Coming Together for a Common Cause

by Eric Oberdorfer

It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since the last HAC Rural Housing Conference. As rural housers, we have faced our share of challenges recently. Congress is deadlocked, funding for needed federal housing programs remains historically low, and the stock of safe, high-quality, affordable housing in rural America continues to decline, leaving too many low-income families and individuals without sufficient housing options.

These past years have seen the support and resources necessary for our network threatened, and we have had to fight to maintain our work. These challenges make coming together for our common cause even more important in 2014. The rural housing network has a proud history of empowering individuals and families, improving lives, and making lasting impacts across rural America. However, for a number of years, we have been in a defensive posture. It is time for us to shift away from this and go on the offensive. To do this we mustretool our collective talents, rebuild the innovative spirit that got us where we are, and renew our passion for the mission that guides us.

Retool, Rebuild, Renew is the theme of our conference this year. Although this theme could describe the construction or rehab of housing, the theme is not about bricks and mortar. It’s about a housing movement – these actions are more critical to our work than ever before.

Rural communities desperately need affordable housing to combat serious challenges that have developed over the past few years. The United States’ economy fell into one of the most severe economic recessions in a half century. Our country’s rapidly aging population will have significant impacts on our current housing stock. Poverty rates in rural America have grown. Further compounding these issues is the continued downsizing of federal programs that support the development of housing in rural communities, programs that are needed now more than ever. Luckily, rural housers are a resourceful group and have met these issues head-on by learning new skills, forging new partnerships, and considering new approaches. It is time we come together to share our successes and determine strategies to ensure our continued ability to provide our communities with safe, affordable housing.

Fostering the development of new skills and partnerships is a key part of the National Rural Housing Conference. More than just a collection of workshops and plenaries, the Conference is about coming together to share our collective experiences, build our expertise, and gain a better understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and why. It is a space that encourages networking and the sharing of ideas between people who know firsthand the challenges the housing movement faces. It provides an opportunity to gain new tools that can help us succeed in the current environment of housing and community development.

Although the landscape for affordable housing has changed dramatically since the first National Rural Housing Conference 45 years ago, one thing remains as true as ever – individuals, families, and communities need to have high-quality affordable housing in order to thrive. To respond to the needs of rural communities we must first come together. The National Rural Housing Conference gives us the chance to gain new tools, learn from each other, and, most importantly, renew our commitment to affordable housing.

The HAC Rural Housing Conference will be held December 3-5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Registration is currently open.

Making a Difference in Rural America

Administrator Tony HernandezUSDA Rural Housing Services Administrator Tony HernandezNewly appointed Rural Housing Service administrator shares his thoughts and priorities for USDA’s housing initiatives.

I am honored and pleased to be the new administrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Housing Service (RHS). For more than 60 years, USDA has helped millions of rural residents become part of the American Dream of homeownership. I look forward to the opportunity to continue and expand this agency’s historic accomplishments.

I have now been on the job for some time and have been impressed by the vital work that we do to provide housing and community facilities in Rural America. In my 26 years in community development, I have strongly believed that housing is a conduit to family, neighborhood and community. I see RHS as a community development agency. The multiple roles we play—catalyst, partner, advocate, regulator and investor—improve people’s lives and create better communities.

With its wide open spaces filled with lush, natural beauty, combined with its small-town charms, rural America is a great place to live and raise a family. And, although rural America is changing due to the rise of new technologies like the Internet and the advent of globalism, one thing still holds true: homeownership remains one of the single-most important factors that help our rural communities thrive and prosper economically.

The resources in our community development toolkit include homeownership programs for rural families. USDA has two primary Single-Family Housing Programs that are a major provider of homeownership opportunities in rural communities. The direct homeownership loan program helps very low- to low-income families. It is designed to open the door to homeownership to those who do not qualify for mortgage credit from conventional lenders. These loans are available to families and individuals with reasonable credit history and dependable income. This is not a government handout. Direct loans are repaid and subsidized to lower the monthly loan payment at a relatively small cost to the government.

My major priority is to focus on enhancing customer service through improved business processes.

For moderate-income families, we offer a guaranteed homeownership loan program and partner with participating private-sector lenders to provide home loans in rural areas at reasonable rates and terms.

