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National Rural Housing Coalition Presents on the Impact of the Election on Rural Housing

On November 30, 2016, Bob Rapoza presented at the Housing Assistance Council 2016 Rural Housing Conference in Washington, D.C..  The National Rural Housing Coalition Plenary session included a discussion on what the results of the 2016 Presidential election mean for rural housing. To view the presentation materials, please click here for the PowerPoint and here for the NRHC Transition Team...
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Housing Experts Chart Course to Preserve Affordable Rural Rental Housing

National Rural Housing Coalition convenes leaders in Affordable Rental Housing to Discuss Ways to Stem Increasing Shortages in Rural America and Prepare Recommendations for Legislators   Washington, D.C.— On October 4-5, the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) convened leaders from the rural housing community to evaluate and prepare recommendations that will ensure affordable rental housing options remain available to low- and very low-income residents. The purpose of the conference, which was sponsored by PNC Bank, was to gather feedback from the community and confer on data shared by staff from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing programs. Using this information, NRHC will release a detailed paper on the state of affordable rental housing in rural communities. “While there were notable investments made several decades ago for the production and maintenance of affordable, rural rental housing, that federal commitment has not kept pace with the need in recent years,” said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of NRHC. “This is significant because USDA’s current preservation efforts do not appear to be enough to sustain its rental housing portfolio, which is essential to providing clean, decent, and affordable housing for low-income residents in Rural America.” USDA rental housing is frequently the only affordable rental housing available in rural communities. The average income for tenants is $12,729 annually, many (around 44 percent) are elderly or persons with disabilities and 70.9 percent are female headed households. USDA estimates that $5.596 billion in additional funding is needed over the next 20 years to preserve USDA’s rental housing portfolio. Renovation of these developments is particularly important because USDA no longer provides loans for the financing of new rental housing developments in rural America. In addition, there is a rising tide of USDA mortgages coming to the end of their terms. When a USDA mortgage ends—whether it is due to prepayment or mortgage maturity—the property loses rental assistance eligibility, which provides a deep subsidy to very low income households.  As a result, an increasing number of very low-income households left with few or no alternatives for affordable, decent housing options. While the need for renovation and refinancing of the USDA multifamily housing portfolio is great, several organizations have taken advantage of opportunities to acquire, improve the quality of and maintain the affordability of these properties. By working with USDA and state housing finance agencies, as well as combining multiple sources of public and private funds, housing advocates like...
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Income, Poverty and Population in Rural America

The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on poverty and income in America was released on September 13, 2016. The findings of this report have been highlighted by many sources as an example of the economic growth experienced in many communities in recent years, noting that the median household income increased 5.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, the fastest increase on record.  For example, the White House Blog stated that the “report from the Census Bureau shows the remarkable progress that American families have made as the recovery continues to strengthen. . . . Income grew for households across the income distribution, with the fastest growth among lower- and middle-income households.” While statements like this are certainly supported by the findings of the Census report, they do not provide a complete picture as to where this growth has occurred and the economic state of communities all around the country.  Specifically, within metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), income levels rose six percent (7.3 percent for city dwellers, 4 percent for suburban and exurban residents).  Alternatively, the income levels for rural communities (including micropolitan statistical areas and areas outside of MSAs and micropolitan areas) declined by 2 percent. A 2015 CAP report, “The Uneven Housing Recovery,” found that while many Americans have recovered from the economic recession, those that have not primarily reside in rural and nonmetropolitan areas.  The improved economies in metropolitan areas is related to growing populations and strengthening labor markets, which have aided these areas’ recovery from the recession. Differentiated from metropolitan counties, small rural communities, which have not experienced the same level of recovery, have seen shrinking populations.  In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS) found that between 2010 and 2015 the population of rural communities dropped 33,000 per year from 2010-2014 and 4,000 in 2015.  Comparatively, between 2010 and 2014, the urban population increased by more than two million people each year. Decreasing populations in rural communities present unique challenges, and are a further issue impeding economic growth for these areas.  For example, the Census report found that poverty rates overall declined 1.2 percent from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 13.5 percent in 2015.  As with the Census report’s findings on income, declining poverty overall does not mean poverty has not increased in certain communities. From 2014 to 2015, the actual number of rural Americans living in poverty declined from around 8.2 million to 7.4...
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Achieving the American Dream through Programs that Work

