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2016 Omnibus Bill Includes Record Funding For Rural Housing Programs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    Contact: Bob Rapoza National Rural Housing Coalition Phone: (202) 393-5225   2016 Omnibus Bill Includes Record Funding for Rural Housing Programs WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2015 – Yesterday, Congress released the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2016. This bill funds several programs, including the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance, and HOME Investment Partnership Program, above the levels previously included in the House and Senate appropriations bills.  This funding will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the needs of rural communities. “The funding for rural housing programs in this year’s appropriations bill are the highest they have been in recent memory, and at least since the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1992,” said Bob Rapoza, the executive secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition. “In an era of austerity, partnerships between nonprofit and for-profit organizations, local community governments, and the federal government are essential.” Around 46.2 million Americans live in rural communities, and 8.2 million of them live in poverty. NRHC notes that 2.6 million of those people are children under 18.  Concentrated poverty leads to decreases in affordable standard housing, health conditions, and educational outcomes.  Even though housing in rural communities is generally less costly, because of lower incomes, higher poverty rates, limited housing stock, and limited access to credit, many rural Americans live in inadequate and substandard homes. Programs funded by the omnibus will provide the resources needed to develop and preserve affordable rural housing.  Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance payments are made to owners of USDA Section 515 financed rural multi-family homes to subsidize the rent payments of low- and very-low income tenants, who often have no other housing option. The funding level ensures all current very-low income tenants, including many elderly and persons with disabilities, will continue to have a safe, decent place to live. With the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, 8 to 12 low- and very-low income family groups build their own homes with technical assistance and supervision from nonprofit housing organizations.  Self-help families put in an average of 1,189.9 labor hours in constructing their homes, while working regular jobs and caring for their children. The President’s budget proposed a significant cut to the Self-Help program, but Congress rejected this reduction. The omnibus will fund the program at the FY2015 level. The HOME Program, funded at $950 million for FY...
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Do Presidential Hopefuls Have a Plan for Rural America?

The presidential hopefuls are well underway in their respective campaigns, with a combined total of six debates over the past few month.  While many candidates are focused on how they can make America stronger, there has yet to be any major discussion on what their plans are for rural America.  Read more in Bob Rapoza’s article, “Do presidential hopefuls have a plan for rural America?” – published in The Hill on December 3,...
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“Spending Turnaround at USDA is Good News for Rural Families”

Bob Rapoza wrote an article on USDA Section 502 spending in FY 2015 that was published by Government Executive today.  In the article, Bob discusses the importance of the home loan program for rural communities, the role that Under Secretary Lisa Mensah played in ensuring the success of the program, and the bipartisan support for the home loan program on the Hill. To read the article, please click here. Bob is the Executive Secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition and the founder and president of Rapoza Associates, a public interest lobbying and government relations firm in...
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Why HOME Program Funding Matters

There is a substantial need for housing resources across our nation’s small town and farming communities.  Although homeownership is the predominate type of housing available in rural America, rural housing is much more likely to be substandard than in urban areas. In fact, six percent of rural homes are either moderately or severely substandard, often with leaking roofs, or inadequate plumbing or heating systems.  Affordability issues also plague rural communities, with some eight million rural families paying more than 30% of income for housing, and 23% of all rural families paying more than 35% of income for shelter.  To improve the quality and affordability of housing in their communities, local governments and nonprofit groups rely, in part, on HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME program) funding. Authorized by the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act of 1990 (PL 101-625), the HOME program was designed to benefit low and very-low income Americans by increasing federal support for affordable housing.  Since its creation in 1990, the HOME program has financed more than 1.1 million affordable homes for low and very-low income households. The HOME program, administered by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, provides federal block grants to states, local governments, and consortia, called Participating Jurisdictions or PJs, which use the funding to develop and support affordable housing in their communities.  All PJs are required to provide matching contributions of at least 25% of the HOME funds spent for tenant-based rental assistance, rehabilitation, acquisition, and new construction, although the matching requirement can be reduced for PJs experiencing financial distress or severe financial distress. PJs use HOME grants to support a variety of activities to meet the specific housing needs of their communities.  Some activities include site acquisition, site improvements, demolition, and relocation.  PJs also use HOME funding as a source of critical gap financing to ensure the success so rental housing funded with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit or other federal, state, or local housing projects.  HOME funds can be used for both permanent and rental housing.   All PJs must commit HOME funds within 24 months of receipt, and they must be expended within five years.  Although there is no set-aside for rural areas under the HOME program, states receive 40 percent of HOME funds each year, which may in turn be used by smaller and rural communities. While most HUD programs have limited utility for rural communities, the structure...
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Spotlight on Hillary Clinton’s Rural Platform