For many Americans, especially those in rural areas, a home is the largest asset they will buy in their lifetime. Homeownership provides multiple, long-term benefits. It leads to greater economic security for families, who often can use the equity in their homes to build their credit, finance their children’s educations, improve the value of their property, or finance other necessities such as health care. Homeownership also helps families to plant long-term roots in their community.

Many rural residents who buy homes through USDA programs are first-time homebuyers. We also help current homeowners improve their homes through USDA rehabilitation loans or grants. Very low-income homeowners who are age 62 or older can qualify for grants to make health and safety improvements – such as accessibility accommodations – in addition to repairs. We are proud that USDA helps families start on the path of economic stability and a more secure future through homeownership.

The benefits of our housing programs extend beyond the homeowners themselves. USDA home loans also create economic opportunities for home builders, providers of durable goods such as lumber or appliances, and Realtors. USDA home loans often represent the majority of the business volume for many Realtors. Finally, local governments also benefit from increased revenue through property taxes. In fact, in many jurisdictions, property taxes from homeowners are the largest source of revenue. This is particularly true in rural communities where there are relatively fewer businesses compared to homeowners.

Homeownership is essential to the fabric of life in rural America, for our families, and for the communities in which they live.

Creating viable communities also means providing opportunities for families and seniors to have good rental housing as well as good housing for farm workers. In partnership with multi-family property owners and their property managers the USDA Multi-Family Housing programs assist in creating rental homes that support and encourage families to be part of their communities. USDA also provides rental assistance to help very low-income families and senior citizens find safe, decent housing at an affordable cost. USDA provides these rental assistance subsidies to these families to offset the difference between market rents and a monthly amount they can afford.

I would be remiss if I failed to note that USDA offers several other forms of assistance to rural communities to complement our strong housing programs. In addition to housing, successful communities need community facilities that help them to be and remain a viable community. Our RHS Community Facilities program helps communities finance the development of essential services and buildings such as hospitals, child care centers, libraries, mental health clinics, first responder vehicles and equipment, and other community assets that help make communities strong and self-sufficient.

Our successes are our families. Here are some numbers:

  • In Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, USDA guaranteed loans created approximately 63,000 homebuyers. By FY 2013 (which ended September 30, 2013), annual loan volume had climbed by more than 100,000 loans – an increase of more than 158%.
    From the start of FY 2009 through the end of FY 2013, the program financed more than 700,000 homeowners. Rural Development financed about 3.6 times the number of loans the agency had financed during the previous five years.
  • Loans are only part of the story. The full story is about the people. My major priority is to focus on enhancing customer service through improved business processes. With the reduction of staff that RHS has experienced over the last few years doing more with less requires the team to implement new business processes to better serve our customers, improve the predictability of the process, and enhance productivity of our great staff. Many of the RHS processes have not had dedicated budget dollars to automate. This year’s technology budget has created the opportunity for RHS to implement automation solutions that will improve the quality, standardize processes, improve staff productivity, and provide better customer service.

And to better serve the people, one of my first priorities is to help improve processes and service at our Customer Center in St. Louis. Our success there will enhance customer service, reduce financial and regulatory risks, improve staff productivity, improve staff morale, and create employee development opportunities.

We recently assembled a Single-Family Housing Rapid Improvement Team of experienced staff from St. Louis and Washington, D.C. The team also included lenders, a representative from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a USDA Rural Development State Director, and a USDA Rural Development Program Director.

Johnston Family Rural Development Home - USDAJohnston Family, USDA Rural Development Home – Creative Commons photo

I have implemented various business improvement techniques to identify other business processes for improvement. The following are some of the areas of focus:

For our Single Family Housing loan guarantee program, we are working to improve our processes for loan loss mitigation to help borrowers who are in danger of default. We are improving our front-end image processing for loan documents. And we are implementing an automated process for loan closing. We are also working towards implementing delegated loan underwriting to reduce workloads for both lenders and RD staff. In addition, we’re working on a single close, construction to permanent loan to streamline processes and reduce costs.

