The National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC) recently convened leaders from the rural housing community to evaluate and prepare recommendations that will ensure affordable rental housing options remain available to low- and very low-income residents. The purpose of the October 4-5 conference, which was sponsored by PNC Bank, was to gather feedback from the community and confer on data shared by staff from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing programs. Using this information, NRHC will release a detailed paper on the state of affordable rental housing in rural communities.
“While there were notable investments made several decades ago for the production and maintenance of affordable, rural rental housing, that federal commitment has not kept pace with the need in recent years,” says Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of NRHC. “This is significant because USDA’s current preservation efforts do not appear to be enough to sustain its rental housing portfolio, which is essential to providing clean, decent, and affordable housing for low-income residents in Rural America.”
USDA rental housing is frequently the only affordable rental housing available in rural communities. The average income for tenants is $12,729 annually, many (around 44 percent) are elderly or persons with disabilities and 70.9 percent are female-headed households. USDA estimates that $5.596 billion in additional funding is needed over the next 20 years to preserve USDA’s rental housing portfolio. Renovation of these developments is particularly important because USDA no longer provides loans for the financing of new rental housing developments in rural America.
In addition, there is a rising tide of USDA mortgages coming to the end of their terms. When a USDA mortgage ends—whether it is due to prepayment or mortgage maturity—the property loses rental assistance eligibility, which provides a deep subsidy to very low income households. As a result, an increasing number of very low-income households are left with few or no alternatives for affordable, decent housing options.
While the need for renovation and refinancing of the USDA multifamily housing portfolio is great, several organizations have taken advantage of opportunities to acquire, improve the quality of and maintain the affordability of these properties. By working with USDA and state housing finance agencies, as well as combining multiple sources of public and private funds, housing advocates like Greystone Affordable Housing Initiatives and the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership have succeeded in preserving USDA’s rural rental homes. NRHC will work with USDA and members of Congress to promote these successful preservation strategies and identify obstacles to success to ensure that affordable rental housing in rural communities is preserved.
“Congress and various Administrations have underfunded efforts to preserve the physical and financial condition of USDA’s investment. As a result, none of the properties in USDA’s portfolio have the capital needed to meet long-term operational costs,” says Rapoza. “NRHC will continue to advocate for the funding and policies necessary to meet the affordable housing needs or rural people and families.”
About Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Loans
For over 50 years, Section 515 loans have been used to improve the quality of affordable rental housing for low-income families in rural America. Today, nearly 400,000 rural families live in housing financed with low-cost Section 515 loans.
For more information, visit http://ruralhousingcoalition.org.