is one prerequisite for those seeking certification as packagers to help rural Americans apply for Section 502 direct mortgage loans. The new USDA 502 Direct Training website provides one-stop access to information on packaging, the certification course, and more, from all three intermediaries that offer training – HAC, NeighborWorks America, and Rural Community Assistance Corporation. For more information, email 502Training@ruralhome.org.

Help offered for localities to access infrastructure funding.

The Local Infrastructure Hub, created by the National League of Cities, Results for America, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors with help from other national nonprofits and funders, aims to ensure that local governments can access federal infrastructure funding to improve their communities. The effort, which will launch on July 1, intends to help cities and towns of all sizes and from all regions of the country.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

HUD requests comments on “Buy America Preference.”

The 2021 infrastructure act requires that before HUD provides funds for infrastructure projects it must take steps to ensure that all the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used are produced in the United States. HUD seeks input on topics such as what HUD-financed projects might fall under exemptions from the preference, how materials are currently sourced, and more. It also asks what HUD programs might be considered to fund infrastructure in addition to those on a previously published list that includes HOME, CDBG, and SHOP. Comments are due July 1. For more information, contact Joseph Carlile, HUD, 202-402-7082.

Final energy conservation standards set for manufactured housing.

The Department of Energy has established energy conservation standards for manufactured housing, “tiered” based on size, except that the building thermal envelope requirements for single-section manufactured homes are less stringent than those for multi-section homes. Compliance with these standards is required by May 31, 2023.  For more information, contact John Cymbalsky, DOE, 202-287-1692.

HUD expands tools to find housing counseling.

HUD has revised its online search and toll-free telephone line (1-800-569-4287) to help people find HUD-approved housing counseling agencies. HUD’s announcement explains that the online locator is available in English and Spanish and includes improved navigation, smart-phone capability, and integration with map technology, as well as contacts to national intermediaries where there are no local agencies. The phone service allows users to speak to customer service representatives and to request assistance from translators in more than 200 languages.

Treasury explains reallocation of Emergency Rental Assistance for tribes.

An addendum to earlier guidance describes how the Treasury Department will reallocate funds from the first round of the Emergency Rental Assistance program to tribal governments.

Indian Country questions in CRA proposal highlighted.

Native American-focused provisions in the recent Community Reinvestment Act proposed rule are described in CRA Modernization and Indian Country: Banking Agencies Seek Feedback on New Rulemaking Proposal, an article from the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. The post points out that the proposal asks for comment on a new definition of Native Land Areas and on bank activities’ benefits to Natives. Comments on the proposal – which also covers many other topics – are due August 5.

Flood insurance Q&As revised.

The Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Flood Insurance issued by a group of federal agencies are intended to help lenders meet their responsibilities under federal flood insurance law and to increase public understanding of the agencies’ regulations. For more information, contact Rhonda L. Daniels, OCC, 202-649-5405.

FHFA reports on affordable housing.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s 2021 Mission Report: Affordable Housing Activities of the Regulated Entities describes the activities of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks to provide greater access to financing for targeted economic development and affordable, sustainable, and equitable housing.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Homeownership builds wealth but does not narrow the racial wealth gap.

Three Reasons Why Expanding Access to Homeownership Alone Won’t Close the Racial Wealth Gap, an Urban Institute post, summarizes research explaining why other policy approaches are needed. Black- and Latinx-led renter households do not benefit from policies targeted to homeowners; homeownership’s benefits are smaller and its costs and risks larger for people of color; and promoting homeownership contributes to negative climate effects, which disproportionately impact communities of color.

GAO recommends national broadband strategy.

A Government Accountability Office study identifies over 100 federal programs administered by 15 agencies that can be used to expand broadband access in rural places. Broadband: National Strategy Needed to Guide Federal Efforts to Reduce Digital Divide makes several recommendations to coordinate these efforts.

Drought’s impact in rural West draws attention.

Stories like CNN’s California Drought is Pushing Latino Farmers and Workers to Make Difficult Decisions and As California’s Big Cities Fail to Rein in Their Water Use, Rural Communities are Already Tapped Out describe climate change’s devastating impacts on rural economies. A report titled SGMA and Underrepresented Farmers says implementation of California’s groundwater management law does not adequately protect small and underserved farmers. A June 7 Senate subcommittee hearing addressed The Western Water Crisis: Confronting Persistent Drought and Building Resilience on Our Forests and Farmland. The federal Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group released a report on one year of Biden-Harris Administration actions, such as deployment of infrastructure funding.

Illustrated story explains Black farmers’ debt.

Illustrating the News: The Battle Over Debt Relief for Black Farmers, a graphic story published by the Daily Yonder, uses images to explain the need for the American Rescue Plan Act’s debt relief program for socially disadvantaged farmers and the lawsuits that have put the effort in limbo.

HAC

Rural veterans and local nonprofits receive critical housing support.

The Home Depot Foundation and HAC announced on June 8 that the Foundation is awarding grants totaling $375,107 to 13 local nonprofits around the country to repair the homes of 65 rural veterans and their families. As part of its Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans Initiative, HAC works with the Foundation to administer these grants that bolster and support the work of rural nonprofit housing agencies to deliver critical housing support to veterans.

Want to reprint a HAC News item?

Please credit the HAC News and provide a link to HAC’s website. Thank you!

HAC seeks Housing Specialist – Native American Communities, Impact Specialist, and Community Placemaking Manager.

  • The Housing Specialist – Native American Communities is responsible for providing direct technical assistance, coaching, and training to tribal communities, tribal housing departments, tribal housing authorities, and nonprofit organizations serving tribal communities. Travel is required. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Impact Specialist collects and reports impact metrics across HAC’s lines of business, assists in the preparation and review of investor and donor reports for HAC’s various sources of funding, and assists in the development and tracking of HAC’s new strategic plan. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Community Placemaking Manager helps rural residents use their unique artistic and cultural resources to guide local development and shape the future design of their communities. The manager will cultivate the capacity of partner organizations and local communities, facilitate peer-to-peer learning engagements, manage day-to-day program functions and activities, communicate program success, and prepare funding applications. Travel is required. This position is eligible for telecommuting.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

HAC News: May 26, 2022

TOP STORIES

White House releases housing supply plan.

Citing burdensome housing costs and a shortfall of available units, on May 16 the Biden-Harris Administration released a Housing Supply Action Plan that includes administrative and legislative proposals to improve existing housing finance mechanisms. It also calls on Congress to establish a Housing Supply Fund and incentivize zoning reform to accelerate the building of more housing nationwide. HAC’s statement on the plan applauds the administration for designing and including several provisions specifically with rural markets in mind.

Rural homelessness bill passes House committee.

The House Committee on Financial Services approved several bills on May 18 including the Flexibility in Addressing Rural Homelessness Act, H.R. 7196. The bill, introduced by Reps. Cindy Axne (D-IA) and Frank Lucas (R-OK), would give rural Continuums of Care more flexibility in using their funding, allowing them to pay for short-term emergency lodging, including in motels or hotels; repairs to make existing housing habitable; and capacity building.

Senate subcommittee hears Torres Small on rural housing.

On May 25, USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small appeared at a hearing titled Examining the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service, held by the Senate Banking Committee’s Housing Subcommittee. Her testimony focused on the importance of the funds and actions proposed in the administration’s budget request, including the Rural Partnership Program and support for rental preservation efforts. USDA will need $10 billion in the MPR preservation program by 2033 to preserve 137,000 units, she said; without “robust funding,” USDA will lose 333,780 of its approximately 400,000 rental units by 2050. Questions from Senators attending the hearing recognized the need for these units, the positive potential of the Section 502 Single Family Housing Direct Loan Relending Program for Native Americans, and opportunities to improve agency processes, staffing, and technology.

Vilsack appears before Senate committee.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was the only witness at a May 26 Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Opportunities and Challenges Facing Farmers, Families, and Rural Communities, which focused primarily on agriculture topics. Responding to Senators’ questions, Vilsack expressed a commitment to equity for Black and underserved stakeholders, support for immigration reform including the H-2A visa program, and intentions to hire additional Rural Development field staff if Congress appropriates the necessary funding.

Manufactured housing hearing set for May 26.

