Posts

Policy News from Congress

Senate Proposes Rural Housing Funding Increases

The Senate Appropriations Committee proposes rural housing funding levels for the upcoming fiscal year much like those in the administration’s budget request and the bill passed by the House. On July 28, the committee released its version of all 12 appropriations bills for fiscal 2023, which begins on October 1, 2022.

The fate of these bills is unclear. The Senate has not scheduled action on any of them. The House has passed a “minibus” bill that combines appropriations measures for several agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but the fiscal year is expected to begin with a continuing resolution holding government spending at FY22 levels. Final appropriations are not likely to be completed until after the midterm elections in early November.

— HAC’s analysis of FY23 appropriations for HUD is available here.  —

Homeownership

The Senate committee’s USDA bill would keep most of the rural single-family housing programs at or near their current funding levels. It endorses the request in USDA’s budget to provide almost $21 million to expand the Native American relending pilot program, which enlists a Native Community Development Financial Institution to work with tribes and Native homebuyers.

Rental Housing

The Senate bill would provide $100 million for Section 515, twice as much as in FY22 but lower than the $200 million requested by the administration – which proposed to finance new Section 515 construction for the first time since fiscal year 2011 – and the $150 million in the House bill. Like the House, this bill also rejects USDA’s request for enough Section 521 Rental Assistance (RA) funding to renew the RA contracts created under the American Rescue Plan Act.

To support efforts to preserve existing USDA-financed rental housing, the bill would adopt legislative language proposed in USDA’s budget, allowing RA to be “decoupled” from the Section 515 and Section 514 mortgage programs. As a last resort, if there is no other way to preserve a property as affordable housing, RA could continue to be used even after the mortgage is paid off. The Senate bill would impose a limit on this tactic so that it could be used for no more than 15,000 units in FY23. That ceiling seems unlikely to pose a problem: HAC has reported that 21,693 units left the Section 515 portfolio over a five-year period from early 2016 to 2021, an average of fewer than 4,350 units per year.

In another preservation effort, the bill would more than double technical assistance funding to help nonprofits and public housing authorities purchase and preserve USDA-financed rental properties. The program, which received $2 million in FY22 and was not included in the administration’s budget, would get $5 million.

The explanatory statement released to accompany the bill – equivalent to a committee report for a bill passed by a congressional committee – criticizes USDA for not having developed a rental preservation plan.

Multifamily Technical Assistance Report.—The Committee reminds the Department that the fiscal year 2017 Appropriations Act required the Department to conduct research and identify policy, program reforms, and incentives for preserving rural rental housing and a report summarizing those findings to be submitted to the Committee 2 years later. The report is now 3 years overdue and the Committee directs the Department to submit the completed report within 30 days of enactment of this Act.

Capacity Building

The Senate bill would increase funding for the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) from $6 million in FY22 to $7 million in FY23. The House-passed bill would provide $8 million for RCDI next year, and the administration’s budget requested $12 million.

The Senate bill includes $10 million for the Rural Partners Network. It would also provide $15 million for the Institute for Rural Partnerships, first funded in the FY22 USDA appropriations bill.

Community Facilities

The explanatory statement accompanying the Senate committee’s bill tells USDA to find ways to expand community eligibility for community facilities grants.

Community Facilities Eligibility.—The Committee is concerned by the ineligibility of projects under the Community Facilities Grant program located in significantly rural and low-income areas that are defined as distressed but do not qualify for grant funding under this program. The Department is required to evaluate the program’s income and service area-based eligibility standards and identify ways to approve community access to these grants, including whether basing eligibility on national rather than state median household income could benefit areas located in predominantly poor, rural States.

