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Report: Reflecting on 50 Years of Success

Fifty Years of Self-Help HousingThroughout rural America communities confront the lack of safe and affordable housing. Rural communities have less access to affordable credit options and lower incomes, which in turn leads to increased instances of persistent poverty. Additionally, many rural communities face substandard housing and lack of plumbing. Because of these issues, rural Americans are often unable to find or afford decent housing.

The goal of this report is to recognize and commemorate the 50th anniversary and 50,000th home built through the Section 523 Mutual Self-Help Housing Program. This program is designed to assist eligible families in achieving their dreams of homeownership. Administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program teams together families who work together to build each other’s homes. All self-help homes are designed to be both affordable and safe, ranging in size and structure to accommodate different family needs. The Mutual Self-Help Program serves as an essential tool for rural Americans to achieve affordable homeownership, and improving the quality of life in rural areas.

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Housing and Community Development Organizations Boosted the Rural Economy by $380 Million and 40,000 Jobs in 2013

Press Release Infographicv2Today, the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) published a new report, “Impact Report: The Economic and Human Impact of Nonprofit Organizations on Rural America,” summarizing the results of its annual survey of over 100 rural housing and community development organizations. The report estimates that in 2013 alone, nonprofit organizations generated $380 million in economic activity and created over 40,000 jobs in rural communities.

“This report documents not only the broad economic and human impact of nonprofit housing and community development organizations, but also the critical role of federal programs—particularly those administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—in improving the quality of life in rural America,” said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of the coalition.

According to the report, rural housing organizations secured $1.3 billion in low-cost mortgages in 2013 to help rural families build, purchase or rehabilitate 8,800 units of affordable housing. The most significant source of this financing was the USDA direct homeownership loan program, which has helped more than 2.1 million rural families become homeowners over the past 50 years. It is also one of most cost-effective federal housing programs; in 2014, each loan cost the government about $3,000 over the entire lifetime of the loan.

“With this program, rural housing organizations can bring hope to underserved, rural communities, one family at a time. No other federal housing program can achieve the same results at such a low cost,” explained NRHC board president, Tom Carew.

Despite the program’s successful track record and strong bipartisan support in Congress, the Obama Administration has proposed significant cuts to the program in recent years. USDA proposed cutting funding by more than 60 percent in 2014 from $900 million to $360 million. Moreover, the Department failed to spend $100 million in program funding as of year’s end. NRHC and others concerned about the lack of affordable housing in rural communities assert that USDA did not process applications in a timely fashion and that demand for rural housing assistance remains high.

Rapoza urges USDA to make rural housing programs and the nonprofit organizations that use them a higher priority.

“Nonprofit organizations have proven their ability to stretch limited federal dollars to make a real impact in rural America,” said Rapoza. “Given tight budgets, Congress and Administration should bolster rural communities by supporting these organizations—and the important programs they use—instead of reducing them.”

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HAC Conference: 502 Packaging Training

For those of you attending HAC’s Rural Housing Conference this December!

This year, HAC is offering a three-day advanced course covering USDA Rural Development’s Section 502 Direct Loan Program at the December Conference. The course provides invaluable insight as to how this homeownership financing resource can be utilized. Learn how to assist potential borrowers and work in partnership with RD staff, as well as other nonprofit organizations and regional intermediaries to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages. This course is intended for and specifically framed for those experienced in utilizing Section 502 and other affordable mortgage products. Participants will learn regulations and practical applications of the loan program, while developing a strong understanding of 502 direct underwriting and packaging standards. Following the course, participants are encouraged to take the online packaging exam. Plan to arrive on Monday, December 1st as class begins at 8:30am on December 2nd.

Review and be familiar with USDA Handbook HB-1-3550 and remember to bring your laptops.

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Social Media Webinar: How to Create a Social Media Strategy

The focus of this webinar was on how to create an effective social media strategy, regardless of your organization’s limited resources. By providing this webinar, in addition to other critical resources and information, NRHC aims to help build the capacity of rural housing organizations and to help raise awareness of the issues impacting rural families and their communities. NRHC would like to thank Capital One for its generous support of this webinar and our organization.

You can download a copy of the PowerPoint Presentation here.

Check our other Social Media resources, including:

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Special Offer to New Members

Join NRHC

In order for NRHC to continue to be successful, we need your support. That’s why NRHC is offering new members a one-year membership for $250, including subscriptions to our Budget Bulletin and Rural Housing Reporter publications.

Join Today!

We are in a period of unprecedented austerity in the federal budget. Both Congress and the White House have supported spending cuts that negatively impact rural communities. While both parties have neglected rural housing and community development programs, USDA has been especially unsupportive. Yet, despite these challenges, NRHC has successfully supported and expanded housing opportunities in rural America. Through a combination of old-fashioned shoe leather, action-oriented research, and strong advocacy from local housing and community development organizations, NRHC has fought off sequestration, lousy USDA budgets, and Congressional inaction to preserve—and, in some cases, increase—funding for rural housing and community development programs.

We encourage you to visit our website, check out some of our reports (like our most recent report on Rural America’s Rental Housing Crisis), and feel free to contact me (sarah AT rapoza DOT org) if you have any questions.

Thank you for your support!

