Categories
Spotlight

NRHC Meetings Feature Insights from the Administration and the Hill

On November 28 and 29, the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) convened for its Board of Directors Meeting and Annual Business Meeting in Washington, D.C. As a part of these meetings, NRHC invited officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) Rural Housing Service (RHS), staff from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and facilitated a panel on issues facing the rural rental housing market.

Attendees received a legislative update from NRHC Executive Secretary Bob Rapoza. In addition, the Coalition hosted a reception on Capitol Hill, where rural housing champion Representative Jim Costa (D-CA) spoke about the importance of USDA’s housing programs for rural Americans.

USDA Presentation

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett joined the NRHC Board for its meeting on November 28, along with several staff members from the RHS, including Acting Administrator of RHS Rich Davis; Acting Deputy Administrator for Single Family Housing Programs Cathy Glover; Direct Loan Division Director Barry Ramsey; Deputy Administrator for Multifamily Housing Joyce Allen; Finance and Loan Analyst for Multifamily Housing Preservation and Direct Loan Division Mirna Reyes-Bible.

Ms. Hazlett shared her vision for RD and the rural housing programs going forward. Although she has only been in the Assistant to the Secretary role for six months, she is familiar with USDA from her time on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. However, she stated that she is still coming up to speed on rural housing programs, but emphasized her view that “housing is not just a roof over someone’s head, it can be an anchor that brings stability.” Priorities for the Administration include infrastructure, building partnerships, and identifying innovative solutions to the challenges facing rural America.

Each member of the RHS team also presented on their particular areas of work. Ms. Glover and the Single Family Housing staff members discussed the status of the Section 502 Direct Intermediary packaging program, Mutual Self-Help rehab for both acquisition rehab and owner-occupied rehab; and updates to their electronic filing system. November 28 was Joyce Allen’s fist day as the Deputy Administrator of Multifamily Housing programs (she had previously been the Deputy Administrator of Single-Family Housing programs).

The USDA presenters also left time at the end of their session for questions and answers from the audience. This gave NRHC Board members the opportunity to seek additional information or clarification. Specifically, Ms. Hazlett was asked to address the hiring freeze, which remains in effect. She took this opportunity to emphasize the importance of innovating and evaluating. She said that they are looking at their programs to identify potential partners, like with the Section 502 Direct program. They are also evaluating how USDA RD staff in the field spend their time.

On the Rural Economic Infrastructure Grant proposal, which the Coalition has expressed opposition to, Board members had the opportunity to tell Ms. Hazlett why grouping Section 504 Grants and Housing Preservation Grants is short sighted because it will reduce the availability of predictable resources for rural housing rehabilitation and preservation. NRHC was also able to recommend increasing Section 504 grants to $15,000 per grant (double the current limit).

Reception on the Hill 

On the evening of November 28, NRHC hosted a reception on the Hill in recognition of the importance of rural housing programs. This event, which was sponsored by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), who led the Senate appropriations sign-on letter earlier in the year, gave NRHC members a chance to engage Hill staffers about these important programs.

In addition, NRHC welcomed Representative Costa, who co-led the House Appropriations sign-on letter with Representative Sean Duffy (R-WI) in the spring. Rep. Costa, who is a champion for rural issues and rural housing programs on the Hill, discussed his appreciation for the work that NRHC member organizations do to ensure that rural families have access to safe and affordable housing.

FHFA Presentation

Shiv Rawal, a Policy Analyst with the Office of Housing and Community Investment at the FHFA, gave an update on the Duty to Serve Rule and the 2017 plan development process and status. Under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a Duty to Serve three underserved markets – manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation, and rural housing – in a safe and sound manner for residential properties that serve very low-, low-, and moderate-income families.

NRHC has commented on the Duty to Serve rule several times, including the proposed rule, which was issued in December 2015 and Fannie and Freddie’s proposed Underserved market plans this summer. Mr. Rawal informed attendees that FHFA has be working with the Enterprises to update their Underserved Markets Plan incorporating both public input and FHFA feedback. The plans, which should be released any day, go in to effect on January 1, 2018.

Rental Housing Panel

On November 29, NRHC hosted a panel featuring Tanya Eastwood, the President of Greystone Affordable Development, Richard Price, a Partner at NixonPeabody, and David Lipsetz, the Executive Director of the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) (click here for the presentations).

The panel also featured a review of the Coalition’s findings in the 2017 Review of Federal Rural Rental Housing Programs, Policies, and Practices. 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.

Richard Price presented first, and discussed where things stand currently on the Hill and with the Administration on addressing the maturing mortgage issue. He identified several challenges facing the portfolio, including the state of Rural Development under the new Administration, and addressing issues related to processing times and the complexity of transfer applications.