As the 2016 Presidential Race heats up this fall, the candidates on both sides of the aisle are introducing their platforms on a variety of policy issues, from immigration, to tax reform and education.  However, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate to have released a platform on a topic that directly impacts the lives and livelihood of people all around the country – a plan for Rural America.[1]  Hopefully, this is just the start and more candidates will lay out their policy plans.  For now, rural advocates can analyze the plan we have thus far. Clinton’s “Plan for a Vibrant Rural America” lays out four focus areas designed to address the educational, economic, and health issues facing rural communities.  Clinton intends to (1) “Spur[ ]  investment to power the rural economy;” (2) “Rais[e] agriculture production and profitability for family farms;” (3) “Promot[e] clean energy leadership and collaborative stewardship;” and (4) “Expand[ ] opportunity in rural communities across America.” [2] To spur the rural economy, Clinton plans to improve infrastructure, access to credit and capital, and investments.  To do so, Clinton would increase the number of Rural Business Investment Companies (RBIC), simplify regulations for community banks that do not measure assets in billions, create and invest in a national infrastructure bank, streamline, expand, and make permanent the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC), and strengthen USDA grant programs.  These programs would facilitate and develop capital networks and, in turn, increase rural communities’ access to private sector capital.  The areas of infrastructure Clinton would focus on include rural water, transportation, and broadband services.  Regarding USDA, Clinton’s plan centers on funding flexibility and leveraging local resources by working with community partners and public entities to expand the StrikeForce Initiative. To promote agriculture production and profitability for family farms, Clinton intends to focus on increasing funding and addressing student loan debt to support next generation farmers.  Her platform includes plans to build a strong local and regional food system by doubling funding to the Farm Market Promotion Program and Local Food Promotion Program, to ensure that the disaster assistance and crop insurance programs are focused and targeted to farmers and ranchers in need, as well as fight for immigration reform due to the role that America’s immigrant workers play in supporting the nation’s agriculture economy. To promote clean energy leadership and collaborative stewardship, Clinton’s platform includes plans to fully fund the Environmental Quality Incentives...
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Ask Your Senators To Support USDA Rural Housing Funding

Sen. Schumer (D-NY) released a Dear Colleague Letter asking fellow Senators to join him in urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to fund critical USDA Rural Housing programs! Please CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY and ask them to (1) Sign the Schumer Dear Colleague Letter and (2) Submit an Appropriations Request for these programs! Senators can sign on by contacting Lane Bodian (Lane_Bodian@schumer.senate.gov) by March 24. Resources The Schumer Dear Colleague letter can be found here. NRHC’s Appropriations Request Spreadsheet is here. NRHC’s List of Senate Targets is here. Sample Script When you call your Senators’ office: “Hi, my name is [name] and I am with [organization] and I live/work in your district. I’d like to speak with the Senator’s staffer who handles Agriculture or Housing issues.” Once you are connected to the right staffer: “Hi, I’m [name] and I work with [organization] that serve your district. I’m calling because I want to ask the Senator to sign onto a Dear Colleague Letter from Sen. Schumer in support of funding for USDA Rural Housing programs. These programs are critical to the work we do in your state to help low-income rural families find affordable rental housing or to become homeowners. I would also like to ask the Senator to submit an appropriations request to support these programs.” Other tips: Give an example of how you use USDA Rural Housing programs. For example, how much USDA funding did you help families secure last year? How many families became homeowners? How many units of affordable rental housing did you build or preserve? Email them a copy of the Schumer Dear Colleague Letter and NRHC’s Appropriations Request Spreadsheet. Use NRHC Fact Sheets to get more information on USDA Rural Housing programs. Let NRHC know which offices you contacted by emailing Sarah Mickelson (Sarah AT Rapoza DOT Org), so that we can follow up with them. Congressional Targets You can find a complete list of NRHC Senate Targets and their staff is here. To find your Senator’s phone number for their D.C. Office, you can call the Capitol Switchboard at...
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