Congress Acts on Rural Housing
Two different bills are moving through Congress to address the rural housing issue. Under current law the Rural Housing Service (RHS) is required to evaluate all communities for eligibility following the 2010 census. This re-evaluation could make more than 900 communities ineligible for RHS programs. The definition of rural has not been updated since 1974. Communities and populations have changed in that time. Relying on a decades old definition is unrealistic and won’t meet the needs of rural communities.
Last week the Senate passed S. 954, the "Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013", usually referred to as the Farm Bill. That legislation includes a provision, sponsored by Senators Johnson (D-SD) and Roberts (R-KS), that will grandfather existing communities eligible for rural housing programs. This provision in the Farm Bill will grandfather existing communities, and also increase the the threshold for "rural" from 25,000 to 35,000. This bill is revenue neutral, as it does not increase spending on the program and instead simply retains eligibility for existing communities. The current draft of the House Farm bill doesn't contain a similar provision, but that bill has yet to go to the House Floor.
However, the House Appropriations Committee last week passed a bill to provide a one year extension for rural communities as part of the Agriculture Appropriations bill for FY14. The provision, sponsored by Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE), would provide a temporary extension through September 30, 2014, to cover communities while awaiting the passage of the more permanent legislation.
NAR strongly supported both these provisions. The current extension expires on September 30, 2013. NAR will continue to advocate for final passage.