Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today kicked off National Homeownership Month and reminded rural residents of opportunities to purchase or refinance homes in rural areas.
"This is a great time to buy a home," Vilsack said. "Interest rates are at or near record lows, and housing prices are more affordable than they've been in nearly a generation. The Obama Administration housing's policies are helping to strengthen rural communities and driving the nation's ongoing economic recovery forward."
National Homeownership Month is celebrated every year in June. Throughout the month, USDA will hold events to highlight the ways Rural Development programs provide affordable homeownership opportunities.
Rural Development has programs to help people refinance as well as buy homes. In February, Secretary Vilsack announced a 19-state pilot program for homeowners to get lower monthly mortgage payments. The refinance program is available to rural residents with mortgages issued or backed by USDA Rural Development. It is part of President Obama's ongoing efforts to help middle-class families, create jobs and strengthen the economy. It will save homeowners time and money and help ensure that hardworking, creditworthy borrowers protect their investment and remain in their homes.
USDA also provides loans and grant funds to help rural homeowners repair their homes and to assist affordable rural rental property owners repair their properties. The Secretary announced last month that USDA is accepting grant applications from qualified organizations for repairs, health, safety and accessibility improvements. The application deadline is June 25. For information on how to apply, please see page 27179 of the May 9, 2012 Federal Register or go to http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-05-09/html/2012-11036.htm.
Vilsack noted that Rural Development's housing portfolio is sound. It does not include subprime and exotic loans such as so-called "no doc" loans. USDA uses solid underwriting criteria to ensure borrowers are able to repay their loans. By doing so, we're helping to keep people in their homes.
Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA has helped more than 520,000 rural families buy a home. For example, Rural Development helped Theresa Jetland of Ilwaco, Wash., buy her first home. Jetland, a single working mother raising two teenagers, qualified to buy a home after she completed a local program that helps low- and moderate-income renters obtain employment that will lead to economic independence. Jetland bought a home guaranteed by USDA Rural Development and received payment assistance from the Longview Housing Authority.
Vilsack noted that In Fiscal year 2011, approximately 17 percent of Single Family Housing homeownership and repair opportunities were provided to individuals and families that identified themselves as members of minority groups. Over 25,500 of the home loans or home improvement grants or loans obligated (made) by USDA went to minority homeowners.
Owning a home is the American Dream. For more than 60 years, USDA has helped rural residents realize this dream through guaranteed (by lender partners) and direct loans. USDA Rural Development has funds available now through the Single Family Housing Direct Loan program to help low-income rural families become homeowners. Interested parties should contact the nearest 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 using Federal resources more efficiently 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 and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $165 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 areas.