Tanya Eastwood presented on Greystone’s success in preservation of Section 515 properties. In total, Greystone has purchased 269 Section 515 properties, totaling 10,500 units. The total cost of these preservation projects was $1.3 billion. Greystone’s model is a portfolio approach, where projects across a state are grouped together. This allows a developer to take the fixed cost of preservation deals and spread them across multiple projects, making the cost of a 4 percent Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) deal less expensive than a 9 percent deal.

Greystone recently completed a portfolio renovation deal in Florida, which involves 24 properties. This was completed with deferral of Section 515 payments. Sixty-two percent of the units receive rental assistance. After the project was completed, the rent-per-unit decreased an average of $23 a month. Ms. Eastwood emphasized that the portfolio approach not only benefits the tenants by keeping rents affordable, but also spurs economic growth and investment in rural communities, in the form of jobs as well as infrastructure advances (such as new sidewalks or bus stops).

David Lipsetz provided insight from both his experience as the Associate Administrator for Rural Housing and Community Facilities at USDA and as the new Executive Director of HAC. In particular, he highlighted the data improvements at USDA.

Other Business

If you are interested in joining NRHC or learning more about the work that we do, please review our membership page and contact audrey@rapoza.org with any questions.

Categories
Budget Resources

Administration Releases Third Supplemental Emergency Funding Request

Friday, November 17, 2017, the Administration released the third supplemental emergency funding request in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the California wildfires. The White House is requesting an additional $44 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 for states impacted by the storms and fires, in addition to Federal property repairs.

The Administration’s request letter, submitted by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, identifies five programs/activities to fund. Those programs are traditional disaster relief provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA); emergency agricultural assistance; educational recovery fund; funding to repair or replace damaged Federal property and equipment; and the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program, focused on flood mitigation projects. The Administration does not make a request on funding for any programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

 

Program Request
FEMA and SBA $  25,200,000,000.00
Emergency Agriculture Assistance $     1,000,000,000.00
Education Recovery Fund $     1,200,000,000.00
Repair and Rehabilitation of Damaged Federal Property/Equipment $     4,600,000,000.00
CDBG – Disaster $  12,000,000,000.00
Total $  44,000,000,000.00

 

The Administration also requests tax relief for families in areas impacted by the wildfires in California, including non-itemized deductions for casualty losses; waiving the current-law requirement that losses exceed 10 percent of adjusted gross income; penalty-free access to retirement funds; disaster-related employment relief; earned income tax credit reporting-year flexibility; and enhancement of charitable giving incentives. These provisions are similar to the tax relief provided in Public Law 115-63, the Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017, to the areas impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

The letter also includes several other requests from the Administration, including the need to reauthorize and reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), suggestions of offsets, a recommendation to extend the non-defense Joint Committee mandatory sequestration resulting from the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), pursuant to Section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985; and additional funding for the Department of Defense (including $4 billion for missile defeat and defense enhancements to counter the threat from North Korea and $1.2 billion in support of the Administration’s South Asia strategy, as well as $1.6 billion for the boarder wall).

In a separate document, the Administration outlined their suggested offsets, which total $59 billion and would largely come from extending the sequester. Many of the proposed offsets are reiterations of eliminations or reductions included in the FY 2018 budget request – which Congress has already largely rejected. Those offsets include $196 million for Rural Economic Development Grants; $25 million for direct and guaranteed business and industry loans and rural business development grants; $8 million for the Rural Energy Savings Program; and $800 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

Members of Congress are already sounding off on this request. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) has called the request “wholly inadequate.” Representative John Culberson (R-TX-7), a senior House appropriator, is quoted saying that this request “would sabotage what has been an incredible response by President Trump to Hurricane Harvey up to this point,” and that this request “falls severely short of the bare minimum needed to continue repairing the damage of Hurricane Harvey in Texas in every aspect. OMB’s response to the largest housing disaster, in terms of volume and dollar amount, would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.” In October, Cornyn and Culberson signed on to the $61 billion request submitted by Texas Governor Greg Abbott for Texas relief funding.

Puerto Rico’s advocates on the Hill, including Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY-7), similarly state that this request would “hinder the Puerto Rican government’s capacity to address the situation on the ground.”

Congress has already provided $51.75 billion for disaster recovery since September (P.L. 115-56 and P.L. 115-72). In the case of both of the previous supplemental requests from the Administration, Congress provided additional funding over the requested amount. It is expected that they will do the same in this instance. Congress will likely take up the supplemental after they return from the Thanksgiving recess. We will keep you posted as things move forward.

