Policy News field

HAC Applauds New Farm Bill Framework

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) celebrates the inclusion of key priorities for rural community development in the Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act, released by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow earlier this week. Strong rural communities are a vital part of building a stronger, better future for the whole country. This bill recognizes that reality. Including robust new resources for rural community development in the Farm Bill would be a historic victory for small towns and rural places nationwide.

The framework released by Chairwoman Stabenow creates, for the first time, baseline funding for Rural Development, with $50 million per year for the Rural Partnership Program, a new capacity building program that HAC has long been supportive of. This sustained investment in rural communities would help them build the capacity to access complex federal funding streams and overcome their greatest challenges, from housing to childcare to broadband.

HAC also continues to be glad to see the bipartisan interest in Senator Tina Smith’s and Senator Mike Rounds’ Rural Housing Service Reform Act. This bill makes tested, commonsense reforms to USDA housing programs so that they can better serve rural America. Modernizing the Rural Housing Service is an important step in solving the growing crisis in rural multifamily preservation. While not under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committee, we hope that this bill can move through the Banking Committee and join with the Farm Bill as a floor amendment.

“Rural Development is an often-overlooked title within the Farm Bill,” notes HAC Director of Public Policy Jonathan Harwitz. “Chairwoman Stabenow’s new framework changes that narrative for Rural Development. Improving those programs and providing baseline funding would give rural communities nationwide the tools they need to build a better, stronger future. We look forward to hopefully seeing the Farm Bill move forward this year and thank Chairwoman Stabenow for her leadership.”

Administration’s Budget Requests Substantial New HUD Funding

The Biden Administration’s budget for fiscal year 2025, released on March 11, 2024, includes proposals for HUD and other housing programs – USDA, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and others – that are part of broader Administration efforts to help meet increasing housing costs and address homelessness. If the budget were adopted as proposed, several pieces of this mosaic would be mandatory funding rather than discretionary, and others would be tax credits. Discretionary funds are subject to annual appropriations, while mandatory spending is not, so it is not subject to the caps on discretionary spending imposed by the 2023 debt limit agreement.

Details are provided in the table below.

The recording and slides from HAC’s March 13 webinar on Rural Housing in the Fiscal Year 2025 White House Budget are posted here.

— HAC’s analysis of FY24 appropriations for USDA housing programs is available here. —

Discretionary Funds

The budget would reduce funding for many of HUD’s housing production programs, including HOME, CDBG, SHOP, and Native American housing. It requests a total of $1.053 billion for Native American housing, just barely above the $1.02 billion provided in FY23 and notably lower than the $1.34 billion just adopted for FY24.

Tenant support fares somewhat better. For example, the budget proposes a total of almost $32.8 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (Housing Choice Vouchers), of which $29.25 billion is intended to renew all existing vouchers. An additional $241 million would provide 20,000 new incremental vouchers. (Separately, the mandatory funding proposals would guarantee vouchers to all extremely low-income veterans and all youth aging out of foster care.)

The budget also requests $30 million for the Recovery Housing Program, which allocates funds to states to provide temporary housing for individuals recovering from substance use disorders, including opioids.

Proposed New Mandatory Spending

The Administration’s proposals for mandatory spending programs cover production of new units, tenant assistance, and homelessness solutions.

  • Extremely low-income housing supply subsidy: $15 billion
    • New Project-Based Rental Assistance: $7.5 billion
    • Preserve distressed public housing: $7.5 billion
  • Innovation Fund for Housing Expansion: $20 billion
  • Housing vouchers for vulnerable low-income populations: $22 billion
    • all youth aging out of foster care: $9 billion
    • extremely low-income veterans: $13 billion
  • First-generation homebuyer down payment assistance: $10 billion
  • Sustainable eviction prevention reform: $3 billion
  • Homelessness grants: $8 billion
  • Emergency rental assistance for older adults at risk of homelessness: $3 billion

Tax Credit Proposals

  • The budget would expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to build or preserve 1.2 million more affordable rental units. It asks Congress to increase per capital credit allocations, reduce the bond financing threshold, and revise the “qualified contract” and “right of first refusal” provisions for future developments.
  • A mortgage relief credit would provide middle-class first-time homebuyers with an annual tax credit of $5,000 a year for two years. The White House says that “this is the equivalent of reducing the mortgage rate by more than 1.5 percentage points for two years on the median home, and will help more than 3.5 million middle-class families purchase their first home over the next two years.”
  • A separate one-year tax credit is intended to assist homeowners who could purchase a larger or more expensive home but hesitate to sell their starter home because of high mortgage rates or high housing costs. A middle-class homeowner would receive a credit up to $10,000 for selling a home below the area median home price in the county to another owner-occupant. The White House estimates this proposal would help nearly 3 million families.
  • A new Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit would allocate credits to developers and other sponsors of new construction or substantial rehabilitation of homeownership units in distressed areas. The White House estimates this would generate over 400,000 homes.

