Policy

Policy News from Congress

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.

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

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.

(dollars in millions)

FY21 Final Approp. Amer. Rescue Plan Act FY22 Final Approp. FY23 Budget FY23 House Bill
502 Single Fam. Direct $1,000 $656.6 $1,250 $1,5o0 $1,500
Nat. Amer. Single Fam. Demo 20.8 12
502 Single Family Guar. 24,000 30,000 30,000 30,000
504 VLI Repair Loans 28 18.3 28 50 28
504 VLI Repair Grants 30 32 45 (a)
515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns. 40 50 200 150
514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns. 28 28 50 30
516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts. 10 10 18 16
521 Rental Assistance 1,410 100 1,450 1,564 1,494
523 Self-Help TA 31 32 40 33
533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants 15 16 30  (a)
538 Rental Hsg. Guar. 230 250 400 300
Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR) 28 34 75 40
542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers 40 45 38 38
Rental Prsrv. TA 2 2 0 2
Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init. 6 6 12 8
Community Facil. Loans 2,800 2,800 2,800 2,800
Community Facil. Grants 32 40 52 195(b)
      Tribal Colleges CF Grts 5 10 10 10
Community Facil. Guarantees 500 650 500 650

(a) The House bill provides a total of $48 million for Section 504 grants and Section 533 grants; it is not clear how this amount would be divided between the two programs. HAC expected that information to be available in the committee report on the bill, but it is not.

(b) The House bill’s CF grants total would include a number of earmarks, which are listed in the committee report.

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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.”