Today, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced a bill to ensure that hundreds of rural communities across the nation remain eligible for rural housing development programs administered by the USDA.
"Buying or building a home in a rural area can present unique challenges, and the USDA's rural housing programs have helped make responsible homeownership a reality for countless moderate and low-income families in South Dakota and nationwide," said Johnson. "Providing these loans, grants, and loan guarantee programs helps younger generations stay in the communities they're from, and ensures rural housing markets have access to private credit."
"I am pleased to introduce this legislation to help rural communities like Dodge City, Garden City, Liberal, Hays and several others qualify for loans and grants that will help those who need it most," said Roberts. "As our rural communities continue to grow, so do their housing needs, and this legislation will help them remain eligible to receive assistance."
The bill would grandfather currently eligible communities that meet the population threshold until 2020, and raise the population cap from 25,000 to 35,000. A similar measure was passed with bipartisan support in the Senate last year as an amendment to the Farm Bill, but did not ultimately become law after the bill stalled in the House of Representatives. Without Congressional action, hundreds of communities could lose their eligibility in the coming months, which could have serious negative consequences for local economies and homebuyers.
The USDA's Housing and Community Facilities Programs help rural communities by providing homeownership options for individuals, financing assistance for developers of multi-family housing projects such as assisted living for the elderly and disabled, and community facilities such as libraries, child care centers, schools, and firefighting equipment.
The largest component of the USDA's rural housing activity is the Section 502 loan program, which provides privately-funded loans to families in rural communities, insured by the Rural Housing Service. In fiscal year 2011, Section 502 loans helped 130,415 individuals and families become homeowners.
The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Johanns (R-NE), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).