Opposition Mounts to Proposed Cuts in Federal Rural Development Programs

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More than 1,400 rural organizations and advocates join NRHC petition, voicing strong opposition to proposed cuts to USDA Rural Development programs.

Since 1969, the national voice for rural housing and community development programs.

This year, the Administration is at it again, and rural communities are saying they have had enough.

A petition signed by more than 1,400 rural organizations and advocates, issued by the National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC), was delivered to Congress today. The petition voices strong opposition to the significant funding cuts proposed in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs, including a 60 percent cut in low-cost homeownership loans and over $150 million in grants that help small rural communities provide potable water and waste disposal systems to residents.

“Rural communities are more than disappointed with the Administration’s little support for rural development,” said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of NRHC. “Small communities need affordable housing and clean water. This budget cuts both.”

The petitioners argue that rural America’s community development needs are not a priority for the Administration and urge Congress to reject the proposed reductions as “unwise and unwarranted.” They warn that the President’s budget will only make it harder for low-income families, the elderly and persons with disabilities to access decent, healthy and affordable housing and will hurt struggling rural economies.

Key members of Congress, including Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), have voiced similar concerns about the President’s budget. At a committee hearing earlier this month, Rogers claimed the proposed reductions demonstrate USDA’s “lack of respect for our rural communities and the constituents who have made these programs successful.”

Rogers cited USDA’s Self-Help Housing program and Section 502 Direct Homeownership Loans as examples of highly successful programs that are cut dramatically in the President’s budget.

Under the Self-Help Housing program, low-income families work nights and weekends to help build their own home. In doing so, families decrease the cost of construction, earn an average $25,000 in “sweat equity,” and make lasting investments in their community, according to NRHC estimates.

The Administration proposed a 60 percent reduction to this vital program, which NRHC says will cause 50 Self-Help Housing organizations to close down, further adding to the 50,000 families currently on waiting lists to participate.

“This year, the Administration is at it again, and rural communities are saying they have had enough. We hope Congress’s budget will reflect the fact that rural communities deserve affordable housing and economic development just as much as urban areas,” said Rapoza.


About Section 502 Direct Homeownership Loans
Section 502 Direct Homeownership Loans provide safe and sustainable fixed-rate mortgages – with up to 38-year terms and subsidized interest rates as low as just one percent – to help low-income rural families access clean, decent, and affordable housing. Demand for Section 502 loans continues to outpace supply; over 12,500 loan applications − amounting to more than $1.5 billion − are currently on Section 502 waiting lists.

About the Section 523 Mutual and Self Help Housing Program
Self-Help Housing is the only federal program that combines “sweat equity” homeownership opportunities with technical assistance and affordable loans for America’s rural families. The President’s 2015 Budget proposes to cut the Section 523 Mutual Self-Help Housing program by more than 74 percent since 2010, from $42 million to $10 million. More than 50,000 families are currently on Self-Help Housing waiting lists.

About the National Rural Housing Coalition
NRHC is a national membership organization of non-profit housing organizations, housing developers, state and local officials, and housing advocates. Since 1969, NRHC has promoted and defended the principle that rural people have the right – regardless of income − to a decent, affordable place to live, clean drinking water, and basic community services.

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Sarah Mickelson
Rapoza Associates
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