For the Single Family Housing Direct loan program, we are working to improve our processes for acquired properties (Real Estate Owned) to better manage these properties. We are streamlining our loan origination system and implementing a program to work with loan packagers for outreach and loan application submission.

In our Multi-Family programs, we are working on an electronic loan application, we are streamlining the processes for transfers of properties when an owner wishes to sell. To streamline property inspections, we are investing in hand-held devices. We are also working on an electronic loan/grant application for our Community Facilities program.

One of the critical success factors to better customer service is implementing program processes that are understandable, easy to go through, predictable, transparent, and done in partnership with our customers and stakeholders. As part of RHS’s business process improvement, I welcome the wisdom and input of all our great partners on how we can better serve the needs of rural America. Please do not hesitate to contact RHS with your ideas.

As the Administrator of USDA’s Rural Housing Service, I can assure you that I and everyone on our team are committed to improving the lives of rural Americans and creating ladders of opportunity. Using all of our community development tools and through our strategic partnerships we make a huge difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans every day.

I look forward to working with all our stakeholder groups to make a difference through partnership, collaboration, investment, and advocacy for rural America.

Tony Hernandez is Administrator of USDA’s Rural Housing Service.

The Rural Data Portal

Quality data for rural areas can be limited and hard to find. To address this concern, HAC developed the Rural Data Portal to provide rural communities with a user-friendly tool to gain information about the places where they live and work.

Quality data for rural areas can be limited and hard to find. To address this concern, HAC developed the Rural Data Portal this year to help communities better understand and document needs and conditions. The Rural Data Portal is an online resource that provides social, economic, and housing characteristics of communities across the United States using data from HAC tabulations of the 2010 Census of Population and Housing, the American Community Survey (ACS), and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Data.


The Rural Data Portal was awarded the “Best in Class” Interactive Media Award in the nonprofit websites category for 2013 by the Interactive Media Council.


Access the Rural Data Portal

Hunger and Housing in Rural America: Intersecting Challenges and Solutions

The Summer 2013 special edition issue of Rural Voices focuses on Hunger and Housing in Rural America. With housing affordability an increasing challenge, and hunger a more pronounced issue, how are rural communities combatting these issues?

View from Washington

Supporting Rural America’s Housing and Nutrition Needs
by Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
The USDA offers programs that support rural communities to address their housing and food security needs.


Rural Hunger and Housing: Challenges and Opportunities
by Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
Rural America faces challenges and opportunities in housing and food security.

Building Homes and Feeding the Hungry in Rural Pennsylvania
by Kate Thompson, Fayette County Community Action Agency
Community action programs can play an important role in addressing both housing and food security needs in rural America.

Farmworker Housing: Implications for Food Security and Food Safety
by Sara A. Quandt and Thomas A. Arcury, Wake Forest School of Medicine
Although they help feed America, farmworkers often face substandard conditions and food insecurity at their own tables.

Growing Food and Housing Security in South Dakota’s Native American Reservations
by Lauren Haas Finkelstein, Running Strong for American Indian Youth
South Dakota’s Native American community is fighting hunger and substandard housing to protect their children and future leaders.

Food Justice in the Rural Southeast
by John Zippert, Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
Southern farmers are forming cooperatives and coalitions to secure food and housing justice while overcoming a history of discriminatory land and farm policies.

Developing Leadership to Address Health & Hunger
Interview with Starry Krueger, Rural Development Leadership Network
Rural Voices recently interviewed Starry Krueger of the Rural Development Leadership Network, about a new leadership development program in Mississippi.


Hunger & Poverty in Rural America (jpg)
MAP – Many rural communities struggle to access enough nutritious food for their families.

Addressing Child Hunger in Rural New Mexico
Share Our Strength

What are Rural Food Deserts?


Add your Response

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

National Catholic Rural Life Offers Consulting for National Grant Opportunity

HAC would like to share the following announcement from the Catholic Campaign for Humand Development about its grant program. For more information, visit or email


We are working with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) to offer outreach and complimentary consulting to rural community groups to address poverty. CCHD was created 40 years ago by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to provide funding to groups of low-income people who are empowered to address the causes of poverty in their communities. CCHD has provided nearly 8,000 grants to community groups that to seek justice and create lasting change for people in poverty. CCHD local and national grants have supported legal advocacy to enforce fair wages, community development lending, environmental justice, affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods, parish based social action organizing, micro-enterprise development, and marketplaces or cooperatives for small businesses, artisans, and growers.

