NAR has been working with Congress for the last three years to ensure that rural communities continue to have access to rural housing programs. Current law requires the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to revise the list of communities eligible for rural housing loans based on the 2010 census data - and apply them to a definition that is more than 40 years old. 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.
NAR strongly supports revising the outdated definition to conform to local demographic data and needs. However, while Congress works on that effort, communities should not be disadvantaged. This week, the House passed the compromise FARM bill conference report (The Agricultural Act of 2014) and the Senate is expected to pass it next week. The FARM bill includes language that will again grandfather communities through the 2020 census, and also increase the population threshold for existing communities to 35,000 (from 25,000).
NAR strongly supports this language, and will continue to work with Congress and the USDA to update the definition.