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Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise to discuss an amendment that will help rural communities across the country develop affordable housing. This amendment will authorize appropriations for the Housing Assistance Council, HAC, which has been committed to developing affordable housing in rural communities for over 35 years.
The amendment provides $10 million for HAC in fiscal year 2008 and then $15 million in fiscal year 2009 to 2012. In the past, the council has received appropriations from the Self Help and Assisted Homeownership Opportunity Program. The funding has helped HAC provide loans to 1,875 organizations across the country, raise and distribute over $5 million in capacity building grants, and hold regional training workshops. These critical services help local organizations, rural communities, and cities develop safe and affordable housing.
Throughout the country, approximately one-fifth of the Nation's population lives in rural communities. About 7.5 million of the rural population is living in poverty, and 2.5 million of them are children. Nearly 3.6 million rural households pay more than 30 percent of their income in housing costs. While housing costs are generally lower in rural counties, wages are dramatically outpaced by the cost of housing. Additionally, the housing conditions are often substandard, and there are many families doubled up due to lack of housing. Rural areas lack both affordable rental units and home ownership opportunities needed to serve the population.
In Wisconsin, HAC has provided close to $5.2 million in grants and loans to 17 nonprofit housing organizations and helped develop 820 units of housing. Specifically, since 1972 the Southeastern Wisconsin Housing Corporation has partnered with the Housing Assistance Council to develop 268 units of self-help housing. The presence of the council in Wisconsin has made a huge impact on rural housing development in Wisconsin and other rural communities across the country.
I hope that my colleagues see the importance of this amendment and include it in H.R. 2419.
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