Categories
Key Issues Resources

Disaster Assistance for Rural America

In the past month, three major hurricanes have devastated coastal communities in Texas and Florida and virtually the entire island of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Damage assessments for Texas and Florida amount to over $270 billion and details are not yet known for Puerto Rico and the USVI. By contrast, total damage in the Gulf Opportunity Zone, or GoZone, established after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, totaled around $200 billion.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas on August 24 as a Category 4 storm. Although Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm, it resulted in an unprecedented amount of rainfall along the Texas Gulf Coast. A State of Emergency was declared on August 25, with 39 counties qualifying for individual assistance from the Federal government (FEMA-4332-DR). Of those counties, 21 are nonmetropolitan counties. Over 835,000 Texans have registered for individual assistance, totaling over $783 million, of which $572 million is for housing assistance. Over 21,000 families checked into hotels for transitional sheltering, out of 338,000 eligible families. Total damage estimates for Texas exceed $200 billion.

Less than a week after Harvey, Hurricane Irma developed in the Atlantic and struck Florida as a Category 4 storm. In Florida, a state of disaster was declared on September 10 (FEMA-4337-DR), and 48 counties were identified for individual assistance, including 14 nonmetropolitan counties. Over 1.9 million people have registered for assistance in Florida, totaling more than $668 million, of which $438 million is for housing assistance. FEMA reports that nearly 8,000 Floridian households have checked into a hotel for transitional sheltering, but that nearly 640,000 are eligible to do so. Total damage estimates from Irma, which include Florida, Puerto Rico and the USVI, exceed $50 billion.

Puerto Rico, which was also struck by Hurricane Irma, suffered catastrophic damage from Hurricane Maria on September 20. A disaster declaration was made on September 20 (FEMA-4339-DR) for 54 municipalities in Puerto Rico, including six that are nonmetropolitan.[1] The extent of damage to housing has not yet been reported, but the situation on the island is reported to be dire. As September 30, only 45 percent of the population had access to drinking water, and of the 52 waste water treatment plants, just nine were operational.

One of the challenges of recovery assistance is getting to hard to reach places – like small rural communities – to ascertain the extent of the damage. The Rural Community Assistance Partnership has had teams in the field in Texas, South Carolina, and Florida, and have conducted assessments of 200 water systems, mostly in Texas. They are now starting their work in Puerto Rico. As these assessments turn into damage estimates, the size and scale of the cost of rebuilding will be clear.

The rapid succession of such powerful hurricanes brings to memory the hurricane season of 2005, when Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf States. The total damage following those storms was $197 billion. The damage from Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida and the Caribbean will likely be over $270 billion. The final estimate for Maria in Puerto Rico is not yet available, but it seems likely the total damage from the three storms will close to $400 billion.

Comparing damage estimates[2] (2017 dollars, millions):

Disaster(s)Total Damage
Katrina $197,000
Harvey and Irma$272,400
Harvey$218,600
Irma$53,800

After the 2005 hurricane season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Rural Housing Service (RHS) played an important role in assisting the residents of rural communities in the devastated region. It is apparent that USDA and its rural development programs will play an important role in assisting the long term recovery of the communities hit by the storms.

Already, USDA Rural Development (RD) has issued a letter to USDA homeowners impacted by natural disasters (dated September 1, 2017) in response to Hurricane Harvey.[3] The letter instructs USDA borrowers to contact RD to obtain a claims package and brief instructions on available assistance, including loans for repairs for borrowers without flood insurance, payment assistance for borrowers whose income has been reduced for the foreseeable future because of the storm, and moratoriums on payment for borrowers with excessive, non-reimbursed storm-related repair expenses.

Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in late summer 2005, and Congress passed the GoZone Act in December. Homeownership loans, home repair grants, Rental Assistance and vouchers, and water-sewer financing, as well as a number of administrative measures were all put to use in the GoZone legislation. Congress is preparing a second disaster supplemental for Puerto Rico, which will provide disaster assistance for short term. However it may be a few weeks before the dust settles and detailed damage assessments are completed, meaning that comprehensive legislative action may take a while.

Rural Housing Service and Disaster Response After Katrina and Rita

Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Congress made available $120 billion in directing spending and tax incentives to the GoZone. Under P.L. 109-234, total outlays for RHS programs for the 2005 hurricanes were $63 million. The Disaster Relief and Recovery Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-329) provided $38 million for activities for RHS for areas impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. USDA RHS provided housing relief to residents – both for families that were current borrowers and tenants of RHS properties and those that were not – in communities impacted by the storm in the form of payment moratoriums, moratorium on initiating foreclosures under the single family guaranteed homeownership loans, loan forgiveness, loan re-amortization, and refinancing. RHS also provided temporary Rental Assistance to displaced families.

Single Family Housing

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Congress provided emergency housing funding to several Federal agencies, including USDA RD, through the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act. By September 30, 2006, RD had obligated $179,742,190 in guaranteed homeownership loans; $80,627,941 in direct single family housing loans; $2,626,864 in home repair loans; and $15,127,127 in home repair grants.

As of October 2006, RD field offices in Mississippi and Louisiana received more than 13,000 loan and grant applications, which was significantly more than the typical demand. As an example, three offices in Mississippi typically processed just 25 applications each year, however by February 2006, they had received over 1,675 applications.