The Administration also proposes requiring each Federal Home Loan Bank to contribute 20 percent, rather than the current 10 percent, of annual income to the Affordable Housing Program. It calculates the change would raise an additional $3.79 billion for affordable housing over the next decade and assist nearly 380,0000 households.

Program
($ in millions)
FY23 Final FY24 Final FY25 Budget FY25 House FY25 Senate* FY25 Final*
CDBG $3,300 $3,300 $2,900
HOME 1,500 1,250 1,250
PRICE Manuf. Hsg. Prsrv. 225 10 0
Self-Help Hmownrshp (SHOP) 13.5 12 9
Veterans Home Rehab 1 0 0
Rural Cap’y Bldg (RCB) 6 6 5
Tenant-Based Rental Asst. 27,600 32,387 32,756
     VASH 50 15 0
     Tribal VASH 7.5 7.5 5
     Replacemts for 521 RA 20**
Project-Based Rental Asst. 13,938 16,010 16,686
Public Hsg. Capital Fund 3,200 3,410 3,312
Public Hsg. Operating Fund 5,109 5,501 5,238
Choice Neighborhd. Initiative 350 75 140
Native Amer. Hsg. 1,020 1,344 1,053
Homeless Asst. Grants 3,633 4,051 4,060
Hsg. Oppties for Persons w/ AIDS (HOPWA) 499 505 505
202 Hsg. for Elderly 1,075 913 931.4
811 Hsg. for Disabled 360 208 256.7
Fair Hsg. 86 86.4 86.4
Healthy Homes & Lead Control 410 345 350
Hsg. Counseling 57.5 57.5 57.5

* These columns will be filled in as the FY25 funding process progresses.

** Up to $20 million would be set aside to provide tenant protection vouchers to tenants who had USDA Section 521 Rental Assistance but are losing it because their building is losing or ending its USDA mortgage.

 

Administration Proposes Small Increases in Many Rural Housing Programs

The Biden Administration’s budget for fiscal year 2025, released on March 11, 2024, would hold funding at FY23 levels for most of USDA’s rural housing programs. In effect, it would restore the cuts made in the final FY24 appropriations bill, which was passed after the budget was prepared. Details are provided in the table below.

The recording and slides from HAC’s March 13 webinar on Rural Housing in the Fiscal Year 2025 White House Budget, are posted here.

— HAC’s analysis of FY24 appropriations for HUD programs is available here. —

Homeownership Housing

Like last year’s budget proposal, this year’s would eliminate subsidy “recapture” for the Section 502 direct program. Recapture requires that, when a low- or very low-income homeowner with a Section 502 direct loan sells the house or moves, they must repay the subsidy amounts they have received over the life of the loan. The administration estimates that eliminating this penalty for current borrowers would cost USDA $1.12 billion. It also proposes that Section 502 direct loans made in 2025 will not to be subject to recapture.

The budget would require that funding for housing construction or rehabilitation be targeted to projects that improve energy or water efficiency, implement green features, including clean energy generation or building electrification, electric car charging station installations, or address climate resilience of properties.

The budget also proposes three changes that were just adopted in the final FY24 funding bill, which had not been passed yet when the budget was prepared. These include extending the length of self-help and site-development loans from two years to five, and standardizing foreclosure procedures consistent with HUD’s.

Rental Housing

The administration again asks for legislative language to “decouple” Section 521 Rental Assistance from Section 515 and 514 mortgages, so that when a USDA rental housing mortgage ends for any reason, the tenants can continue to receive Rental Assistance. The final FY24 bill authorized a limited pilot to decouple up to 1,000 units of RA, but the budget does not propose any limits.

