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Policy News from the Administration

HAC Supports USDA’s Interest in Racial Justice, Equity, and Underserved Communities

Federal policy and programs benefit some areas of the United States while harming others. HAC was pleased to see the Administration’s Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, published on President Biden’s first day in office. In Section 2 of that Order, we were glad to see “persons who live in rural areas” included in the list of groups who need to be granted “consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment.” Further, we were glad to see “geographic communities” a category that should be considered when determining an “underserved community.”

On this basis, HAC supports USDA’s efforts to advance justice and equity for communities underserved by USDA itself and by others. HAC’s comments submitted in response to USDA’s request for information on Identifying Barriers in USDA Programs and Services; Advancing Racial Justice and Equity and Support for Underserved Communities at USDA address actions that are necessary in several areas. Building capacity, improving access to capital, increasing flexibility, and engaging with stakeholders are among the subjects addressed in HAC’s comments.

In a similar vein, HAC also recently commented on an administration request for input on equity across all federal agencies.

HAC News: March 10, 2020

News Formats. pdf

March 10, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 5

USDA and HUD offer resources on coronavirus Household Water Well System Grants available HAC research brief tackles tax relief for sellers of affordable rental properties HUD guidance describes new provisions for small rural PHAs File information regarding a regional plan by June 30 to garner extra points for some USDA RD funding Housing legislation moves forward in the House CFPB provides FAQs for mortgage disclosure rule New RD Deputy Under Secretary named Census to replace American FactFinder Affordable Homes at Risk Many Living in Rural America Struggling with Housing as Cost of Living Outstrips Wages Toolkit for State and Local Government Officials Understanding Rural Attitudes Toward the Environment and Conservation in America • SAVE THE DATE FOR HAC’S 2020 RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE!Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

March 10, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 5

USDA and HUD offer resources on coronavirus.

Both departments provide basic resources and a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most up to date information. HUD suggests housing providers can share CDC fact sheets to help stakeholders understand the virus and steps to protect themselves. It also offers an infectious disease toolkit for Continuums of Care, noting that people experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable. The National Health Care for the Homeless Council has collected other resources and information on the subject. USDA provides additional information about food safety and pet safety. Articles published by the Daily Yonder and the Center for American Progress present differing perspectives about rural risk: “Rural Areas at Less Risk of Coronavirus Currently” because people have contact with fewer others, or Rural Americans are Vulnerable to the Coronavirus” because they have larger proportions of vulnerable populations, residents often cannot work at home, and access to health care is limited.

Household Water Well System Grants available.

USDA offers grants to nonprofits to establish revolving loan funds that will make loans for household water well systems in places with populations under 50,000, tribal lands and colonias. Apply by May 31. For more information, contact Derek Jones, USDA RD, 202-720-9640.

HAC research brief tackles tax relief for sellers of affordable rental properties.

As the rural rental housing crisis builds, often the best way to preserve a property’s affordability is to sell it to an entity that will keep operating it as an affordable rental. Among the many issues involved in arranging such a sale is the need to cover the seller’s tax bill. A new HAC research brief, Tax Considerations for Rural Housing Preservation, looks at this issue and possible solutions.

HUD guidance describes new provisions for small rural PHAs.

While HUD is developing regulations to implement provisions of a 2018 law related to small PHAs in rural places, it has published initial guidance explaining how it is defining small and rural, and how it is currently implementing provisions that take effect without regulations. Just over 1,500 PHAs fit the definition; see the list of Section 209 Small Rural PHAs. They can inspect voucher units less often than other PHAs and are exempt from environmental review requirements for development or rehab projects costing under $100,000. For more information, contact Harold Katsura, HUD, 202-402-3042.

File information regarding a regional plan by June 30 to garner extra points for some USDA RD funding.

Applicants for community facilities, water and waste, or business programs may receive priority points if their projects support strategic economic and community investment plans. Applicants must submit a form by June 30 to be eligible. For more information, contact an RD state office.

Housing legislation moves forward in the House.

On March 2 the House of Representatives passed the Yes In My Backyard Act (H.R. 4351), which would require governments receiving CDBG funding to report on land use policies that support affordable housing production, and the Improving FHA Support for Small Dollar Mortgages Act (H.R. 5931), which would require the FHA to review its policies, practices and products to identify barriers to supporting mortgages under $70,000. Two other measures were approved by the House Financial Services Committee on February 28 but have not yet been considered by the full House. The Housing is Infrastructure Act (H.R. 5187) would authorize substantial funding increases for numerous housing programs, including USDA’s MPR and Section 504 programs. The Housing Fairness Act (H.R. 149) would fund nationwide housing discrimination testing as well as research and education and would increase appropriations for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program.

CFPB provides FAQs for mortgage disclosure rule.

The consumer agency’s questions and answers pertain to compliance with the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID) for home mortgage closing cost estimates. Specific topics include corrected closing disclosures and the three business-day waiting period, model forms, construction loans, loan estimates and lender credits.

New RD Deputy Under Secretary named.

Donald “DJ” LaVoy, who has served as Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at USDA since September, is retiring. Bette Brand will move into the deputy position. She has most recently been the Administrator of the Rural Business-Cooperative Service. The Under Secretary position, eliminated by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and reinstated by the 2018 Farm Bill, remains vacant.

Census to replace American FactFinder.

The U.S. Census Bureau will take its American FactFinder tool offline on March 31. The AFF tool will be replaced with the new data.census.gov utility. While the transition takes place, data and information on rural communities across the country will always be available at HAC’s Rural Data Portal. For more information on HAC’s data portal, contact dataportal@ruralhome.org.

