Policy News from Congress

Federal Funding Extended to February 18

Hours before a temporary spending measure was set to expire on December 3, both houses of Congress passed and President Biden signed another continuing resolution that will carry funding through February 18, 2022. Fiscal year 2022 began on October 1, 2021.

The measure holds most government programs, including housing programs at USDA and HUD, at their fiscal 2021 funding levels. Bills proposing increased resources for housing at both USDA and HUD passed the House of Representatives in July 2021 and have been introduced in the Senate.

 

Rory Doyle/ There is More Work to be Done

Historic Housing & Capacity Building Investments in Build Back Better Framework

Statement from HAC’s CEO

This is a moment housing advocates have been waiting for. Today, President Biden announced a Build Back Better framework that would make robust investments in affordable housing and capacity across the country. This historic investment would drive prosperity and equity for small towns and rural places.

Rural communities hold vast potential to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life for all Americans. Access to quality, affordable housing is key to jumpstarting that potential. Building and preserving homes creates jobs, improves education and health outcomes, and provides much-needed financial and physical stability to low-income families.

The framework includes a $150 billion investment in affordable housing nationwide, which would build more than a million new affordable homes, expand rental assistance, and help families afford down payments. It would also establish a new Rural Partnership Program, empowering rural communities (including Tribal Nations) with capacity building resources.

Everyone deserves a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. The Build Back Better framework would bring our country much, much closer to achieving that vision.

 

David Lipsetz

CEO, Housing Assistance Council

 

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Recommends a Focus on Racial and Geographic Equity in FHFA Comments

HAC submitted comments in response to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Request for Input (RFI) on the Enterprise Equitable Housing Finance Plan framework. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) have been instructed to submit Equitable Housing Finance Plans to FHFA by the end of 2021. The Plans will frame the Enterprises’ goals and action plans to advance equity in housing finance for the next three years. These plans will work alongside other FHFA efforts, including Duty to Serve, the importance of which HAC has long championed. HAC applauds the focus on equity outlined in this RFI, and encourages consideration of the unique needs of rural communities of color in the creation of the Equitable Housing Finance Plans.

Key Takeaways

  • Limited Activity

    Enterprise activity in rural communities of color has been very limited.

  • Support Capacity Building

    Enterprise support for capacity building and access to capital are critical factors necessary to build racial and geographic equity in rural places

  • Rural is Different

    Rural realities must be considered in the creation of the plans

  • Stakeholder participation

    Stakeholder engagement in the process of creating and revising the plans will be key

FHFA Equitable Housing Finance Plan Comments 10.25.21
Policy News from Congress

Updated October 20 – FY22 HUD Funding Bill Proposed in Senate

Updated, October 20, 2021 – The Senate Appropriations Committee has released nine proposed appropriations bills, including the Transportation-HUD bill, for the fiscal year that began on October 1. The committee would increase many programs above their FY21 funding levels, though generally it would not raise them to the figures proposed in the House bill. The Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) is an exception, set in both the House and Senate bills at $15 million rather than the $10 million it received in FY21. Native American housing would also receive more under the Senate bill than from the House. Details are provided in the table below.

Federal programs are currently funded through a continuing resolution that keeps them at FY21 levels. It will expire on December 3, 2021.

 

Updated, July 29, 2021 – The full House passed H.R. 4502, a “minibus” containing several FY22 appropriations bills, including the bills for both HUD and USDA.

 

Update, July 16, 2021 – The House Appropriations Committee has approved the Transportation-HUD funding bill. It is expected to be considered by the full House as part of a “minibus” package of several FY22 appropriations bills, which will also include the Agriculture bill.

 

On July 16, 2021 the House Appropriations Committee will consider a fiscal year 2022 funding bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The bill was approved on July 12 by the T-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee.

The House bill would set funding levels for many HUD programs at or above the amounts requested in the President’s budget and would provide substantial increases above FY21 levels for almost all programs. Details are provided in the table below.