Sarah Mickelson

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NRHC Releases New Rental Housing Report

Report Cover JPGToday, the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) released a comprehensive report on the state of affordable rental housing in rural communities. The report, “Rural America Rental Housing Crisis,” documents both the substantial contributions that federal rural housing programs have made to improving housing conditions in rural America and the challenges to preserving and maintaining these gains in an era of federal budget austerity.

“In many rural communities, the only source of financing for affordable rental housing is U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing programs. This housing is especially important for our most vulnerable residents, including the elderly, low-income families, people with disabilities and farmworkers,” said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition. “Unfortunately, there is a limited commitment on the part of Congress, USDA, and the White House to preserving this valuable asset.”

According to U.S. Census data, communities in rural America have long struggled to provide access to clean, decent, and affordable housing. This is especially true of renters who, because of lower incomes and higher poverty rates, face even greater barriers to affordable housing than other rural residents.

USDA has helped rural America overcome many of these barriers through its low-cost direct loan, grant and rental assistance programs. Over the past 50 years, USDA has financed and preserved more than 500,000 units of affordable rental housing.

NRHC’s report notes that despite the success of these programs, federal efforts to improve the quality of rural rental housing have stalled. For decades, Congress and various administrations have underfunded efforts to preserve the physical and financial condition of USDA’s investment. As a result, none of the properties in USDA’s portfolio have the capital needed to meet long-term operational costs.

In addition, the report finds that budget gimmicks used by federal policymakers to reduce funding for USDA’s rental assistance program in the short-term have caused long-term costs to increase. Without congressional action, NRHC asserts that rental assistance costs will grow to over $1.3 billion annually, putting the entire USDA Rural Housing budget at risk.

In 2012, the Department responded to these budget constraints by halting nearly all new construction. That year, USDA also ended a preservation program authorized by Congress in 1987 that offered property owners financial incentives in exchange for keeping rents affordable.

Rapoza claims that these policies have only made it more difficult for rural communities to maintain their affordable housing stock.

“Rural advocates are deeply concerned that USDA’s current preservation efforts will not be enough to sustain its rental housing portfolio,” says Rapoza. “If Congress and the Administration do not implement real reforms, rural communities may lose this vital resource.”

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NRHC Statement on FY15 House Appropriations Bill

Washington, DC, May 29, 2014 – Bob Rapoza, Executive Secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition, issued the following statement in response to today’s vote by the House Appropriations Committee to approve its Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill:

The National Rural Housing Coalition applauds bipartisan Congressional efforts to restore funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs, including those that help low-income rural families access affordable housing and grants that help small rural communities provide potable water and waste disposal systems to residents.

Both the House and Senate Appropriation bills soundly reject USDA’s proposed cuts to Rural Development programs because they are unwise and unwarranted,” says Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of NRHC.

“This is the third consecutive year that Congress has rejected Administration proposals to gut Rural Development programs. The reason is simple: rural housing and community development programs have improved housing conditions in rural America, provided communities with clean drinking water and better waste disposal systems, created jobs, and helped spur the rural economy.

Rural advocates applaud Members of Congress from both parties for their support for these important programs.

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Opposition Mounts to Proposed Cuts in Federal Rural Development Programs

Today, NRHC delivered a petition signed by more than 1,400 rural organizations and advocates to Congress, voicing strong opposition to the significant funding cuts proposed in the President’s 2015 budget for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs, including a 60 percent cut in low-cost homeownership loans and over $150 million in grants that help small rural communities provide potable water and waste disposal systems to residents.

“This year, the Administration is at it again, and rural communities are saying they have had enough. We hope Congress’s budget will reflect the fact that rural communities deserve affordable housing and economic development just as much as urban areas,” said Bob Rapoza, NRHC’s executive secretary.

A copy of the petition can be found here.

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Find Out Whether Your Community Is Eligible For Rural Housing Programs!

Earlier this year, Congress enacted the Farm Bill, which included a provision to extend eligibility for USDA Rural Housing programs through the 2020 Census.

Did your community make the cut? Check out NRHC’s new easy-to-use Rural Definition guide!

Use our guide to find out if your community is eligible and when families in your area can start accessing USDA’s critical housing programs! Phase 1 of USDA’s implementation takes place on May 6, so check out our guide today!

Under the new definition, a community is considered eligible if it (1) has 10,000 or fewer residents, (2) has 20,000 or fewer residents and is not located in a Metropolitan Statistical Area, or (3) was eligible in 1990— or was deemed eligible through special legislation—and currently has 35,000 or fewer residents. Your community is eligible, EVEN IF it lost its eligibility in the past, as long as it currently meets these standards.

Remember, if you need any additional help, please feel free to contact us at any time.

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Sign NRHC’s Petition TODAY!

Sign NRHC’s Petition In Support of USDA Rural Housing Funding

For the 5th year in a row, the White House has used every excuse in the book to cut funding for USDA Rural Housing and Community Development programs, making it even more difficult for low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities to access affordable housing and undercutting our nation’s struggling rural economies.

This year alone, the Administration proposes an additional $270 million in reductions. If enacted, the President’s budget would amount to a 57 percent cut in funding for Rural Housing and Community Development since 2010.

Please, Sign NRHC’s Rural Housing Petition TODAY and ask Congress to protect rural communities from cuts proposed in the President’s FY15 Budget Request. Ask them to fully fund these programs in FY15.

After you sign on, please send the petition to as many rural organizations and advocates as possible before the petition closes on Monday, April 14th.