Alton and Robin Alexander lived in Western Michigan with their two daughters in a comfortable, modest and safe neighborhood prior to the Great Recession. However, as the nation’s economy struggled, this family of four lost their home and was forced to move into a substandard rental unit. The Alexanders’ story is not unique. Homeownership is considered a central tenet of the American Dream, but its value to families and communities is sometimes overlooked. June is National Homeownership Month, which shines a spotlight on the value of homeownership. For many low and moderate income rural families, homeownership is only possible through financing from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing Service programs. In Fiscal Year 2015 alone, USDA Rural Development awarded $900 million Section 502 direct single-family housing loans and made more than $18.6 billion Section 502 guarantees to help more than 141,000 rural American families become homeowners. One of those families is Jeff, a single father, and his four children in Morristown, Tennessee. Back injuries limited Jeff’s ability to work and the family lived in a doublewide trailer. Eventually the family moved in to affordable rental housing owned and maintained by Clinch-Powell RC&D, a Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE) Member. With assistance from Clinch-Powell, Jeff applied for a Section 502 Direct loan. FAHE helped prepare the application. Jeff and his children will soon be moving into their new home. The Section 502 direct program is also an essential tool for the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, where groups of six to 12 families are paired together to help build each other’s houses with technical assistance from non-profit organizations. This program, which includes more than 100 Self-Help Grantee Organizations in 40 states and territories, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, and has helped more than 50,000 families build their own homes. The Self-Help housing program is bigger than just homeownership: through the technical assistance from organizations like the Coachella Valley Housing Corporation (CVHC), this program allows families to gain financial stability and builds communities where children can thrive. For example, in Mecca, California, CVHC helped the Rodriquez family, including four children, move from their dilapidated rental apartment into a safe, clean rental complex, and eventually to become homeowners through the Mutual Self Help program. Juan Rodriguez, one of those children, went on to graduate from UC Berkeley, and now helps CVHC improve the community he grew up in. The success...
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Fahe Partners with USDA and WV Housing Development Fund to Help Low-income Families Access Affordable Housing

The Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises, Fahe, is one of several nonprofit organizations that participated in USDA’s loan packaging pilot program, which became permanent in May 2016.  They are working to further expand the reach and scope of the Section 502 Direct loan program to assist low-income rural families in achieving homeownership.  To achieve this goal, Fahe has partnered with the West Virginia Housing Development Fund (WVHDF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  For the first time a state housing agency, WVHDF, will package USDA Section 502 Direct loans. Fahe will serve as the intermediary for the loans. A ceremony was held at the WVHDF offices in Charleston, WV in recognition of this important event.  Presenters at the ceremony included Jim King, CEO and President of Fahe, Erica Boggess, Acting Executive Director of WVHDF; Bobby Lewis, USDA West Virginia State Director; and Tony Hernandez, USDA Administrator for the Rural Housing Service.  Additionally Mary Elisabeth Eckerson read on behalf of Senator Shelly Moore-Capito, Sara Payne Scarbo read remarks for Senator Joe Manchin, Payne Warner read remarks for Congressman Alex Mooney, and Brian Aluise read for West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. During the ceremony, Administrator Hernandez presented Fahe an award in recognition of the organization’s effort as a Champion of Rural Housing, and for their impact and achievements on the Section 502 Direct loan program.  Jim King said that in the past 6 years of partnership with USDA, Fahe has placed over 807 hardworking families in new, safe and affordable homes through the Section 502 Direct program. To read more about the partnership, please read the press release on Fahe’s...
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Spotlight on the FY 2017 House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Bills

This is a moment in time when avoiding disaster with Congress or the Administration is viewed as a success, and seeking even the most modest improvements in policy or resources seems out of the question and hopelessly optimistic.  In light of these conditions, for those interested in improving housing and communities in rural America, the House (H.R.5054) and Senate (S.2956) Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 are, in separate ways, remarkable. Even though both bills had overall allocations amounts less than the enacted level in FY 2016, the FY 2017 bills reported by the Appropriations Committees of both Chambers increased rural housing and rural development spending above the current FY 2016 levels and well above the FY 2017 USDA Budget request.  Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees sought to improve rural housing conditions in their Agriculture Appropriations bills for FY 2017, but by different routes. The House Appropriations bill includes $21.3 billion in discretionary funding, over $450 million lower than the FY 2016 enacted level, and $281 million below the Administration’s request for FY 2017.  Of the total, $2.88 billion of the funding is for rural development programs – more than $110 million more than the level enacted in FY 2016.  The House bill includes $24 billion in loan authority for the Section 502 Single Family guarantee program, and $1 billion for the Section 502 direct loan program – an increase of $100 million over the FY 2016 enacted level, as well as the President’s budget request. This is the first increase in direct homeownership loans in several years. The House bill also provides an increased funding for Mutual and Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance Grants – funding the program at $30 million, which is $2.5 million more than the Senate bill and $12 million more than the Administration’s request. [See chart below: “Section 523 Mutual and Self-Help Housing TA”]. The House Agriculture Appropriations Bill also recommends more funding for Farm Labor Housing programs than the Senate bill.  The House bill includes $8.4 million for Section 516 Farm Labor Housing Grants, which is about $60,000 more than the Senate bill.  The House bill recommends a funding level of $23.9 million for Section 514 Farm Labor Housing loans, which is an increase over the Senate bill ($23.857 million), the Administration’s request ($23.857 million) and the enacted amount for FY 2016...
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