The House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee is holding a hearing May 26 on Manufactured Housing: Supporting America’s Largest Unsubsidized Affordable Housing Stock, with HAC’s Director of Research and information, Lance George, among the witnesses. His testimony explains the importance of manufactured homes as affordable housing in rural America and the challenges facing manufactured housing residents, owners, and communities. It suggests that new research is needed to inform evidence-based solutions and that Congress could help address pressing challenges by providing grants for land acquisition by resident owned cooperatives, other mission-focused nonprofits, and public sector housing agencies, as well as financing for individual homeowners.

RuralSTAT

More than half of all manufactured homes are located in rural areas around the country and manufactured homes make up 14% of all occupied homes in rural and small-town communities. Source: Housing Assistance Council tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016-2020 American Community Survey.

OPPORTUNITIES

Housing Preservation Grants available.

USDA will make Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants to nonprofits, state and local governments, and tribes for repair or rehabilitation of rental or owner-occupied housing for low- and very low-income rural residents. Preapplications are due July 11. For more information, contact a USDA Rural Development State Office.

HUD offers service coordinator funds.

Nonprofits, PHAs, tribes, Tribally Designated Housing Entities, and resident associations can apply by July 18 for Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency Service Coordinator grants to hire staff who assess the needs of public and Indian housing residents and link them to training and supportive services. For more information, contact HUD’s ROSS Program Office, 202-402-3624, ROSS-PIH@HUD.gov.

Owners of USDA-funded properties invited to host summer meals.

Rental housing and Community Facilities sites funded by USDA Rural Development can host the Summer Food Service Program operated by the Food and Nutrition Service for low-income children and teens. Local sponsoring organizations prepare the meals and deliver them. For more information, contact USDA Summer Food Service Program staff.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Census reports on accuracy of state-level data.

The Census Bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey, one of the tools used to evaluate the accuracy of the 2020 Census, estimated there were no statistically significant undercounts or overcounts of population in 36 states and D.C., undercounts in six states, and overcounts in eight. Reliable estimates are not available for demographic characteristics or geographic areas within states. In March, Census reported estimated national undercounts for renters and Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, some other race, and Hispanic or Latino populations, as well as children under age 5 and working age men. The remainder of the PES estimates, including results for housing units, and undercount and overcount rates for Puerto Rico, are expected to be released this summer.

Family Self-Sufficiency program changes implemented.

HUD has published a final rule putting 2018 legislative changes into effect for the Family Self-Sufficiency program. Revisions include expanding the definition of eligible families to include tenants of privately owned multifamily properties with Project-Based Rental Assistance. PHAs and property owners must comply with this rule by November 14. For more information related to public and Indian housing, email questions to FSS@hud.gov; related to privately owned properties, email MF_FSS@hud.gov.

Thompson confirmed as FHFA director.

On May 25, the Senate confirmed Sandra L. Thompson to serve a five-year term as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. She has been the agency’s acting director since June 2021.

Placemaking toolkit offered.

USDA and the University of Kentucky’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky have created a digital Rural America Placemaking Toolkit intended to help rural leaders build placemaking plans. It covers conducting assessments, provides examples of placemaking projects, and includes information about technical assistance providers, funders, and resources.

Guidance covers design/build and construction management for USDA Community Facilities.

Replacing earlier guidance that has expired, USDA explains the process of obtaining agency approval for use of design/build or construction management services for Community Facilities projects. While USDA allows for the contracting of such all-in-one services, when the contract exceeds $250,000 prior approval must be obtained from the National Office. For more information, contact a USDA Rural Development State Office.

USDA tenant data shows emergency aid dramatically reduced cost burden.

USDA’s annual report on the characteristics of tenants in Section 515 and 514 properties shows that in October 2021 there were 108 fewer Section 515 properties and 25 fewer farm labor housing properties than in 2020, a total reduction of 1,709 units. The average household income rose by 3.78% to $14,665. Tenant households receiving Section 521 Rental Assistance saw a 7.13% increase in income to $12,501. The number of resident households paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent fell sharply from 41,121 in 2020 to 3,227 in 2021. USDA attributed this 92% decrease to the emergency rental assistance funds made available because of the coronavirus pandemic.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Wildfire risk calculated across the U.S.

First Street Foundation has developed a model to estimate the risk of wildfire on a property-by-property basis across the U.S. now and up to 30 years in the future. Reports by the New York Times and Washington Post use First Street’s data to create interactive maps and graphics. First Street’s online Risk Factor tool also includes information about flood risk.

Local nonprofit capacity impacted distribution of pandemic rent aid.

An Uneven Housing Safety Net: Disparities in the Disbursement of Emergency Rental Assistance and the Role of Local Institutional Capacity, published by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California at Berkeley, explores county-level take-up of federal Emergency Rental Assistance funding along with data about local governmental and nonprofit capacity, preexisting economic hardship, and pandemic-related impacts on employment. Researchers found that, while ERA is reaching many eligible households, counties that had higher levels of economic distress before the pandemic and where local nonprofit networks are less resourced also had relatively lower ERA take-up rates. Many of these counties are outside metropolitan areas.

Rural data helps address persistent poverty.

Filling the Data Gap in Rural America, written by Partners for Rural Transformation and published by Forbes, highlights how HAC works to increase access to data about rural America to better address rural housing challenges and persistent poverty.

Study describes rural Missouri renters’ concerns.

The State of Missouri Tenants: Listening to Tenants in America’s Heartland and a related podcast report on interviews with rural renters around the state conducted by KCTenants in 2021. While physical housing conditions and costs were the problems mentioned most often statewide, researchers found differences based on type of housing. In privately owned apartment complexes and manufactured home parks, affordability was the biggest tenant concern. In public housing (where rents are limited based on income), housing conditions were the major problem. Tenants who were Black or other people of color reported a higher incidence of problems than those who were white.

Iowa county’s growth plan: increase Latino population.

A Rural County in Iowa That Supported Trump Turns to Latinos to Grow, a Washington Post story, describes efforts in rural Greene County, Iowa to address chronic population decline by recruiting Latino residents. The county has jobs available, is trying to address a shortage of housing, and plans to educate residents about their new neighbors.

Guide covers partnerships for rural healthcare.

A Playbook for New Rural Healthcare Partnership Models of Investments, released by the Build Healthy Places Network, is intended to assist healthcare organizations that want to pursue partnerships with local community and economic development and other sectors in rural areas to create the community conditions that support improved community health.

Preparing for weather emergencies saves lives.

10 Tips for Rural Dwellers to Prepare for Emergencies, an article from Next Avenue, provides advice for rural residents to get ready for natural disasters. In addition to stocking up on supplies, food, and equipment, the author recommends creating a communication plan for your family and networking with your community.

HAC

HAC seeks Housing Specialist and Community Placemaking Manager.

  • The Housing Specialist is based primarily in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.
  • The Community Placemaking Manager helps rural residents use their unique artistic and cultural resources to guide local development and shape the future design of their communities. The manager will cultivate the capacity of partner organizations and local communities, facilitate peer-to-peer learning engagements, manage day-to-day program functions and activities, communicate program success, and prepare funding applications. Travel is required. This position is telecommuting eligible.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

HAC News: May 12, 2022

TOP STORIES

Community Reinvestment Act proposal released.

Comments are due August 5 on a proposed new CRA rule issued jointly by the three federal agencies that regulate banks and other lenders: the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Along with many other changes, the proposed rule would revise the way CRA assessment areas are delineated. It would create new performance tests for large banks (those with assets of at least $2 billion) and intermediate banks (those with assets between $600 million and $2 billion), including a Community Development Financing Test and a Community Development Services Test. Small banks (with under $600 million in assets) would be evaluated under the current CRA performance standards unless they opted into the new Retail Lending Test. For more information, contact Heidi Thomas, OCC, 202-649-5490.

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

President Biden’s proclamation and other federal information about the observance are available online.

RuralSTAT

In March 2022 the unemployment rate outside of metropolitan areas dropped to 3.9%, continuing a general decline in the rural joblessness rate since the height of the pandemic. Source: Housing Assistance Council tabulations of Bureau of Labor Statistics LAUS Data.

OPPORTUNITIES

Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants available.

PHAs, local governments, tribal entities, and nonprofits are eligible for funds that support the development of comprehensive plans to revitalize severely distressed public housing and/or HUD-assisted housing and the surrounding neighborhood. Apply by July 28. For more information, contact HUD staff.

Webinars cover subdivision development for affordable housing.

