Defining “Rural”

What is the “Rural” Definition?

By January 15, 2014, USDA will revise its definition of “rural” with data from the 2010 Census. Unless Congress acts, 921 small towns and farming communities currently eligible for USDA Rural Development programs will be cut off from what is often their only source of federal housing funding.

To be eligible after that time, these communities must fall under the original – and very restrictive – definition that arbitrarily excludes rural communities that happen to be located in metro areas.  According to USDA, however, fully half of all rural residents live in metro areas.

In the past, with each new Census, Congress has acted to ensure that all rural communities – regardless of whether the community is located in a metro county – remained eligible for USDA Rural Housing loans, grants, and other assistance.

NRHC and our members are working to extend the current definition and to preserve access to these critical programs.

Will your community be impacted?

Check out USDA’s list to see whether your community will be cut off from USDA Rural Development funding! You can also find USDA’s explanation of current law, and impact key.

Rural Definition Legislation

  • H.R. 858, the Rural Housing Preservation Act  was introduced by Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE) and would extend current law through the 2020 Census. This bill has over 60 cosponsors, evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans. In 2012, over 100 Representatives signed Rep. Fortenberry’s letter, urging House Leadership to address the issue immediately.
  • S. 766 would extend current law through the 2020 Census and increase the population limit to 35,000. It was introduced by Sen. Johnson (D-SD), Crapo (R-ID), Johanns (R-NE), Moran (R-KS), Roberts (KS), and Tester (D-MT).

Other Legislation

  • The Senate Farm Bill (Section 6202) would extend current law through the 2020 Census and increase the population limit to 35,000.
  • The House and Senate FY14 Agriculture Appropriations Bills would extend current law through the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2014).

What can I do?

NRHC and our members are leading the effort to preserve eligibility to rural housing programs by educating Members of Congress about how this will impact rural communities.

Help us protect rural communities by asking your Representatives and Senators to cosponsor H.R. 858:

And, join our Rural Definition Action Alert list serv by emailing sarah AT rapoza DOT org.