On Monday, October 27, NRHC delivered a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, criticizing the Department’s failure to spend $100 million in program funding that aims to help families in rural America obtain and improve affordable housing. NRHC asserts that demand for rural housing assistance remains high, but USDA did not process applications in a timely fashion.
“In this extremely tight budget environment, more than 1,000 families living in small, rural communities will not receive housing assistance authorized by Congress. Who could argue that rural housing conditions are so good or rural economies so strong that an injection of mortgage funds is not needed?” said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition.
USDA also left unspent one-third of the funds appropriated by Congress for the Mutual Self-Help Housing program. This program helps rural families who come together on nights and weekends to build their own homes. Their sweat equity lowers housing costs by an average of $25,000 per home and helps these families build wealth. The Department also imposed a 10 percent reduction on all program grants, yet at the end of the fiscal year more than enough money was available to fully fund those grants. NRHC contends that the only result of this policy was a downgrading of a very important and successful program.
“In recent years, we have been dismayed by USDA management of rural housing programs in general and especially, the delivery of Section 502 Direct Homeownership Loans and Mutual and Self Help Housing grants,” said Rapoza. “We are extremely disappointed. Rural America deserves better treatment from this Administration.”