NAR sent letters to key Congressional Appropriators last week, urging them to protect rural communities. Under existing law, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) must revise the list of communities eligible for rural housing loans based on the 2010 census data. NAR has been successful in extending the deadline for the last 2 years, but the current provision expires on Sept. 30, 2013. By that date, USDA will revert to using a definition not updated since 1974 which requires communities to: 1) be outside of a metropolitan statistical area (MSA), 2) be “rural in character”, 2) have a serious lack of mortgage credit, and 3) have a population under 20,000.
Rural families face unique difficulties in finding access to safe, affordable mortgage financing. Programs like the Rural Housing Section 502 loan program are instrumental in providing opportunities for homeownership for these families. Section 502 loans can be used to build, repair, renovate or relocate a home, or to purchase and prepare sites, including providing water and sewage facilities. These loans are funded by private lenders, and simply insured by the RHS. The Section 502 program is self-funded and budget neutral, meaning that broadening the population definition will not place additional financial burden on American taxpayers. In 2011, the RHS helped nearly 140,000 rural American families become homeowners.
Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate. The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill each include a one-year extension, but it is unlikely these will become law before Sept. 30th. There is also a long-term extension provided in the Senate-passed Farm bill, but that legislation also has an uncertain future. NAR is now working to ensure that language is included in the Continuing Resolution, which the Congress is expected to pass in late September.
Is your community impacted? Check the list here.