The budget requests Section 542 voucher funding be used only to renew “legacy vouchers,” $11.79 million in unobligated voucher funds be rescinded, and $20 million be added to provide HUD tenant protection vouchers for tenants “in USDA properties that are unable to refinance, participate in the multi-family preservation and rehabilitation options, or decouple.”

 

Program
($ in millions)
FY23 Final FY24 Final FY25 Budget FY25 House* FY25 Senate* FY25 Final*
502 SF Direct Loans $1,250 $880 $1,250
     Nat. Amer. SF Demo 7.5 5 7.5
502 SF Guar. Loans 30,000 25,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 25 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 32 25 30
515 MF Direct Loans 70 60 70
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Loans 20 15 25
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grants 10 7.5 10
521 Rental Asst. 1,488 1,608 1,690
523 Self-Help TA 32 25 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 16 10 16
538 MF Guar. Loans 400 400 400
542 Vouchers 48 48 38**
Rental Prsrv. Demo (MPR) 36 34 90
Rental Prsrv. TA 2 1 0
Rural Cmty. Dev’t Init. 6 5 6
Cmty. Facil. Direct Loans 2,800 2,800 1,250
Cmty. Facil. Grants 25 5 22
Tribal Colleges CF Grants 10 8 10
Energy Cmties. Grants 10
Cmty. Facil. Guar. 650 650 650

Abbreviations key

  • MF: Multfamily (Rental)
  • SF: Single-Family (Homeownership)
  • TA: Technical Assistance
  • VLI: Very Low-Income

* These columns will be filled in as the FY25 funding process progresses.

** This $38 million is to renew vouchers already issued. Most tenants in USDA-financed rental properties where mortgages end or are paid off would receive Section 521 Rental Assistance under the Administration’s decoupling proposal. An additional $20 million is included in the HUD tenant protection vouchers account to provide new vouchers for tenants “in USDA properties that are unable to refinance, participate in the multi-family preservation and rehabilitation options, or decouple.”

Policy News field

HAC’s network supports improvements to USDA’s Rural Housing Service in letter to Congress

With the help of our network of organizations working across the country in rural areas, more than 100 organizations signed on to support bipartisan, cross-Committee collaboration to consider improvements to USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) programs as part of the larger Farm Bill. Historically, the RHS programs have not been included in the Rural Development Title of the Farm Bill because they fall within the jurisdiction of the Banking Committee. But in recent months there has been increased cross-Committee momentum to include some bipartisan RHS modernizations in the Farm Bill, and we want to encourage that momentum to keep building. Check out the letter below to learn more. Thanks to all the organizations who signed on in support!

HAC Rural Housing Farm Bill Sign-on 2023 FINAL
HAC in the News

Advocates eye farm bill to avert drop in affordable rural housing – CQ Roll Call

Posted April 11, 2023 at 5:00am

Housing advocates are turning to this year’s farm bill in an effort to steer rural communities away from an affordable housing cliff ahead.

Without action from Congress, rural communities stand to lose more than 100,000 affordable rental units in the next decade as federally subsidized loans used to build the apartments are paid off, ending landlords’ obligations to keep rents low. In a second blow for those renters, they will lose their eligibility for the Agriculture Department’s rental assistance.

“It’s a big problem, and it’s going to only get worse,” said Sarah Saadian, senior vice president of public policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“The heyday or the peak of rural housing was in the ’70s and ’80s, when their rental housing program was nearly a billion-dollar program, and it’s been cut really dramatically over the last several decades,” Saadian said in an interview. “All of those properties that were built at that time are now reaching the end of the maturity on their 515 mortgage, or the 515 loans that USDA provides in order to get those properties built.”

Advocates are pushing Congress to include provisions in the farm bill that would decouple the two programs, allowing the Agriculture Department to provide rental assistance even after a building’s owner has paid off the subsidized mortgage.


“The biggest issue in rural housing is the rapid loss of the 515 units due to mortgage maturity, prepayments, foreclosures. That is the 800-pound gorilla, or really the $31 billion gorilla over the next 30 years to preserve.”

Policy News from Congress

HAC’s Research Director Testifies to Senate Banking Committee on the State of Housing 2023

HAC was deeply honored by an invitation to testify at the first hearing held in the new 118th Congress by the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Titled The State of Housing 2023, the session featured Lance George, HAC’s Director of Research and Information, as one of  three witnesses.