Administrative Action

USDA took several steps to assist those impacted by the hurricanes. On September 8, 2005, RHS authorized waivers for 60 days for individuals and families directly impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The waivers included:

  • Increasing the rural area designation to areas with populations for up to 50,000;
  • Relaxing the income and debt requirements for low-income applicants;
  • Allowing the use of in-file credit reports in lieu of residential credit reports;
  • Allowing field staff to disregard derogatory credit reports after the disaster, and the need to verify employment, wages, and bank deposits;
  • Authorizing loan approvals without appraisals;
  • Increasing the insurance claim check endorsement limit to $15,000, and the maximum number of days for completion of work to 180 days; and
  • Re-amortizing loans automatically after the moratorium period.

On September 14, 2005, RHS took further action in an unnumbered letter that increased the rural designation from 50,000 to 75,000 for impacted communities in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. RHS extended the designation for 3 years from date of disaster declaration. The designation was again extended to two more communities in Alabama on September 19, 2005.

On September 26, 2005, RHS granted all borrowers an automatic 6-month moratorium on loan payments. On November 8, 2005, RHS extended previously announced 60-day waivers to one year. On December 6, 2005, RD announced the continuation of a foreclosure moratorium on guaranteed loans in the areas impacted by the hurricanes. On February 27, 2006, the moratorium given to borrowers impacted by Hurricane Wilma was extended for another 120 days, subject to restrictions that had to be met by loan holders by March 31, 2006.

Rental Housing

RHS also adopted several policies to assist people impacted by the hurricanes though its rental housing programs. RHS identified vacant units in properties around the country financed through the multifamily housing programs and asked owners to place disaster victims into those units. RHS also allocated nearly $17 million from its appropriated Rental Assistance funding to pay for housing costs for up to six months for victims of the storms. Within a few weeks after the hurricanes, almost 8,000 people displaced by the storm had been placed into about 2,600 USDA multifamily housing units in 32 States. In total, RD placed nearly 11,000 victims into over 4,100 USDA rental units in 45 States and provided $2.6 million in emergency Rental Assistance.

Administrative Action

As with the single-family housing programs, RHS made several announcements and policy changes to assist impacted families in the weeks and months after the hurricane. On September 1, 2005, RHS authorized State directors to give temporary transfers of Rental Assistance from RHS properties made uninhabitable by the hurricanes to properties with habitable units. Displaced tenants from those properties received a Letter of Priority Entitlement, which allowed them first priority for vacant RHS units.

On September 12, 2005, RHS issued another letter that included specific guidance to State directors on the types of emergency Rental Assistance available to disaster victims, the procedures for requesting assistance, and the number of obligations available for each State, initially obligating funds for 3,000 units nationwide. RHS also asked State directors to identify available units for occupancy and report the number of disaster victims that had been placed in their states.

On September 20, 2005, RHS officials informed the State directors that additional Rental Assistance had been obligated for 7,000 units and authorized the use of multifamily property funds to cover the cost of transporting hurricane victims from shelters to RHS multifamily properties.

RHS issued another letter on January 3, 2006, informing State directors that as of January 8, 2006, the agency would no longer accept hurricane victims into RHS multifamily units on an emergency basis, and that there would be no extension to the 6-month term of emergency Rental Assistance, except in cases of hardship where a 2-month extension could be requested. RHS encouraged hurricane victims to register with FEMA or HUD for additional assistance. As of May 31, 2006, USDA provided Rental Assistance to 3,124 displaced disaster victims.

USDA extended the lease of USDA multifamily housing units to all hurricane evacuees – regardless of whether they were living in USDA-financed properties (single or multifamily) prior to the hurricane, as long as they paid rent for the unit. As of May 31, 2006, USDA leased 3,848 units to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Also notable, after the Hurricanes, USDA halted its practice of offering for sale to the general public its foreclosed homes, and established a new initiative of making the foreclosed homes available for lease to displaced residents of the disaster areas. According to USDA, 153 homes were offered for lease under this initiative, and 25 were eventually leased. Hurricane victims without income were eligible to receive up to 3 months of free rent, and those with income were required to pay 30 percent of their adjusted income as rent. Finally, the hurricane victims who rented USDA homes were offered the first option to purchase the homes at any time during the lease period.

***

[1] Municipalities are the equivalent entity to counties in Puerto Rico.

[2] Source for Katrina and Harvey: Damage estimates by Dr. Mark Burton and Dr. Michael Hicks, whose widely cited research model was developed by the Army Corp of Engineers. Source for Irma damage: Preliminary estimates by analysis firm, CoreLogic.

[3] USDA Letter to Homeowners, dated September 1, 2017. Available at: https://www.rd.usda.gov/files/USDARDHARVEYLetter09-01-2017.pdf.