Recent publications and media of interest

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

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

HAC 2020 Conference Footer

HAC News: February 6, 2020

News Formats. pdf

Feburary 6, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 3

February is National African American History Month • Rental affordability crisis continues, research confirms • Surpreme Court allows public charge rule to block immigrants who use public assistance • AARP offers small grants for short-term projects including housing • USDA sets 2020 loan limits for Section 502 direct loan program • Bill would create New Market Tax Credit set-aside for Native lands • House members release infrastructure ideas • House to vote on Puerto Rico emergency funding • Hearings examine threats to children posed by Administration regulatory proposals • Boosting EITC Awareness • Iowa Seniors Face Dilemma of Aging Far from Home • Multidimensional Index of Deep Disadvantage • Strong Foundations: Financial Security Starts with Affordable, Stable Housing • HAC Seeks Executive Assistant and Senior Portfolio Manager • SAVE THE DATE FOR HAC’S 2020 RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE!HAC offers Section 512 packaging training for nonprofits, March 10-12 in Virginia • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

February 6, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 3

February is National African American History Month.

Rental affordability crisis continues, research confirms.

Almost 40% of rural renters nationwide were cost burdened in 2018, according to America’s Rental Housing 2020, a report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Nationwide, the number of cost-burdened renters (those paying over 30% of income for rent and utilities) fell from 2014 to 2017 but rose again in 2018. Among geographic and income categories, the only decline in cost-burden rates from 2011 to 2018 was a 0.9% drop for nonmetro renters with incomes of $30,000-44,999. The report notes that, in addition to cost burden, rural rental housing issues include limited rental stock, substandard housing and (citing HAC’s research) the loss of Section 515 properties. Interactive data and graphics and the written report are available online.

Supreme Court allows public charge rule to block immigrants who use public assistance.

In August 2019 the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule establishing strict standards for determining that an immigrant is not likely to become a “public charge” and is therefore eligible to live in the U.S. (Some categories of immigrants, such as refugees, are exempt from the regulation.) Lawsuits were filed challenging the regulation, and a federal court issued an injunction preventing it from taking effect while the litigation was underway. DHS asked the Supreme Court to lift the injunction and on January 27, by a 5-4 vote, the court did. Litigation will continue in lower courts, but at the same time the rule will take effect on February 24 across the U.S. except in Illinois, where it is suspended because of a different court decision.

AARP offers small grants for short-term projects including housing.

The AARP Community Challenge provides small grants to nonprofits and government entities for “quick-action” projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages. Improvements in housing, transportation, civic engagement and other areas are eligible. Applications are due April 1. For more information, contact communitychallenge@aarp.org.

USDA sets 2020 loan limits for Section 502 direct loan program.

The maximum amounts for homebuyersSection 502 direct mortgage loans vary from county to county. Updated limits that took effect on January 31 are posted online and have been added to the online eligibility assessment tool.

Bill would create New Markets Tax Credit setaside for Native lands.

A new Senate bill aims to allocate at least 10% of the New Markets Tax Credit program to Native American, Alaskan or Hawaiian Community Development Financial Institutions and other entities. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced S. 3181, called the Inspiring Nationally Vibrant Economies Sustaining Tribes (INVEST) Act. The legislation also includes a pilot program for technical assistance to Native institutions applying for NMTC allocations.

House members release infrastructure ideas.

Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee took different approaches in infrastructure proposals issued in late January. Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) listed general principles related to surface transportation, including an assurance that rural areas must be treated fairly. Transportation Committee chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) joined with the chairs of two other committees to release a more detailed framework calling for a $760 billion investment over five years in broadband, water, energy, transportation and communications infrastructure. It includes unspecified expansions of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the New Markets Tax Credit.

House to vote on Puerto Rico emergency funding.

The House is expected to vote February 7 on H.R. 5687, which would provide $4.67 billion for Puerto Rico following recent earthquakes there. If the House approves it, the bill will then need to clear the Senate. The White House has threatened a veto, however.

Hearings examine threats to children posed by Administration regulatory proposals.

On February 5 and 6 the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held four hearings on “threats to America’s children” from changes the Administration has proposed in regulations governing affirmatively furthering fair housing, poverty calculations, SNAP eligibility and air quality standards. Recordings and written witness statements are available online.

Recent publications and media of interest

  • Boosting EITC Awareness is a blog post about the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income wage earners. Published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the post includes links to tools such as an online EITC eligibility checker and a summary of research about the benefits of the EITC and other refundable tax credits.
  • Iowa Seniors Face Dilemma of Aging Far from Home describes the need for senior living and services in rural Iowa. Relying on sources that include HAC, the article also offers solutions from rural places across the country.
  • Multidimensional Index of Deep Disadvantage, a new index from the University of Michigan, uses data on income, health and social mobility to identify areas of deep disadvantage in the U.S. and hopes to increase the attention these places receive. Eighty of the 100 most disadvantaged communities are in rural areas. The index’s map is strikingly similar to HAC’s map of persistent poverty counties, which fall largely in predominantly rural areas and populations: Central Appalachia, the Lower Mississippi Delta, the southern Black Belt, the colonias region along the U.S. Mexico border, Native American lands and migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
  • Strong Foundations: Financial Security Starts with Affordable, Stable Housing, a research primer by The Aspen Institute, concludes that housing affordability and stability are universal concerns. It also highlights the rural realities, including constricted mortgage financing, inconsistent and costly infrastructure and lower quality housing.

HAC is hiring.

HAC is an equal opportunity employer and lender.

  • The Executive Assistant supports the work of HAC’s CEO and Board of Directors. Based in Washington, DC, the position is a blend of administrative work and project assignments for an earlycareer professional. The candidate will manage the CEO’s calendar, organize meetings, plan events and make travel arrangements while working on special initiatives and assignments as the candidate grows into a career in policy, program administration or nonprofit management. Email a resume and brief cover letter to jobs@ruralhome.org with “Executive Assistant” in the subject line. Applications will be considered as received.
  • The Senior Portfolio Manager provides leadership and oversight to a team that performs a range of lending activities – closing, disbursement, monitoring, servicing and asset management of single-family and multifamily housing development loans – in HAC’s Loan Fund Division, based in Washington, DC. Email a resume and brief cover letter to jobs@ruralhome.org with “Senior Portfolio Manager” in the subject line. Applications will be considered as received.