 

 

 

HUD Program

(dollars in millions)

FY20 Final Approp. FY21 Final Approp. FY22 Admin. Budget FY22 House Bill FY22 Senate Bill
CDBG $3,425 $3,475 $3,770 $4,688 $4,190
HOME 1,350 1,350 1,850 1,850 1,450
Self-Help Homeownshp. (SHOP) 10 10 10 15 15
Veterans Home Rehab 4 4 4 4
Tenant-Based Rental Asstnce. 23,874 25,778 30,442 29,216 27,719
    VASH setaside 40 40 20 50
    Tribal VASH 1 5 5 5 5
Project-Based Rental Asstnce. 12,570 13,465 14,060 14,010 13,970
Public Hsg. Capital Fund 2,870 2,942 3,678 3,718 3,794
Public Hsg. Operating Fund 4,549 4,864 4,917 4,922 5,044
Choice Neighbrhd. Initiative 175 200 250 400 200
Native Amer. Hsg. 825 825 1,000 950 1,000
Homeless Assistance Grants 2,777 3,000 3,500 3,420 3,260
Hsg. Opps. for Persons w/ AIDS 410 430 450 600 450
202 Hsg. for Elderly 793 855 928 1,033 956
811 Hsg. for Disabled 202 227 272 352 227
Fair Housing 70.3 72.6 85 85 85
Healthy Homes & Lead Haz. Cntl. 290 360 400 460 400
Housing Counseling 53 57.5 85.9 100 57.5

 

Shawn Poynter/ There is More Work to be Done

UPDATE – 120 organizations sign on to Support rural housing and capacity building in the Build Back Better Act

Thank you! With your help 120 organizations signed on Congressional leadership yesterday in support of the robust rural housing and rural capacity building investments in the House bills for the Build Back Better Act. Nearly 120 organizations from across the country signed on to support these important investments.

Read the Letter

HAC Rural Housing Reconciliation Sign-On

 

Congress is currently working to negotiate the Build Back Better Act. Rural housing and capacity building programs are currently included in the bill and we want to make sure they continue to be top priorities. HAC is circulating a sign-on letter to Congressional leadership in support of maintaining rural housing and capacity building investments in the Build Back Better Act. You can view the text of the letter below. As a valued friend of HAC, we hope that you will add your organization’s name to this effort.

If you have any questions, please reach out to HAC’s Government Relations Manager, Samantha Booth, at samantha@ruralhome.org. The deadline to sign on is Tuesday, October 12. We appreciate your help.

 

BJ Kinds (center), construction manager with Delta Design Build Workshop, frames a house in Eastmoor on Sept. 2, 2020.Rory Doyle/ There is More Work to be Done

Transformational Rural Resources & Reconciliation

We are living through a momentous time. Trillions of dollars are flowing into communities to help address the impacts of the pandemic and position our nation to lead into the future. But, like water, federal funding often flows to the path of least resistance and historically this inertia has left behind rural areas, persistently poor counties, and communities of color. As Congress enters discussions on infrastructure, a focus on targeting these transformational resources to address long-existing patterns of rural poverty has never been more important.

There has been no lack of news coverage over the last year about Americans fleeing the big city for a quieter, more socially distanced small-town life. High-amenity rural communities across the country are seeing explosive growth that has led some to announce the beginning of a rural renaissance for American millennials. But this trend does not hold true for under-resourced rural places, which have often suffered under the weight of persistent poverty for decades.

