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
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.

Typical home to be built at the Pokai Bay Self-Help Housing Project

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
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.

 

Categories
Key Issues Spotlight

Infrastructure Includes Substandard Housing

The lack of adequate water and waste disposal systems is a major infrastructure need of rural America and it is directly link to another pressing infrastructure need – substandard housing.

Most violations of federal drinking water standards are made by small communities with limited resources to dedicate to compliance.  Small and rural drinking water systems constitute nearly 85 percent of the 53,000 community water systems in America. The 2013 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Drinking Needs Assessment indicated a national need of $64.5 billion for small community water systems.[1] This represents 17.4 percent of total national need. The lack of adequate water and waste water systems has a direct impact on the quality of housing. The American Community Survey found that almost 630,000 occupied households in the country lack complete plumbing facilities – meaning they do not have one of the following: a toilet, tub, shower or running water.

President Trump proposed to triple funding for EPA’s Safe Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), which would make $6 billion available. However while approximately 96 percent of all health-based violations occur in systems serving a population of less than 10,000, less than a third of the SRF outlays are directed at these same small systems. Thus, this proposal would not meet the needs of America’s small towns.

The National Rural Housing Coalition has recommended that 20 percent of the new proposed level of funding for EPA’s SRFs be transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for use in its water and waste disposal loan and grant program and Sections 504 and 533 repair programs. USDA’s Water and Sewer loan and grant financing program is a key component of economic development in rural America.  The agency boasts a portfolio of more than 18,000 active water/sewer loans, more than 19 million rural residents served, and a delinquency rate of just 0.18 percent.  USDA is better equipped to address rural community facilities needs than state SRFs.

With the USDA Section 504 Loan and Grant program and the Section 533 Housing Preservation Grant program, rural communities have been able to address substandard housing needs that stem from a lack of adequate plumbing. These programs can provide critical assistance to shore up this infrastructure. For example, with an expanded HPG grant of $400,000 and $370,000 in leveraged funds, Self-Help Enterprises in California provided basic health and safety improvements and drill on-site water wells for 23 families in the drought-ravaged San Joaquin Valley.

The bottom line is that the Administration and Congress should take a holistic approach to addressing America’s infrastructure needs, and include funding for housing and water/wastewater systems in any infrastructure package.

This article is the sixth in a blog series of the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding that ties housing to infrastructure. To read the other blog posts, please click here.

[1] Defined as serving 3,300 and fewer persons.

Categories
Farmworker Housing Poverty Spotlight

Smithsonian Magazine Recognizes Self-Help Enterprises’ Dedication to Helping America’s Working Poor

In an article published in the December 2016 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, author Dale Maharidge chronicled the struggles that many of America’s working poor, including high poverty rates, housing affordability issues and food-scarcity.  While just over 43 million people, or 13.5 percent of the population, live below the poverty line ($11,880) in the United States, over 31 percent – over 101 million – of Americans are considered “low-income,” meaning they make no more than $48,600 for a family of four or $23,760 for a single person.  These families’ low-incomes means that affording safe housing is frequently an issue, particularly because of the ever-increasing cost of housing.

A portion of the article is dedicated to America’s farmworkers.  Even though these people work long, back-breaking shifts, due in part to the seasonal nature of farming crops, these families often face great difficulty in affording basic necessities – like a safe place to call home and decent food – even while working full-time.

In California’s Central Valley, where Self-Help Enterprises, Inc. works, farms growing 250 different crops produce a fourth of the nation’s food.  The article noted that since SHE was founded in 1965, it has helped family participants create over 6,200 homes in the region through the self-help housing program, which allows participants to use “sweat equity” in place of a down payment. By contributing at least 40 hours a week over the roughly one-year construction period, the families complete 65 percent of the labor in their homes with the help of their future neighbors.

Categories
Spotlight

National Rural Housing Coalition Presents on the Impact of the Election on Rural Housing

On November 30, 2016, Bob Rapoza presented at the Housing Assistance Council 2016 Rural Housing Conference in Washington, D.C..  The National Rural Housing Coalition Plenary session included a discussion on what the results of the 2016 Presidential election mean for rural housing.

To view the presentation materials, please click here for the PowerPoint and here for the NRHC Transition Team paper.

Categories
Resources Spotlight

Housing Experts Chart Course to Preserve Affordable Rural Rental Housing

National Rural Housing Coalition convenes leaders in Affordable Rental Housing to Discuss Ways to Stem Increasing Shortages in Rural America and Prepare Recommendations for Legislators

 

USDA Rural Housing experts, including Under Secretary Lisa Mensah, Administrator Tony Hernandez and Deputy Administrator David Lipsetz discuss USDA’s multifamily housing programs with moderator Eileen Fitzgerald, President and CEO of Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future.

Washington, D.C.— On October 4-5, the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) convened leaders from the rural housing community to evaluate and prepare recommendations that will ensure affordable rental housing options remain available to low- and very low-income residents. The purpose of the conference, which was sponsored by PNC Bank, was to gather feedback from the community and confer on data shared by staff from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing programs. Using this information, NRHC will release a detailed paper on the state of affordable rental housing in rural communities.

“While there were notable investments made several decades ago for the production and maintenance of affordable, rural rental housing, that federal commitment has not kept pace with the need in recent years,” said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of NRHC. “This is significant because USDA’s current preservation efforts do not appear to be enough to sustain its rental housing portfolio, which is essential to providing clean, decent, and affordable housing for low-income residents in Rural America.”

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.