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

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


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

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

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

HAC News: January 27, 2020

News Formats. pdf

January 27, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 2

Administration’s FY21 budget to be released February 10 • Rural broadband funds available • USDA proposes rule changes related to faith-based organizations • Disaster funding for Puerto Rico moves forward • USDA offers advice on compliance with disability requirements • Updated guidance on lead-based paint offered by USDA and HUD • USDA annual tenant data released • 2020 Census launches • 2,500 Affordable Apartments in Rural Maine at Risk as Federal Program Ends • Alternative Drinking Water Systems: Use by Very Small Communities, Related Cost Savings, and Technical Assistance provided by EPA and USDA • Family Homelessness: Measuring Progress • How a Dozen Organizations are fighting Persistent Poverty Together • Research Shows Rental Assistance Reduces Hardship and Provides Platform to Expand Opportunity for Low-Income Families • Storytelling Toolkit: Lessons Learned from NHT’s “Where Will We Live?” • Two-thirds of Rural Counties Gain Jobs from November 2018 to 2019 • HAC Seeks Senior Portfolio Manager • SAVE THE DATE FOR HAC’S 2020 RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE!HAC offers Section 512 packaging training for nonprofits, March 10-12 in Virginia • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

January 27, 2020
Vol. 49, No. 2

Administration’s FY21 budget to be released February 10.

The Trump Administration is expected to release its budget request for fiscal year 2021 on February 10, beginning the process of funding the federal government for the year that begins on October 1, 2020. Overall spending levels for the year are already in place, set by legislation adopted in July 2019.

Rural broadband funds available.

The application window opens January 31 for the Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program), which offers loans, grants and combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. State and local governments, tribes, nonprofits, for-profits and coops can apply by March 16. RUS also requests comments on the program by March 16. For more information, visit https://reconnect.usda.gov or contact Chad Parker, RUS, 202-720-9554.

USDA proposes rule changes related to faith-based organizations.

Changes to rules on faith-based entities as federal program providers have been suggested by USDA and several other federal departments and agencies. USDA’s proposal includes eliminating a requirement for a faith-based service provider to refer beneficiaries to an alternative provider if they do not want to receive services from the faith-based provider. It would also ensure that faith-based organizations are not required to provide any assurances or notices unless similar requirements are imposed on non-faith-based organizations. Comments are due February 18. For more information, contact Emily Tasman, USDA Office of General Counsel, 202720-3351.

Disaster funding for Puerto Rico moves forward.

After missing a September 4 deadline, HUD has now published the conditions Puerto Rico must meet in order to access $8.25 billion in disaster mitigation (not recovery) funds appropriated in 2018. HUD announced it has prepared a grant agreement for another $8.2 billion in hurricane disaster recovery funds, though, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the agreement’s terms are not publicly available and Puerto Rico has not yet signed it. HUD also recently named a Federal Financial Monitor who will oversee administration and disbursement of hurricane recovery funds for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additional funding to help Puerto Rico recover from recent earthquakes has been proposed by some members of the House Appropriations Committee, who drafted a bill to provide $3.35 billion in FY20 emergency supplemental funding for the island, including $2 billion in CDBG disaster recovery monies.

USDA offers advice on compliance with disability requirements.

A January 10 Unnumbered Letter summarizes steps USDA staff and operators of USDA-financed rental housing should take to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires accessibility for people with disabilities.

Updated guidance on lead-based paint offered by USDA and HUD.

Along with a table showing which HUD regulations on lead-based paint hazards apply to specific programs run by USDA RD agencies, Administrative Notice 4873 (December 5, 2019) lists exemptions, compliance funding sources, implementation responsibilities and details relevant to individual programs. HUD recently posted trainings and other resources online related to its lead safe housing rule.

USDA annual tenant data released.

USDA’s annual update of data on the tenants in Section 515 and 514/516 properties is now available online. Tenant characteristics as of September 2019 were similar to those in September 2018. Section 515 residents are still largely elderly or disabled (65.2%). The average income of all Section 515 residents is $13,551, an increase from $13,112 in 2018. During that one-year period, 214 Section 515 properties and 10 Section 514 properties – about 4,500 units, just over 1% of the total – left USDA’s portfolio. Past reports back to 2010 are posted on HAC’s website.

2020 Census launches.

On January 21 in Toksook Bay, Alaska the 2020 Census began counting U.S. residents to determine the number of seats each state will hold in the House of Representatives and how billions of dollars in federal funds will be allocated. Most U.S. households will receive information in March about responding. The Census is still recruiting temporary workers for positions across the country.

Recent publications and media of interest

HAC seeks Senior Portfolio Manager.

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


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

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


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

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

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

HAC News: December 20, 2019

News Formats. pdf

November 20, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 25

Agreement reached on FY20 government fundingRegulators release Community Reinvestment Act proposalFair housing funds available from HUDFunding offered for housing aid to victims of human traffickingAfrican American Cultural Heritage grants availableHAC seeks Senior Portfolio ManagerFinal Opportunity Zones regulations postedHouse passes farmworker and rental preservation billGAO review of ERS/NIFA relocation requestedEmployees’ morale holds steady at USDA RD, plummets at ERS and NIFAUSDA RD launches new websiteApplications invited for Rural Youth Summit scheduled in April 2020 Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Affordable Rentals in Indian Country Why Millennials are Moving Away from Large Urban CentersHappy Holidays! SAVE THE DATE FOR HAC’S 2020 RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE!HAC offers Section 512 packaging training for nonprofits, March 10-12 in Virginia • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

December 20, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 25

Agreement reached on FY20 government funding.

Two lengthy spending bills to fund the entire federal government for the rest of fiscal year 2020 were passed by the House on December 17 and the Senate on December 19. President Trump is expected to sign them into law before the most recent continuing resolution expires on December 20. H.R. 1865, which includes both USDA and HUD, keeps most USDA rural housing programs at FY19 levels. It increases funding for preserving rural rental housing and includes other pro-preservation provisions as well. It also contains a provision inserted on the Senate floor that allows USDA to renew Section 521 Rental Assistance agreements for 20 years, when requested by property owners, and subject to annual appropriations. Many HUD programs, including HOME and CDBG, receive funding increases in the final measure. It also directs more than $1 billion in Low Income Housing Tax Credits to fire-damaged parts of California and pressures HUD to release disaster funding for Puerto Rico. H.R. 1158, the second of the two final bills, includes the full funding needed to undertake the 2020 Census. It also renews the National Flood Insurance Program.