 

USDA Rural Dev. Prog. (dollars in millions) FY21 Final Approp. Amer. Rescue Plan Act FY22 Final Approp. FY23 Budget FY23 House Bill FY23 Senate Bill
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,000 $656.60 $1,250 $1,500 $1,500 $1,500
Nat. Amer. Single Fam. Demo 20.8 12 20.8
502 Single Family Guar. 24,000 30,000 30,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 18.3 28 50 28 30
504 VLI Repair Grants 30 32 45 32 32
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 40 50 200 150 100
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 28 50 30 35
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 18 16 14
521 Rental Assistance 1,410 100 1,450 1,564 1,494 1,488
523 Self-Help TA 31 32 40 33 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 15 16 30 16 16
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 230 250 400 300 400
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 28 34 75 40 45
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 40 45 38 38 50
Rental Prsrv. TA 2 2 0 2 5
Community Facil. Loans 2,800 2,800 2,800 2,800 2,800
Community Facil. Grants 32 40 52 68.1 100
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 6 6 12 8 7
Tribal Colleges CF Grts 5 10 10 10 10
Cong. Directed Spending* 126.9 202.3
Community Facil. Guarantees 500 650 500 650 650

* Congressionally Directed Spending (earmarks) accounts for a large portion of the proposed Community Facilities Grant spending in both the House and Senate bills. Specific projects are listed in the House and Senate committee reports.

House Passes USDA Funding Bill

July 20, 2022 – The full House of Representatives passed the USDA appropriations bill as part of a “minibus” that combines several funding bills, including those for USDA and HUD. The Senate has not yet begun actions on FY23 appropriations, and a continuing resolution is expected to be needed to begin the fiscal year on October 1, 2022.

House Funding Bill Includes Modest Increases for Some Rural Housing Programs, Though Less Than USDA Requested

On June 14, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee approved a funding bill for fiscal year 2023, which begins on October 1, 2022. The House bill proposes less funding for several rural housing programs than the administration’s budget did, while also rejecting the administration’s cut in Community Facilities guaranteed loans.

The full committee will consider the bill on June 23.

The House would increase the Section 515 rental housing program and the MPR rental preservation program above current levels, but not to the extent proposed by the administration. It would raise the Rural Community Development Initiative capacity building program from this year’s $6 million to $8 million in FY23 rather than the $12 million USDA requested. The rental preservation technical assistance program would receive $2 million again under the House bill, although USDA did not propose any funding for it.

It is not clear whether the bill is intended to fund renewals of the Section 521 Rental Assistance contracts added by the American Rescue Plan Act, but it proposes lower funding for Section 521 than the administration’s budget, which explicitly stated it did include the new contracts. Also, the House bill does not adopt USDA’s proposal to “decouple” the Section 521 Rental Assistance program from the Section 515 and 514/516 programs, which would allow properties to continue to receive Rental Assistance after their USDA mortgages end.

Like USDA’s budget, the House bill would expand USDA’s pilot program for Native American mortgage lending, which provides funds to Native CDFIs to be reloaned to homebuyers.

Budget Requests Increases in Most Rural Housing Programs

The Biden Administration’s budget for fiscal year 2023 proposes funding increases for almost every U.S. Department of Agriculture rural housing program, along with some important program changes for preservation of aging rental housing.

The March 28, 2022 budget release is only the first step in the process of developing federal appropriations for the fiscal year that begins on October 1, 2022. HAC held a webinar to review the budget’s contents and what to expect over the coming months; view the slides and recording here.

Rental Housing

The USDA budget proposes to quadruple Section 515 rental housing from $50 million in FY22 to $200 million in FY23, with the funds to be used for preserving existing Section 515 properties. The Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program, which finances efforts to upgrade and maintain aging units constructed with Section 515 financing or the Section 514/516 farmworker housing program, would jump from $34 million this year to $75 million in FY23.

Farmworker housing loans and grants would almost double, with $6 million in Section 521 Rental Assistance set aside for new Section 514/516 units. The Section 538 loan guarantee program would see a large increase as well. (Details are provided in the table below.)

The $1.564 billion requested for Section 521 Rental Assistance renewals “will enable 272,000 existing contracts to be renewed, including making permanent the approximately 27,000 units that were brought into the program by the American Rescue Plan Act supplemental funding,” according to USDA’s budget explanation. The same document states, however, that RA assisted 284,194 tenant households in FY21.

