Rural Outreach Initiative: Housing

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In rural America, more and more residents are struggling to find a safe, affordable place to live.  Challenges include affordability, lack of funding to build new units; zoning that restricts the housing supply; limited access to credit; a dearth of rental options, and now, the impact of COVID-19.

  • NAR’s Political Advocacy – NAR supports federal programs for home loans, rental development and rental assistance, including those of the RHS.


Webinar: Housing Need in Rural America: In rural America, more and more residents are struggling to find a safe, affordable place to live.  Challenges include affordability, lack of funding to build new units; zoning that restricts the housing supply; limited access to credit; a dearth of rental options, and now, the impact of COVID-19.  Join us for a discussion on these challenges as well as some of the ways – federal, state, local, and Realtor Party Programs – are addressing these challenges.   Speakers include staff from the Housing Assistance Council and two local Realtor® Associations.

News & Resources

HAC’s virtual symposium highlighted rural resiliency – Hundreds of rural housing developers, government officials, community members and housing advocates attended HAC’s virtual Rural Housing Symposium: Recovery Through Resiliency on December 3, exploring how the communities we all serve can move forward together from this difficult year. Recordings of the entire day and of individual panels are posted on HAC’s YouTube channel.

Rural Energy Savings Program loans offered – USDA’s Rural Utilities Service is now accepting applications for the Rural Energy Savings Program, which makes loans to intermediaries that re-lend the funds to rural residents and small businesses to implement energy efficiency measures. The funds can also be used to replace a manufactured housing unit with another manufactured housing unit if the replacement would be more cost effective in saving energy. Letters of intent will be reviewed as received. For more information, contact Robert Coates, RUS, 202-260-5415.

Short-term Loans for Affordable Housing – Housing Assistance Council is offering short-term loans at below market interest rates to local nonprofits, for-profits, and government entities that are working to develop affordable housing for low-income, rural communities.  Deadlines: December 15, 2020 is the deadline for applicants to create an account and complete the initial eligibility quiz.  Applications accepted on an ongoing basis.

Coronavirus: Resources for Property Owners: a list compiled by NAR to provide property owners with assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.

Coronavirus resources for rural housing: HAC is compiling rural-housing-related coronavirus resources online. As this issue of the HAC News is published, USDA Rural Development has released information about how some, but not all, of its programs are addressing the crisis. To receive updated information directly from RD, stakeholders can subscribe to RD email lists. In response to a March 17 HAC letter requesting that more information be shared with stakeholders, Rural Housing Administrator Bruce Lammers said the agency is “working to provide thoughtful direction regarding these issues.”

Connecting Health & Housing in Rural America: webinar hosted by Enterprise Community Partners, focuses on the intersection between housing and health as it manifests in rural areas. The speakers explore potential avenues for partnership between rural housing developers and the healthcare providers in their communities. View the recording here, or download the presentation.

The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Rental Homes:  annual analysis by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. This year it reports that extremely low-income renters in the U.S. face a shortage of 7 million affordable and available rental homes. Only 36 affordable and available homes existed for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in 2018. This year’s report also examines in greater detail the racial inequities of the nation’s housing shortage.

Hoosier Housing Ready Toolkit: Ten Steps to Success for Rural Counties:   from the University of Indiana Center for Rural Engagement includes broad guidance and helpful worksheets about assessing a housing market, engaging local stakeholders and locating possible sites.

Some Rural Areas Take Law and Order Approach to Homelessness: Homelessness is often seen as an urban issue, but rural areas along the West Coast are also struggling with large homeless populations. Many of these areas don’t have the resources for low-barrier shelters, but even when they do, they’re sometimes reluctant to build them.

Small, Rural Markets Left Behind as Large Metros Struggle to Match Housing to Job Gains – report on the rural housing markets’ and rural economies’ inability to rebound at the same rates as large metropolitan areas since the Great Recession (2007-2009). Before the recession housing and economic growth in rural areas were generally similar to those in large metropolitan areas, but now they are lagging in job creation and home value gains.

The Rental Housing Crisis Is a Rural Issue Too – Much like urban communities, rural communities also face critical housing issues like rental shortages, a lack of federal and private funding to build new units, and the impending loss of affordability restrictions. Here’s what could help.

Housing Stability: Bridging the Housing Gap in Rural Communities – Many rural residents experience housing stability challenges. Enterprise’s partners are helping rural communities respond to these challenges. This is the second blog in our series about opportunity challenges experienced by rural residents and innovative solutions being developed by our partners.

Rural Housing Initiatives – Affordable Housing is not just an Urban Problem:  Discussions around safe, affordable housing issues often focus on helping low-income residents in large urban areas.  But rural areas are also experiencing housing challenges that require creative solutions.

“The Affordable Housing Crisis in Rural America: Assessing the Federal Response,” was discussed at a hearing convened by the House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance. Covered topics included the need to address rental properties’ maturing mortgages, the need for local capacity building and the need for new construction of rental housing in rural areas, as well as the possibility of moving the USDA rural housing programs to HUD – an idea not supported by any of the panelists.

Rural America Faces a Housing Cost Crunch” finds nearly 25 percent of the most rural counties in the country have seen spikes in the shares of their residents paying more than half their income for housing over the past decade.  One reason for the slow-moving crisis in rural rental housing is that federal incentives to include affordable units have all but disappeared, and those remaining are quietly expiring.

Affordability Crisis Spreads to Rural America: Nearly one-fourth of the nation’s most rural counties have seen a sizeable increase this decade in the number of households spending at least half their income on housing, a category the federal government calls “severely cost-burdened.”

NAR Letter Supports Rural Housing Service – The letter expresses NAR’s strong support of the Rural Housing Service, and urges Congress to help make its program as robust and efficient as possible. Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas or small towns. The programs of the Rural Housing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide critical options for housing in rural communities. Through the Section 515, 521 and 538 rental housing programs, USDA tries to 1 bridge the gap, however rental housing is in short supply in rural America. This makes the 502 home loan programs even more valuable to rural families.

Organizations & Agencies

  • National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) –  works to promote and defend the principle that rural people have the right — regardless of income — to a decent, affordable place to live, clean drinking water, and basic community services.
  • Rural Community Assistance Partnership – RCAP is a national network of non-profit organizations working to provide technical assistance, training, resources, and support to rural communities across the United States, tribal lands, and U.S. territories to ensure rural communities access to safe drinking water and sanitary waste disposal.
  • Rural Housing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture – USDA’s Rural Housing Service offers a variety of programs to build or improve housing and essential community facilities in rural areas.  We offer loans, grants and loan guarantees for single- and multi-family housing, child care centers, fire and police stations, hospitals, libraries, nursing homes, schools, first responder vehicles and equipment, housing for farm laborers and much more.
  • Housing Assistance Council – A national nonprofit organization that helps build homes and communities across rural America.