Regulators release Community Reinvestment Act proposal.

A long-awaited proposal to revise Community Reinvestment Act regulations has been announced by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The changes are intended to quantify the CRA scoring system that rates banks’ service to their communities, and to broaden their responsibilities to include locations where they receive deposits, rather than only where their branches are located. Public comments will be due in mid-February, 60 days after the proposal is officially published in the Federal Register.

Fair housing funds available from HUD.

HUD is offering funds from three components of the Fair Housing Initiative Program. The application deadline for all three programs is February 6.

  • The Education and Outreach Initiative will fund fair housing organizations, nonprofits, state or local governments and Fair Housing Assistance Program agencies to conduct education and outreach informing people of their fair housing rights and responsibilities.
  • The Private Enforcement Initiative will fund experienced Qualified Fair Housing Enforcement Organizations and Fair Housing Enforcement Organizations to take complaints, conduct investigations, offer education and other activities.
  • The Fair Housing Organization Initiative will fund nonprofits or fair housing groups to build the capacity of other organizations to undertake fair housing enforcement activities.

Funding offered for housing aid to victims of human trafficking.

Nonprofits, tribes, units of local government, and states and territories are eligible for grants to provide transitional or short-term housing assistance and support services to victims of human trafficking. The deadline is February 3. For more information, contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 800-851-3420, grants@ncjrs.gov. (This funding announcement, released by the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime, replaces one that was announced by HUD earlier in 2019, then postponed.)

African American Cultural Heritage grants available.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation will make grants to public agencies and nonprofits for planning, capital projects and capacity building that will advance ongoing preservation activities for historic places representing African American heritage. Letters of intent are due January 15. For more information, contact the Trust, grants@savingplaces.org.

HAC seeks Senior Portfolio Manager.

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

Final Opportunity Zones regulations posted.

A final rule governing the Opportunity Zones program was issued December 19 by the Treasury Department and IRS. It will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

House passes farmworker and rental preservation bill.

On December 11 the full House approved the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which includes provisions relating to farmworkers and rural rental housing preservation. It is not clear whether the Senate will take any action on the measure.

GAO review of ERS/NIFA relocation requested.

Five Democratic members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee have asked the Government Accountability Office to review the Administration’s decision to move the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to Kansas City. As the letter to GAO notes, hundreds of employees declined to move, and USDA’s latest figures show 64% of ERS positions and 75% of NIFA positions are empty. The House appropriations bill for FY20 would have blocked the relocation but, since the shift has now been completed, this week’s final funding bill does not.

Employees’ morale holds steady at USDA RD, plummets at ERS and NIFA.

The annual “Best Places to Work Agency Ratings,” based on surveys of federal workers, show Rural Development is number 364 among 420 sub-agencies, scoring 52.7 out of 100, essentially the same as its 52.8 score in 2018. After the Administration relocated their offices, the Economic Research Service’s score fell 30 points from 2018 to 2019, putting it at number 415, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture dropped 24 points to number 419. RD’s highest score since 2013 – the earliest year shown with this year’s data – was 67.7 in 2017, when ERS scored 74.6 and NIFA 53.4.

USDA RD launches new website.

The new version of rd.usda.gov reorganizes the former “Regulations and Guidelines” section into a “Resources” category. Resources are divided between “Regulations” and “Directives,” with the latter category including Administrative Notices, Unnumbered Letters, Handbooks and more. Some URLs have changed and some remain the same.

Applications invited for Rural Youth Summit scheduled in April 2020.

The Rural Assembly will select 50 people aged 16-24 from rural communities and Native Nations to attend the Rural Youth Summit, to be held April 2-5 in McAllen, TX. The summit’s goals are “to further explore the unique challenges facing rural youth, identify creative solutions, and provide a context for how these issues fit into national rural policy.” Local organizations and schools can serve as sponsoring organizations. Applications are due January 31. For more information, contact Mary Sketch, 919-402-7241.

Recent publications and media of interest

  • Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Affordable Rentals in Indian Country discusses “how the complex relationship between economic incentives and policy objectives creates a unique challenge for LIHTC development in tribal areas.”

Happy holidays!

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

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

HAC’s board and staff wish peace, happiness and affordable housing to all!

HAC offers Section 502 packaging training for nonprofits, March 10-12 in Virginia.

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

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

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

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

HAC News: December 11, 2019

News Formats. pdf

November 11, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 24

Federal funding extended to December 20Community Development Block Grant offered for Indian Tribes and Alaska Native VillagesUSDA proposes changes for direct homeownership loans and grantsCRA reform proposal expected this weekProposed new director of homelessness council has criticized “housing first” and food programsHouse advances bill to help tribes combat homelessnessDisaster recovery bill passes HouseHouse committee approves farmworker and rental preservation billHUD requrests comments on regulatory barriersFCC to establish fund for 5G service in rural areasPop Quiz with David LipsetzBroadband USDA FundingFood Security Starts with Affordable Housing for farmworkersIncreasing Access to Affordable Housing for FarmworkersIncreasing access to Affordable Housing in Indian CountryPerspectives from Main Street: Bank Branch Access in Rural CommunitiesSAVE THE DATE FOR HAC’S 2020 RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE!HAC offers Section 502 packaging training for nonprofits, March 10-12 in Virginia • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

December 11, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 24

Federal funding extended to December 20.
The second short-term continuing resolution for fiscal year 2020 keeps the federal government open with FY19 funding levels through December 20. Congress may pass the 12 appropriations measures for FY20 by then. If members cannot agree, however, another CR is likely.

