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Sonny Perdue Becomes Agriculture Secretary

Former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue was sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture on April 25, 2017, after an 87-11 Senate confirmation vote on April 24.

USDA’s announcement and profile of Perdue says his “policies as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will be guided by four principles which will inform his decisions.”

First, he will maximize the ability of the men and women of America’s agriculture and agribusiness sector to create jobs, to produce and sell the foods and fiber that feed and clothe the world, and to reap the earned reward of their labor. It should be the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers, and producers every opportunity to prosper. Second, he will prioritize customer service every day for American taxpayers and consumers. They will expect, and have every right to demand, that their government conduct the people’s business efficiently, effectively, and with the utmost integrity. Third, as Americans expect a safe and secure food supply, USDA will continue to serve in the critical role of ensuring the food we put on the table to feed our families meets the strict safety standards we’ve established. Food security is a key component of national security, because hunger and peace do not long coexist. And fourth, Perdue will always remember that America’s agricultural bounty comes directly from the land. And today, those land resources sustain more than 320 million Americans and countless millions more around the globe. Perdue’s father’s words still ring true: We’re all stewards of the land, owned or rented, and our responsibility is to leave it better than we found it.

Nominees have not yet been announced for other USDA appointed positions.

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2016

USDA’s yearly occupancy survey shows the total number of properties in USDA’s rural rental portfolio fell by 1.86% from September 2015 to September 2016, a decrease of 217 properties consisting of 253 Section 515 properties and 18 Section 514 properties. This represents a loss of 4,220 apartment units or 0.97 percent. The average annual income of Section 515 residents has increased to $12,588. For Section 515 tenants with RA, average income is $10,504.

HAC Partners with Local Organization in Rhode Island

Seven Rhode Island families hope to move into their new Colonial-style, single-family houses before the holidays thanks to NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley. The families are selected based on income, credit, and employment criteria, including having earnings between 50-80% of the area median income for Providence County. For more than a year, they have contributed about 30 hours of work per week building the houses. They have worked together, building each other’s homes in phases. Their “sweat equity” has cut costs nearly in half by building about 65% of the homes, with licensed professionals hired to do the electrical and plumbing work requiring expertise. Through the program, the USDA offers the homeowners low-interest loans based on their incomes to make owning a home affordable. In addition, the Housing Assistance Council provided funding to the Fernwood housing development to help make building the homes a reality. Read the article here!

Opportunities for Promoting Credit for Affordable Housing in Rural America

HAC participated in a White House Rural Council/USDA convening on access to mortgage credit in May. The Center for American Progress summarized the event in a paper entitled Opportunities for Promoting Credit for Affordable Housing in Rural America.

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2015

USDA’s yearly occupancy survey shows the total number of properties in USDA’s rural rental portfolio fell by 1.39% from September 2014 to September 2015, a decrease of 186 Section 515 properties and 19 Section 514 properties. The reduction covers 2,646 apartments (0.37% of total units). The average annual income of Section 515 residents has increased to $12,377. For Section 515 tenants with RA, average income is $10,332.

USDA Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report FY 2014

USDA’s yearly occupancy survey shows the total number of properties in USDA’s rural rental portfolio fell by 1.25% from September 2013 to September 2014, a decrease of 142 Section 515 properties and an increase of 45 Section 514 properties. The reduction covers 1,645 apartments (0.37% of total units). The average annual income of Section 515 residents has increased to $12,022. For Section 515 tenants with RA, average income is $10,054.

HAC News: July 27, 2016

HAC News Formats. pdf

July 27, 2016
Vol. 45, No. 14

• Senate passes housing act unanimously • Major party platforms approach affordable housing differently • HUD requests input on CoC distribution formula • Data and factsheets available on federal rental assistance in U.S. and each state • Early research results show housing counseling’s benefits • CRA questions and answers revised by regulators • HUD creates AFFH listserve • Brief summarizes impact of homelessness on children’s health and education • SAVE THE DATES FOR THE HAC RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE 2016!

HAC News Formats. pdf

July 27, 2016
Vol. 45, No. 14

Senate passes housing act unanimously. On July 14 the Senate approved H.R. 3700, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, passed by the House in February (see HAC News, 2/3/16). When signed by President Obama, the bill will become law. It imposes a fee on each Section 502 guarantee, with the proceeds to be used to enhance RD’s single-family IT and automated underwriting. It also authorizes USDA to delegate Section 502 underwriting to approved lenders. Most of its provisions (summarized here by the National Low Income Housing Coalition) deal with HUD programs.

