TO: President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. Congratulations on your victory. As you take office, we urge you to address the pressing need for decent housing in rural America
A recent Wall Street Journal article noted, “Fewer homes are being built per household than almost any other time in US history, and it is even worse in rural areas.” As a result, in some rural communities, economic growth is impeded not by the lack of jobs but by the lack of housing for workers. Some 1.5 million occupied rural units are substandard, more than 30% lack running water and the situation is even worse in Native Communities. . According to the most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey, 33% of all farmworkers and 45% of migrant farmworkers live in crowded dwellings.
Here are six things you can do to improve housing in our nation’s small towns and farming communities:
Double Direct Homeownership Loans for Low-Income Families to $2 billion: this will provide almost 15,000 home mortgage loans to low-income families, including 6,000 very low-income families.
Increase Mutual and Self Help Housing to $75 million: Mutual Self-Help Housing is the only federal program that combines “sweat equity” homeownership opportunities with technical assistance and affordable loans for America’s rural families. This funding will provide some 6000 low-income families the opportunity to build their own home.
Provide $1 billion to preserve existing rental housing in and revitalize new construction of rental housing in rural America. This will address the documented need to preserve the existing USDA housing portfolio as well as address the pressing new for new affordable rental housing in rural America.
Provide appropriations for rental assistance for low income families An estimated 18.5 percent of residents — 72,000 households — of USDA rental housing do not receive rental assistance from USDA, HUD or state sources. All are low income with annual income of only $13,500; the vast majority pays more than 30% of income for rent. The approximate cost for this increase totals $350 million;
Improve Housing Conditions for Agriculture Workers: Provide $60 million in section 514 loans and $20 million in section 516 grants. Section 514 and 516 are the only federal programs that provide affordable loans and grants. There are approximately 3 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the United States. According to the most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey, 33% of all farmworkers and 45% of migrant farmworkers live in crowded dwellings. Moreover, farmworkers and their families also suffer from poverty. 61% of farmworkers earn incomes below the poverty line.
Increase Financing for Rural Water and Waste Water Facilities: By providing $3 billion in loans and $1.6 billion in grants for financing for water and waste water facilities in small communities will address the backlog of applications on hand at USDA and finance close to 1,000 facilities that will improve water quality and waste disposal in small towns and farming communities across rural America.
Congratulations and best wishes
 Raice, Shayndi. “Rural America Has Jobs. Now It Just Needs Housing.” Wall Street Journal May 30, 2018. https://www.wsj.com/articles/scarcity-of-housing-in-rural-america-drives-worker-shortage-1527672602
 “National Agricultural Workers Survey.” January 2018. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ETA/naws/pdfs/NAWS_Research_Report_13.pdf