Target applicants are nonprofit groups (501©3) serving low income people. Government and academic institutions are not eligible for this grant. Visit to learn more about CCHD grant guidelines, success stories, and grant writing resources. Have a grant idea or know of a group fighting poverty or injustice? Call 651-962-5955 or email

#RuralFacts – Rural Data from Taking Stock

Follow HAC for Data from Taking Stock


The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) published Taking Stock: Rural People, Poverty and Housing in the 21st Century in December, 2012. This 160 page report features analysis of over of 6,000 data points from the 2010 Census and other sources about rural communities. To highlight the findings from this research as well as issues facing rural communities, HAC will be sharing factoids, images and data from Taking Stock through social media.

This information will be posted on twitter, using the hashtag #ruralfacts (bookmark this link so you can always access this information). If you do not already, follow HAC @RuralHome.

You can also share your comments with HAC on Facebook, LinkedIn or on the Rural Affordable Housing Group.

[twitter link=”” id=”304994872023203840″ title=” “Tweets about #RuralFacts””][/twitter]

HAC News: December 12, 2012

HAC News Formats. pdf

December 12, 2012
Vol. 41, No. 24

• Congressional committee leaders announced • Streamlining HUD’s rental assistance again considered by Senate committee • Lead paint grants offered • Final rule issued for IHBG and Title VI loan guarantees • Input sought on Native American access to capital and credit • Downpayment sources for FHA mortgages addressed • HUD report shows homelessness rate statistically unchanged • Concentration of poverty growing in nonmetro areas, ERS reports • Rural poverty and housing need persist, HAC report says • HAC honors six for rural housing work

December 12, 2012
Vol. 41, No. 24

CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE LEADERS ANNOUNCED. Key positions will change in the 113th Congress, which starts in January. On the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) will be the new chairman and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) will be the new ranking member (top Democrat). For the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) will be the new ranking member, while Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) continues as chairman. Some House subcommittee leadership spots and Senate positions will also change but have not yet been announced. The HAC News will provide further updates as available.

STREAMLINING HUD’S RENTAL ASSISTANCE AGAIN CONSIDERED BY SENATE COMMITTEE. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee held a second hearing December 11 titled “Streamlining and Strengthening HUD’s Rental Housing Assistance Programs.” The first hearing on this subject was held in August.

LEAD PAINT GRANTS OFFERED. Applications are due February 4 for HUD’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Grant and Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Grant programs, subject to congressional appropriation of program funds for FY13. States, counties, tribes, and other local governments are eligible, and funds can be used in owner-occupied or rental housing. Contact Michelle M. Miller, HUD, 202-402-5769.

FINAL RULE ISSUED FOR IHBG AND TITLE VI LOAN GUARANTEES. Changes in the regulations reflect consensus decisions by HUD and tribal representatives in a negotiated rulemaking process and implement changes enacted in several statutes, including the 2008 NAHASDA reauthorization act. Contact Rodger J. Boyd, HUD, 202-401-7914.

INPUT SOUGHT ON NATIVE AMERICAN ACCESS TO CAPITAL AND CREDIT. The CDFI Fund requests comments from tribes and others on research about access to capital and credit in Native communities, updating a 2001 study. It hopes to provide a baseline of information on the subject and to identify barriers and provide options to address them. Comments can be submitted in writing or in webcast meetings on January 15 and 17. Contact CDFI Fund staff.

DOWNPAYMENT SOURCES FOR FHA MORTGAGES ADDRESSED. Comments are due January 4 on a regulation clarifying that state and local government programs that provide funds for all or part of homebuyers’ downpayments for FHA mortgages are exempt from statutory prohibitions on some sources of downpayment funds. Contact Millicent Potts, HUD, 202-708-2212.