Subdivision development is a complex undertaking that requires both a vision of what is possible and an eye for detail throughout the entire process. HAC offers a free three-part webinar series, covering the process from start to finish, the financial risks and rewards for rural housing organizations, and more. Recordings are posted online from Session 1: An Overview and Session 2:  From Project Inception Through Land Acquisition. Session 3:  From Land Acquisition to Completion will be on May 25.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Some additional non-citizens temporarily eligible for Section 502 guaranteed loans.

For one year, beginning May 2, 2022, non-citizens with valid Social Security Numbers and work authorization, as evidenced by documentation such as an Employment Authorization Document, Form I-766, are temporarily eligible for USDA Section 502 guaranteed mortgages. USDA’s announcement explains that it intends to change its regulations to make this eligibility expansion permanent. For more information, contact a USDA RD service center.

Nonprofits and others will have new opportunity to purchase some foreclosed homes.

The Federal Housing Administration has modified its Claims Without Conveyance of Title post-foreclosure sale process, through which lenders can sell foreclosed properties that were FHA-insured directly to third parties rather than conveying them to FHA. Mortgagee Letter 2022-08 creates a 30-day exclusive sales period for owner-occupants, HUD-approved nonprofits, and governmental entities to purchase foreclosed homes before investors are allowed to bid. For more information, contact the FHA Resource Center, 1-800-CALL-FHA.

Deadline extended for Emergency Solutions Grants-COVID program.

A recent notice from HUD moves the deadline for ESG-CV recipients (states, localities, and nonprofits) to spend their program allocations to September 30, 2023 instead of September 30, 2022. The notice also explains how unused funds will be reallocated. For more information, contact an ESG-CV recipient.

Updated FAQs posted for homeowner assistance and state and local recovery funds.

VA sets goal for housing veterans experiencing homelessness.

Noting that progress towards ending veteran homelessness has stalled since 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs has established a nationwide goal to house 38,000 homeless veterans during calendar year 2022. VA offers resources to support communities in achieving this target, including bi-weekly office hours calls with recordings and notes posted online, FAQs, and other information.

2022 compliance supplement for audits released.

The 2022 Compliance Supplement to OMB’s Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements applies to audits of fiscal years beginning after June 30, 2021 for nonprofits, state and local governments and tribes receiving federal funds. Comments are due July 11. For more information, contact the relevant federal agency.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Online series addresses fair housing and racial equity.

HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity has posted a series of “Table Talks” that aim to educate regarding fair housing, discuss partnership in communities, and address fair housing policies and programs.

Black farmers’ land loss estimated.

Black families’ real estate ownership peaked in the early 1900s and by 1997 they had lost about 90% of their farmland, according to a new research report. The process – and USDA’s role in it – are described in How the Government Helped White Americans Steal Black Farmland, an article in the New Republic by a team of scholars whose academic report will be published by the American Economic Association. They calculated that the current value of the lost land and income from it would be about $326 billion. “This enormous loss not only cost the families who saw their land and dreams taken from them,” they write, “but destroyed a rural Black middle class that had, by sheer will, emerged in the aftermath of slavery.”

Emergency Housing Voucher use discussed.

Using EHVs to Get People Housed: Focus Group Discussions on Challenges and Current Strategies, a report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, explores experience with these vouchers, created by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for people experiencing homelessness. Continuums of Care and PHAs have faced challenges and developed strategies that could assist other communities and policymakers.

Answers updated about coronavirus aid based on immigration status.

A new version of Frequently Asked Questions: Eligibility for Assistance Based on Immigration Status, also available in Spanish, has been released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Housing Law Project, and the National Immigration Law Center. The update adds information on the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program and reflects the Treasury Department’s guidance on Emergency Rental Assistance programs’ use of Social Security Numbers.

Resources help address structural and systemic racism in housing policy.

A new webpage offers resources on policy, research, and advocacy related to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-racism, and Systems-thinking (IDEAS) from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and its partners. For more information, contact Renee M. Willis, NLIHC.

CDBG important for community improvements, report says.

CDBG: Improving Lives and Strengthening Communities, a report by the CDBG Coalition, offers national data and local examples from rural and urban places around the country to inform stakeholders about the importance of the Community Development Block Grant program.

HAC

HAC seeks Housing Specialist and Community Placemaking Manager.

  • The Housing Specialist is based primarily in either the Southwest or Western states (within two hours of a major airport) and works with local partner organizations to identify financial resources and funding opportunities to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies specifically throughout expanses of Southwest and/or Western rural America. This position is remote location eligible.
  • The Community Placemaking Manager helps rural residents use their unique artistic and cultural resources to guide local development and shape the future design of their communities. The manager will cultivate the capacity of partner organizations and local communities, facilitate peer-to-peer learning engagements, manage day-to-day program functions and activities, communicate program success, and prepare funding applications. Travel is required. This position is telecommuting eligible.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

HAC News: April 28, 2022

HAC News: April 28, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 9

TOP STORIES

Rural Partners Network launched.

A new “whole-of-government” effort led by USDA, the Rural Partners Network is intended to help rural communities access government resources and funding to create jobs, build infrastructure, and support long-term economic stability. USDA staffer Lee Jones has been named RPN’s executive director. Field staff will be placed in rural communities, starting with selected places in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and New Mexico, as well as certain tribes in Arizona. Additional efforts in Nevada, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and tribal communities in Alaska are planned to launch by the end of August and USDA hopes to expand eventually into all states, as well as more tribes and territories. For more information, contact RPN staff.

CFPB reports on rural banking access.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which recently announced a new initiative on rural financial issues, has published Data Spotlight: Challenges in Rural Banking Access. CFPB found that rural Americans rely on physical bank branches and smaller banks, though many lack access to physical branches; rural Americans are less likely to have a credit history and more likely to use non-bank credit, resulting in rural consumers paying more for credit; and medical debt affects rural access to credit, housing, and employment.

HAC lists its appropriations priorities.

As the FY 2023 appropriations process gets underway, HAC is supporting a variety of rural and tribal housing funding priorities for capacity building, rural rental preservation, and rural and tribal homeownership.

RuralSTAT

Small family farms operated 48% of U.S. farmland in 2020, down from 52% in 2011. They accounted for only 20% of production by value in 2020, while large-scale family farms (those with $1 million or more in gross cash farm income) yielded 46% of the total value of production. Source: USDA Economic Research Service.

OPPORTUNITIES

New round of farmworker housing funding announced.

On May 16 USDA will open its third application round for off-farm new construction funding from the Section 514/516 loan and grant programs. USDA will hold a webinar on May 11 to discuss the application process and the program. Preapplications will be due July 15. For more information, contact Abby Boggs, USDA, 615-490-1371.

HAC offers rental preservation financing.

USDA recently issued a Notice of Solicitation of Applications regarding its “no cost debt deferral” through the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program for Section 515 and 514 properties that have an obligation date after 10/1/1991. USDA will defer loan payments for 20 years to free up property funds for rehabilitation and improvements. Lower debt service payments will allow properties to leverage new financing or accumulate additional reserves for larger improvements. HAC has flexible, low-cost financing available for properties seeking debt deferrals through this program. Please reach out to Kristin Blum or Alison Duncan if you need financing for your Section 515 or 514 property or have questions on preservation of these properties.

Webinars to cover subdivision development for affordable housing.

Subdivision development is a complex undertaking that requires both a vision of what is possible and an eye for detail throughout the entire process. HAC offers a three-part webinar series, covering the process from start to finish, the financial risks and rewards for rural housing organizations, and more. The webinars are free and recordings will be posted online. Session 1: An Overview was held April 27. Session 2:  From Project Inception Through Land Acquisition is scheduled for May 11. Session 3:  From Land Acquisition to Completion will be on May 25.

Rural placemaking conference announced.

USDA and the University of Kentucky will hold a Placemaking in Small & Rural Communities Online Conference on May 23-24. Presenters will address rural placemaking strategies and provide placemaking resources, including a new interactive digital toolkit.

“Rural Talks” hybrid sessions planned.

Rural LISC will present webinars, with limited in-person attendance available in Washington, DC, on three rural community development topics: Broadband and Infrastructure on May 10-11, Housing on July 13-15, and Workforce and Small Business on December 7-9.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

New USDA appointees have rural housing experience.

