Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today toured a successful rural housing development in South Central Ohio and highlighted USDA's long-standing partnership with income-eligible rural residents who want to become homeowners.
"The Obama Administration supports broadening access to affordable housing. Developments like the Arbor Village subdivision demonstrate that rural homeownership is an integral part of a thriving community," Vilsack said. "Homeownership stabilizes families, supports jobs and promotes a quality rural lifestyle."
In the past three years, USDA has helped more than 520,000 rural families nationwide buy a home by financing their mortgages through direct and guaranteed loan programs. Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA made or guaranteed more than 13,500 single-family housing loans for rural Ohio homeowners.
USDA Rural Development financed some of Arbor Village's homes through the agency's Self-Help housing program. Participants work on their homes in teams with supervisory contractors in return for a "sweat equity" contribution that may be as much as $20,000. Many of Arbor Village's homes are energy-star certified, meaning they are 20 to 30 percent more energy efficient than typical homes. Some homes have solar roof panels.
The Community Action Commission of Fayette County, the subdivision's principal developer, started its Self-Help Housing Program two decades ago. Since then, more than 250 families have become homeowners.
Arbor Village's success has prompted the developer to build additional projects in other rural communities in Ohio. State and local officials, again working with USDA Rural Development, plan to build a similar community in the Village of Jamestown, just west of Fayette County.
Vilsack's visit comes as communities across the nation are holding the last of a month-long series of events to commemorate National Homeownership Month.
USDA also helps credit-worthy rural borrowers after they purchase their homes. The agency offers loans and grants to help income-eligible homeowners make health and safety repairs, and there are several programs to help borrowers refinance their loans. USDA has refinanced more than 120 Ohio loans during the current fiscal year.
Ohio is one of 19 states participating in a two-year pilot project Secretary Vilsack announced in February to help current Rural Development-backed homeowners lower their monthly mortgage payments and take advantage of current low interest rates. The pilot is open to borrowers who have made their monthly payments on time for the past 12 (consecutive) months. Borrowers will be able to refinance their mortgages even if they owe more on their loans than their homes are worth. They do not have to obtain new credit reports, property inspections or home appraisals.
For information on USDA support for rural housing, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov, or contact your local USDA Rural Development office. A list of these offices is available at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html.
Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council -- chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack -- the President is committed to a smarter use of existing Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $170 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.