HUD REPORT SHOWS HOMELESSNESS RATE STATISTICALLY UNCHANGED. Data collected in January 2012 shows the number of homeless people nationwide almost the same as in January 2011, although there were increases and decreases in some states, and homeless veterans declined by 7%. The 2012 Annual Homeless Assessment Report counts people in shelters, transitional housing, safe havens, and places not intended for human habitation. Data for every state and Continuum of Care are also posted.

CONCENTRATION OF POVERTY GROWING IN NONMETRO AREAS, ERS REPORTS. An analysis of American Com-munity Survey data by USDA’s Economic Research Service found that many counties with newly high poverty rates are adjacent to those that had high poverty rates in 2000. ERS’s findings are similar to HAC’s in Taking Stock (see next article below) and HAC’s accompanying poverty map; the two analyses were conducted independently and use different definitions of rural.

RURAL POVERTY AND HOUSING NEED PERSIST, HAC REPORT SAYS. HAC’s decennial analysis of data from the Census and other sources describes demographic changes such as growth in the elderly and Hispanic populations, economic challenges like the foreclosure crisis, and ongoing housing problems including high housing costs, homelessness, and housing quality issues. HAC also looked in depth at five high needs regions and populations including the colonias near the U.S.-Mexico border, Central Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, Native American lands, and farmworkers. Taking Stock: Rural People, Poverty, and Housing in the 21st Century is free on HAC’s site or $30 from HAC, including shipping and handling.

HAC HONORS SIX FOR RURAL HOUSING WORK. At the National Rural Housing Conference last week, HAC presented the Skip Jason Community Service Award to John David, founder and director of the Southern Appalachian Labor School in West Virginia; Owyne Gardner, T&MA Regional Manager at Little Dixie Community Action Agency in Oklahoma; Al Gold, Executive Director of Community Resources and Housing Development Corporation in Colorado; and Patty Griffiths, Housing Program Manager for the Community Action Commission of Fayette County in Ohio. The Cochran/Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing for the Rural Poor went to Shirley Sherrod, founder of the Sherrod Institute in Georgia. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, retiring after more than 20 years in Congress, received the Henry B. Gonzáles Award.

HAC News: September 12, 2012

HAC News Formats. pdf

September 12, 2012
Vol. 41, No. 18

• Congress back in session, CR introduced • Administration’s sequestration report delayed, CBO predicts recession • Poverty remains high in rural America • HAC to make grants for planning and capacity • HUD will offer vouchers for at-risk households in low-vacancy areas • USDA announces Farm Labor Housing technical assistance funds • Continuum of Care registration open • USDA announces loan-to-cost ratio for Section 538 continuous guarantee • FAQs clarify Section 202 prepayment and refi • CFBP proposes changing loan originator compensation • CFPB extends deadlines for comments on HOEPA and mortgage disclosures • HUD reports on affordable housing in energy boom areas • Deadline looms for rural housing award nominations!

September 12,2012
Vol. 41, No. 18

CONGRESS BACK IN SESSION, CR INTRODUCED. A continuing resolution to fund federal programs for the first six months of FY13, starting October 1, is scheduled for votes in the House September 13 and in the Senate next week. H. J. Res. 117 would give most programs, including housing, increases in subsidy (budget authority) needed to remain at FY12 program levels. It does not address grandfathering of housing program eligibility in growing rural communities; the National Rural Housing Coalition continues to work for an extension of current language.

ADMINISTRATION’S SEQUESTRATION REPORT DELAYED, CBO PREDICTS RECESSION. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters the Administration needed more time to prepare the report to Congress required by the Sequestration Transparency Act, due on September 6, so the estimates on the impact of Budget Control Act funding cuts will be released later this week. Separately, An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 to 2022, by the Congressional Budget Office, projects that policy changes scheduled for January 2013, including sequestration, “will lead to economic conditions in 2013 that will probably be considered a recession.”

POVERTY REMAINS HIGH IN RURAL AMERICA. An annual Census Bureau report released September 12 shows the overall number of Americans living in poverty is at its highest level in decades, with the official national poverty rate of 15% statistically unchanged from 2010. In nonmetro areas 8 million people (17%) are poor. Median household income declined from 2010 to $50,054 nationwide and is now $40,527 in nonmetro areas, compared to $41,440 in 2010. More information on rural poverty and housing is available on HAC’s website.

