By Stanley Keasling, RCAC chief executive officer

During the past couple of years, the National Rural Housing Coalition has asked its members and Rural Development to think of ways to increase the number of applicants who qualify as very low-income buyers. The National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor (NCALL) suggested increasing the deduction for dependents from the current $480 to the deduction on taxes, which is $2,000. Unfortunately, we were not able to make significant progress with Congress on this front, because the same number is used for eligibility for U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development housing programs.

However, Rural Development was simultaneously exploring the use of a “banded” income range to determine very low-income status. The idea for banding is that households with one to four members would be considered very low-income if their income was below the very low-income level for a four person household. Similarly, for households of five to eight persons, they would be considered very low-income as long as their income did not exceed the level for an eight person household.

On June 9, Rural Development announced a pilot ( to show the effectiveness of this change. It is planning to use this method to determine very low-income status in 23 states and territories across the country. Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington are the six states in the West where this pilot will be tested for the next two years. Regulations implementing the pilot will be published in the federal register soon, and once they are available we will send another communication.

On the funding side, we have secured $1 billion in the House appropriations for the Section 502 program, an increase from $900 million. The House also raised funding for the 523 program from $27.5 million to $30 million.  The Senate still has last year’s numbers, so we have work to do to secure the increase. We will let you know when to contact your legislators.