Categories
Self-Help Spotlight

Homeownership Month Celebrations in Traver, California

Self-Help Enterprises celebrated National Homeownership Month and NeighborWorks Week in Traver, CA on June 22, 2017. Attendees at the event included Joyce Allen, USDA Rural Development Deputy Administrator for Single Family Housing, and Gary Wolfe, NeighborWorks America Western Region Vice President. During the celebration, Self-Help Enterprises recognized over 150 youth and adults from the La Casa de Cristo Church in Scottsdale, AZ, who volunteered for four days (June 19-22) to help families in Traver build their own homes.

Under Self-Help Enterprises’ supervision, 11 families are building their own homes through the Mutual Self-Help Housing program in Traver, CA. Families are projected to move into the Traver, CA subdivision in March 2018. Working with the County, Self-Help Enterprises purchased and developed the subdivision. The County is developing plans to improve the community’s infrastructure. In addition, Family HealthCare Network has completed a health clinic facility on a nearby site.

The Mutual Self-Help Housing program is essential for rural communities like Traver, which lack new affordable housing options. Working in groups of nine to 12, Mutual Self-Help families provide over 70 percent of the construction labor on their homes, contributing at least 40 hours a week towards completion. These labor hours count as “sweat equity,” which helps to bring down the construction costs and is used as a down payment on the home.

Self-Help Enterprises, a National Rural Housing Coalition member organization, has pioneered the Mutual Self-Help Housing program. Since its founding in 1965, Self-Help Enterprises has helped more than 6,200 families in the San Joaquin Valley build their own homes.

For more information about Self-Help Enterprises, please visit their website.

Categories
Self-Help Spotlight

Groundbreaking of the Pokai Bay Project by Self-Help Housing Corporation of Hawaii

National Rural Housing Coalition member organization, Self-Help Housing Corporation of Hawaii (SHHCH) hosted a ground breaking ceremony on June 21, 2017 in Waianae. Twelve families are set to begin construction on their new homes, and once the Pokai Bay Project is completed, there will be 70 Mutual Self-Help built homes in the community.

SHHCH is a nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance to low-income families in Hawaii that enables the families to build their own homes through the team self-help housing method. Over the past 52 years, SHHCH has helped families develop 656 homes in Hawaii with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Mutual Self-Help Housing program.

With the Mutual Self-Help Housing program, teams of 6 to 12 families are paired together to help build each other’s homes. With SHHCH, each family contributes 16 hours of labor each weekend over the course of a year to complete construction. No family moves in until all of the homes for the group are completed. SHHCH works with the families to secure the necessary financing from the government, including the Section 502 Direct Home Loan program, other nonprofit organizations, and private lenders. The families earn “sweat equity” by working to build their own homes the, thereby reducing purchase and construction costs.

Mutual Self-Help Housing is an innovative and essential program for low-income families across America. Because the families are able to earn sweat equity, families earning under 80 percent of the area median (AMI) income are able to become homeowners. In fact, in the Waianae community, 58 of the 70 self-help homes will be specified for families earning 80 percent of the AMI and 12 homes will be for families earning 50 percent of the AMI. The median price for a previously-owned home on Oahu is $745,000. Comparatively, these self-help families will purchase their homes in fee-simple for $295,000.

SHHCH purchased the land that the 70 homes will sit on in 2013 for $6.2 million, including $3.1 million from the Hawaii Housing Finance Development Corporation. In addition, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation contributed $3.2 million and the Housing Assistance Council contributed $2.5 million.

Attendees at the ground breaking included Hawaii State Senator Maile Shimabukuro; Hawaii State Representative Cedric Gates; SHHCH Construction Supervisor Joseph Ching; Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation Development Manager Rick Prahler; SHHCH Executive Director Claudia Shay; Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation Executive Director Craig Hirai representing Governor David Ige; and Sandeth “Ali” Sek representing U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard.

Governor Ige, the Hawaii State House of Representatives, and Representative Gabbard all presented certificates in recognition of the project.

For more information on this project, please see Andrew Gomes’ article, Ohana homebuilding project breaks ground in Waianae, in the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

For more information about the Self-Help Housing Corporation of Hawaii, please contact Claudia Shay, Executive Director, at selfhelphawaii@gmail.com.

Categories
Section 515 Spotlight

NRHC Member Greystone Affordable Development Celebrates Grand Reopening of 18 Section 515 Properties in Kentucky

Greystone Affordable Development, an affordable housing development company and a member of the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC), and Winterwood, Inc., a property management company, recently celebrated the reopening of 18 newly-renovated affordable housing communities in Kentucky. All of the properties were financed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Section 515 program and ranged from 12 to 60 units per property.