Community Development Block Grants offered for Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages.
Tribes, Alaska Native villages and tribal organizations are eligible to apply by February 3 for the Indian CDBG program. Funds from fiscal years 2019 and 2020 will be awarded in this grant cycle. For more information, contact ONAP-ICDBG@hud.gov.

USDA proposes changes for direct homeownership loans and grants.
Comments are due January 24 on a proposed rule intended to increase the flexibility of the Section 502 direct and Section 504 programs and improve borrower access. The proposal would remove various program restrictions and increase alignment with provisions in the Section 502 guaranteed loan program. Some of the more significant changes remove limitations in the Section 504 program, increasing the program loan and grant limits. For more information, contact Andrea Birmingham, RD, 202-720-1489.

CRA reform proposal expected this week.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are expected to release possible changes to their Community Reinvestment Act rules on December 12 and 13. The third federal bank regulator, the Federal Reserve Board, will make a separate proposal in the future. The regulators are likely to suggest ways to make banks’ CRA tests more quantifiable and to provide CRA credit for activities beyond the physical locations of their branches. Public comments on the FDIC/OCC proposed rule will probably be due in mid-February.

Proposed new director of homelessness council has criticized “housing first” and food programs.
News outlets including Politico are reporting that Robert Marbut will become executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness if confirmed by the council at a December 10 meeting. Obama appointee Matthew Doherty left the position in November. Marbut has not supported provision of housing as the first step in addressing homelessness and has recommended “24/7 programming” rather than feeding homeless people.

House advances bill to help tribes combat homelessness.
Legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives would make tribes and tribally designated housing authorities eligible to access homeless assistance grants through state or local Continuums of Care. The Tribal Access to Homeless Assistance Act (H.R. 4029) must next advance through the Senate.

Disaster recovery bill passes House.
H.R. 3702, the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act, was approved by the House on November 18. The bill’s provisions would help target Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery grants to survivors with the greatest needs, ensure greater data transparency and oversight, protect civil rights and fair housing, and encourage mitigation and resiliency. A companion measure, S. 2301, has been introduced in the Senate.

House committee approves farmworker and rental preservation bill.
On November 21 the House Judiciary Committee passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which includes provisions relating to farmworkers and rural rental housing preservation. The bill is scheduled for consideration by the full House of Representatives on December 11 or 12.

HUD requests comments on regulatory barriers.
As required by President Trump’s June Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing, HUD seeks public comment by January 21 on federal, state, local and tribal laws, regulations, land use requirements and administrative practices that artificially raise the costs of affordable housing development and contribute to shortages in housing supply. For more information, contact Pamela Blumenthal, HUD, 202-402-7012.

FCC to establish fund for 5G service in rural areas.
The Federal Communications Commission will create a 5G Fund to make up to $9 billion available to carriers to deploy advanced 5G mobile wireless services in rural America, targeting hard-to-serve areas with sparse populations or rugged terrain. The FCC’s announcement did not say when the funds will be available.

Recent publications and media of interest

  • Pop Quiz with David Lipsetz, an interview with Affordable Housing Finance, features HAC’s CEO discussing his career in affordable housing and what he wishes people knew about rural people and places. “It’s inspiring to me that people are finally recognizing the truth that many of us having been telling for years,” said Lipsetz. “Addressing affordable housing solves many of the root causes of inequality and poverty.”
  • Broadband USDA Funding is a searchable database for federal funding related to broadband provision, posted by the Commerce Department but covering all federal agencies. The search can be tailored in several ways, including to identify rural-specific programs.
  • Food Security Starts with Affordable Housing for Farmworkers describes housing as “a critical tool for recruitment and retention of both domestic and immigrant [farm]workers.” This Urban Land Institute article describes several examples of successful farmworker housing developments.
  • Increasing Access to Affordable Housing in Indian Country, an article for Shelterforce by Patrice Kunesh at the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, highlights the unique challenges of homeownership on Native lands and offers some solutions.
  • Perspectives from Main Street: Bank Branch Access in Rural Communities reports that when bank branches close, rural consumers and small businesses are left with generally more costly and less convenient alternatives. Published by the Federal Reserve Board, the study includes information gathered at listening sessions across the country.
  • Rural Development Hubs: Strengthening Rural America’s Innovation Infrastructure, a new report released November 18 by the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group, examines intermediaries’ role in building wealth, increasing capacity and creating opportunity in regions. The research describes what sets rural development hubs apart, obstacles that regional developers may face and strategies of effective prosperity-building.

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

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

HAC offers Section 502 packaging training for nonprofits, March 10-12 in Virginia.
This three-day advanced coursetrains experienced participants to assist potential borrowers and work with RD staff, other nonprofits and regional intermediaries to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages. The training will be held in Glen Allen, VA on March 10-12, 2020.For more information, contactHAC staff, 404-892-4824.

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

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

HAC News: October 31, 2019

News Formats. pdf

October 31, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 22

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

HAC News Formats. pdf

October 31, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 22

November is Native American Heritage Month.

Senate passes USDA and HUD funding bill for FY20.

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

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

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

CIRD hosts 2019 learning cohort summit in Thomas, WV.

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

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

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

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

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

Family Unification Program vouchers available.

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

Recent publications and media of interest

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

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

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

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

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

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

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

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

HAC News: October 21, 2019

News Formats. pdf

October 21, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 21

Senate may begin considering FY20 spending bills the week of October 21 • Apply by November 15 for grants to support housing aid to rural veterans • HUD offers funds for new Section 811 housing and rental aid for persons with disabilities • USDA obligated all Section 502 direct funds for FY19, but not Section 504 • USDA to begin accepting Section 538 rental guarantee applications continuously • Lawsuit charges Texas’s Hurricane Harvey recovery discriminates against low-income renters of color • Executive Orders increase scrutiny of agency guidance • Administration tells agencies to pay as they go • Senate committee considers homeownership in Indian Country • USDA names Deputy Administrator for rental housing office • Threshold raised for single-family appraisal requirements • HUD sets expediated process for PHAs in disaster countries • NEW! HAC offers Section 502 packaging training for nonprofits, Nov. 12-14 in Tampa • HAC training for housing counselors set for November in Tampa • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

October 21, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 21

Senate may begin considering FY20 spending bills the week of October 21.

