Many rural communities, just like urban areas, are facing critical affordable housing shortages.
Rural housing specialists say that federal funding and resources are crucial to maintaining the affordable rural housing that currently exists, while also building more housing options to support a growing population in certain communities.
For nearly fifty years, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has been working to develop or secure housing for rural people, primarily low-income and working class people struggling to pay their bills. HAC’s rural assistance housing advocacy is most important in geographies that are in “high-needs regions like the Mississippi Delta, rural Appalachia, farmworker communities, the Southwest border colonias and Indian Country,” according to the group.
These areas make up a large percentage of the persistent poverty counties in the country, where rural housing availability and affordability problems tend to be the most acute. As rural counties are poorer, older and lacking in affordable housing support, rural housing lacks adequate plumbing and kitchen facilities at a rate above the national average. The challenges are most difficult in rural communities of color, where affordable housing options are the most needed, and also the most difficult to find. One clear option to expand affordable rural housing, as discussed during the Rural Policy Summit, is potential federal government support for rural rental housing.
One of HAC’s priorities in 2021 is to refinance rural rental housing of more than 400,000 affordable homes to families and individuals throughout the nation. Due to federal funding cuts in recent years, USDA direct-financed rental housing has been near zero in recent years. In addition, existing rural rental properties have increasingly lost their affordability provisions. The units lose their rental subsidy once the USDA-backed mortgage on the property matures and affordability is lost. These units constitute the only affordable rental housing available in many rural places.
HAC, along with other rural affordable housing groups, supports increased funding for the USDA Section 515 program to allow for new multifamily construction to resume, increased funding for the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) program and the Preservation Revolving Loan Fund (PRLF) program “to address the preservation needs of the multifamily portfolio, the extension of rural rental assistance to all USDA multifamily units, and improved protections for tenants in USDA properties that are being preserved,” the group states.
CRITICAL PRIORITIES FOR THE RURAL POLICY SUMMIT INCLUDE:
- Passing the “Housing is Infrastructure Act of 2019,” a bill that would invest Billions in rural single and multifamily housing projects. Additionally, it provides $100 million in rural elderly aging in place grants and additional resources for disability housing.
This critical funding package would expand rural rental housing and affordability, as well as supporting expansion of rural housing options in many Native American reservations as well.