Tom Carew, formerly with Fahe and Frontier Housing, has been appointed USDA Rural Development State Director in Kentucky. Michele Weaver, whose background includes work with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, was named RD State Director in Utah. HAC has posted a list of all USDA RD State Directors appointed by President Biden to date. These positions do not require Senate confirmation.

VA mortgage program for Native Americans needs improvements, study says.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Native American Direct Loan program has made relatively few loans, reports the Government Accountability Office in Native American Veterans: Improvements to VA Management Could Help Increase Mortgage Loan Program Participation. In addition to steps VA has already taken to strengthen the program, GAO recommends better data collection and performance measurement, planning, and working with other VA offices, federal agencies, and local organizations with applicable experience.

Duty to Serve plans accepted.

After twice requesting revisions, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has accepted the plans submitted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for meeting their 2022-2024 Duty to Serve obligations. FHFA will review actions taken under the plans to ensure they address the needs of the three DTS underserved markets (manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation, and rural housing).

HUD to review barriers for people involved with criminal justice system.

As part of a broader federal effort to expand opportunities for formerly incarcerated persons, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge has directed program offices to identify and propose changes to regulations, guidance documents, and other policies that may pose barriers to housing for persons with criminal histories. HUD also established a web page with information on preventing homelessness among people leaving prisons and jails.

Guidance addresses fair housing in rental properties’ marketing and applications.

HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity released new guidance on how some marketing, rental application processing, and waitlist management practices can perpetuate segregation or otherwise discriminate, violating fair housing requirements for HUD-subsidized multifamily housing. The guidance is intended to help property owners understand and implement more inclusive practices.

Equity Commission to meet.

USDA’s Equity Commission and its Subcommittee for Agriculture will meet on May 10 and 11. The meetings are open to the public online. For more information, contact Cecilia Hernandez, USDA, 202-913-5907.

Income limits revised.

The annual limits, which determine eligibility for several HUD programs, are effective April 18.

USDA explains which guaranteed loans can use oneRD provisions.

USDA Rural Development has confirmed its regulations for the oneRD Guarantee Loan Program are final as published in December. OneRD provides a standard set of requirements, processes and forms for lenders using the Community Facilities, Water and Waste Disposal, Business and Industry, and Rural Energy for America loan guarantee programs. Some provisions can be used for applications pending review, conditional commitments, and loans made under OneRD since October 1, 2020. For more information, contact Lauren Cusick, USDA, 202-720-1414.

Review notes flaws in USDA decision to move agencies.

A new Government Accountability Office report, Evidence-Based Policy Making: USDA’s Decision to Relocate Research Agencies to Kansas City Was Not Fully Consistent with an Evidence-Based Approach, considers USDA’s 2019 decision to move most Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture jobs from Washington, DC to Kansas City. GAO concludes that “USDA overlooked key evidence, e.g., it didn’t factor in potential costs related to the attrition of staff or the disruption of agencies’ activities due to the relocation. As a result, USDA cannot be sure it made the best choice to meet its objectives.” USDA confirmed last year that it will not disrupt the agencies again by moving them back to Washington, DC.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

U.S. needs 7 million more homes for lowest-income renters.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual publication, The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, reports there are shortages in every state. Nationwide, only 36 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households (those with incomes below poverty or below 30% of their area median income, whichever is greater). The report concludes that both short- and long-term policy interventions are needed to address the immediate housing impacts of the pandemic and the underlying shortage of affordable housing.

Survey shows risky home financing used by millions.

Briefs from the Pew Charitable Trusts review existing research and report the results of a Pew survey to explore U.S. homebuyers’ use of nonstandard financing such as land contracts, seller-financed mortgages, lease-purchase agreements, and personal property loans. Usage varies by race/ethnicity: 34% of Hispanic borrowers have used alternative financing at some point, as have 23% of non-Hispanic Black borrowers and 19% of non-Hispanic white borrowers. Pew’s analysis notes some of the factors that lead residents of high-poverty rural areas to use alternative financing, including low incomes, the difficulty of mortgaging trust land, the lack of standard mortgage options for low purchase prices, and manufactured homes’ legal status in some places as personal property.

HAC

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

HAC News: April 14, 2022

HAC News: April 14, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 8

TOP STORIES

Nominations open for Rural Community Economic Development Subcommittee, other advisory bodies.

  • USDA Equity Commission: The commission requests nominations by May 6 for its new Rural Community Economic Development Subcommittee, which will be charged with providing recommendations to the department on issues and concerns related to rural development, persistent poverty, and underserved communities. For more information, contact Cecilia Hernandez, USDA, 202-913-5907.
  • Treasury Department: The Treasury Advisory Committee on Racial Equity will provide information, advice and recommendations relating to the advancement of racial equity. Nominations are due April 25. For more information, contact Janis Bowdler, Treasury, 202-622-3002.
  • Government Accountability Office: Nominations are due May 20 for GAO’s first standing Tribal Advisory Council, which will advise GAO on issues affecting tribes and Indigenous peoples relevant to the agency’s work evaluating federal programs serving tribes and related topics. For more information, contact Paige Gilbreath, GAO, 214-777-5724.

Majority of persistently poor counties are rural and have had high poverty for many decades.

The Persistence of Poverty in Rural America, a new Rural Research Brief from HAC, estimates that in 2020 there were 377 U.S. counties and county equivalents where poverty rates remained at 20% or more for three consecutive decades. For the first time, HAC also calculated persistent poverty status for Puerto Rico; including that territory, there are a total of 455 Persistent Poverty Counties. Approximately 78% of Persistent Poverty Counties in 2020 have been in this status consistently since 1980.

RuralSTAT

All 78 of Puerto Rico’s municipios (county equivalents) were classified as having persistent poverty status in 2020. Source: HAC tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016-2020 American Community Survey, the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, and the 2000 Decennial Census of Population and Housing.

 

OPPORTUNITIES

HAC offers rental preservation financing.

USDA recently issued a Notice of Solicitation of Applications regarding its “no cost debt deferral” through the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program for Section 515 and 514 properties that have an obligation date after 10/1/1991. USDA will defer loan payments for 20 years to free up property funds for rehabilitation and improvements. Lower debt service payments will allow properties to leverage new financing or accumulate additional reserves for larger improvements. HAC has flexible, low-cost financing available for properties seeking debt deferrals through this program. Please reach out to Kristin Blum or Alison Duncan if you need financing for your Section 515 or 514 property or have questions on preservation of these properties.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Departments issue equity action plans.

On April 13 the White House announced that more than 90 federal agencies were releasing equity action plans. The plans generally acknowledge the particular barriers faced by rural places and tribal entities. USDA’s plan asserts the department’s intentions to “establish a place-based model to deliver federal rural development resources” and to prioritize RD projects that assist in recovering from the pandemic, ensure equitable access, and reduce climate impacts and increase resilience. One section of the plan specifically addresses tribal access to USDA programs. HUD’s plan focuses on four topics: widening the entities it funds, fair housing, homeownership, and homelessness. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness developed its own plan as well. The Treasury Department’s document summarizes actions taken and plans for the future in its various pandemic relief programs, which include Emergency Rental Assistance, the Homeowner Assistance Fund, and the Child Tax Credit. The Department of Commerce expects to work towards closing the digital divide, particularly for rural and tribal communities.

Rural infrastructure information released.

The White House released a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Rural Playbook and launched a tour for administration officials, including Cabinet secretaries, “to engage rural communities throughout the country.” The playbook describes efforts funded by the law – which focused on traditional infrastructure and did not include housing – and provides links to government sites for more information. An accompanying USDA factsheet emphasizes broadband and climate resilience.

Some foreclosures suspended while homeowners seek aid.

Companies that service mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be required to suspend foreclosure activities for up to 60 days if the servicer has been notified that a borrower has applied for assistance under the Homeowner Assistance Fund, which is run through state, local, and tribal governments. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer online lookup tools to determine whether one of them owns the mortgage on a property. For more information, contact the bank or company where mortgage payments are made. For information on USDA direct Section 502 loans, which are not owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, contact USDA’s Customer Servicing Center, 1-800-414-1226.

Treasury to reallocate more Emergency Rental Assistance funds.

The Treasury Department has issued its reallocation guidance for the second Emergency Rental Assistance program (ERA2), along with updated ERA1 guidelines and data on aid distributed through the end of February. Because Treasury expects relatively few ERA2 funds will be available for reallocation, it encourages state, local, and tribal governments to use other sources, including their State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, to assist more renters.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Rural housing voucher use fell, homeowner repair grants not fully used in FY21.