Larry Anderson, Vice President of Rural Housing Preservation Associates, and Richard Price, a Partner at NixonPeabody, discuss the current rural rental housing stock with moderator Tom Collishaw, President and CEO of Self-Help Enterprises.
Larry Anderson, Vice President of Rural Housing Preservation Associates, and Richard Price, a Partner at NixonPeabody, discuss the current rural rental housing stock with moderator Tom Collishaw, President and CEO of Self-Help Enterprises.

In addition, there is a rising tide of USDA mortgages coming to the end of their terms. When a USDA mortgage ends—whether it is due to prepayment or mortgage maturity—the property loses rental assistance eligibility, which provides a deep subsidy to very low income households.  As a result, an increasing number of very low-income households left with few or no alternatives for affordable, decent housing options.

While the need for renovation and refinancing of the USDA multifamily housing portfolio is great, several organizations have taken advantage of opportunities to acquire, improve the quality of and maintain the affordability of these properties. By working with USDA and state housing finance agencies, as well as combining multiple sources of public and private funds, housing advocates like Greystone Affordable Housing Initiatives and the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership have succeeded in preserving USDA’s rural rental homes. NRHC will work with USDA and members of Congress to promote these successful preservation strategies and identify obstacles to success to ensure that affordable rental housing in rural communities is preserved.

“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,” said Rapoza. “NRHC will continue to advocate for the funding and policies necessary to meet the affordable housing needs or rural people and families.”

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Rick Goodemann, Executive Director of Minnesota Housing Partnership, a NRHC Member, explains the approach his organization has used to address the need for preserving rental housing in rural communities.
Rick Goodemann, Executive Director of Minnesota Housing Partnership, a NRHC Member, explains the approach his organization has used to address the need for preserving rental housing in rural communities.

About Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Loans

For over 50 years, Section 515 loans have been used to improve the quality of affordable rental housing for low-income families in rural America. Today, nearly 400,000 rural families live in housing financed with low-cost Section 515 loans.

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This press release was published on PR Newswire on October 6, 2016 and can be found here.

To view the PowerPoint presentation from conference, please click here.

Categories
Poverty Spotlight

Income, Poverty and Population in Rural America

The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on poverty and income in America was released on September 13, 2016.

The findings of this report have been highlighted by many sources as an example of the economic growth experienced in many communities in recent years, noting that the median household income increased 5.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, the fastest increase on record.  For example, the White House Blog stated that the “report from the Census Bureau shows the remarkable progress that American families have made as the recovery continues to strengthen. . . . Income grew for households across the income distribution, with the fastest growth among lower- and middle-income households.”

While statements like this are certainly supported by the findings of the Census report, they do not provide a complete picture as to where this growth has occurred and the economic state of communities all around the country.  Specifically, within metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), income levels rose six percent (7.3 percent for city dwellers, 4 percent for suburban and exurban residents).  Alternatively, the income levels for rural communities (including micropolitan statistical areas and areas outside of MSAs and micropolitan areas) declined by 2 percent.

A 2015 CAP report, “The Uneven Housing Recovery,” found that while many Americans have recovered from the economic recession, those that have not primarily reside in rural and nonmetropolitan areas.  The improved economies in metropolitan areas is related to growing populations and strengthening labor markets, which have aided these areas’ recovery from the recession.

Differentiated from metropolitan counties, small rural communities, which have not experienced the same level of recovery, have seen shrinking populations.  In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS) found that between 2010 and 2015 the population of rural communities dropped 33,000 per year from 2010-2014 and 4,000 in 2015.  Comparatively, between 2010 and 2014, the urban population increased by more than two million people each year.

Decreasing populations in rural communities present unique challenges, and are a further issue impeding economic growth for these areas.  For example, the Census report found that poverty rates overall declined 1.2 percent from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 13.5 percent in 2015.  As with the Census report’s findings on income, declining poverty overall does not mean poverty has not increased in certain communities.

From 2014 to 2015, the actual number of rural Americans living in poverty declined from around 8.2 million to 7.4 million.   However, the decline in the number of people living in rural poverty was primarily due to out-migration – not improved economic conditions. Thus, for this same time period, the Census report found that the poverty rate for rural areas actually increased, albeit slightly (+0.2). The point is there was not any progress in reducing economic distress in rural areas.

The 2015 CAP report looked at the difference levels of recovery experienced by counties across the country.  The report found that most “struggling” counties are located in nonmetropolitan and rural areas.  These counties are characterized in the report as, at best, “stagnant” and more often “slipping” or sinking.”

Since 2009, slipping counties have experienced slow population growth and declining labor participation, and nearly 18 percent of the population in these areas live in poverty.  While homeownership is prevalent and renting is less common in slipping counties, the percentage of households who are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, is much higher for renters than homeowners. Additionally, as housing prices have increased (from about 11 percent in 2011 to 11.5 percent in 2014, so too have vacancy rates, which were at percent in 2014.

Sinking counties have fared the worst in terms of recovery from the economic recession.  In addition to higher unemployment rates than other counties, the labor force has declined since 2009 and since 2013, job growth has stalled.  New construction of housing has been declining since 2012, and vacancy rates between 2010 and 2014 remained stagnant.

The Census report shows that many communities’ across the country are recovering from the economic recession.  However, a closer look at the Census report, as well as other recent research on poverty, homeownership and employment demonstrates that this recovery is not spread equally with rural communities.  As the discussion on economic growth and recovery continues, policy makers should ensure that the need of rural Americans is not left out of the conversation.