Fortunately, Congress has recognized this need and infrastructure reconciliation conversations have included critical resources for rural affordable housing and community development. Many of these resources align with HAC’s 2021 Rural Housing Policy Priorities. Here are some highlights on these resources:

  • USDA Rural Housing Service Resources

    • A transformational investment in rural multifamily housing, including $4.36 billion for new construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of Section 515 rental housing and Section 514/516 farmworker housing, as well as $200 million for Section 521 Rental Assistance. With thousands of USDA multifamily units maturing and leaving the program each year and no funding for new construction in a decade, this investment could right the ship and preserve an estimated 38,720 units.
    • Additional support for rural affordable homeownership, including $70 million in budget authority for Section 502 direct homeownership loans (estimated to support loans totaling about $3.7 billion); $95 million for Section 504 repair grants; and $25 million for Section 523 self-help.
  • Rural Partnership Program (RPP)

    • The Rural Partnership Program (RPP) is a newly proposed program that is funded at nearly $4 billion and would provide flexible grants to support rural and tribal community development and capacity building. The proposed program has two parts: grants to support direct activities and projects, and grants to support the organizations responsible for providing technical assistance and capacity to administer the grants.
  • Other critical resources for rural housing

    • $25 million in additional funding for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) at HUD, which is a critical tool for rural affordable homeownership. HAC’s SHOP program has created nearly 10,000 homes in rural places across the country.
    • A $1 billion setaside of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for colonias on the U.S.-Mexico border. These generally unincorporated communities along the U.S.-Mexico border in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are characterized by high poverty rates and substandard living conditions, often lacking potable drinking water, water and wastewater systems, paved streets, and access to standard mortgage financing. This investment in colonias will allow these communities to develop the basic infrastructure they desperately need.

The new Administration has made geographic equity for rural places a priority, and we are hopeful that Congress will recognize the unique needs of rural areas and maintain these resources as the negotiations move forward. Rural communities are worthy of investment—and now is the time to make that investment in the future of rural America. If you would like to learn more about HAC’s policy priorities, click here.

Policy News from Congress

Updated Sept. 14 – Rural Rental Housing and Repairs for Homeowners Included in Draft Bill

UPDATE September 14, 2021 – More rural housing funding has been added to the House Financial Services Committee’s portion of the reconciliation package. It now includes:

  • $4.36 billion for new construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of Section 515 rental housing and Section 514/516 farmworker housing;
  • $200 million for Section 521 Rental Assistance;
  • $70 million in budget authority for Section 502 direct homeownership loans (estimated to support loans totaling about $3.7 billion);
  • $95 million for Section 504 repair grants; and
  • $25 million for Section 523 self-help.

The bill sets no time limits for spending most of these funds, although the Rental Assistance money would expire on September 30, 2024.

Funding for HUD’s Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) was also added when the draft was revised. An additional $50 million would be available for SHOP over 10 years. As noted below, the bill provides substantial new funding for numerous HUD programs.

The Financial Services Committee began its consideration of the bill on September 13 and is continuing on September 14. The markup session will also consider a bill to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), which would establish a new annual 5 percent setaside for tribes under USDA’s Section 502, 504, 515, 533, and 538 programs, as well as the Rural Utilities Service programs.

The Financial Service Committee’s portion of the reconciliation bill will be combined with pieces from other committees to create the full $3.5 trillion package. The House is expected to approve it. Then it will be considered in the Senate, where it needs only a majority vote to pass, but it is not yet clear whether enough Senators will vote for it.

 

September 9, 2021 – Congress’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation package includes $5 billion for USDA’s rural rental housing programs and $100 million for repairs to rural owner-occupied homes. The House Financial Services Committee released legislative text on September 9, providing details that were not previously available.

The $5 billion rural rental total would be used for new construction of Section 515 rental housing and 514/516 farmworker housing, and for preserving existing properties through the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program.

USDA’s Section 504 grant program, which covers the costs of health and safety repairs to owner-occupied homes in rural areas, would receive $100 million. These grants are usually available only to homeowners age 62 or older, but that age restriction would be waived for this pool of funds. The requirement that homeowners have very low incomes would remain in place.

The bill would also provide significant funding for numerous HUD programs including $35 billion for HOME and $8.5 billion for Community Development Block Grants. The colonias on the U.S.-Mexico border would receive a $1 billion setaside of CDBG funds.