In total, 563 units located in 14 counties were included in the recapitalization and rehabilitation project, which was completed in just 12 months. Greystone worked with Winterwood, USDA’s Rural Housing Service (both the Washington, D.C. and Kentucky State Offices), the Kentucky Housing Corporation, and the Community Affordable Housing Equity Corporation to secure the necessary financing, which totaled $65 million. Rural Development’s Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization Program was essential to the project, and contributed to a $22 rent decrease per unit.

Nearly half of the rehabilitated units (253 units) used energy incentives and rebates through the Louisville Gas and Electric Company and the Kentucky Utilities Company, increasing the energy efficiency of these units by 30 percent.

Greystone Affordable Development, an affiliate of Greystone & Co., Inc., is a leader in the development, recapitalization, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable rural rental housing. Including the recently completed Kentucky project, Greystone has managed the preservation and rehabilitation of over 8,200 rental units and has another 5,800 in various stages of completion.

For more information about the project and the grand opening, please see Greystone’s press release.

Categories
Budget Key Issues Resources

Nearly 600 Rural Organizations Signify Opposition to White House Proposal for USDA Reorganization and Budget Request in Advance of Congressional Hearing

Rural Organizations from across the country wrote to Congress, voicing opposition to the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the Under Secretary for Rural Development and funding for rural development programs.

Washington, D.C.—June 12, 2017— Today, nearly 600 organizations sent a letter to Congress opposing the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The letter also lamented draconian cuts to rural development programs in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget request that would severely impact people from economically distressed rural communities. Signatures came from organizations located all around the country, and included community development organizations; nonprofit housing developers; state and national trade associations; farmer and agriculture cooperatives; affordable housing organizations; city governments; universities; and tribal governments.

“Rural Development has a proven track record of success in providing targeted support in the form of technical assistance grants and direct financial assistance to America’s hardworking rural families,” said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition. “Even so, rural Americans still face significant challenges to economic prosperity.”

Rural communities have higher poverty rates and higher rates of unemployment when compared to big cities and suburbs. The families living in these areas also face higher incidences of substandard housing and rent overburden. In addition, over 90 percent of the water systems with a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act are small systems with 3,300 or fewer users.

The FY 2018 Budget request included substantial cuts – or complete eliminations – to almost all of the programs within the Rural Development mission area. Overall in terms of Budget Authority current Rural Development programs is cut buy $867 million or 31 percent. Specifically, the Rural Business programs and the Rural Business and Cooperative Service, as well as Rural Water and Wastewater Loans and Grants are completely eliminated. In addition, virtually every direct loan or grant program under the Rural Housing Service, including the Mutual Self-Help Housing program, the Section 502 Direct loan program, and the Section 515 Multifamily Housing Loan program, are eliminated as well.

The USDA reorganization plan, announced in early May, would eliminate the Under Secretary for Rural Development – the only subcabinet position focused exclusively on assisting low-income rural and farming communities. The proposal claims that this elimination will “elevate” the Rural Development mission area by reporting directly to the USDA Secretary, however the Administration’s FY 2018 Budget request suggests otherwise.

“By eliminating the Under Secretary for Rural Development and eliminating funding for two dozen housing and rural development programs and rescissions for Fiscal Year 2017 as well—the Administration is clearly turning its back on rural families and the communities where they live,” Rapoza said.

“If the Budget request is approved and the reorganization proposal moves forward rural communities will not receive the quality of assistance and resources needed to prosper,” Rapoza said. “This letter sends a message to Members of Congress that if they intend to meet rural communities’ needs, a strong Rural Development mission area is required.”

The letter was circulated by the National Rural Housing Coalition and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. It has been shared with the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committees.

For more information about rural housing and community development, please visit the National Rural Housing Coalition’s webpage.

To view the Press Release on PR Newswire, please click here.

Categories
Key Issues

President Trump Signs Executive Order on Prosperity for Rural America

On April 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order titled “Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America.”

The executive order includes seven sections. Section 1 outlines the importance of having a secure and affordable food, fiber, and forestry supply for the country, and that the promoting rural communities is in the national interest. Section 1 also states that it is in the country’s interest to ensure that regulatory burdens do not hamper food, agricultural production, and job creation in rural communities.

Section 2 calls for the creation of the “Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity,” which will be funded and administratively supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as permitted by law and appropriations. Section 3 details the membership of the task force. The USDA Secretary will serve as the Chair.

Section 4 provides the purpose of functions of the task force. The task force is directed to identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote rural America. There are 13 general issues that are identified in the executive order. These include advancing the adoption innovative technology for agriculture production and sustainable rural development, expanding educational opportunities in rural areas, empowering state and local agencies to tailor their rural economic development and agriculture programs to meet their region’s need, promote the preservation of family farms and agribusinesses, and improve food safety, among others.