HAC’s Fiscal Year 2021 USDA Rural Development Housing Activity Report shows that in FY21 USDA obligated about $1.0 billion for 5,355 Section 502 direct loans, with just over 36% of the obligated funds going to very low-income borrowers. The Section 502 guaranteed loan program covered 137,970 mortgages. Section 504 repair loans for homeowners were underutilized, as is usually the case, but Section 504 grants, fully used in most years, left more than $5 million unobligated in FY21. Multifamily housing financing included 96 Section 538 loan guarantees totaling nearly $230.0 million, 47 Section 515 direct rental housing loans totaling $38.3 million to repair or rehabilitate 1,343 units, and two loans and one grant from the Section 514/516 farm labor housing program. Section 521 Rental Assistance funded 284,194 units totaling $1.5 billion. For the first time, the number of Section 542 housing vouchers fell, dropping from 7,489 in FY20 to 7,261 in FY21.

Tribal housing aid finder launched online.

The Tribal Housing Assistance Resource Hub, created by the National American Indian Housing Council, is intended to enable American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian homeowners, individuals, and families, to find mortgage, utilities, and rental assistance services. It covers two federal programs administered by state and tribal governments – the Homeowner Assistance Fund and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program – as well as services offered by tribal housing programs, such as home loan assistance, homebuyer education, elder and veteran housing, and others.

Redlining Toolkit addresses fair and equitable access to credit.

A new publication from the National Fair Housing Alliance is intended to help understand the public data relating to redlining risk in order to take action and promote racial equity. It includes information about the history and legal framework for redlining, provides tools to identify specific lenders with high redlining risk, and offers guidance for taking action when a lender shows high redlining risk in a community of color.

Report looks at lessons learned for designing rent aid.

Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) During the Pandemic: Implications for the Design of Permanent ERA Programs, released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Housing Initiative at Penn, discusses the findings from a survey of 100 administrators of the Emergency Rental Assistance program during the pandemic. Lessons in the report include the need for permanent emergency rental assistance programs and flexibility in requirements for applications.

Water contaminants mapped at county level.

A Drinking Water Dashboard compiled by Columbia University offers an interactive map and links to datasets showing contaminant exposure estimates in community water systems across the U.S. It accompanies a study titled Sociodemographic Inequalities in Uranium and Other Metals in Community Water Systems Across the USA, 2006-11: A Cross-Sectional Study.

Child Tax Credit payments used for essentials, including housing.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey and found that from July through December 2021 the most common reported uses of monthly Child Tax Credit payments were for basic needs, including food (65%), utilities and telecommunications (40%), rent and mortgage (39%) and clothing (34%). The Pulse Survey does not break down data by geography below the state level, but previous analyses found that families living outside metro areas were more likely than those in metro areas to benefit from the tax credit.

Rural leaders talk policy for 2071.

A new post on HAC’s Vision 2071 site reports on eight experts’ visions for how federal housing policy could solve the toughest challenges facing rural America. In Policy 2071: How Do We Help Rural America Thrive?, they put forward approaches that incorporate strategy, funding, and flexibility that deepen local capacity, lift up the natural advantages found in rural places, and result in a coordinated set of federal policies designed purposefully for small towns and rural regions.

HAC

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

HAC News: March 31, 2022

HAC News: March 31, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 7

TOP STORIES

Budget proposes to increase nationwide housing production and rural rental preservation.

The Biden Administration’s budget for fiscal year 2023 proposes to boost housing production in almost every USDA rural housing program and many HUD programs.

  • USDA direct lending for both homeownership and rental housing would increase, as would guaranteed loans for rental housing, home repair loans and grants, and rental preservation resources. Preservation funding through the Section 515 program would jump from $50 million in FY22 to $200 million under the budget, and the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program would almost double from $34 million to $75 million.
  • USDA proposes a multi-pronged approach to support tenants in rental properties where USDA mortgages are ending. It would decouple Section 521 Rental Assistance from Section 515 and 514 mortgages, so that some tenants could continue to receive RA after mortgage maturity. Tenants in other properties leaving USDA’s programs would receive Tenant Protection Vouchers from HUD, while those who currently have USDA Section 542 vouchers would be eligible to renew them.
  • A new Housing Supply Fund would be created at HUD to provide $25 billion in mandatory grants to states, localities, tribes, and partners for housing production, with another $10 million for removal of state and local barriers to production. Also contributing to housing supply increases would be $10 billion in the Treasury Department’s budget for additional Low Income Housing Tax Credits and a new $5 billion for CDFIs to finance production and preservation of housing, with an emphasis on underserved areas and small properties.
  • HOME, CDBG, homeless assistance, Section 202 for seniors, Section 811 for persons with disabilities, and housing vouchers would also receive increases. Native American housing would see a slight drop from $1.002 billion to $1 billion, but tribes would be eligible for the new Housing Supply Fund.
  • USDA, HUD, and Treasury all emphasize the importance of energy efficiency and climate resiliency.
  • More details are posted on HAC’s website for USDA and HUD programs, as well as materials and a recording from HAC’s budget webinar held on March 30.

April is Fair Housing Month.

Fair housing information is available on HUD’s website.

HAC receives gift from MacKenzie Scott.

HAC is pleased to announce a $7,000,000 gift from MacKenzie Scott, the largest private gift in HAC’s 50-year history. HAC will leverage this funding to establish and grow local organizations that build affordable housing in the nation’s poorest and most rural places. This gift ensures that more people and more communities will enjoy the benefits of American prosperity.

RuralSTAT

USDA’s Section 502 direct loan program provided over 5,350 mortgages to low- and very low-income homebuyers in fiscal year 2021, and the increased funding proposed for FY23 would support around 7,800 mortgages. Source: 2023 USDA Budget Explanatory Notes – Rural Housing Service.

OPPORTUNITIES

Rural places prioritized for Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program funding.

Nonprofits, tribes or tribally designated housing entities, and state or local governments collaborating with Continuums of Care can apply by June 28 for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, designed to address systemic responses to youth homelessness and significantly reduce the number of youth experiencing homelessness. HUD will select up to 25 communities, with a priority for communities with substantial rural populations in up to eight locations. For more information, contact Caroline Crouse, HUD, 612-843-6451.

Farm labor housing repair deadlines corrected.

Preapplications are due May 9 rather than April 2 for funding to repair USDA off-farm Section 514/516 farmworker housing. Funds can be used either for substantial rehabilitation or for limited improvements, repairs, or modifications such as accessibility compliance and health and safety issues. USDA will hold a workshop for potential applicants on April 13. For more information, contact Jonathan Bell, USDA, 254-742-9764.

HUD seeks nominations for tribal advisory committee.

HUD requests nominations by May 31 of elected or appointed tribal leaders to represent federally recognized tribal governments and Alaska Native Corporations on an Intergovernmental Tribal Advisory Committee. The committee will supplement, not replace, existing tribal consultation processes. For more information, contact Heidi J. Frechette, HUD, 202-401-7914.

Webinar to cover broadband for affordable rural housing.

Affordable Housing & Affordable Broadband: A Conversation with Rural LISC and CTC Energy & Technology, scheduled for April 13, will address the steps affordable housing owners, operators, lenders, and other stakeholders in rural places can take to ensure competitive, accessible broadband at their properties. This is the first in a planned series of rural housing webinars from Rural LISC.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Appraisal equity plan released.

The Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity, charged with identifying ways to address racial and ethnic bias in home valuations, released its action plan on March 23. The 13 participating federal agencies, including USDA and HUD, have committed to make the appraisal industry more accountable, empower consumers, prevent algorithmic bias in home valuation, cultivate an appraiser profession that is well-trained and looks like the communities it serves, and use data and expertise to inform policy, practice, and research on appraisal bias.

Treasury publishes updates to Emergency Rental Assistance guidance, spending data, and reallocation processes.

Recently updated guidance tells the state and local entities distributing ERA funds that federal privacy laws do not permit asking applicants to provide Social Security Numbers. Reallocation of unspent ERA2 funds is covered in another guidance document and information about ERA1 reallocation is updated. Finally, Treasury reports that state and local ERA grantees have made over 4.7 million payments to households and spent or obligated approximately $30 billion of the program’s total $46 billion. Treasury expects the vast majority of the remaining funds to be deployed to households or paid to grantees by the middle of 2022.