The first FY20 appropriations bill to be debated on the Senate floor may be a package that includes funding for HUD and USDA, along with other agencies. Even after the Senate passes its measures, differences between its bills and the House’s will need to be resolved, as will differences with White House priorities.

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

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

HUD offers funds for new Section 811 housing and rental aid for persons with disabilities.

For the first time since 2010, capital advances and rental assistance contracts are available for nonprofits to develop permanent supportive rental housing for very low-income adults with disabilities. For the first time since 2013, project-based rental subsidies are also offered to state agencies, to be used for existing, rehabilitated or new permanent supportive housing units that do not have capital advances from HUD’s Section 811 or 202 programs. Applications for both funding pools are due February 10, 2020. For more information, contact HUD staff at FY18811NOFA@hud.gov.

USDA obligated all Section 502 direct funds for FY19, but not Section 504.

Despite the federal government shutdown early in the fiscal year, USDA obligated all available funds for Section 502 direct loans this year, using just over $1 billion for a total of 6,194 mortgage loans to new low-income homebuyers. About 37% of the loans and 42% of the dollars went to very low-income applicants. HAC appreciates RHS Administrator Bruce Lammers’s approval of overtime for field staff and other special authorizations, which made this possible.

There was, however, a significant shortfall in the agency’s use of Section 504 loans and grants for repairs to homes owned by very low-income people. USDA obligated 2,735 Section 504 loans, representing $17.4 million of the $28 million available, and 3,908 grants, using $24.8 million of the $30 million appropriated. The remaining grant funds can be used in FY20, but the loan monies cannot.

Use of resources for rental housing preservation exceeded last year’s performance, with 85 loans from Section 515 and 205 loans and three grants from the MPR program.

More information is provided in HAC’s obligation report, and HAC will also publish a more detailed FY19 performance report.

USDA to begin accepting Section 538 rental guarantee applications continuously.

As proposed in December, USDA will no longer publish annual NOFAs for the Section 538 rental housing guarantee program. It will publish an announcement when funds are available and will then accept applications at any time. For more information, contact Monica Cole, RD, 202-720-1251.

Lawsuit charges Texas’s Hurricane Harvey recovery discriminates against low-income renters of color.

Low-income Hispanic and African-American renters have sued HUD and the state of Texas alleging discrimination in the distribution of CDBG Disaster Recovery funds after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The suit claims that the state’s decision to target aid to homeowners, landlords and developers while excluding renters is discriminatory because low-income renters are more likely to be African-American or Hispanic.

Executive Orders increase scrutiny of agency guidance.

On October 9 President Trump signed two Executive Orders, one requiring federal executive agencies such as USDA and HUD to increase transparency around their use of guidance documents and the other limiting agency reliance on past enforcement activities to establish standards of compliance with laws or regulations. The Office of Management and Budget is given authority to implement the provisions on guidance documents, including to require OMB review of “significant” guidance documents. The Executive Order does not refer to OMB review authorities announced in an April 11, 2019 memo from OMB’s Acting Director Russell Vought, though the two seem to overlap.

Administration tells agencies to pay as they go.

An Executive Order issued on October 10 intends to “reinvigorate administrative PAYGO,” requiring federal departments and agencies to reduce spending in one area when they propose a spending increase in another area unless a law requires the increase. OMB is given authority to waive the requirements and to issue instructions for implementing the order.

Senate committee considers homeownership in Indian Country.

On October 16, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled “Lending Opportunities: Opening the Door to Homeownership in Indian Country.” Witnesses included HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Hunter Kurtz, Governor Max Zuni of the Pueblo of Isleta, Council Member Nate Mount of the Ft. Belknap Indian Community, BIA Director Darryl LaCounte and Patrice Kunesh from the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Discussions focused on the need for capital in Indian Country, the role Native CDFIs can play in bringing lending capacity to tribal areas and potential modernizations to the HUD Section 184 program. For more on challenges and opportunities for mortgage finance in Indian Country, review HAC’s recent report here.

USDA names Deputy Administrator for rental housing office.

Nancie-Ann Bodell, who became Acting Deputy Administrator for Multi-Family Housing several months ago, has been selected to fill the position on a permanent basis. She oversees USDA’s programs for the production and preservation of rental housing as well as the existing portfolio of affordable rental housing and farm labor housing.

Threshold raised for single-family appraisal requirements.

The agencies that regulate banks and thrifts are raising the threshold level at which appraisals are not required for single-family (one to four units) real estate transactions from $250,000 to $400,000. Some rural properties are exempt from the appraisal requirement altogether. When appraisals are not required, lenders must obtain evaluations, consistent with safe and sound banking practices. For more information, contact G. Kevin Lawton, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, 202-649-7152.

HUD sets expedited process for PHAs in disaster counties.

HUD has established an expedited process to review requests for relief from HUD regulatory and/or administrative requirements for public housing agencies in counties that are included in major disaster declarations in calendar year 2019. For more information, contact HUD staff, PIH_Disaster_Relief@hud.gov.

*NEW!* HAC offers Section 502 packaging training for nonprofits, Nov. 12-14 in Tampa.

This three-day advanced course trains experienced participants to assist potential borrowers and work with RD staff, other nonprofits and regional intermediaries to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages. The training will be held in Tampa, FL on November 12-14. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

HAC training for housing counselors set for November in Tampa.