Major party platforms approach affordable housing differently. Adopted at the parties’ conventions this month, both the Republican platform and the Democratic platform support homeownership, an end to homelessness among veterans, and expansion of broadband service in rural areas. Both recognize tribal sovereignty. In other ways, the two documents are very different.

The Republican platform emphasizes the need to avoid another housing crisis. “We must scale back the federal role in the housing market, promote responsibility on the part of borrowers and lenders, and avoid future taxpayer bailouts. Reforms should provide clear and prudent underwriting standards and guidelines on predatory lending and acceptable lending practices. . . . We call for a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.” It criticizes Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Dodd-Frank Act, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as “lending quotas to specific groups” and the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation.

The Democratic platform cites the CFPB, as well as fair housing law and regulations, as factors contributing to the strong housing market it hopes to foster. It also supports existing federal housing programs that address both homeownership and affordable rental housing, committing to expand them and increase their funding. It specifically mentions additional monies for the National Housing Trust Fund.

To solve veteran homelessness, the Republican platform pledges better health care, including mental health care, and discusses the importance of employment. The Democratic platform calls for “robust [federal] funding” to end homelessness, mentioning families and veterans specifically.
Rural housing is not mentioned separately in either platform, but the rural economy is in both. The Republican platform strongly supports agriculture. The Democratic platform backs “a stronger rural and agricultural economy.” It also calls for “stronger agricultural worker protections including regulation of work hours, elimination of child labor, ensuring adequate housing for migrant workers, and sanitary facilities in the field.”

Native Americans are covered in both platforms. The Republican document promises to reduce federal regulations relating to Indian Country, while the Democratic commits to “strengthen the operation of tribal housing programs, and reauthorize the Indian Housing Block Grant Program. We will increase affordable and safe housing and fight to significantly reduce homelessness on and off Indian reservations, especially among Native youth and veterans.”

Both documents also address poverty. The Republican platform describes current safety net programs as “the false compassion of the status quo,” and proposes to replace them with “the dynamic compassion of work requirements in a growing economy.” It calls for “removal of structural impediments which progressives throw in the path of poor people: Over-regulation of start-up enterprises, excessive licensing requirements, [and] needless restrictions on formation of schools and day-care centers serving neighborhood families.” It urges “greater state and local responsibility for, and control over, public assistance programs.”

The Democratic platform “reaffirm[s] our commitment to eliminate poverty.” It pledges to focus on persistent poverty communities by, for example, using “the 10-20-30 model, which directs 10 percent of program funds to communities where at least 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years or more.” It supports existing programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the New Markets Tax Credit. It also acknowledges the “racial wealth gap” and says federal policy must help eliminate it.

HUD requests input on CoC distribution formula. Comments are due September 23 on proposed changes to the formula used to distribute Continuum of Care homeless assistance funds, and on ways to target funding to urban and rural areas most in need. Contact Norm Suchar, HUD, 202-708-4300.

Data and factsheets available on federal rental assistance in U.S. and each state. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers national and state factsheets, as well as data in Excel, and includes both HUD and USDA programs. Topics include who uses and who needs rental assistance, the metro/nonmetro distribution of assisted housing by state and program, and the impacts of sequestration on HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program.

Early research results show housing counseling’s benefits. The First-Time Homebuyer Education and Counseling Demonstration: Early Insights reports that early findings from a large HUD study are encouraging and suggest homebuyer education and counseling may lead to favorable results for first-time homebuyers in terms of mortgage literacy and preparedness, homebuyer outcomes, and loan performance. Over 5,800 prospective buyers in 28 metro areas were randomly assigned to receive remote counseling (online and telephone-based), in-person counseling (in groups and individually), or neither. HUD found that 65% of those who were offered remote education and counseling initiated services, compared to 25% of those who were offered in-person services. Participants then performed better on a mortgage literacy quiz and had higher credit scores.

CRA questions and answers revised by regulators. The federal agencies that regulate banks and savings and loans publish Q&As to help explain their Community Reinvestment Act regulations. The most recent Q&A revisions were issued July 25. Agency contacts are listed in the document.

HUD creates AFFH listserve. The new list will provide information and updates on topics directly related to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, including HUD’s 2115 AFFH rule. To subscribe to this or any of HUD’s other mailing lists, visit the HUD Exchange. Additional AFFH information from HUD is also online.

Brief summarizes impact of homelessness on children’s health and education. A factsheet by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness describes the short- and long-term impacts of family homelessness, along with solutions.

SAVE THE DATES FOR THE HAC RURAL HOUSING CONFERENCE 2016! This year’s national conference will be held November 29-December 2 in Washington, DC. The HAC News will announce when registration opens.