FEMA to cover some coronavirus costs through July 1.

FEMA will continue to cover the full cost of some coronavirus-related expenditures, including the costs of non-congregate shelters, through July 1, 2022.

Comments requested on updating Davis-Bacon Act regulations.

The Department of Labor is undertaking its first comprehensive review in almost 40 years of the regulations that implement the Davis-Bacon Act and related laws, requiring employers on federally funded or assisted construction projects to pay locally prevailing wages to construction workers. Comments are due May 17. For more information, contact Amy DeBisschop, DOL, 202-693-0406.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Alternative measurement of housing affordability identifies high cost burden rate for renters.

Cost burden is usually calculated by determining whether a household spends more than 30% of income on housing, but researchers at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies calculated housing cost burdens for renters based on residual income – the amount available for other needs after paying housing expenses. “The Rent Eats First”: Rental Housing Unaffordability in the United States, published in Housing Policy Debate, reports that in their sample nearly all households with incomes under $30,000 did not have enough residual income. They found that a combined policy that addresses both housing and transportation affordability would have the largest impact on reducing residual-income cost burdens.

Updated overviews of housing programs published.

Rural hospital closures disproportionately affecting minority populations.

A study by the University of North Carolina Rural Research Program found that hospital closures between 2010 and 2020 were more likely to occur in rural counties that had higher share of Black and Hispanic residents, were more urbanized, and were more likely to be located in the southern U.S. compared to previous decades. These counties were also more likely to have higher income inequality than the median rural county.

HAC

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

HAC News: March 17, 2022

HAC News: March 17, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 6

TOP STORIES

Final appropriations set for FY22.

An omnibus appropriations act establishes federal funding levels for fiscal year 2022, which ends on September 30, 2022.

  • Several USDA rural housing programs receive modest funding increases rather than the significant boosts for rental housing that were included in House and/or Senate versions. The bill expands eligibility for Section 542 vouchers, allows rental property owners to request 20-year Rental Assistance contracts, and continues to require that at least 10% of most USDA Rural Development programs, including most housing programs, be set aside for persistent poverty counties where the poverty rate has been at least 20% for 30 years. For more details, see HAC’s site.
  • Many HUD programs will receive more funding in fiscal year 2022 than in 2021, although the final figures generally fall below the highest increases proposed by the Biden administration, the House, or the Senate. The SHOP program was increased from $10 million in FY21 to $12.5 million – the first increase in the program since FY15. The spending agreement also encourages HUD to consider increasing SHOP’s current $15,000 per-unit cap. The measure includes funds for 25,000 new rental vouchers. For more details, see HAC’s site.

Census continues trends of undercounting some populations.

While there was not a statistically significant overcount or undercount for the total U.S. population, the Census Bureau recently announced that an analysis of the 2020 decennial census estimated national undercounts for renters and Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, some other race, and Hispanic or Latino populations. A second study identified undercounts of young children under age 5 and working age men. Additional estimates of coverage will be released later this year, including estimates on housing units as well as for race and Hispanic origin.

RuralSTAT

There are approximately 15 million ‘Baby Boomers’ in rural America making them one of the largest age groups in many rural communities. But rural America is not a monolith and there are important dynamics in all rural age strata. For more information on Age and Aging in Rural America visit HAC’s website. Source: HAC tabulations of the Census Bureau’s 2014-2018 American Community Survey.

OPPORTUNITIES

USDA offers loan deferrals for rental preservation.

Owners or purchasers of rental properties with USDA Section 515 or 514 loans can apply by May 16 for 20-year payment deferrals, with the cash flow to be used for revitalization and preservation of the properties. This notice does not offer other forms of preservation assistance and no additional Section 521 Rental Assistance is available. Preregister here for an April 5 USDA workshop on this opportunity. For more information, contact Fallan Faulkner, USDA, 615-812-0050.

USDA-financed farmworker housing eligible for repair funding.

Section 514 loans and Section 516 grants are available for repair of off-farm labor housing with current Section 514/516 funding. Funds can be used either for substantial rehabilitation or for limited improvements, repairs, or modifications such as accessibility compliance and health and safety issues. USDA will hold a workshop for potential applicants on April 13. Pre-applications are due April 25. For more information, contact Jonathan Bell, USDA, 254-742-9764.

HAC schedules webinar on healthy homes innovations.

Building Smart and Building Healthy, to be held March 23, is the third in a series designed to share innovative solutions for affordable housing developers dealing with escalating prices and implementing additional regulations. This session will explore innovations in building/repairing healthy homes and their impact on inhabitants and their communities. For more information, contact HAC staff.

Placemaking resources to be launched.

Under a new cooperative agreement with USDA, the University of Kentucky will offer a digital toolkit to connect local leaders with technical assistance providers, funding organizations, planning guides, and other placemaking resources. USDA’s announcement describes placemaking as a collaborative planning and technical assistance process that helps rural community leaders develop plans to create quality places where people will want to live, work, visit, learn and explore. A virtual workshop is planned for May 23 and 24. For more information, sign up to receive updates from USDA. The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with HAC, offers additional rural placemaking and rural design resources.

FY23 budget to be released this month.

The Biden administration is expected to publish its funding request for fiscal year 2023 before the end of March. HAC will post an analysis of the budget and will hold a webinar, to be scheduled when the budget is released.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Violence Against Women Act expanded.

The FY22 omnibus appropriations bill includes provisions reauthorizing and expanding the Violence Against Women Act. The law, which – among numerous other provisions – protects tenants in federally subsidized rentals, previously applied to rental properties with direct or guaranteed financing from USDA, Low Income Housing Tax Credit developments, and most HUD-financed rentals. The new provisions make it applicable also to USDA’s Section 542 voucher program, the Housing Trust Fund, and housing programs for homeless veterans.

CFPB initiative to consider rural financial issues.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has launched a new initiative on financial issues facing rural America, focusing initially on rural banking deserts, discriminatory and predatory agricultural credit, and manufactured housing. Rural residents are invited to share their stories on these and other issues through a link in CFPB’s blog post.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Racial wealth gap solutions examined.

A recent series of articles published by Shelterforce attempts to “widen the lens on the racial wealth gap and what needs to be done about it.” The series, titled The Racial Wealth Gap – Moving to Systemic Solutions, argues that homeownership, business ownership, and higher education are all important, but “we must go beyond simply promoting more of each.” Articles include Wealth Building Won’t Work While Wealth Extraction Continues, Increased Homeownership Won’t Close the Racial Wealth Gap, Blaming Redlining Is Too Easy, Credit Where Credit Is Due: Expanding Access to Capital for BIPOC Developers, and more.

Both policy and technology can help address appraisal bias.

Reducing Bias in Home Appraisals: The Roles for Policy and Technology, a blog post from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, explores appraisal bias’s impact on wealth creation in communities of color and how certain changes could reduce bias. The authors conclude that long-term change requires a combination of private sector technology innovations and policy changes related to identification of comparable properties, standardized approaches, and division of the appraisal process among individuals.

Local investments yield big changes.

Residents of Albion, a small Nebraska town, have come together to raise funds for a child care center, agriculture and education center, nursing home improvements, and more. Raising such funds is a significant challenge for many rural communities, but it has become easier over time in Albion because the town has many visible successes. An article in the Flatwater Free Press titled Albion, Investing in Itself, Shows How Small Towns Can Thrive notes that the area’s shortage of affordable housing remains on the list of issues to be addressed.

Newsletter for tenants focuses on Emergency Rental Assistance.

A new issue of Tenant Talk, subtitled Emergency Rental Assistance at All Angles, centers on the Emergency Rental Assistance program’s impact for tenants navigating the economic challenges of the pandemic. This National Low Income Housing Coalition newsletter is free online or by mail.

HAC

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

HAC News: March 3, 2022

HAC News: March 3, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 5

TOP STORIES

Federal funding deadline now March 11.

Assistance for Ukraine has complicated Congress’s efforts to adopt an omnibus measure to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2022 before the current continuing resolution expires on March 11. Contents of an omnibus bill have not yet been released. Last year the House and Senate considered differing proposals for USDA and HUD programs. The FY23 funding process will begin soon as well, with the Biden administration’s budget proposal expected to be released sometime in March.

New public charge regulation proposed.