The budget also asks Congress to “decouple” Rental Assistance from Section 515. Currently the programs are linked: RA cannot be made available to a property unless it has a USDA Section 515 or 514 loan. Separating them, so that RA could be offered after a property pays off its USDA mortgage, would help keep properties affordable for their tenants.

To protect tenants whose properties leave the USDA portfolio without decoupling, the administration proposes to provide $20 million in HUD Tenant Protection Vouchers. Based on the assumption that decoupling and the availability of HUD vouchers will eliminate the need for new USDA vouchers, the budget requests only enough Section 542 funding to renew existing assistance.

Homeownership

The budget proposes to increase funding for all USDA’s homeownership programs. It would also provide $20.8 million to expand the Native American Section 502 Relending pilot program. The pilot has enabled Native Community Development Financial Institutions to assist Native American homebuyers in tribal communities of South Dakota and North Dakota.

Rural Partnership Program

Pursuing an idea proposed in the Build Back Better Act, which has not been passed by Congress, the budget proposes $39 million for the Rural Partnership Program. In a statement about the budget, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack described it as “a renewed and expanded initiative to leverage USDA’s extensive network of county-based offices to help people in high poverty counties, including energy communities.”

Placemaking

The budget would provide $3 million for the Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge “to provide planning support, technical assistance, and training to foster placemaking activities in rural communities.” [NOTE: This sentence was corrected on March 29 to say $3 million. When this post was published, it stated incorrectly that the amount was $3 billion.]

Energy Efficiency and Climate Resilience

All USDA housing production would be required to “improve energy or water efficiency, indoor air quality, or sustainability improvements, implement low-emission technologies, materials, or processes, including zero-emission electricity generation, energy storage, building electrification, or electric car charging station installations; or address climate resilience of multifamily properties.”

 

Policy News from Congress

HAC’s Stakeholder Comments on Rural Housing Service Programs

HAC submitted comments to Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee of the Senate Banking Committee, in response to their call for recommendations on how to improve the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Housing Service (RHS) programs. RHS programs are a critical source of housing for our nation’s small towns and rural places. HAC hopes that Senators Smith and Rounds will use these stakeholder comments to help improve the efficiency and impact of RHS programs, especially as more multifamily properties leave the USDA portfolio.

Topline Takeaways  

  • Multifamily

    HAC strongly recommends that the Senators authorize important multifamily preservation programs and simplify the process for transferring properties to non-profit owners in order to help more properties remain in RHS programs and maintain their affordability. HAC also recommends that the Senators investigate the rental assistance programs available in rural areas and extend these to more rural renters.  

  • Single family

    HAC recommends that the Senators improve the Section 504 program which provides grants for single family home repair. Simplifying and making this program’s funds more accessible would help more families stay in their homes and preserve single family homeownership. 

  • Capacity building

    Many communities have the willingness and desire to help improve their housing opportunities but lack the technical skill or capacity to accomplish their goals. HAC recommends authorizing capacity building programs that would help communities develop the tools they need to thrive. 

  • RHS staffing and operations

    HAC recommends improving the workflow within RHS and updating the technology the RHS staff uses to increase efficiency and help RHS better serve rural communities.  

Read HAC’s Comments

HAC Comments on RHS Reforms

USDA Rural Development Housing Funding Activity: Fiscal Year 2020 Year-End Report

HAC presents an overview of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 USDA Rural Housing program obligation activity in this publication, USDA Rural Development Housing Funding Activity: Fiscal Year 2020 Year-End Report.

Since the 1950s, USDA has provided financial assistance for the construction, repair, and affordability of millions of homes for low- and moderate-income rural Americans. USDA accomplishes this activity through its Rural Development (RD) agency. In FY 2020, USDA obligated 151,876 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $24.5 billion. Since the first USDA housing loan was made (around 1950), the agency has funded the construction, purchase, or repair of nearly 5.4 million rural housing units representing $360.1 billion.