USDA Rural Housing Program Funding Activity Year End Report (FY 15)

USDA RD Rural Housing Program Obligations Year End Report FY 2015Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 USDA Rural Housing Program Funding Activity Year End Report

usda-fy15-obs-yo coverFiscal Year (FY) 2015 USDA Rural Housing Program Funding Activity Year End Report

The Housing Assistance Council tabulated data using the USDA Finance Office obligation reports (USDA/Rural Development report code 205c, d and f) and data from the USDA Single Family Housing and Multifamily Housing Divisions in the National Office. The comprehensive report includes tables and maps showing obligation data by program and by State. The report also includes data by fiscal year for each of the programs since program inception.

This document is available by its individual chapters or as one large compiled document. The compilation document is formatted to print as double-sided pages for printers that are able to print on both sides of the paper. Each chapter starts with a divider page which is intentionally blank to maintain consistency throughout the document.

2015, 164 pages

Download the Full Report
Executive summary

CONTENTS

Introduction/Table of Contents

  1. Summary of USDA Rural Housing Obligations
  2. Single Family Housing Program Obligations
  3. Multifamily Housing Program Obligations
  4. Other Program Obligations
  5. State Obligation Tables
  6. Historical Activity for Selected Programs
  7. Direct Loan Share of Total Obligations for Selected Programs
  8. Homeowner and Tenant Average Income By State
  9. Appropriation and Obligation Tables
  10. About the Data

HAC News: March 4, 2016

HAC News Formats. pdf

March 4, 2016
Vol. 45, No. 4

• Court approves $940 million settlement with tribes • CFPB sets process to apply for rural area designation • IRS rule addresses LIHTC compliance monitoring • USDA RD consolidates environmental regulations • Materials available soon for new Section 502 guarantee rule • Section 502 final packaging rule to take effect in May • Comments requested on historic preservation and community revitalization • House committee passes measures to roll back parts of Dodd-Frank • Vast majority of human needs programs cut since FY2010 • Reminder: “duty to serve” comments due March 17 • HAC’s second CRA webinar set for March 16

HAC News Formats. pdf

March 4, 2016
Vol. 45, No. 4

Court approves $940 million settlement with tribes. A decades-long dispute between the federal government and tribes nationwide has been settled, with about 700 Native American tribes and tribal agencies expecting payments ranging from $8,000 to $58 million. Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Jewell involved tribes’ claims that the government contracted with them to run Bureau of Indian Affairs programs but did not fully pay the agreed-upon amounts. In 2012, the issue reached the Supreme Court, which ultimately agreed with the tribes that the government was liable for the payments, regardless of whether Congress had appropriated adequate funds.

CFPB sets process to apply for rural area designation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau identifies rural places that are eligible for exemptions and other special provisions in some mortgage lending regulations. A new final rule explains how to request an area be designated rural if CFPB did not include it. The Bureau will publish another notice before March 31 defining the kind of area for which rural applications may be submitted. On March 31 it will begin accepting applications. Contact Carl Owens, CFPB, 202-435-7700.

IRS rule addresses LIHTC compliance monitoring.Comments are due May 25 on revisions relating to state and local housing credit agencies’ duties to conduct physical inspections and review low-income certifications and other documentation. Contact Jian H. Grant, IRS, 202-317-4137. Revenue Procedure 2016-15 explains how the requirements will be implemented.

USDA RD consolidates environmental regulations. Effective April 1, the new rule will update and replace separate regulations for the Rural Business-Cooperative Service/Rural Housing Service and for the Rural Utilities Service. The majority of the changes relate to categorical exclusions. Contact Kellie M. Kubena, RUS, 202-720-1649.

Materials available soon for new Section 502 guarantee rule. USDA will post a new guarantee program handbook on March 9, the date new regulations go into effect (see HAC News, 2/17/16). Handbook changes are marked in the version posted here. A recorded webinar is also online. Contact Lilian Lipton, RD, 202-720-1452.

Section 502 final packaging rule to take effect in May. The effective date of the rule published April 29, 2015, previously deferred to October 1, 2016, has been moved up to May 19. All the pilot intermediaries have been accepted as intermediaries under the program. Each may choose to cover new states as well as the states it already covers. Around the effective date, USDA will issue program guidance for the certified loan application packaging process, including how others can apply to be intermediaries. Contact Tammy Repine, RHS, 360-753-7677.

Comments requested on historic preservation and community revitalization. A working group asks for input by April 4 on a draft policy statement to be adopted by the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The statement, intended to ensure that historic preservation is considered as a tool to stabilize and enhance communities with significant population and job loss, specifically acknowledges its role in rural communities and for tribes. Contact Charlene Dwin Vaughn, ACHP, 202-517-0207.

