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 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.

HAC in the News

Rural Veterans and Local Nonprofits Receive Critical Housing Support

Contact: Shonterria Charleston
terria@ruralhome.org
(202) 842-8600

Rural Veterans and Local Nonprofits Receive Critical Housing Support

Funded by The Home Depot Foundation

Washington, DC, August 16, 2021 – Veterans and their families in 10 rural communities will have better lives, thanks to The Home Depot Foundation and the Housing Assistance Council. The Foundation is awarding grants totaling $295,000 to 10 local nonprofit housing agencies around the country to preserve housing for veterans in rural America.

The grant is part of The Home Depot Foundation’s mission to improve the homes and lives of U.S. veterans and invest $500 million in veteran causes by 2025. Many veterans and their families face major housing challenges, often exacerbated by issues related to unemployment, age and service-related disabilities. The Home Depot Foundation and the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) are dedicated to giving back to those who have answered the highest call of service to our nation.

As part of its Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans (AHRV) Initiative, HAC works with The Home Depot Foundation to administer grants that bolster and support the work of rural nonprofit housing agencies to deliver critical housing support to veterans.

“HAC’s continued partnership with The Home Depot Foundation is now even more critical in strengthening the capacity of local rural organizations to build and preserve veteran housing units across rural America,” said David Lipsetz, HAC’s CEO. “Together we’ve been able to support a nimble response to the housing challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As rural America is home to a disproportionately high number of service women and men, HAC remains deeply committed to supporting our nation’s service women and men by uplifting local nonprofits and their work to house and ensure the safe habitability of their homes and rural communities.

The grantee organizations – described below – provide a range of programs. With the grants, veterans who own homes in Alabama, Arizona, North Carolina, Louisiana, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee will obtain critical repair assistance. Altogether, 55 veterans and their families will benefit from these grants.

About The Home Depot Foundation 

The Home Depot Foundation works to improve the homes and lives of U.S. veterans, train skilled tradespeople to fill the labor gap, and support communities impacted by natural disasters. Since 2011, the Foundation has invested more than $375 million in veteran causes and improved more than 50,000 veteran homes and facilities. The Foundation has pledged to invest half of a billion dollars in veteran causes by 2025 and $50 million in training the next generation of skilled tradespeople through the Path to Pro program.

To learn more about The Home Depot Foundation visit HomeDepotFoundation.org and follow the Foundation on Twitter @HomeDepotFound and on Facebook and Instagram @HomeDepotFoundation.

About the Housing Assistance Council
The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is a national nonprofit that supports affordable housing efforts throughout rural America. Since 1971, HAC has provided below-market financing for affordable housing and community development, technical assistance and training, research and information, and policy formulation to enable solution for rural communities.

About the Grantees

  • Bogalusa Rebirth, Bogalusa, LA will utilize $30,000 to provide critically needed rehabilitation for three (3) veteran homes, prioritizing women veterans and those needing wheelchair accessibility features. For additional information on Bogalusa Rebirth, visit their website at http://bogalusarebirth.com.
  • Community Action Commission of Fayette County, Washington Court House, OH will utilize $30,000 to rehabilitate ten (10) veteran-owned homes with health, safety, accessibility, and critical roof repairs or replacements. For additional information on Community Action Commission of Fayette County, visit their website at https://www.cacfayettecounty.org.
  • Community Service Programs of West Alabama, Inc., Tuscaloosa, AL will utilize $30,000 to rehabilitate six (6) veteran homes from Bibb, Dallas, Fayette, Hale, Green, Lamar, Perry, Pickens, or Sumter counties. For additional information on Community Service Programs of West Alabama, Inc., visit their website at https://www.cspwal.com.
  • Creative Compassion, Inc., Crossville, TN will utilize $30,000 to provide critically needed home repairs for five (5) veterans through partnerships with local Department of Veteran Affairs assistance offices and veteran-focused nonprofits in Cumberland and Fentress counties. For additional information on Creative Compassion, Inc., visit their website at https://ccihomes.org.
  • Appalachia Service Project, Johnson City, TN will utilize $30,000 to provide four (4) veterans with critical repairs and/or assist in constructing new homes for homeless veterans in Central Appalachia. For additional information on Grants and Strategic Corporate Partnerships Appalachia Service Project, visit their website at https://asphome.org.
  • Habitat for Humanity Orange County, Chapel Hill, NC will utilize $25,000 to support the repair of four (4) rural veteran homes in Orange County, NC. For additional information on Habitat for Humanity Orange County, visit their website at https://www.orangehabitat.org.
  • Home Works of America, Columbia, SC will utilize $30,000 to assist ten (10) veteran homeowners with critical roof replacements. For additional information on Home Works of America, visit their website at https://homeworksofamerica.org.
  • White Mountain Apache Housing Authority, Whiteriver, AZ, will utilize $30,000 to support the rehabilitation of three (3) veteran owned units on the Fort Apache Reservation. For additional information on White Mountain Apache Housing Authority, visit their website at https://www.wmaha.us.
  • Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, Inc., Wilmington, NC, will utilize $30,000 to support the repair of five (5) veteran owned homes in their service area. For additional information on Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, Inc., visit their website at https://www.warmnc.org.

