News & Resources

News

Housing

  • 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.
  • On April 30 the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing titled “Housing in America: Assessing the Infrastructure Needs of America’s Housing Stock.” A draft bill from committee chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the Housing is Infrastructure Act, would authorize $1 billion for USDA’s Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization Demonstration program and $100 million for Section 504 home repair loans and grants, as well as $1 billion for Native American housing block grants and significant sums for the Public Housing Capital Fund, the National Housing Trust Fund and CDBG. Even if the bill were to become law, the funds would have to be appropriated separately.
  • Appropriators express support for rural housing – USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue appeared before the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee on April 9 and the Senate subcommittee on April 11 to defend the Administration’s budget request. Responding to a question from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Perdue said he could not disagree on the importance of the rural housing programs, but suggested the Administration may have proposed no funding for most of them because it thought they could be moved to HUD – something not mentioned in the budget documents.
  • “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.
  • 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.

Broadband

  • Digital gap between rural and nonrural America persists  – Rural Americans have made large gains in adopting digital technology over the past decade, but they generally remain less likely than urban or suburban adults to have home broadband or own a smartphone.
  • Blue Dogs Call for Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to Expand Broadband Internet AccessRepresentatives Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., and Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., co-chairs of the Blue Dog Task Force on Infrastructure and Job Creation, joined with Representatives Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., their counterparts on the Blue Dog Task Force on Rural Opportunity, Tuesday to call for bipartisan legislation to expand high-speed broadband internet “to all corners of our nation.”
  • How Fast Is Rural Internet? Consumers Are Asked to Fill in the Gaps: A collaboration of three national rural nonprofits hopes to create a more accurate picture for researchers and advocates to use to see how their communities measure up.
  • New Broadband Bills — Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) earned quick praise from telecom industry trade groups for his new Broadband Interagency Coordination Act, filed Thursday with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). The measure would compel an agreement among the FCC, NTIA and USDA to coordinate on federal broadband subsidies. A bipartisan group of senators including Klobuchar also reintroduced the Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act, which would mandate a federal study on — what else — the impact of broadband on the U.S. economy.
  • NAR Supports Broadband Interagency Coordination Act: On May 6 NAR sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee expressing its support for S. 1294, the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act.  This legislation would direct the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enter into a memorandum of understanding to coordinate the distribution of federal funds for broadband deployment. Such an agreement would reduce overbuilding and ensure funds are targeted to unserved and underserved areas.
  • USDA Opens Application for Rural Broadband Infrastructure Program –  These funds will enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service.
  • Why Did Arkansas Change Its Mind on Municipal Broadband?  Eight years after banning cities and towns from building high-speed internet networks, state lawmakers unanimously reversed course. Will more red states follow?
  • Are State Legislatures Wising Up about Broadband Co-ops?  Co-ops offer several advantages for rural communities attempting to improve broadband connectivity. But large telcos don’t like them. North Carolina has loosened its restrictions on co-ops. Will other states follow?
  • Lawmakers Revive Broadband Bill – The Access Broadband Act, which aims to expand broadband access in underserved areas, is now back in both chambers, lawmakers announced in a news release Wednesday. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) tout bipartisan support for the reintroduction of the measure, H.R. 1328 (116) , which would also create an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), meanwhile, are backing a Senate version. The bill passed the House but not the Senate in the previous Congress.
  • Do Not Pass Go: a documentary that features the city of Wilson, North Carolina and neighboring Pinetops.  After Wilson’s repeated requests for improved broadband were denied by the big cable company, they built their own fiber-optic network.  This film explores one avenue for communities to improve their Internet access – building and operating a citywide network offering Internet access directly to all residents and businesses.
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell gave a speech on 2/12 on “Economic Development in High Poverty Rural Communities” at the Hope Enterprise Corporation Rural Policy Forum in Itta Bena, MS.
  • National Association of Counties (NACo), Rural LISC and Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) have partnered to address the critical need for high-speed internet for rural communities across the country.  They developed a mobile app that harnesses grassroots advocacy by empowering individual users to accurately identify areas with low or no internet connectivity.  Help identify areas with low or no connectivity to help ensure adequate funding for broadband infrastructure. Read the press release  and NACo’s flyer: “Bridging the Economic Divide.”Housing

Investment & Revitalization

  • NEA Announces Funding and TA for Rural Communities – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Director of Design and Creative Placemaking Jennifer Hughes announced the opening of the 2019 Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design with a call for funding and technical assistance applications. This NEA program offers assistance to communities with populations of 50,000 or less to address local challenges related to economic vitality and quality of life through design solutions. Nonprofits, tribal or municipal governments, regional planning organizations, and other community partners are encouraged to apply by the July 22, 2019 deadline.
  • Rural needs noted at Community Reinvestment Act hearingOn April 9, the House Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions held a hearing entitled “The Community Reinvestment Act: Assessing the Law’s Impact on Discrimination and Redlining.” The hearing focused on how CRA could better reach underserved communities, and rural members like Reps. Scott Tipton (R-CO) and David Kustoff (R-TN) brought up the importance of making sure CRA works well for rural America. Some of the experts testifying at the hearing also specifically highlighted rural CRA needs.
  • Vermont Remote Worker Grant Program: created by the Vermont Legislature to encourage professionals interested in moving to Vermont to make the leap.  Vermont announced plans to pay up to $10,000 to people who move to the state on or after January 1, 2019, and work remotely.
  • The House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing on February 27 on the “State of the Rural Economy”.  NAR sent a letter thanking the Chairman and Ranking member for holding the hearing.  Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas or small towns and nearly all of the counties with the highest poverty rates in America are rural. The National Association of REALTORS®® (NAR) recognizes the uniqueness of rural communities and the key role that housing plays in building strong communities. Specialized programs, like those of the Rural Housing Service, are critical to meeting the needs of Americans living in rural areas.