HUD’s final rule on new certification requirements for housing counselors requires that by August 1, 2020 counseling for or in connection with any HUD programs must be provided by HUD Certified Housing Counselors. Get ready! Elevate your knowledge in the six essential competency areas, including financial management, housing affordability, homeownership, avoiding foreclosure, tenancy and fair housing. Set yourself up for success in meeting HUDs counselor certification requirements by starting your prep with this three-day course scheduled for Tampa, FL on November 12-14. The registration fee is $500. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

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

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

HAC News: October 7, 2019

News Formats. pdf

October 7, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 20

President signs continuing resolution to keep government open • Rural rental preservation bill re-introduced along with others • HUD announces DDAs and QCTs for FY20 • USDA updates environmental policies and procedures • Newspaper ads for domestic farmworkers replaced by online job registry • Duty to Serve listening sessions scheduled • Factsheets on disaster housing recovery • Iowa Free Land Giveaways Can be Imperfect Fix for Rural Housing Shortage • Measuring and Understanding Home Repair Costs: A National Typology of Households • New Financing Options for Affordable and Attractive Factory-Built Homes • Silicon Valley in Iowa: Congressman’s Fight for Tech Jobs in Rural America • The Value of HMDA Coverage of Home Lending in Rural Areas and Indian Country • HAC training for housing counselors set for November in Tampa • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

October 7, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 20

President signs continuing resolution to keep government open.

On September 23 President Trump signed into law a continuing resolution, H.R. 4378, to fund the federal government through November 21. A disagreement over funding for the border wall – the issue that led to last year’s lengthy shutdown – is expected to arise again as Congress and the Administration try to resolve differences on full-year appropriations. Congress is in recess October 1-14.

Rural rental preservation bill re-introduced along with others.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has introduced S. 2567, the Rural Housing Preservation Act, which would expand availability of vouchers for USDA tenants in properties leaving the Section 515 or 514/516 portfolios, allow Section 521 Rental Assistance to continue for tenants in properties whose mortgages have matured, establish uniform standards for transfers involving Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and authorize the MPR program. The measure has been introduced in previous Congresses in both the House and Senate, although it has not yet been taken up by either house. Sen. Shaheen also introduced a bill encouraging manufactured home park owners who are interested in selling their property to sell to their residents, and another that would terminate FHA mortgage insurance payments when the loan balance reaches 78% of the home’s value.

HUD announces DDAs and QCTs for FY20.

Difficult Development Areas and Qualified Census Tracts, calculated every year, are used to target Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

USDA updates environmental policies and procedures.

USDA Rural Development published a direct final rule on November 23, 2018 to update its environmental policies and procedures, but did not put it into effect because some adverse comments were submitted. A September 23, 2019 notice makes the rule effective as of that date, giving the RHS, RBS and RUS administrators some flexibility to obligate funds for infrastructure projects – including broadband, electric, water and sewer – before environmental review is completed, conditioned on the full and satisfactory completion of environmental review. For more information, contact Edna Primrose, USDA RD, 202-720-0986.

Newspaper ads for domestic farmworkers replaced by online job registry.

The Labor Department is eliminating the existing requirement for most employers who want to hire H-2A farmworkers to first advertise their job opportunities in print newspapers. Instead of requiring them to run ads online, as it first proposed, DOL will instead post these jobs on its electronic job registry, seasonaljobs.dol.gov, effective October 21, 2019. For more information, contact Thomas M. Dowd, DOL, 202-513-7350.

Duty to Serve listening sessions scheduled.

As Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae develop plans to carry out their 2021-23 duty to serve underserved markets such as rural America, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has scheduled listening sessions between Nov. 19 and Dec. 11 in St. Louis, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and online in order to get public input. Details and registration are online.

Recent publications and media of interest

  • Factsheets on disaster housing recovery from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition describe the housing impact of the largest disasters from 2017 and 2018 as well as major failures and deficiencies in disaster recovery efforts afterward.
  • In Iowa Free Land Giveaways Can be Imperfect Fix for Rural Housing Shortage describes the challenges involved as, in an effort to overcome an aging housing stock and encourage new housing construction, at least four rural Iowa communities are experimenting with land giveaways to spur development.
  • Measuring and Understanding Home Repair Costs: A National Typology of Households, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and PolicyMap, calculates housing quality problems taking into account the cost of the repairs needed. The authors estimate that extremely low-income households in single-family units typically have the costliest repair needs, totaling $50.8 billion in 2018.
  • New Financing Options for Affordable and Attractive Factory-Built Homes suggests modular and manufactured housing can help solve the affordable housing shortage in rural areas. As opposed to stick-built housing built on-site, manufactured and modular housing is factory-built and delivered to the site, saving time and money.
  • Silicon Valley in Iowa: Congressman’s Fight for Tech Jobs in Rural America describes an effort involving several large tech companies to bring jobs and job training to Jefferson County, Iowa. Spearheaded by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), the program would create software development education and training opportunities through local community colleges and also involve the commitment to local job creation from large tech firms.
  • The Value of HMDA Coverage of Home Lending in Rural Areas and Indian Country, a working paper from the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, notes that the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act applies to a wide range of financial institutions involved in home lending, but many small and nonmetropolitan lenders are exempt from reporting. The research analyzes data coverage and identifies some limitations but concludes HMDA data is a useful and important source of information about lending in Indian Country and rural areas.

HAC training for housing counselors set for November in Tampa.

HUD’s final rule on new certification requirements for housing counselors requires that by August 1, 2020 counseling for or in connection with any HUD programs, must be provided by HUD Certified Housing Counselors. Get ready! Elevate your knowledge in the six essential competency areas, including financial management, housing affordability, homeownership, avoiding foreclosure, tenancy and fair housing. Set yourself up for success in meeting HUD’s counselor certification requirements by starting your prep with this three-day course scheduled for Tampa, FL on November 12-14. The registration fee is $500. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

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

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

HAC News: September 23, 2019

News Formats. pdf

September 23, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 19

Senate committee approves FY20 funding for USDA and HUD, continuing resolution moves forward • HUD offers technical assistance for disaster-impacted cities under 40,000 • House passes rural rental preservation bill • HUD proposes regulations on income and assets for public housing and Section 8 • Community design awards announced • DJ LaVoy sworn in as Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development • Low-cost rental units show long-term decline in every state • White House homelessness recommendations include deregulation and policing • September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic American Heritage Month “Colonias Investment Areas – Texas” webinar set for September 26 • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

September 23, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 19

Senate committee approves FY20 funding for USDA and HUD, continuing resolution moves forward.

