Many rural communities are facing a severe housing crisis: nearly 1 in 5 rural renters spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing, while limited housing stock often means rural renters often have little choice but to live in substandard conditions. Rural renters, especially rural Indigenous and Latino people, are more likely to live in overcrowded housing or housing without adequate plumbing or complete kitchen facilities.
Safe and Affordable Housing
Manufactured or mobile homes are an important source of housing stock for many rural areas, with over half of all mobile homes in the country located in rural communities. Many owners of mobile homes own their home but not the land on which it sits, leaving them vulnerable to displacement or excessive rent increases by landowners.
In many states, mobile home residents are not afforded basic tenant rights protections; state lawmakers can ensure that tenant rights apply to mobile home parks. In recent years, private investment firms have increasingly looked to mobile home parks as lucrative “passive investments,” but these new owners often dramatically increase rents, add fees, slash amenities, and increase evictions. Some states have passed laws allowing mobile home residents to make a counteroffer to any sale offer of the mobile home park. Housing advocates say that these provisions could go further, including with a mandate that the residents have access to all the same information as other potential buyers.
Farmworkers are one particular group of rural residents often facing a housing crisis. Farmworker housing conditions are often overcrowded and unsanitary, and located in rural areas without public transportation and with poor access to fresh food, health clinics, or social services. Living in isolated areas with limited housing supply and being provided housing by their employer are additional factors that put farmworkers at risk of being overcharged for unsafe housing.
- Federal: Pass the Rural Housing Service Reform Act, to improve and build upon USDA rural housing programs by bringing the USDA’s outdated method of determining income in line with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s practices. The bill would also better protect homeowners and ensure some USDA-owned properties stay affordable. Furthermore, the bill would update the rules for a home repair loan program to make it less burdensome to get smaller loans and fund the USDA’s ability to process loans more quickly. The bill would also expand an existing USDA pilot program to provide home loan assistance to Native borrowers.
- State: Fund programs for home purchase for low- and moderate-income people.
- State: Fund programs for home repair for low-income homeowners and units rented to low-income residents at affordable rents.
- State: Support residents of mobile homes by allowing owners to title their property as real property in a cooperative or nonprofit-owned community.
- State: Ensure that tenant rights provisions apply to residents of mobile home parks.
- State: Fund grants for developers to develop and rehab affordable housing in rural areas, with incentives for small-scale development in line with local planning priorities.
- State: Establish tenants rights and protections, as well as legal services for tenants.
- State: Establish emergency funds and services for tenants who need short-term assistance to stay in their homes.
- Lawmakers in Nebraska (2017 NE LB 518) enacted the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act, which provides grants to nonprofit development organizations for the development of affordable owner-occupied and rental housing projects in rural communities with housing and workforce shortages.
- A Washington (2017 WA SB 5647) bill established the Low-Income Home Rehabilitation Revolving Loan Program, which provides low-income rural homeowners with loans to make repairs that address the health, safety, and durability of their homes, with priority given to senior citizens, people with disabilities, families with young children, and veterans.
- A housing omnibus bill enacted in Minnesota (2021 MN HF 4) reforms titling for manufactured homes by allowing owners to title their property as real property instead of personal property in a cooperative or nonprofit-owned community. The bill also expanded eligibility for an existing rehabilitation loan program for low-income homeowners to owners of manufactured homes and appropriated new funding to support the redevelopment of manufactured home communities.
- Colorado (2020 CO HB 1201) passed a bill requiring that homeowners in a mobile home park be given the opportunity to purchase the park if the landlord anticipates selling it.
- Iowa (2020 IA SF 2238) lawmakers proposed a bill to extend key tenant protections to owners of mobile homes living in mobile home parks, including mandating “good cause” for evictions and 180 days’ notice before rent increases went into effect. Rent increases would also not be allowed to exceed the local inflation rate unless there was a legitimate reason.
- California (2019 CA AB 1783) passed a bill reforming a state program that supports the development of farmworker housing projects. Projects developed through the program now must be designed for use by a single family or household, and the development must meet certain environmental requirements. Additionally, employers are prohibited from serving as landlords, and property management is limited to nonprofit or public affordable housing organizations.