Natural Disasters

  • Potential tax relief for storm-damaged property owners in Ohio:  Ohio REALTORS wish to highlight a state law (ORC 319.38) which gives County Auditors the authority to reduce the value of properties that have suffered damage or been destroyed. A reduction in property value could result in lower real estate taxes for the property until it has been restored to its prior condition or value.
  • Flood InsuranceThe House passed a two-week extension through June 14, preventing an NFIP lapse. The bill (S. 1693) heads to the White House for presidential signature. Once Congress returns from recess, the House is expected to clear the disaster aid package, H.R. 2157, that will extend the flood insurance program through the Sept. 30. NAR is coordinating with a coalition of industry groups. Read our most recent coalition letter.

Trainings

  • Webinar:  Can the Broadband Gap in Rural America be Closed?
    Inadequate broadband access is restraining many rural communities from strengthening their economies as the absence of broadband makes a community a less attractive location for residents, new investment and development.  Broadband is no long a luxury but a necessity as affordable high-speed broadband will soon become almost as important as water and electricity. Communities with access to high-speed Internet are able to prosper: property values increase, businesses grow, and jobs are created.  But 24 million American households do not have reliable, affordable high-speed internet and 80 percent of these households are in rural areas.  The good news is that access to funding and changes in laws are taking place across the Country to accelerate broadband deployment, including removing barriers to infrastructure investment and promoting competition in the telecommunications market.  And REALTORS® are joining in these efforts by advocating for legislation and joining coalitions to increase broadband access.  Tune in to our webinar on August 7 to get an overview of the digital divide, its impact on real estate and communities and efforts underway to bridge the divide.   And hear from the REALTOR® Community on a state and local level to see how they are engaged in this effort.   Register today.
  • Bring Life & Vitality to Downtowns in Rural Communities
    Small towns and communities in rural communities around the Country are looking for ways to bring life and vitality back to their downtowns. Tune in to hear strategies 3 – Better Block to reshape and reactivate built environments; Main Street Downtown Assessment for community-driven, comprehensive revitalization; and Transforming Neighborhoods to turn vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties into community assets – being undertaken by communities to bring life, and people, back to their communities.  Listen to the recorded version and download the presentations:

Organizations

  • 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.
  • REALTORS® Land Institute: The Voice of Land, continually strives to maintain its status as the acknowledged leader for all matters pertaining to the land real estate profession
  • Community Builders: Provides resources and technical assistance to help local leaders build livable communities across the American West.
  • Rural LISC: created to expand LISC’s reach beyond urban areas to include rural communities by helping them identify challenges and opportunities and delivering the most appropriate support to meet local needs.
  • Center for Rural Strategies: helps to establish a rural America that is more connected and more inclusive through work on strategic communications, coalition building, public information campaigns, and public policy.
    • National Rural Assembly, works at local, regional, and national levels to build more opportunity and better policy for rural communities across the country.
    • Daily Yonder: news, commentary, reports from our rural correspondents. Special reports on the big issues facing small communities — health, employment, broadband access, education, and economic development. Tracks how national policies are reaching (or ignoring) rural communities.
  • LOR Foundation: supports the prosperity and preserve the character of rural communities throughout the Mountain West.
  • Community Networks: provides information on how communities are investing in their own Internet infrastructure to promote economic prosperity and improve quality of life.

Federal Agencies

  • Department of Agriculture (USDA): USDA programs and activities impact the real estate industry in two main areas. The Rural Housing Service (RHS) provides affordable housing opportunities to low- and moderate-income rural homebuyers. In addition, the Forest Service provides policies on wildfire management, land acquisition, recreational opportunities, and land management policies.
    • Rural Economic Development Innovation (REDI) initiative – provides free technical assistance for up to two years to help rural towns and regions create and implement economic development plans. USDA’s Innovation Center created the REDI initiative to support recommendations identified in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. The recommendations outline steps to develop the rural economy and support quality of life.
    • USDA Rural Development: USDA Rural Development is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America. Through their programs, they help rural Americans in many ways.
  • USDA ReConnect Program, a pilot program authorized by the Consolidated Budget Act of 2018 to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas that lack sufficient access to broadband.

Cool & Connected:  a technical assistance program to help rural communities find new economic opportunities by providing planning assistance for sustainable downtown development and investments in reliable, high-speed internet access.  Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service, EPA, and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Reports & Publications

  • American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report February 2019” from USDA highlights steps for the federal government to take to increase broadband access and increase private-sector investments in broadband. The report includes broadband and mobile broadband deployment and adoption in the U.S. and offers statistics by urban, rural, and tribal lands, and provides recommendations discussing strategies, objectives, and overcoming barriers to increase broadband in urban and rural areas and tribal lands.
  • New Report Finds Troubling Outlook For Rural Hospitals: An estimated 430 rural hospitals – roughly 1 in 5 – are in danger of closing unless their financial outlooks improve, a situation that has broad ramifications not just for access to health care but those communities’ economic livelihoods, Pro’s Rachana Pradhan reports.
  • How Outdoor Recreation Supports Rural Economic Development:  Investing in outdoor recreation is one of several strategies that can help rural communities thrive in a changing economy.
  • Rural Prosperity Through the Arts and Creative Sector: A Rural Action Guide for Governors and States: provides economic data, almost 100 stories/case studies, and a policy framework of strategies for incorporating arts and culture into community development plans.
  • USDA High-Speed Broadband e-Connectivity Resource Guide: a toolkit to help support the deployment of high-speed broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities. The e-Connectivity Toolkit features 27 USDA programs that support broadband deployment.