A noncitizen can be denied legal resident status in the U.S. if they are deemed likely to become a “public charge.” (Some categories of immigrants, such as refugees, are exempt from the regulation.) In 2021 the Biden administration cancelled a Trump administration public charge rule, and it is now proposing its own, which would narrow the types of government assistance that could be used to indicate someone may be likely to become a public charge. Comments are due April 25. For more information, contact Andrew Parker, USCIS, 240-721-3000.

Rural rental housing loss projections updated.

New HAC projections show that Section 515 rural rental properties will leave USDA’s Section 515 portfolio because of maturing mortgages slightly more slowly than previously predicted, though mortgage maturation is only one of the reasons these properties can be lost as affordable housing. A HAC Rural Research Brief, Rural America is Losing Affordable Rental Housing at an Alarming Rate, reports that from 2016 through mid-2021 far more properties left the program for reasons unrelated to mortgage maturity.

HAC names Jonathan Harwitz Director of Policy.

As HAC’s new Director of Policy, Jonathan Harwitz will spearhead and expand HAC’s place as the national source for independent, non-partisan policy solutions for rural housing and community development. He was most recently the Director of Housing Community Development and Insurance Policy for the House Financial Services Committee. He has also held policy-related positions at the Low Income Investment Fund, a large national CDFI; HUD; and the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

March is Women’s History Month.

 

RuralSTAT

From April 2016 to July 2021, only 199 Section 515 properties exited USDA’s portfolio because of mortgage maturity and 723 others left the program before their final mortgage payments were due. Source: HAC tabulations of USDA data.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Housing programs to receive record amount from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

This year the Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund will receive a record high total of $1.138 billion for affordable housing initiatives from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced recently.

USDA sets rule on rental housing management and Rental Assistance use.

USDA has adopted a final rule with some changes from the proposed rule published in September 2020 regarding management of rental housing assets and agency flexibility in the use of Section 521 Rental Assistance. For more information, contact Jennifer Larson, USDA, 202-720-1615.

FEMA adopts new hazard mitigation grant program.

States, territories, tribes, and local governments will be eligible for grants under the new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Policy. This new hazard mitigation program supersedes the Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program and will be funded by a 6% setaside of estimated disaster expenses for major disasters each year. FEMA will announce the availability of funding. For more information, contact Ryan Janda, FEMA, 202-646-2659.

Multifamily housing included in carbon reduction challenge.

The Department of Energy, HUD, and private businesses and organizations nationwide have launched the Better Climate Challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Partners commit to a 50% portfolio-wide reduction in carbon emissions over 10 years. Multifamily housing is one of several building sectors participating; in that sector, any organization with a portfolio of at least two multifamily buildings and 250 units can join the challenge. Request more information on the Department of Energy’s website.

Fees reduced for USDA rental housing guaranteed loans.

USDA is dropping its fees for Section 538 guaranteed loans. The greatest fee reductions will be provided for energy-efficient substantial rehabilitation, preservation of existing USDA-financed rental housing, and workforce housing. For more information, contact Tammy Daniels, USDA, 202-720-0021.

More USDA Rural Development State Directors appointed.

The most recent announcement names State Directors for Alaska, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts/Connecticut/Rhode Island, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. HAC has posted a list of all USDA RD State Directors appointed by President Biden to date. These positions do not require Senate confirmation.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Over 4,000 bank branches closed during pandemic.

A new report from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition shows that in the 20 months beginning with March 2020, banks closed about twice as many branches as they had in the 20 months prior. The Great Consolidation of Banks and Acceleration of Branch Closures Across the Country: Branch Closure Rate Doubled During the Pandemic includes data on shutdowns in metropolitan areas and in the parts of states outside metro areas.

Almost two-thirds of 2021 Emergency Rental Assistance recipients had extremely low incomes.

Treasury Department data on use of Emergency Rental Assistance funds by states, localities, and tribes shows that spending slowed from November to December. Demographic data for 2021 indicates that nearly two-thirds of the more than 3.2 million participating households had extremely low incomes (below 30% of area median income). The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s analysis of the data is available online.

Tribal housing assistance finder launched.

The Tribal Housing Assistance Resource Hub, provided by the National American Indian Housing Council in partnership with Wells Fargo, lists mortgage, utilities, and rental assistance services offered by state and tribal programs through the federal Homeowner Assistance Fund and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. It also shows housing services available from tribal housing programs, such as home loan assistance, homebuyer education, elder and veteran housing, and other services.

State funding and modular homes bring more affordable housing to Colorado.

The Colorado Sun reports that Kit Carson in the state’s Eastern Plains, with a population of 250, has 135 homes, 34 of which are vacant and likely uninhabitable due to asbestos. Kit Carson Rural Development incorporated bank loans and grants from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and partnered with Fading West Development to build five homes for residents with lower incomes.

Social cohesion and health outcomes better for rural seniors “aging in place.”

Research from the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center finds that rural seniors who have the opportunity to “age in place,” described as remaining in their current homes, have increased social cohesion, connection to community, and better health outcomes for both the residents and the overall community. In a policy brief, researchers report that providing the resources and infrastructure necessary to allow seniors to keep their homes and age in place helps the residents and their communities.

Rural development stakeholders see housing among key issues.

A nationwide survey conducted by the Regional Rural Development Centers identified issues associated with physical infrastructure/public services (including housing) and economic development as the most pressing priorities for rural development in the next five years. Investing in Rural Recovery: Findings from a Rapid Assessment of Stakeholder Priorities for Rural Development suggests that “the greatest potential for impact by investment in these areas is likely that which builds capacity on the issues of broadband internet, housing, energy, rural innovation and entrepreneurship, and tourism and recreation. Also notable are potential investments in issues related to economic development but focused on diversity, such as entrepreneurship promotion among socially disadvantaged groups and promoting equitable and inclusive economic growth.”

HAC

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

HAC News: February 17, 2022

HAC News: February 17, 2022

Vol. 51, No. 4

TOP STORY

House passes funding extension, Senate action pending.

On February 8 the House adopted another continuing resolution to extend federal funding at fiscal year 2021 levels through March 11. The Senate is expected to approve the measure before the current CR expires at midnight on February 18. Congress hopes to use the added time to negotiate final appropriations for FY22, which began on October 1, 2021.

RuralSTAT

From 2020 to 2021, the number of sheltered people experiencing homelessness declined by 8% nationwide and by 6.5% in rural places. Source: HUD, 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, Part I.

OPPORTUNITIES

Financial and technical assistance offered for CDFIs and Native CDFIs.

The CDFI Fund’s CDFI Program will make financial assistance and technical assistance awards to Community Development Financial Institutions. The Native Initiatives Program will make financial assistance or technical assistance awards to Native CDFIs. The deadline for all applications is April 12. For more information, contact the CDFI Fund Helpdesk, 202-653-0421, option 1.

Small grants available for community projects focused on age 50+.

The AARP Community Challenge provides small grants to nonprofits and government entities to fund quick-action projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages. This year, applications will be accepted for projects to improve housing, public spaces, transportation, and civic engagement; support diversity, equity, and inclusion; build engagement for programs under new federal laws; and pursue innovative ideas that support people age 50 or older. The deadline is March 22. For more information, contact AARP.

Community Innovations for Racial Equity to support health partnerships.

  • The Community Innovations for Racial Equity Initiative of the Build Healthy Places Network invites applications by March 18 from community development corporations that are led by Black, Indigenous, or People of Color and are motivated to engage healthcare partners to advance racial equity. Selected organizations will receive funding, in-kind technical support, and facilitated connections to a national network of peer support. For more information, contact Colleen Flynn, BHPN.
  • BHPN is also surveying BIPOC-led community development corporations about how they are engaging with the health sector to better support partnerships that advance racial equity. It hopes to identify needs relative to challenges and impacts emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic among these partnerships. The survey results will inform tools and capacity building resources for the field. The survey closes February 28.

Call on rural prosperity set for February 22.

HUD’s Rural Gateway will hold a Peer-to-Peer Web Conference Call on February 22 based on Investing in Rural Prosperity, a book recently published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Topics will include investing in climate resilience, supporting local entrepreneurship and small businesses, and advancing racial equity through rural development investments. For more information, call 1-877-RURAL-26 (1-877-787-2526).

Deadline for ReConnect broadband applications extended.