 

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.

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Recommends Federal Actions for Rural Equity

HAC submitted comments in response to an Office of Management and Budget request for input on whether federal agency policies and actions equitably serve all eligible individuals and communities, including rural residents. Noting that rural and persistently poor places have historically been and continue to be underserved by federal programs, HAC recommended a focus on capacity building, access to capital, and proactive and deliberate tailoring of federal programs to produce lasting rural equity.

Key Takeaways from HAC’s Comments

 

  • Rural Inclusion

    HAC is thrilled to see rural and persistently poor places included explicitly in the Executive Order on equity that President Biden released on his first day in office, and that is the basis for this OMB effort.

  • Historic Disinvestment

    Rural and persistently poor places have historically been and continue to be underserved by federal programs.

  • Focus on Equity

    We need federal focus on capacity building, access to capital, and proactive and deliberate tailoring of federal programs to produce lasting rural equity.

HAC in the News

HAC and rural CDFIs receive “massive” $353 million investment

The US Treasury announced it is investing $1.25 billion of COVID-19 relief funds in Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). We are excited to announce that the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has received the maximum award: $1,826,265.

HAC will invest our $1.8 million award through our Loan Fund to support affordable housing organizations across rural America. As Eileen Neely, director of HAC’s Loan Fund explains, “$1.8 million means we can invest in more rural communities and help more low-income Americans get housed.”

Overall, the US Treasury is awarding $353 million to rural CDFIs. “This massive investment in rural CDFIs will help unlock the potential of rural communities,” said David Lipsetz, President & CEO of the Housing Assistance Council. “We are thrilled for the opportunity to expand our work for disinvested rural communities.”

Everyone deserves a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. This award strengthens HAC’s work to make that vision a reality for rural America.

White Mountain Apache Housing Authority Serves its Veterans

The White Mountain Apache Housing Authority (WMAHA) helps the members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe to overcome their individual housing needs. Of these, almost 500 are U.S. military veterans. Working in the Fort Apache Indian Reservation located in eastern central Arizona, WMAHA serves the 16,000 enrolled members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and strives to ensure that every tribal member has safe housing they can afford. The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is proud to be a partner of WMAHA and their amazing work. In 2018, we awarded a $30,000 grant through The Home Depot Foundation‘s Veteran Housing Grants Program to WMAHA to help support their veterans. In celebration of Veterans Day and Native American Heritage Month, we’d like to highlight just a few of the many ways the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority serves the veterans of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Before rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018 

Before rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018

After rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018 

After rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018

Before and after of a rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018 

 

As many veterans know, service doesn’t end when you’re discharged. It’s a value that is carried for a lifetime. For WMAHA, service is key to the mission. The Veteran Home Rehabilitation Program serves those who have served our country. Many of the low-income Apache veterans the Housing Authority assists are in desperate need of multiple, expensive repairs to make sure their homes are safe, accessible, and livable. But without the ability to make these repairs themselves, many veterans need help.

Over the last eight years, the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority has rehabilitated (or in one case built!) 19 homes for their veterans, each of which required multiple major repairs for health, safety, and accessibility. All of this was performed at no cost to the veteran or their family. Last year WMAHA was able to set a record with 5 rehabilitations.