A wide range of topics was covered by the witnesses’ testimony and the Senators’ questions. Among the key areas of concern were the gap between housing supply and need, the high cost of both homeownership and rental housing, and what congressional actions could address these challenges. Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) asked specifically about the loss of rentals financed by USDA’s Section 515 program, a serious concern addressed by HAC research in 2016 and 2022.

Key Takeaways

Lance’s statement made five key points about the state of rural housing in 2023:

  • The pandemic left its mark on rural America and housing markets remain uncertain.
  • Rural mortgage markets are being impacted by interest rates and prices too.
  • Affordability is the greatest housing challenge in rural America, by far.
  • Manufactured housing is an often overlooked but important source of housing – especially in rural America.
  • Race matters across the rural spectrum – especially in housing.

Key policy recommendations, based on HAC’s full set of policy priorities for 2023, included:

  • Increase rural communities’ access to credit and capital and strengthen USDA and HUD homeownership supports.
  • Improve opportunities and financing for preserving aging rental properties and protecting tenants.
  • Authorize the powerful Rural Community Development Initiative and a significant cross-sectoral, flexible capacity building rural investment initiative.

Lance George

Lance George

HAC’s Director of Research & Information

Watch the Hearing


Policy News from Congress

Housing Assistance Council Statement on FY 2023 Omnibus Bill

This bipartisan agreement maintains funding for USDA’s rural rental housing portfolio and makes a game-changing investment in manufactured housing.

The Housing Assistance Council appreciates Congress continuing to invest in rural communities through the latest omnibus spending bill and hopes that the next Congress will take further steps in 2023 to address the housing crisis in rural America.

The appropriations agreement reached this week makes significant contributions to affordable rural rental housing through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s housing programs. It also provides $225 million in funding for a new manufactured housing financing and improvement program to be administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“This bipartisan agreement maintains funding for USDA’s rural rental housing portfolio and makes a game-changing investment in manufactured housing,” said HAC CEO David Lipsetz. “Rural communities will use this funding to preserve existing affordable housing, build more, and lay the foundation for a better future.”

More than half of all manufactured homes are in rural places. In May, HAC’s Director of Research and Information Lance George testified to Congress that manufactured housing “should continue to be a high-quality, affordable housing option” for rural America.  By creating the first dedicated funding stream targeted to this essential affordable housing stock, this omnibus spending bill takes a critical first step toward achieving just that.

HAC also appreciates the omnibus’s continued support of capacity building programs through USDA and HUD. Congress has long recognized that housing programs only work when there are local partners helping to build, manage, and maintain affordable homes. With a modest investment in the capacity of small towns’ local housing organizations, rural communities can navigate the complexities of federal programs and modern housing finance. As the only national intermediary dedicated solely to rural housing, HAC is gratified to see HUD’s Rural Capacity Building program receive its first increase in program history, from its founding in 2012 at $5 million to $6 million in FY 2023. This will enable HAC and other RCB grantees to provide training and technical assistance to community-based organizations across rural America.

Yet the omnibus leaves too many rural Americans’ housing problems unaddressed. Most of the housing programs at both USDA and HUD enter 2023 with about the same resources they had in 2022, even as mortgage and rent costs are increasing across the country, USDA-financed rental developments are losing their affordability, and homelessness is increasing in rural areas. HAC calls on the 118th Congress to be bolder – to increase support for proven solutions and to innovate. Both the annual appropriations process and the 2023 Farm Bill offer opportunities for action. HAC’s detailed suggestions can be found here and here.

Everyone deserves a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home. Through the upcoming Farm Bill and the next appropriations cycle, the 118th Congress will have the opportunity to make even more transformative investments that could make that vision a reality.

Policy News from Congress

Final FY23 Spending Bill Boosts Some Rural Housing Programs

Most USDA rural housing programs will see modest boosts or flat funding for fiscal year 2023 in the omnibus spending bill congressional leaders released on December 20, 2022, which is expected to be enacted later this week. Funding for the Section 514 farmworker housing program will drop, however, from $28 million in FY22 to $20 million this year. The Community Facilities grant account is hit even harder, falling from $40 million in FY22 to $25.3 million this year, although the bill does add $50 million for CF grants to disaster areas.

