Rural News

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.