USDA will now accept applications through March 9 for the Rural eConnectivity (ReConnect) broadband deployment program. The agency may also increase the amount of funds available. For more information, contact Laurel Leverrier, USDA, 202-720-9554.

Corrections issued for RISE job accelerator program.

USDA has made corrections in its funding availability notice for the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy grant program. Applications are due April 19. For more information, contact Will Dodson, USDA, 202-720-1400.

Broadband assistance available, comments requested.

The 2021 infrastructure law created the Affordable Connectivity Program to help make broadband services and devices available to low-income households. ACP is based on the short-term Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and will replace EBB on March 1. For more information on transitioning from EBB to ACP, visit the FCC’s site or contact ACPinfo@fcc.gov. The Federal Communications Commission requests public comment by March 16 on the final rule it has adopted for the ACP and on proposals for increasing public participation as well as providing an enhanced benefit for consumers in high-cost areas. For more information on the regulations, contact Eric Wu, FCC, 202-418-7400.

Website helps claim Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

Low-income families may be eligible to receive funds through the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit by filing a 2021 income tax return even if they would not otherwise have to file. Information and assistance on both credits is available at ChildTaxCredit.gov.

REGULATIONS AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Rules for rural single-family housing programs revised.

  • A final regulation for the Section 502 direct loan program and the Section 504 loan and grant programs adopts most of the changes proposed on November 25, 2019, with some modifications based on public comments. The changes include the use of loan refinancing to help borrowers who have difficulty keeping their accounts current (for example, after a payment moratorium). USDA will also have more flexibility in the future to revise the loan and grant caps for Section 504. For more information, contact Andrea Birmingham, USDA, 202-720-1489.
  • Another final rule mandates use of the Guaranteed Underwriting System and the Lender Loan Closing System by approved lenders using the Section 502 guarantee program, effective May 9. For more information, contact Ticia Weare, USDA, 702-407-1400 x 6001.

USDA launches equity commission.

The members of USDA’s new Equity Commission and its Agriculture Subcommittee were announced on February 10. The body will provide recommendations on policies, programs, and actions to address equity issues within the Department and its programs. Its first virtual meeting, scheduled for February 28, will be open to the public. USDA’s press release states, “There are future plans to launch an additional Subcommittee focused on rural community and economic development.” For more information, email EquityCommission@usda.gov.

Civil rights office scrutinized.

USDA’s Inspector General reported recently that in 2017-2019 the department’s civil rights office continued to experience problems identified in past reviews. In 2019, the office averaged 799 days to process program complaints although its goal is to do so within 180 days. Complaints that may raise Fair Housing Act violations are referred to HUD but, in the three years covered by the study, HUD took an average of over 600 days to process complaints from USDA. At a February 15 House subcommittee hearing about the report, the IG said increased staffing and improved technology could help resolve the problems.

Wiggins nominated to head Delta Regional Authority.

Corey Wiggins has been nominated to serve as Federal Co-Chair of the Delta Regional Authority. The Delta Grassroots Caucus reports that Wiggins, currently the Executive Director of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, is the first African American presidentially named to the DRA. The Senate has not yet begun to consider his nomination.

Housing regulator requests input on strategic plan.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Bank System, invites public comments by March 11 on its strategic plan for fiscal years 2022-2026.

Fannie Mae expands protections for rented sites in manufactured housing communities.

Fannie Mae has expanded its previous policy of encouraging Tenant Site Lease Protections for residents of manufactured housing communities. These protections are now required on all site leases, both owner-occupied and tenant-occupied, in communities with loans backed by Fannie Mae.

OneRD guaranteed loan platform regulation corrected.

USDA has issued a correction addressing omissions and errors in the December 10, 2021 final rule for the oneRD Guaranteed Loan Platform being used by several loan guarantee programs. For more information, contact Lauren Cusick, USDA, 202-720-1414.

PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA

Annual report shows drop in sheltered homelessness, but data is incomplete.

HUD has released its Annual Homeless Assessment Report, presenting data collected in January 2021. The number of sheltered people experiencing homelessness declined by 8% nationwide from 2020 to 2021. The report suggests there may have been fewer shelter beds available because of pandemic guidelines, some people may have stayed out of shelters because of fears of illness, and policies like eviction moratoriums may have helped some people avoid homelessness. The report does not conclude whether overall or unsheltered homelessness numbers rose or fell because the pandemic prevented many communities from counting unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in 2021. Among the sheltered population, “largely rural” places accounted for 16.3% of total people experiencing homelessness, 16.6% of individuals, 15.9% of families, 20.7% of unaccompanied youth, and 17.6% of veterans.

FEMA program underserves rural counties, study finds.

Researchers from Texas A&M University examined how well the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program served urban and rural counties from 1989 to 2018. Their article, Naturally Resilient to Natural Hazards? Urban-Rural Disparities in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Assistance, published in Housing Policy Debate, identifies “vast inequities in the distribution and duration of HMGP assistance” and concludes that “the current structure of the HMGP leaves rural counties in the dust.”

New index shows where rural capacity is limited.

Headwaters Economics has created a Rural Capacity Index based on 10 variables intended to function as proxies for community capacity. The variables incorporate metrics related to local government staffing, community education and engagement, and socioeconomic trends. An interactive map presents results at the county, county subdivision, and community levels. Headwaters suggests the index can be used by communities to advocate for resources and by federal and state agencies to target investments.

Experts say better capacity building and more funding needed for Indian Country housing.

A recent article on HAC’s website, Self-Determination in Tribal Housing: Reflections on NAHASDA’s Impact, reports the views of four experts on housing in Indian Country regarding the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act. One of HAC’s 2022 Rural Housing Policy Priorities is the reauthorization of NAHASDA with targeted improvements to build on its 25 years of achievements.

Disaster planning ensures community resilience and vitality.

The Conversation reports that vulnerable residents, who live in lower quality affordable housing located in less desirable locations, are most affected by disasters and least able to recover from them, slowing down recovery for the community as a whole. Disasters Can Wipe Out Affordable Housing for Years Unless Communities Plan Ahead – The Loss Hurts the Entire Local Economy points out that in some rural areas, replacement values are not enough to rebuild equivalent housing, so homes go unbuilt. Community land trusts, relaxed rental rules, and monitoring recovery funds offer relief.

Total value of U.S. homes hits record high in 2021.

Redfin reports that from 2020 to 2021, the total value of U.S. homes increased 18.6%, approximately $6 trillion, for a record high of $38.6 trillion in December 2021. The total value of rural homes increased by 19.5%, resulting in a total of $4.2 trillion. Benefits of increasing home values were seen in rural places and metropolitan areas. The wealth increase for homeowners widened the gap between renters and homeowners across the U.S., however.

3G shutdowns problematic in rural places.

Rural America May Experience Service Blackouts as Providers Sunset 3G Service, a Daily Yonder article, looks at the impact of mobile carriers shutting down older 3G service to make room for newer technology. Some advocates for survivors of domestic violence expressed concerns whether there has been sufficient coverage about the potential loss of service for those with older phones, especially “people in rural areas, those living on reservations, people who are low-income, and people of color.”

HAC

NEW! HAC seeks Policy Director, Community Development Specialist, Loan Processor Associate, and Housing Specialist.

  • The Director of Policy is a newly created position based in HAC’s Washington DC headquarters, reporting directly to the CEO and serving on HAC’s Executive Leadership Team. This individual will be expected to maintain HAC’s position as the leading authority on current rural housing and community development policy; grow HAC’s role as a non-partisan, evidence-driven authority trusted by policymakers and practitioners; and represent HAC in a wide range of forums, demonstrating issue mastery and thought leadership when communicating with Congress, federal agencies, the affordable housing and community development industry, the media, and the general public. Some travel is required.
  • The Community Development Specialist works with nonprofits and local governments on all facets of developing community resources such as parks, community centers, public libraries, childcare centers, health care facilities, or other public spaces. Requirements include four years of relevant work experience. This position is eligible for telecommuting.
  • The Loan Processor Associate is an entry-level position and will assist in managing HAC’s portfolio of loans made to entities engaged in affordable housing activities throughout the rural U.S.
  • The Housing Specialist is primarily based in either the Southwest or Western states and works with local partner organizations to support the preservation and development of affordable housing and community and economic development strategies.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan fund provides low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, new development, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development, construction/rehabilitation and permanent financing. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

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