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

The bill’s funding levels support rental preservation efforts, although the measure does not decouple (separate) Section 521 Rental Assistance from USDA Section 514 and 515 mortgages. It substantially increases USDA’s Section 538 rental housing loan guarantees, which are used for preservation as well as new construction, from $230 million in FY22 to $400 million in FY23. This program has been fully utilized in the past two years – an indication of strong demand – and the administration’s budget had requested the additional funds. Section 515 direct rental housing loans receive a smaller increase, from $50 million this year to $70 million next year.

The Section 514 farm labor housing loan program, however, is cut from $28 million to $20 million. Section 516 grants hold steady at $10 million.

The bill also supports USDA’s new initiative to improve homeownership opportunities for Native Americans, allocating $7.5 million for Native CDFIs to make Section 502 direct loans to Native Americans.

Emergency funding is provided for some of the rural housing programs, to be used in places where presidentially declared disasters occurred in FY22. The Rural Housing Assistance Grants account – which includes both Section 504 repair grants for low-income elderly homeowners and also Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants for owner-occupied or rental housing – receives $60 million. Community Facilities programs get $75.3 million, $50 of which is specifically for grants to repair essential community facilities. These CF grants can cover up to 75 percent of the cost of a repair.

The bill mandates smoke detectors in rental housing that is constructed, rehabilitated, or repaired with Section 515 or Section 514/516 funds, or funding from any of several HUD rental programs. The requirement will take effect in December 2024.

The table below shows the dollar amounts provided for USDA rural housing and community facilities programs.

USDA Rural Dev. Prog. (dollars in millions) FY22 Final Approp. FY23 Budget FY23 House Bill FY23 Senate Bill FY23 Final
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,250 $1,500 $1,500 $1,500 $1,250
Nat. Amer. Single Fam. Demo 20.8 12 20.8 7.5
502 Single Family Guar. 30,000 30,000 30,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 50 28 30 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 32 45 32 32 32
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 50 200 150 100 70
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 50 30 35 20
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 18 16 14 10
521 Rental Assistance 1,450 1,564 1,494 1,488 1,488
523 Self-Help TA 32 40 33 32 32
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 16 30 16 16 16
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 250 400 300 400 400
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 34 75 40 45 36
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 45 38 38 50 48
Rental Prsrv. TA 2 0 2 5 2
Community Facil. Loans 2,800 2,800 2,800 2,800 2,800
Community Facil. Grants 40 52 68.1 100 25.3
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 6 12 8 7 6
Tribal Colleges CF Grts 10 10 10 10 10
Cong. Directed Spending* 126.9 202.3 325.5
Community Facil. Guarantees 650 500 650 650 650

* Congressionally Directed Spending (earmarks) accounts for a large portion of the Community Facilities Grant spending in both the House and Senate bills, and in the final bill. Specific projects, which were listed in the House and Senate committee reports, are catalogued in the explanatory statement for the final bill.

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 field

HAC Comments on Community Investment Focus on Capacity Building and Capital Access

Several federal government agencies recently formed an Interagency Community Investment Committee (ICIC), focused on the operations and execution of federal programs that facilitate the flow of capital and the provision of financial resources into historically underserved communities, including communities of color, rural communities, and Tribal nations. The ICIC requested public input on ways the agencies can promote economic conditions and systems that reduce racial disparities and produce stronger economic outcomes for all communities. According to the request for comment, responses may be used to inform ICIC’s future actions to improve the operations and delivery of federal community investment programs through stronger federal collaboration. The committee is composed of representatives from the Department of the Treasury, Small Business Administration, Department of Commerce, Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Agriculture.

Key Takeaways

  1. Support capacity building for local organizations embedded in their communities.
  2. Provide equitable access to capital for rural America.
  3. Address rural needs, particularly in persistent poverty areas, directly.
  4. Accelerate interagency coordination and sharing of best practices.
  5. Improve data and information accuracy and availability.

Read HAC’s comments, submitted on December 19, 2022. Other comments are posted here.

HAC Comments on Community Investment Focus on Capacity Building and Capital Access
Policy News field

HAC’s Research Director Testifies on Persistent Poverty on Capitol Hill

On Tuesday, November 15, 2022 at 10:00 am EST the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance convened a hybrid hearing entitled, “Persistent Poverty in America: Addressing Chronic Disinvestment in Colonias, the Southern Black Belt, and the U.S. Territories.” Lance George, HAC’s Director of Research and Information, provided testimony during the hearing.

Watch the Hearing

For more information on Persistent Poverty, read The Persistence of Poverty in Rural America.