  • On September 19 the Senate Appropriations Committee passed FY20 funding bills for several departments, including USDA and HUD. After the full Senate approves the bills, differences between the Senate measures and those previously passed by the House will need to be resolved by conference committees. Because there is not enough time to complete the appropriations for all federal agencies before the new fiscal year begins on October 1, a continuing resolution is expected to fund the government through November 21 and avoid a shutdown. The House approved a CR, H.R. 4378, on September 19 and the Senate should vote on it the week of September 23. It includes a provision allowing maintenance of HUD Section 202 rental assistance, even if the necessary funds exceed the FY19 amount.
  • The Senate’s FY20 USDA bill would keep most rural housing programs at FY19 levels with increases to Section 521 Rental Assistance and Section 542 rural housing vouchers. The version approved by the House in June, on the other hand, increased several programs above FY19 levels, including Sections 514 and 515 as well as self-help housing and the MPR rental preservation program. Details are on HAC’s website. The Senate bill also includes $25 million for relocating ERS and NIFA to Kansas City, while the House bill would block the move.
  • The Senate’s HUD bill increases the department’s overall funding above its FY19 level, but rejects a number of increases included in the House’s bill. The Appropriations Committee voted 15-16 against inclusion of an amendment that would have reauthorized NAHASDA; the bill does fund the Native American housing programs for FY20.

HUD offers technical assistance for disaster-impacted cities under 40,000.

HUD’s Distressed Cities Technical Assistance program is designed to assist local governments of communities with populations under 40,000 that experienced a presidentially declared disaster in or after 2015. The program focuses on financial management, economic development (including affordable housing) and disaster recovery planning. Instructions for requesting TA are posted online.

House passes rural rental preservation bill.

On September 10 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3620, the Strategy and Investment in Rural Housing Preservation Act. The Senate seems unlikely to consider the bill, which would strengthen USDA’s rental preservation efforts.

HUD proposes regulations on income and assets for public housing and Section 8.

Comments are due November 18 on a proposed rule to implement provisions of the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 that relate to income calculations and reviews for public housing and Section 8, with corresponding changes to the regs for HOME, the Housing Trust Fund, and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program. Information contacts vary by program and are listed in the notice.

Community design awards announced.

Twenty-three communities from across the country were selected to join the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, a collaboration among HAC, the National Endowment for the Arts and buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. The partner towns, tribes, nonprofits and other organizations were selected in a national competition to receive assistance in addressing design and creative placemaking goals. Three communities – Millinocket, Maine; Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico; and Athens, Ohio – will host multi-day design workshops that bring experts and locals together.

DJ LaVoy sworn in as Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development.

Donald “DJ” LaVoy, most recently the head of HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center, was sworn in September 17 as Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at USDA. The Under Secretary position, eliminated by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and reinstated by the 2018 Farm Bill, remains vacant.

Low-cost rental units show long-term decline in every state.

Documenting the Long-Run Decline in Low-Cost Rental Units in the U.S. by State, a working paper from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, looks at the reduction in low-cost rentals from 1990 to 2017. These homes were a declining share of the housing stock in every state, and all but a few states also had declines in the absolute number of low-cost units. The steepest drop occurred from 2012 to 2017. The paper reports a strong correlation at the state level between the extent of losses of low-cost rentals and rising housing cost burdens for low-income households.

White House homelessness recommendations include deregulation and policing.

A new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, The State of Homelessness in America, focuses on homelessness in major metro areas on the East and West coasts. It identifies the major causes of homelessness as high housing costs due to overregulation of housing markets, “tolerable conditions” including warm weather and policing policies, right-to-shelter policies offering “substitutes to permanent housing” and individual factors such as severe mental illness and low incomes. It criticizes past federal policies and expresses doubt whether homelessness has actually decreased since 2007 (as HUD has reported). Solutions offered include removal of regulatory barriers, expanded drug treatment, “an increased emphasis on serious mental illness,” support for police in promoting safe cities, and stronger encouragement for self-sufficiency.

Recent publications and media of interest

  • Income and Poverty in the United States: 2018 is an annual data report from the Census Bureau. The national median household income remained essentially the same in 2018 as in 2017, while the poverty rate fell by 0.5 percentage points to 11.8%. The drop in poverty was statistically significant for urban residents, but there was no statistically significant change for nonmetro or suburban residents.
  • New Partnership Addresses Affordable Housing in Rural Areas details how the South Dakota economy is benefitting from a $10 million partnership between Avery Health and the Rural Electric Economic Development Fund. These funds will go toward building quality workforce housing to help attract and retain skilled staff in all business sectors.
  • Rural References Bounce in and out of Democratic Debate, a Daily Yonder article, looks at the various ways contenders in the September 12 presidential debate touched on issues affecting rural America.
  • Small, Rural Markets Left Behind as Large Metros Struggle to Match Housing to Job Gains explains some results of rural housing markets’ and rural economies’ inability to rebound at the same rates as large metropolitan areas since the Great Recession (2007-2009). Before the recession housing and economic growth in rural areas were generally similar to those in large metropolitan areas, but now they are lagging in job creation and home value gains.
  • Something Special is Happening in Rural America, by writer Sarah Smarsh, argues that recent shift in public sentiment and increasing affordability challenges for large urban areas are indicators of a coming “brain gain” for rural areas. Smarsh, author of Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, recently launched a new podcast, The Homecomers, focused on providing “a more accurate story of those ill-understood spaces [rural communities.]”

September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic American Heritage Month.

Colonias Investment AreasTexas” webinar set for September 26.
HAC, in partnership with Fannie Mae, will hold a webinar presenting data and research on Colonias Investment Areas, a geographic concept developed to target strategies and opportunities for mortgage finance and resource investment in colonia communities along the southwest U.S. border. The September 26 session will focus on colonias in Texas. Recent webinars on colonias in New Mexico and Arizona are available on HAC’s YouTube channel. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

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

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