Making sure their veterans have safe and healthy homes is a point of pride for WMAHA and for the entire White Mountain Apache community. After all, WMAHA doesn’t work alone: each rehabilitation is made possible by scores of volunteers. As the team from WMAHA explains, “the number of volunteers who come and help with demolition and construction cleanup during the projects” is a testament to the rehabilitation program’s “impact on the community.” From the Housing Authority to everyday members, including community partners, the White Mountain Apache Tribe takes care of its veterans. By taking care of those who took care of us, WMAHA is serving both its community and the broader community of veterans nationwide.

The COVID pandemic has hit many Native communities particularly hard, and tragically, the White Mountain Apache are no exception. During the pandemic, unemployment, which usually runs 80% according to WMAHA, has far surpassed that amount, and food insecurity is “at a critical level.” Many of the low-income veterans WMAHA assists don’t have a way to pick up food from the local food bank, so the Housing Authority is starting to deliver the food boxes itself. Not content to just help house their veterans, WMAHA is committed to improving their quality of life.

Caring for veterans extends outside the home, too. For WMAHA, ensuring their veterans have access to the Veterans Affairs benefits they deserve is a critical mission. With 1.67 million acres, the Fort Apache Indian Reservation is large and rural. This creates challenges for many of the Tribe’s low-income veterans. Many of the nearest VA hospitals are hundreds of miles away, which makes even getting to routine appointments incredibly difficult. This distance makes it so challenging to receive disability ratings, see specialists, and make necessary appointments that, according to Barb Connerley, a consultant who works with WMAHA, “many of the veterans…do not know what VA benefits are available to them.”

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

The White Mountain Apache Housing Authority has created a solution to help connect their veterans to the VA medical care they earned through their service. Since 2017, the White Mountain Apache Tribe Department of Transportation has operated Fort Apache Connection Transit (FACT), a 2-route bus system serving 12 stops across the Reservation. While this system doesn’t provide access to the nearest VA hospitals, the Housing Authority recently began repurposing one of their buses to transport veterans to their VA appointments. Multiple times a month, WMAHA will be providing veterans with a bus ride to their appointments and back home. They even take the time to help the veterans complete their paperwork to file for VA benefits.

For the trip, WMAHA provides their veterans with water, snacks, masks, and COVID safety information. They hope that this program can also serve as a teaching event, helping their veterans learn more about COVID safety as well as how to access their VA benefits. The program’s strength is its ingenuity—bringing together transit, healthcare, and informational services—in solving a critical problem for the Tribe’s veterans. Thanks to the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority, veterans living on reservation now have access to the critical VA healthcare they’ve earned through their service.

Many veterans return from their service to find it difficult to access the resources of their communities, including housing. Tragically, Native communities are overrepresented among persistent poverty counties, making these resources even harder to access. The Housing Assistance Council is committed to helping build community resources for housing where they’re needed most. Partners like WMAHA help us give back to our veterans and uplift Native communities. As Barb Connerley puts it, the Tribe’s veterans “have a proud tradition of military service and sacrifice.” The work of the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority pays respect to that service and sacrifice through service, care, and ingenuity of its own.

Census 2020 Logo

Respond to the 2020 Census

The 2020 Census is happening now and HAC encourages everyone living in the United States to respond. The Census is supposed to count every resident. The numbers are used to determine how billions of dollars of assistance are distributed, as well as how representation in Congress is divided. If you don’t respond, or if the Census misses you, your community gets fewer resources.

The 2020 Census does not ask about citizenship or documentation. It is illegal for the Census Bureau to share any of your information with any other government agencies, including law enforcement or immigration.

You can complete your questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail. Click here for information from the U.S. Census Bureau about the Census and how to respond.

You can complete the census online or by phone in 13 different languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.

The Census Bureau also offers webpages and guides in 59 non-English languages, including American Sign Language, as well as guides in Braille and large print. Click here to learn more.

Rural Voices: Meeting Native American Housing Needs

This issue of Rural Voices focuses on the progress being made in improving the housing conditions of Native Americans. Considerable challenges, including substandard conditions, overcrowding, insufficient funding, and persistent poverty, face Indian Country, but tribes and their housing organizations are equally persistent in working to overcome them. Rural Voices authors share what readers need to know when working with tribes, highlight innovative projects, discuss funding opportunities, and further describe challenges for a diverse population of Native American tribes across the country. The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation has provided generous support for this issue of Rural Voices, and for HAC’s other work on Native American housing needs and solutions.

VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

Building a Stronger Indian Country: The BUILD Act and Indian Housing
by Senator John Hoeven

The BUILD Act aims to improve the development of tribal housing projects and reauthorize critical Indian housing programs.

FEATURES

Creating Sustainable Homelands through Homeownership on Trust Lands
by Patrice H. Kunesh

A multifaceted approach can help leverage resources to improve housing and economic development in Indian Country.

Partnering with Tribes to Address Housing Needs
by Deana Around Him and Yvette Roubideaux

Open communication, cultural humility, and respect go a long way when working together with tribes.

Important Considerations for Working with Tribes
by Twila Martin Kekahbah

Understanding tribal governance,sovereignty, and the barriers to tribal development is critical to doing business with American Indian tribes.

Housing Solutions that Work for Native Americans
by Anthony Walters

The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act is an important tool in meeting tribal housing needs.

Helping Native Americans Become Homeowners through Section 184
by Jeff Bowman and Tanya Krueger

This Native-owned bank has what it takes to successfully use HUD’s Section 184 program to meet tribal members’ housing needs.

Native Community Finance Serves Native Americans in New Mexico
by Marvin Ginn

Native CDFIs provide funds and services to improve Native American housing conditions.

Housing for Holistic Rez Living
by James “JC” Crawford

Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate has had major success in integrating housing and community needs.

INFOGRAPHIC

American and Alaska Native (AIAN) Communities at a Glance InfographicAmerican and Alaska Native (AIAN) Communities at a Glance


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.

HUD Releases Native American Housing Studies

American Indian tribes are building more housing units after enactment of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) but housing conditions are substantially worse among American Indian households than other U.S. households. These are some of the findings of three new comprehensive reports of tribal housing needs just released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Urban Institute.

Special circumstances on tribal areas — remoteness, lack of infrastructure, complex legal issues and other constraints related to land ownership — make it extremely difficult to improve housing conditions in some areas, according to the reports. Based on the assessments of doubled up households and the number of severely distressed housing units in tribal areas, it is estimated that 68,000 more units are needed to replace severely inadequate units and to eliminate overcrowding in tribal areas. While tribes have been able to use NAHASDA funds effectively, their purchasing power has been eroded by inflation.

Key findings from the Housing Needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Tribal Areas report:

  • Housing conditions vary by region but are substantially worse overall among American Indian and Alaska Native households in tribal areas than among all U.S. households, with overcrowding being especially severe.
  • Physical deficiencies in plumbing, kitchen, heating, electrical, and maintenance issues were found in 23 percent of households in tribal areas, compared to 5 percent of all U.S. households.
  • Overcrowding coupled with another physical condition problem was found in 34 percent of households in tribal areas, compared to 7 percent of all U.S. households.
  • The percentage of households with at least one “doubled-up” person staying in the household because they have nowhere else to go was 17 percent, estimated to be up to 84,700 people.

Key findings from the Mortgage Lending on Tribal Land report:

  • While Native Americans value homeownership as much as other Americans, mortgage lending is limited in Indian Country because reservation land is held in trust and cannot be used to secure a mortgage loan.
  • Since 1994, nearly half of mortgage loans originated on tribal lands were in Oklahoma (45 percent by number and 37 percent by dollar value). The entire state of Oklahoma is considered an ‘eligible area,’ the state has no tribal trust areas, there are several participating lenders in the state, and many Native Americans live in Oklahoma.

Key findings from the Housing Needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Urban Areas report:

  • Native Americans are becoming more urban but are still less likely to live in a city than other Americans. Even within urban areas, these households often live in census tracts within or near a village or reservation.
  • American Indian and Alaska Native households are more likely to occupy worse housing than the rest of the population and more likely to be overcrowded.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native individuals leave their village or reservation due to lack of opportunities and some people cycle back and forth between their tribal home and a nearby primary city.
  • For Native Americans who struggle to transition from a village or reservation to an urban area, there are a specific set of challenges, including lack of familiarity with urban life and urban housing markets, lack of employment, limited social networks, insufficient rental or credit history, and race-based discrimination.