The remaining sections are administrative in nature, with Section 5 directing the USDA Secretary to submit a report to the President within 180 days on the task force’s recommendations on policy or legislative changes. Section 6 revokes the executive order signed by President Obama establishing the White House Rural Council. Section 7 provides that the executive order does not affect the existing authority of any department or agency, current law, or confer any new rights or benefits.

While the task force is directed to identify changes in policy or law that will “promote . . . economic development, . . . infrastructure improvements, . . . and quality of life” and the executive order includes 13 enumerated areas of focus, notably absent is any explicit directive on – or reference to –   rural housing and water and wastewater services. There is no mention of housing or homeownership or rental housing, and the only reference to “water” relates to water users’ private property rights.

Additionally, although the executive order states that the task force should “respect the unique circumstances of small businesses that serve rural communities,” the President’s skinny budget for 2018 calls for the elimination of the USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBCS). The RBCS offers programs that support business growth development and job training opportunities for rural Americans by partnering with private sector local lenders and community based organizations to provide much needed capital in rural areas. RCBS also has several cooperative programs to help rural residents develop ways to create new systems to distribute their products and supplies and improve existing systems through education and technical assistance.

Addressing the economic and community development needs of rural America will require a holistic approach. And while the task force is directed to “remove barriers to economic prosperity and quality of life in rural America,” the enumerated policy points focus almost entirely on agricultural production and agribusiness. A “reliable workforce” for those rural businesses must have access to safe, clean, and affordable housing, water systems, and community facilities.

Categories
Budget

Funding for Rural America Matters

 

Three hundred seventy-three organizations and 657 individuals have signed onto a letter in support of funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) programs that provide essential assistance to America’s rural and small town communities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018.

The FY 2017 House and Senate Agriculture Appropriation Bills, H.R. 5054 and S. 2956 respectively, provided funding for USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) and water and wastewater programs that would allow RD and its nonprofit partner organizations to continue to improve access to affordable and safe housing and community facilities for families in rural America. The sign-on letter asks for the House and Senate Appropriation Committees to support the funding levels included in their FY 2017 bills.

Specifically, the letter identifies several program priorities, including the Section 502 Direct Home Loan program, the Section 523 Mutual Self-Help Housing program, Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Loan program, Sections 514 and 516 Farmworker Housing Loan and Grant programs, and the water and wastewater loan and grant programs.

The Section 502 Direct Loan program exclusively targets rural families who earn less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), and by law, 40 percent of all program funds must be used to help families earning less than 50 percent of AMI. In FY 2016 alone, RHS provided over 7,000 loans and the demand for this program continues to grow. The letter recommends a program level of $1 billion for the Section 502 Direct Loan program. This is the amount provided in H.R. 5054, and a $100 million increase over the FY 2016.

The Section 523 Mutual Self-Help Housing program provides grants to qualified organizations to oversee and provide technical assistance to local self-help housing construction projects for low- and very-low income families. The grantees oversee small groups of 6 to 12 families that come together on nights and weekends to build their own homes. In doing so, Self-Help Housing families can reduce construction costs, earn equity in their homes, and build lasting communities. Self-Help Housing encourages self-reliance and hard work, helps families build wealth, stimulates local economies, and is in high demand with over 50,000 families currently on wait lists for the program. This program has a proven record of helping low- and very-low income families achieve homeownership. The letter recommends funding Section 523 at $30 million, which is the level included in H.R. 5054.

RHS also includes programs that provide much-needed access to affordable rental housing. Today, approximately 416,000 rural seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families—earning just $13,600 each year on average—live in rental housing financed with USDA Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Loans. The letter recommends funding the Section 515 program at $40 million for FY 2018, as included in S. 2956.

S. 2956 also included several other notable changes to the Section 515 program that are designed to develop solutions to address the issues created by maturing 515 mortgages. The provisions direct the Secretary to implement provisions and provide incentives to facilitate the transfer of USDA multifamily properties to nonprofit organization and public housing authorities. The Senate bill further recommends a new pilot program for grants to qualified non-profit organizations and public housing authorities to provide technical assistance to USDA multifamily housing borrowers to facilitate the acquisition of RHS multifamily properties by non-profit housing organizations and public housing authorities. The letter recommends the inclusion of these provisions for FY 2018.

The Section 514 and 516 Farm Labor Housing Loan and Grant programs provide critical low-cost loans and grants to help build, improve, and preserve affordable housing for America’s farmworkers, who suffer from extremely high levels of poverty and who frequently live in substandard, crowded conditions. The letter requests funding for the Farm Labor Housing programs at $8.4 million for Section 516 grants and $23.8 million for Section 514 loans for FY 2018 – these levels were included in both H.R. 5054 and S. 2956, and are consistent with the funding levels in past years.