House committee passes measures to roll back parts of Dodd-Frank. Among several bills approved on March 2 was H.R. 2896, the “Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk Act of 2015.” The TAILOR Act, intended to reduce regulatory burdens on community banks and credit unions, would require regulatory agencies to “tailor . . . regulatory action . . . in a manner that limits the regulatory compliance impact, cost, liability risk, and other burdens as is appropriate for the risk profile and business model involved.” It would apply not only to future regula-tions, but also to those adopted during the past five years.

Vast majority of human needs programs cut since FY2010. ACoalition on Human Needs analysis found 139 of 164 human needs programs suffered cuts between FY10 and FY16; only 25 grew. Nearly half were cut by 15% or more, and almost one-third by 25% or more. The findings cover programs for job training, community services, health, substance abuse, education, and more, including most large HUD programs (though not HOME and not USDA rural housing).

New Distressed Communities Index examines economic recovery. A report and interactive maps by the Economic Innovation Group, a relatively new nonpartisan research and advocacy organization, show economic distress, measured by seven variables such as poverty, unemployment, and housing vacancy. Data are presented by zip code, county, state, and congressional district. Economic distress is highest in the South, Southwest, and Rust Belt. EIG says the data covers 99% of the U.S. population; it includes some rural areas but not all.

Reminder: “duty to serve” comments due March 17. A proposed rule would implement the requirement for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to serve the rural, manufactured housing, and affordable housing preservation markets (see HAC News, 12/16/15). Materials from HAC’s webinar on what the rule means for rural America are posted online. HAC will post its comments online before the deadline. Contact Lance George, HAC, 202-842-8600.

HAC’s second CRA webinar set for March 16. “CRA in Rural America Part II: Successful Uses,” second in a three-part series, will explore two successful rural development projects that earned CRA credit for the lenders in-volved. To register click here. Contact Shonterria Charleston, HAC, 404-892-4824. Materials from the first CRA webinar are posted here.

50 Years, 50,000 Homes

A Half Century of Self-Help Housing Across Rural America

This edition of Rural Voices, “50 Years, 50,000 Homes,” celebrates the construction of the 50,000th self-help home to be built with USDA support and the achievements of the nonprofit sponsors, the USDA programs, and most importantly, the families who have become successful homeowners.

A Half Century of Self-Help Housing Across Rural America

Download a pdf version of Rural Voices
50 Years, 50,000 Homes

This edition of Rural Voices, “50 Years, 50,000 Homes,” celebrates the construction of the 50,000th self-help home to be built with USDA support and the achievements of the nonprofit sponsors, the USDA programs, and most importantly, the families who have become successful homeowners.

Views from Washington

Successful Federal-Local Partnerships
by U.S. Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers

Local partners help USDA housing programs make meaningful impacts to the lives of local rural residents

Neighbors Helping Neighbors Build a Better Life
by U.S. Representative Sam Farr

A program that helped create the real American Dream for over 50 years.

With Many Dedicated Partners, USDA Helps 50,000 Families Achieve the American Dream
by Secretary Tom Vilsack

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack discusses USDA’s Self-Help Housing Program.

FEATURES

So Much Progress, So Much Left To Do!
by Peter Carey

A simple concept still holds promise in a complicated housing world

Looking Back: The Beginnings and Evolution of USDA’s Self-Help Housing Movement
by Bob Marshall

Early efforts in rural California became a Self-Help Housing model for the nation

Building Forward: Self-Help For All
by Russell Huxtable

Let’s build on fifty years of history and expand this life changing program!

Self-Help Housing Changed Our Lives
by Noelle McKay and Stefanie Kompathoum

Families share their experience with the Self-Help Housing Program

An Emerging Self-Help Leader
by Mi’shell French

Discusses personal growth and sustaining the momentum through Self-Help Housing

Self-Help Housing and “SHOP” in the Rio Grande Valley
by Nancy Hanson

HUD’s Self -Help Homeownership Opportunity Program helps make self-help building sites affordable

Technical Assistance is the Essential Ingredient to Self-Help Housing
by Suzy Huard

USDA’S Section 523 Technical Assistance Grants make Mutual Self-Help housing possible

Expanding Service in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
by Mike Shimon

A local Habitat for Humanity provider reaches more families using the USDA Mutual Self-Help program

Neither Wind, Nor Rain…Can Stop a Determined Self-Help Provider
by Linda Smith

A local nonprofit is up to the challenge when disaster strikes twice.

Additional Content

Celebrating 50 Years of helping families help themselvesCelebrating 50 Years of helping families help themselves.(8.5″ X 11″ printable pdf)

Celebrating 50 Years of helping families help themselves.(25.5″ X 11″ original document)

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