Policy News from the Administration

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 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.

— HAC’s analysis of the HUD portion of the budget is available 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.


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.”


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.”

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.

(dollars in millions)

FY21 Final Approp. Amer. Rescue Plan Act FY22 Admin. Budget FY22 Final Approp. FY23 Budget
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,000 $656.6 $1,500 $1,250 $1,500
502 Single Family Guar. 24,000 30,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 18.3 28 28 50
504 VLI Repair Grants 30 30 32 45
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 40 40 50 200
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 28 28 50
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 10 18
521 Rental Assistance 1,410 100 1,450 1,450 1,564
523 Self-Help TA 31 32 32 40
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 15 15 16 30
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 230 230 250 400
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 28 32 34 75
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 40 45 45 38
Rental Prsrv. TA 2 0 2 0
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 6 6 6 12
Community Facil. Loans 2,800 2,800 2,800 2,800
Community Facil. Grants 32 32 40 52
      Tribal Colleges CF Grts 5 10 10 10
Community Facil. Guarantees 500 500 650 500



HAC in the News

CIRD Work Featured by New Hampshire Newspaper

Representatives of the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council, drew attention from the Keene (N.H.) Sentinel when they toured an area in Keene, New Hampshire targeted to become an arts corridor.

National Rural-Design Agency Advising Keene on Proposed Arts Corridor

by Caleb Symons

November 22, 2021

The mural needed a second look.

Sylvie Rice, a volunteer with the Historical Society of Cheshire County, had pointed out that Abraham Lincoln’s profile is deliberately etched into the clouds of an otherwise colonial-era scene on Church Street in downtown Keene. In unison, the small group of local arts promoters and rural-development advisers craned their necks to better see the 16th president.

Rural Voices: Cultivating Citizen-led Design

Design for the public interest takes on many forms, from Main Street redevelopment to landscape architecture to historic preservation. In all the rural towns HAC has worked with and featured in this issue of Rural Voices, there is also an element of engaging the community to create a shared vision for all town residents. Partnering with local artists to paint a mural or build a coalition for a local creative economy not only brings more beauty into public spaces, it can draw economic investment to the town. Ultimately, local citizens are tapping design to create a sense of place-that’s what creative placemaking is all about.

HAC’s foray into rural design has only solidified our housing work, while broadening the horizons for us and for our partners. Moreover, HAC’s founding documents cite the need for thoughtful design that engages the low-income rural people and communities that we’ve long served. Support from the National Endowment for the Arts makes it possible to carry out this charge.

Cultivating Citizen-led Design (pdf)


Boosting the Rural Creative Economy
by Rep. Chellie Pingree

Congressional Arts Caucus Chair weighs in on what works in her home state – and beyond.


Arts, Placemaking, and Design Help Imagine a Bright Future
by Mary Anne Carter

In an interview with Rural Voices, National Endowment for the Arts’ Chair, Mary Anne Carter offers an overview of rural design’s history and advice on how underserved communities can persevere through difficult times.

Linking Rural Needs with America’s Architects
by Stephen Sugg and Alejandra Hardin

New American Institute of Architects working group helps to elevate rural architecture.

Cheyenne River Youth Project Carries on Creative Placemaking
by Julie Garreau

In an interview with Rural Voices, Julie Garreau of Cheyenne River Youth Project explains how the tribal nonprofit continues to serve its youth through the arts despite challenges caused by the pandemic.

Rural Studio and the Front Porch Initiative: What Good Design Can Afford
by Rusty Smith and Michelle Sidler

A college architectural program in the South describes their innovative approach to making housing affordable to local residents.

Hard Times
by Stephen Sugg and Alejandra Hardin

The rural design community and CIRD look ahead by looking back.



The Rural Design Process

Rural Design (JPG)

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