HAC TO MAKE GRANTS FOR PLANNING AND CAPACITY. The Rural Housing Project Planning and Capacity Building Initiative will make grants of approximately $20,000 to 10 experienced affordable housing organizations to plan housing activities or build staff capacity. Deadline is October 2. Contact Jeff Mosley, HAC, 202-842-8600.

HUD WILL OFFER VOUCHERS FOR AT-RISK HOUSEHOLDS IN LOW-VACANCY AREAS. Notice PIH-2012-39 has details, including a list of low-vacancy areas. Comments are invited, due on October 10. Then a final notice will be published, providing an application deadline. Contact HUD’s voucher management office, 202-708-0477.

USDA ANNOUNCES FARM LABOR HOUSING TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE FUNDS. USDA will fund three regional contractors to provide technical assistance to those seeking to develop Section 514/516 Farm Labor Housing. Deadline is November 5. See Federal Register, 9/6/12 or Contact Mirna Reyes-Bible, 202-720-1753.

CONTINUUM OF CARE REGISTRATION OPEN. CoCs (not project applicants) must register on e-snaps by October 1. HUD expects to issue the FY12 CoC NOFA in mid- to late October. See HUD’s Homelessness Resource Exchange. Submit questions through the HUD HRE Virtual Help Desk.

USDA ANNOUNCES LOAN-TO-COST RATIO FOR SECTION 538 CONTINUOUS GUARANTEE. To be eligible for a single continuous Section 538 rental housing guarantee for construction and permanent loans, the property’s loan-to-cost ratio must be under 50%. See Federal Register, 9/6/12. Contact Monica Cole, USDA.

FAQS CLARIFY SECTION 202 PREPAYMENT AND REFI. A new Frequently Asked Questions document from HUD supplements Notice 12-08, “Updated Requirements for Prepayment and Refinance of Section 202 Direct Loans.”

CFBP PROPOSES CHANGING LOAN ORIGINATOR COMPENSATION. Comment by October 16 on a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposal to implement Dodd-Frank Act provisions on compensation and restrictions on fees. See Federal Register, 9/7/12 or CFBP’s website. Contact CFBP’s Office of Regulations, 202-435-7700.

CFPB EXTENDS DEADLINES FOR COMMENTS ON HOEPA AND MORTGAGE DISCLOSURES. Comments are now due November 6 instead of September 7 on two specific parts of two broader requests for input: the impact of a more inclusive finance charge on Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act coverage, and the proposed definition of a finance charge in combined mortgage disclosures (see HAC News, 8/22/12). See CFBP’s website.

HUD REPORTS ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN ENERGY BOOM AREAS. In some rural places increased oil and gas drilling has led to significantly higher rents, and some companies are housing employees in camps or lodges, HUD research found. “New Oil and Gas Drilling Technologies Bring Significant Changes and Challenges to Housing Markets,” an article in U.S. Housing Market Conditions (2nd quarter 2012), includes photos and is available online or from HUD User, 800-245-2691.

DEADLINE LOOMS FOR RURAL HOUSING AWARD NOMINATIONS! Nominations are due September 28 for the Cochran/Collings Award for national rural housing service and the Skip Jason Community Service Award. Use the online nomination form or request a paper form from Lilla Sutton, HAC, 202-842-8600,

HAC News: July 11, 2012

HAC News Formats. pdf

July 11, 2012
Vol. 41, No. 14

• Ag spending bill up next • House committee considering Farm Bill • Reserve account regulation revised for new USDA multifamily developments • USDA RD rule confirms annual fees for Section 502 guarantees • CFPB requests public comment about reverse mortgages • CFPB study on reverse mortgages identifies risks to consumers • Data access could help USDA monitor Rental Assistance payments, GAO says • Report highlights uses of American Community Survey data • Guide describes programs of Administration for Children and Families • HAC provides more rural poverty resources • SAVE THE DATE! 2012 National Rural Housing Conference! Promises to Keep in Challenging Times

July 11, 2012
Vol. 41, No. 14

AG SPENDING BILL UP NEXT. Following a July 4 recess at home, the House may take up 2013 appropriations for USDA soon. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) is expected to offer an amendment to keep growing rural communities eligible for RD housing programs. Similar amendments passed in the Senate as part of the Farm Bill in June and its USDA appropriations bill in April. There will be a continuing resolution to begin FY13 on October 1, 2012. Final budget decisions for 2013 will come in a post-election session, or in the new Congress next year.