Finally, USDA’s Water and Wastewater programs also provide critical resources to rural communities with severely limited access to a clean and affordable water supply. Communities along the U.S./Mexico border, on Native American lands, and in the Appalachian region are at an especially high risk of water insecurity, as are communities with a high number of farm workers. Without access to USDA’s Water and Wastewater loans and grants, rural communities are often unable to meet the basic health and development needs of its residents. In recognition of this great need, the letter recommends $546 million for water-waste water loans and grants, as included in S. 2956.

To read the letter and see the list of signers, please click here for the letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee and Agriculture Subcommittee Chairmen and Ranking Members, and here for the letter to the House Appropriations Committee and Agriculture Subcommittee Chairmen and Ranking Members.

Categories
Key Issues Resources Spotlight

National Rural Housing Coalition Releases 2017 Impact Report

On Tuesday, April 4, the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) released its 2017 Impact Report. The report, which was funded through the generous contribution of Capital One, included the findings from the 2017 Impact Survey as well as the success stories from 23 rural housing organizations.

The purpose of the Impact Report is to inform policy makers and the public of the broad economic and human impact of nonprofit housing organizations – and the programs that they utilize. The survey asked organizations to respond to seven categories, including homeownership activities, rental housing activities, and clean water and sewer activities. In addition, the survey also asked for organizations that provide housing counseling, technical assistance, or are Community Development Financial Institutions, Community Development Corporations or Intermediaries to respond on their activities. The survey analyzed data from 104 organization of their activity in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.

In FY 2016, the 104 responding nonprofit housing organizations helped low-income families and communities secure $1 billion in financing to build, purchase, preserve, or rehabilitate 6,505 units of affordable housing and improved access to rural water and sewer systems for 138,115 of families. This resulted in the creation of 13,920 jobs, over $816.43 million generated income, and $442.2 million in tax revenue.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • 84 organizations assisted 3,139 families in rural communities with rehabilitating, constructing, or purchasing their homes. Further, there were 24,104 families on the waiting lists of 26 organizations.
  • 59 organizations helped 378 families participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Mutual Self-Help Housing Program. These families contributed over $6.885 million in sweat equity by assisting each other in the construction of their homes – averaging $18,215 per family.
  • 22 organizations developed, constructed, preserved, or rehabilitated 2,859 rental housing units.
  • 4 organizations secured over $92 million in financing for 106 water or sewer projects for construction of new systems, repairing or replacing existing systems, consolidating systems, or addressing regulatory compliance issues and provided technical assistance on 97 projects, totaling some $64.35 million.

NRHC presented the findings from the Report at a briefing on the Hill in the Capitol Visitor Center on the evening of April 4. In addition to the findings from the briefing, five organizations presented on case studies that are included in the report. Their presentations are provided below.

 

Marty Miller, the Executive Director of the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing in Yakima, WA, presented on the Esperanza Development, which serves the farmworker community Mattawa, WA. This project was funded by USDA Section 514 and 516 farmworker housing programs, as well as over $1 million in additional funding from the Washington State Housing Trust Fund.

Esperanza Presentation, April 4, 2017.

 

Julie Bornstein, the Executive Director of the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition, presented on the Los Jardines community. This community, located in Coachella, CA, is made up of 205 single-family homes constructed through the Mutual Self-Help Housing program. The homeowners worked together in groups of 10 to 12 families for 10 to 12 months for 40 hours per week to build their homes, earning sweat equity equivalent to a down payment in the process.

Los Jardines Presentation, April 4, 2017.

 

 

Karen Speakman, the Deputy Director of NCALL Research, Inc., presented on the Chandler Heights II preservation project, in Seaford, DE. The 24 unit property was constructed in 1992 with a Section 515 Loan. The rental units needed significant overhaul due to water damage, poor drainage, and other issues. Today, in addition to new roofs, siding, and other upgrades, Chandler Heights II has 4 new 1 bedroom units and a handicap accessible playground.

Chandler Heights II Presentation, April 4, 2017.

 

Selvin McGahee, the Executive Director of Florida Non-Profit Housing, Inc., presented on the Casa San Juan Bosco II development. After Hurricane Charley devastated Desoto County, FL, the Catholic Charities and Diocese of Venice reached out to FNPH to address the loss of housing in the area. Using USDA Section 514 and 516 and financing from the Florida Housing Finance Agency, FNPH developed 53 single-family rental homes for farmworkers and their families.

Casa San Juan Bosco II Presentation, April 4, 2017.

 

 

Kathy Tyler, Housing Services Director at Motivation Education & Training, Inc., presented on a single-family housing rehab project. The home was owned by a farmworker family made up of parents and two children. The home had holes in the walls and a dirt floor. Construction was provided by farmworker construction trainees enrolled in the Southwest Texas Junior College and funding from the Department of Labor-National Farmworker Jobs Program, HUD and USDA, as well as other state and local sources.

Farmworker Home Rehab Presentation, April 4, 2017.