Beginning in 1978, USDA also provided funding for rental assistance to help tenants better afford to rent housing in agency-financed multi-family housing units. In FY 2020, USDA obligated 248,697 annual units of tenant assistance representing about $1.41 billion through the combined total of the Section 521 Rental Assistance and the Section 542 Rural Housing Voucher programs. Since the late 1970s, USDA funded nearly $27.3 billion for rental assistance and tenant vouchers representing nearly 4.1 million annual units.

USDA Program Obligation Final Report - FY 2020

USDA RD Historic Activity through FY 2020

FMHA/RHS Programs that Construct, Purchase, or Repair Rural Housing Units

— Historic Activity through FY 2020

The Housing Assistance Council has tracked USDA Rural Housing activity for the agency’s Single Family Housing and Multifamily Housing for many years. The Historic Activity report provides data for the number of housing units funded by fiscal year for each of the programs since program inception. The data includes:

  • USDA Programs Which Construct, Purchase or Repair Rural Housing Units
  • Section 502 Direct Homeownership Loan Program Totals, FY 1950 – 2020
  • Section 502 Guaranteed Loan Program Totals, FY 1977 – 2020
  • Section 502 Self-Help Program Total, FY 1966 – 2020
  • Section 504 Very Low-Income Repair Program Totals, FY 1950 – 2020
  • Section 514/516 Farm Labor Housing Loans and Grants, FY 1962 – 2020
  • Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Program Totals, FY 1963 – 2020
  • Section 533 Housing Preservation Grant Program Totals, FY 1986 – 2020
  • Section 538 Guaranteed Multi-Family Housing Loan Program Totals, FY 1996 – 2020
  • Section 521 Rental Assistance Program Totals, FY 1978 – 2020
  • Section 542 Multifamily Housing Voucher Totals, FY 2006 – 2020

These data are updated annually.

Historic_2020

An Update on Maturing Mortgages in USDA’s Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Program

Rural America is Losing Affordable Rental Housing at an Alarming Rate

USDA’s Section 515 Rural Rental Housing properties are an important resource for many rural households and communities. But the availability of these homes is declining. In 2016, USDA presented estimates of the date when properties would leave their portfolio and potentially lose affordability and some renter protections. HAC examined changes in USDA’s Section 515 portfolio during the past five-year period. The analysis identified 921 Section 515 properties that left the portfolio between 2016 and July 2021 – nearly three times the original USDA projection for maturing mortgages during the five-year period. The ramifications of this accelerated loss of affordable rural rental housing are important as the number of properties expected to leave USDA’s portfolio will grow exponentially in the coming decades.

Download Research Brief (PDF)

Appendix 1: List of properties that have left the program.

 

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.

USDA Rural Development Housing Funding Activity: Fiscal Year 2019 Year-End Report

HAC presents an overview of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 USDA Rural Housing program obligation activity in this publication, USDA Rural Development Housing Funding Activity: Fiscal Year 2019 Year-End Report.

Since the 1950s, USDA has provided financial assistance for the construction, repair, and affordability of millions of homes for low- and moderate-income rural Americans. USDA accomplishes this activity through its Rural Development (RD) agency. In FY 2019, USDA obligated 112,556 loans, loan guarantees, and grants totaling about $16.2 billion not including Multi-family Preservation and Revitalization program loan and grant funding. Since the first USDA housing loan was made (around 1950), the agency has funded the construction, purchase or repair of over 5.2 million rural housing units representing $335.7 billion.

Beginning in 1978, USDA also provided funding for rental assistance to help tenants better afford to rent housing in agency-financed multi-family housing units. In FY 2019, USDA obligated 258,878 annual units of tenant assistance representing about $1.36 billion through the combined total of the Section 521 Rental Assistance and the Section 542 Rural Housing Voucher programs. Since the late 1970s, USDA funded nearly $24.6 billion for rental assistance and tenant vouchers representing 3.57 million annual units.

USDA Program Obligation Final Report - FY 2019

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).