Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today kicked-off National Homeownership Month by highlighting USDA's record delivery of single-family housing assistance to rural families and encouraging rural residents to purchase or refinance homes in rural areas.
"Since the start of USDA's single-family housing programs in 1949, USDA employees have helped nearly 3.4 million rural residents buy homes of their own," Vilsack said. "Many of these are lower-income, first-time homebuyers who are earning a leg up into the middle class. Homeownership is a critical step on the ladder of opportunity as it helps build equity and increase assets. Simply put, homeownership means long-term financial stability and security for these rural families."
USDA Rural Development will be highlighting National Homeownership Month with events across the Nation throughout June. To learn more about USDA homeownership assistance and events, follow us on the USDA Facebook page.
The Obama Administration housing's policies are helping to strengthen rural communities and the overall rural economy. In 2013 alone, USDA helped more than 170,000 rural residents become homeowners, investing more than $23.4 billion in loans, grants and technical assistance to provide affordable, safe housing for rural families. In both people served and dollars, 2013 was the most successful year in the history of USDA single-family housing programs.
USDA Rural Development programs that support rural homeownership include:
Direct home loans for very-low-income applicants. Payment assistance is provided that can lower the loan's interest rate to as low as one percent.
Guaranteed home loans for moderate-income families. The agency works in partnership with private-sector lenders to back the lenders' loans.
Home repair loans and grants to help rural homeowners make improvements or repairs. Examples include making homes accessible for people with disabilities or removing health and safety hazards like poor wiring or plumbing.
In 2012, as part of President Obama's ongoing efforts to help middle-class families, USDA launched a rural refinance pilot program in states hardest hit by the housing downturn. The program lets people with USDA direct or guaranteed home loans refinance in order to take advantage of lower interest rates and lower their monthly mortgage payments. In January 2013, 15 more states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico were added to the pilot.
USDA is making changes to the guaranteed home loan program to help create jobs, enable more people to participate, spur new home construction and inject more capital into rural areas. The changes will increase the availability of housing loans in underserved communities, such as those targeted by USDA's StrikeForce initiative to help alleviate rural poverty.
The changes take effect on September 1, 2014, and include:
Increased lender eligibility. Many small community banks and credit unions, which are currently ineligible, will be able to participate.
Construction-to-permanent financing. Currently, only "take-out" financing is permitted once construction is complete. "Construction-to-perm" financing -- also called "single close" financing -- will provide funds when construction begins. This will encourage homebuilders, lenders and borrowers to build more new homes.
Here is the story of a couple who benefitted from a USDA loan: Donald and Priscilla Brooks of Lake Charles, La., became proud first-time homeowners. They were struggling to make ends meet because of high rent, but worked with a local USDA housing specialist to apply for a direct home loan. They were approved in August 2012. Today, even with property taxes and insurance, their monthly housing expenses are less than what they had been paying to rent.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way -- strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.
USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.