June 24, 2021 | Volume 14, Issue 3

In this issue:

Video to celebrate homeownership month

VIDEO: Brief History of Self-Help Housing created by Community Rebuilds to commemorate National Homeownership Month

Community Rebuilds, a successful Mutual Self-Help Program grantee in Moab, Utah recently published a video on the history of self-help for homeownership month! This seven-minute video features artistic renderings while explaining this wonderful program’s origins. Watch the video here

CEO update

In honor of National Homeownership Month, I interviewed Nadia Villagrán, a dear friend and colleague, about the impact Mutual Self-Help Housing (MSH) had on her childhood and life. Read more

Building material costs skyrocket, and that’s not all

It is a national problem, building material costs are skyrocketing. And it isn’t getting better anytime soon. The Building Contractors Association stated that in the United States the total lumber package price for the average home right now is up 208 percent. That is, if you can even get all the lumber you need. Read more

Training, Training, Training

Save the date! Accounting for Success in Your 502 & 523 Books – live webinar

August 24 – August 25 | Both sessions run from 9:30 – 11:30 am Pacific Time. (Two-part training, total four hours).

This free two-day live, interactive training is focused specifically for U.S. Department of Agriculture Mutual Self-Help Housing grantees and will set you and your ledger up for fiscal success! We will walk through setting up the Chart of Accounts and explore strategies in assigning the fund and classification accounts necessary to best monitor your 502 loan funds and to easily generate clear and accurate financial reports for both 523 and 502. We will also offer best practice tips on maximizing your financial processes and your software to save you time and centralize records. This training is for fiscal staff, construction staff and agency leadership that have financial responsibility for 523 grant and/or 502 loan funds. The training will be offered in the QuickBooks software platform, but the concepts can be applied to other software systems.

RCAC Financial Management Specialist Samantha Bowley, and Rural Development Specialist Anne Baker will teach this course. Registration announcements will be emailed directly to grantees and posted on RCAC’s training website in July. For questions, please contact Samantha at sbowley@rcac.org or Anne at abaker@rcac.org.

Small group trainings coming soon

Although we hope to see each other in person again soon, many things have changed in the last year. Digitizing documents has become the new norm for many companies and will continue to be as we move forward. If your company has recently started digitizing documents and you need a quick training on how to use a PDF application like Adobe Acrobat Pro, then be on the lookout for your invitation to attend a small group training for Adobe Acrobat Pro DC coming in August. This is a free one-hour training offered by RCAC and it will be offered multiple times during August. Training will cover the basics of converting documents to PDFs, extracting pages from a PDF, combining several document types into one PDF, and a quick overview of form fields. This will be an interactive training for groups of eight people or less and will require hands on participation.

USDA Rural Development 502 Direct Certified Packaging Training

September 20 – 24, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm Pacific Time

This five-day online, interactive presentation is an advanced course that covers Rural Development’s Section 502 direct loan program and provides invaluable insight into how this homeownership financing resource can be used in your communities. Learn how your organization can assist potential borrowers and work in partnership with Rural Development staff in your state to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages. Through this course, designed for those experienced in using Section 502, participants will learn the regulations and practical applications of the loan program. Participants will develop a strong understanding of 502 direct underwriting and packaging standards, which will ensure that submitted loan dockets are complete and ready for processing.

This course and the online exam are two of the criteria required to become a 502 Direct Certified Loan Packager. For more information on the 502 Direct Certified Packaging Process and associated packaging fees, download this PowerPoint PDF with additional resources on the USDA website HERE. But most importantly participants who attend this five-day training and pass the online exam will be better equipped to package 502 loan applications on behalf of parties who seek USDA-Rural Development assistance. The course is also excellent for Mutual Self-Help Housing grantees who want to build their skills in packaging loans for participating households.

  • Attending all five days is a requirement to be able to take the certification exam.
  • This training will be hosted on Zoom with links and materials sent out one week prior to course start date.
  • The fee to attend this five-day training is $500.

Register HERE

New you can use

FY21 Section 523 funding guidelines issued

USDA – Rural Development has issued FY21 funding guidelines for Section 523 grants and grant reapplications. Download HERE. The big issue is that if a grantee received an EU increase in their last grant, they are not eligible for another increase in a reapplication this year:

Renewal of Existing Grantees. Existing grantees that are performing satisfactorily may renew their grants at a funding level equal to their current Equivalent Unit (EU) cost. Only, well justified requests to increase a current per EU cost will be considered; however, grantees who received an EU increase in their last award are not eligible for another increase in this cycle. Grant applications will be obligated on a first come, first served basis.

USDA announces refinance option for homeowners with payment moratoriums

USDA – Rural Development issues a temporary authorization in response to the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 to ensure mortgage payments are more affordable post-moratorium by enabling Section 502 and 504 loan borrowers to refinance outstanding loans, which are, or have been, in an approved COVID-19 moratorium. This temporary authorization and funding will remain available until Sept. 30, 2023. Download HERE.

New changes coming to SHARES soon!

National Rural Development staff and RCAC SHARES coordinators have worked with developers to make some much needed improvements to the SHARES system during the last few months. Once the changes have rolled out you may find that some fields are now grayed out or work slightly different but SHARES overall function will be greatly improved. At the same time that these changes go into effect, a new user guide will be available for download on the help screen. If you have any questions or need any help with the changes, please contact our SHARES coordinators Nancy Jacobson or Anne Baker at shares@rcac.org.

The newsletter is published quarterly for the western region self-help network at no cost to subscribers. We encourage correspondence and contributions.

Suzanne Anarde, chief executive officer
Angela Sisco, executive editor
Sharon Wills, managing editor

Editorial office, West Sacramento, CA (916) 447-2854

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