The  Financial Services Committee will mark up this bill on September 13. (At the same session the committee will also consider two other bills, one to assist renters in the wake of the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the federal eviction moratorium, and one to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act.)

All funds appropriated through the reconciliation bill would be in addition to the usual annual funding for these programs. Congress has not completed work on USDA’s or HUD’s annual appropriations for fiscal year 2022, which begins on October 1, 2021. The year is likely to begin with a continuing resolution holding programs at their FY21 levels.

Policy News from the Administration

HAC’s Statement on the End of the CDC’s Eviction Moratorium

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is concerned by the Supreme Court’s decision ending the national eviction moratorium. Without federal protection, hundreds of thousands of families now face the threat of eviction. Across America, many of these families will lose their homes.

“This pandemic and the unprecedented job loss it caused have exacerbated the housing challenges that rural communities have faced for a long time,” stated HAC CEO David Lipsetz. Millions of tenants, homeowners, and landlords across the country have fallen behind on rent and mortgage payments. Rural residents including Native Americans and farmworkers are among the Americans hardest hit by the pandemic and its housing impacts.

The end of the eviction moratorium is particularly troubling because housing loss poses serious dangers for renters’ health, as well as their finances. Eviction increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission and falls hardest on people of color, who are most likely to be evicted. Plus, renters with eviction records find it much harder to rent decent housing in the future since landlords often screen applicants with prior evictions.

Assistance to help cover rent, utilities, mortgages, and other costs is available from the federal government, states, and county or city governments. HAC has compiled links to resources for tenants, homeowners, and landlords on our website: ruralhome.org.

HAC works to ensure that everyone has a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. We will continue to serve rural communities with dedication and compassion, just as we have for the last 50 years.

Policy News from Congress

Senate Proposes Some Increases for USDA Housing

August 5, 2021 – The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY22 USDA funding bill on August 4. While the House bill proposes a substantial increase in funding for the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program, the Senate bill would increase Section 515 funding rather than MPR. The Senate bill suggests increases in some other programs, but most of its figures are lower than the House’s.

The Senate bill would retain a provision in FY21 appropriations law, dropped by the administration’s budget and the House, that allows rental property owners to request 20-year terms for Rental Assistance contracts, subject to annual appropriations. The Senate and House would both keep provisions calling for incentives to nonprofits to preserve rental housing, reuse of recaptured Rental Assistance (RA), and use of recaptured RA from farmworker housing in other farmworker housing when possible, although those were left out of the administration’s budget request.

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.

(dollars in millions)

FY20 Final Approp. FY21 Final Approp. Amer. Rescue Plan Act FY22 Admin. Budget FY22 House Bill FY22 Senate Bill
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,000 $1,000 $656.6a $1,500 $1,500 $1,250
502 Single Family Guar. 24,000 24,000 30,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 28 18.3a 28 28 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 30 30 30 40 30
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 40 40 40 40 92
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 28 28 28 28
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 10 15 10
521 Rental Assistance 1,375 1,410 100 1,450 1,450 1,450
523 Self-Help TA 31 31 32 32 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 15 15 15 25 15
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 230 230 230 230 250
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 28 28 32 60 32
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 32 40 45 45 45
Rental Prsrv. TA 1 2 0 2 2
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 4 6 6 6 6

a. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $39 million in budget authority to refinance Section 502 direct loans and Section 504 loans for homeowners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. USDA expects this funding to generate $656.6 million in Section 502 direct loans and $18.3 million in Section 504 loans.

 

July 27, 2021 – The House passed H.R. 4502, a “minibus” package of seven appropriations bills, including USDA’s (see table below) and HUD’s.

July 1, 2021 – The full House Appropriations Committee approved its FY22 USDA funding bill on June 30, including increases in some rural housing programs as described below. The bill will be considered later this summer by the full House. The Senate has not yet released a proposal.

The House committee also released its report on the bill, providing additional information and directives from the committee, including a paragraph about farmworker housing.

