By Stan Keasling, RCAC chief executive officer

The National Rural Housing Coalition is working with Reps. Hinojosa and Duffy to circulate a sign-on letter to support increased funding for rural housing programs. Again this year the President’s budget was not adequate for our needs, and we are reaching out to our friends in the Congress to augment the budget requests. The President requested just $18.5 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Section 523 Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, down $9 million from last year, and down an estimated $11.5 million from the amount needed. One of the arguments we are making for the increase is that you have not had a grant increase in years.

The administration has requested $900 million in funding for 502 direct loans, which is the same as last year. However, we hear from our friends in the administration that USDA is making loans at a very fast pace, and funding is expected to run out by the end of the summer—which portends four –  to six months of no loans in the last half of the year. To counteract this going forward, we are requesting an increase in 502 direct funds to $1 billion.

Finally, I want to encourage all of you to look into the Section 515 Rural Rental Housing situation in your regions. During the next five years more than 8,000 loans will mature, and once they do, none of the households that currently receive rental assistance will be eligible for that assistance. These are generally the lowest income households with the least ability to find alternate affordable housing. We need to preserve these properties as affordable housing. RCAC is willing to help organizations that need assistance to develop a preservation strategy. The first step is to check with Rural Development to identify the properties in your service area that are in jeopardy of having their loans mature, and if there is a need, let us know if we can help.