HOUSE COMMITTEE CONSIDERING FARM BILL. The House Agriculture Committee began marking up its Farm Bill on July 11. The bill differs from S. 3240, approved by the Senate, and does not include housing provisions.

RESERVE ACCOUNT REGULATION REVISED FOR NEW USDA MULTIFAMILY DEVELOPMENTS. A final rule published in the Federal Register, 7/9/12, applies only to new construction Section 515 or 514/516 properties. Their reserve account deposits must be based on life-cycle analyses or Capital Needs Assessments prepared by third parties, rather than on the total development cost, as required in the past. Contact Michael Steininger, RD, 202-720-1610.

USDA RD RULE CONFIRMS ANNUAL FEES FOR SECTION 502 GUARANTEES. Implementing a provision of USDA’s FY12 appropriations act, a final regulation in the Federal Register, 7/11/12, enables RD to charge an annual fee as well as an up-front guarantee fee, in order to make the program self-supporting (see HAC News, 11/1/11). The fee amount will be announced each fiscal year. Contact an RD office or Cathy Glover, RD, 202-720-1460.

CFPB REQUESTS PUBLIC COMMENT ABOUT REVERSE MORTGAGES. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which regulates reverse mortgage transactions, seeks “detailed information from the public on the factors that influence reverse mortgage consumers’ decision-making, consumers’ use of reverse mortgage loan proceeds, longer-term consumer outcomes of a decision to obtain a reverse mortgage, and differences in market dynamics and business practices among the broker, correspondent, and retail channels for reverse mortgages.” Comments are due August 31. Contact Monica Jackson, CFPB, 202-435-7275.

CFPB STUDY ON REVERSE MORTGAGES IDENTIFIES RISKS TO CONSUMERS. In a report required by Congress, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau surveys the reverse mortgage market, identifies consumer protection concerns, and describes new challenges. It concludes that reverse mortgages are complex and hard for consumers to understand, misleading advertising and other scams occur, and the currently available consumer counseling may not be sufficient. It identifies roles for itself including regulation, education, and complaint resolution. Complaints on reverse mortgages can be submitted through CFPB’s website or by phone, 1-855-411-CFPB (2372).

DATA ACCESS COULD HELP USDA MONITOR RENTAL ASSISTANCE PAYMENTS, GAO SAYS. To identify RA payment errors due to unreported tenant income, legislation is needed to allow USDA to match tenant data with federal income data collected by other departments, according to a new GAO report, Rural Housing Service: Efforts to Identify and Reduce Improper Rental Assistance Payments Could Be Enhanced (GAO-12-624). GAO also suggests internal improvements that do not require legislation. For print copies, contact GAO, 866-801-7077 (toll free).

REPORT HIGHLIGHTS USES OF AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY DATA. The Census Project compiled “Eliminating America’s Playbook,” a collection of case studies and comments from a range of organizations about the ACS’s importance to both government and business. The House voted in May to eliminate ACS funding from the Commerce Department’s FY13 appropriations bill (see HAC News, 5/16/12); the Senate has not yet voted on its bill.

GUIDE DESCRIBES PROGRAMS OF ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. ACF is part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. It offers Assets for Opportunity IDA grants and resources for economic development, health care, refugee assistance, and other needs. Its program guide also includes basics for those new to requesting federal funding from any agency as well as links to capacity building resources.

HAC PROVIDES MORE RURAL POVERTY RESOURCES. In addition to its decennial rural poverty map (see HAC News, 6/27/12) HAC has issued a Rural Research Note on “Poverty in Rural America” and posted a recording of a recent webinar on the subject.


December 6-7 with pre-conference activities December 5
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC
Registration information will be announced here and at when available.

Poverty in Rural America Research Brief

Poverty in Rural America


HAC has conducted extensive research on poverty in rural America, including:


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