Farm Labor Housing.—The Committee encourages USDA to explore opportunities to leverage its resources including its Food and Nutrition Programs, Community Facilities Programs, Housing Preservation Grants, and other programs, and to create partnerships with the Department of Labor’s Farmworker Housing outreach and technical assistance program, Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Center Program, and the Administration for Children and Families Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program, to coordinate and align resources to address the housing, nutrition and healthcare needs of this vulnerable population of essential workers who play a critical role in America’s food security. The Committee further encourages USDA to explore including service coordinators as an allowable expenditure for farm labor housing projects.

June 24, 2021 – As congressional action begins for fiscal year 2022 federal funding, the House Appropriations Committee has released a bill proposing increases in several of USDA’s rural housing programs.

Like the administration’s budget, the House bill would raise funding for Section 502 direct and guaranteed mortgage loans, Rental Assistance, and self-help housing. While the budget would increase the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) program to $32 million from $28 million in FY21, the House bill would provide a far larger boost, to $65 million. The House would also grow the Section 504 grant program for elderly low-income homeowners and the Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants program.

The House bill retains several provisions that are in current appropriations law but were dropped in the administration’s budget. These call for incentives to nonprofits to preserve rental housing, reuse of recaptured Rental Assistance (RA), and use of recaptured RA from farmworker housing in other farmworker housing when possible. Like the budget, however, it eliminates a provision from the FY20 and FY21 appropriations laws that allowed property owners to request RA contracts with 20-year terms.

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will review the draft bill at a mark-up on June 25, 2021. The full House Appropriations Committee will consider it on June 30. The Senate has not yet begun its appropriations process.

 

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.

(dollars in millions)

FY20 Final Approp. FY21 Final Approp. Amer. Rescue Plan Act FY22 Admin. Budget FY22 House Bill
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,000 $1,000 $656.6a $1,500 $1,500
502 Single Family Guar. 24,000 24,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 28 18.3a 28 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 30 30 30 c
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 40 40 40 40
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 28 28 b
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 10 b
521 Rental Assistance 1,375 1,410 100 1,450 1,450
523 Self-Help TA 31 31 32 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 15 15 15 c
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 230 230 230 230
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 28 28 32 60
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 32 40 45 45
Rental Prsrv. TA 1 2 0 2
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 4 6 6 6

a. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $39 million in budget authority to refinance Section 502 direct loans and Section 504 loans for homeowners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. USDA expects this funding to generate $656.6 million in Section 502 direct loans and $18.3 million in Section 504 loans.

b. The House bill provides a total of $17.8 million in budget authority for the Section 514 and 516 farm labor housing programs. When the Appropriations Committee prepares a report on the bill, that document will state the program amounts.

c. The House bill provides a total of $65 million for Section 504 grants and Section 533 grants. When the Appropriations Committee prepares a report on the bill, that document will show how the total is to be divided between the two programs.

 

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Recommends FHFA and the GSEs Prioritize Addressing Inequity

HAC submitted comments in response to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Request for Input on the Enterprises’ 2022-2024 Duty to Serve Underserved Markets Plans. Through the Duty to Serve mandate, the Enterprises (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are tasked with increasing liquidity and investment capital in three traditionally underserved markets: Rural Housing, Manufactured Housing, and Affordable Housing Preservation. HAC’s comment noted that secondary housing market policy is and has historically been part of a system that is delivering vastly different outcomes for people depending on where they are born – and this inequity must be addressed by more ambitious Duty to Serve investment and purchase goals.

Key Takeaways from HAC’s Comments

  • Be Ambitious

    More ambitious purchase and investment goals are needed as we enter the next phase of Duty to Serve.

  • Prioritize Equity

    Racial and geographic equity should be core to the Duty to Serve mission.

  • Encourage Partnership

    Strong rural partnerships are essential to Duty to Serve’s success.

  • Measure Success

    More transparent data is needed for stakeholders to truly understand and evaluate the success of Duty to Serve.