Senators Tina Smith (D-Minnesota) and Mike Rounds (RS.D.) introduced new legislation this week aimed at addressing the shortage of affordable housing in rural areas. .Lawmakers say the bill “would represent the most significant rural housing service reform” [in] Year.
If passed, the bill, known as the Rural Housing Services Reform Act of 2023, would “improve federal rural housing programs, reduce bureaucracy, and strengthen the supply of affordable housing,” We will improve many houses and build upon them.” US Department of Agriculture According to the (USDA) Rural Housing Program, press release From Senator Smith’s office on the bill.
“This law makes important improvements and updates to rural housing services that create and sustain affordable housing opportunities in South Dakota,” said Senator Round. “As we face a nationwide affordable housing crisis, I look forward to working with his colleagues to see these important bipartisan updates signed into law.”
In particular, the bill aims to fix what senators have called a “longstanding problem.”  Funded by the USDA decades ago and now maturing, by separating rental assistance so that the assistance does not disappear when the mortgage matures, making it easier for nonprofits to acquire these properties real estate that has a mortgage of
USDA Section 515 loans, also known as “rural rental housing loans,” are designed to provide “affordable multifamily rental housing for very low, low, and moderate-income families, seniors, and the disabled. It’s a direct, competitive mortgage that is affordable.”
The bill makes it easier for nonprofits to acquire properties using Section 515 loans. It also isolates related rental assistance so that the assistance does not disappear when the mortgage matures.
Additionally, the bill would make permanent USDA’s pilot program to provide mortgages to Native American communities through partnerships with Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFI).
Technology is also a focus of the bill. Among other priorities, this bill would allow the USDA to better invest in information technology infrastructure. The senators argued that this would allow the USDA to “process loans more quickly and reduce staff time spent on paperwork and manual data entry.”
Another area of focus is the USDA’s method of measuring income, which is “outdated” according to the bill’s language. If passed, the bill would align these methods with how HUD measures income.
The bill would also “modernize” the USDA’s foreclosure practices to ensure more affordable prices, the senators said.
Smith and Round have recently focused on the issue of affordable rural housing, with both senators leading hearings on the topic to develop plans.
“If you don’t have a safe and affordable place to live, you’re doing nothing in your life: no job, no education, no health,” said Senator Smith. statement“We know the housing crisis is hitting communities across the country, and the problem is particularly acute in rural areas. and helped identify ways to make federal rural housing programs work better for people struggling to find safe and affordable places to live.”
As Natalie Maxwell, principal attorney for the National Housing Law Project, recently said: The Hill Approximately 560,000 renters living in Section 515-funded apartments are at risk due to mortgage maturity or other disqualification.
“In rural communities, Section 515 programs have become an important source of affordable housing, especially for low-income seniors and people with disabilities,” Maxwell told The Hill. “Congress can and should do more to protect these assets for families living in poverty.”
of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development More recently, it has also turned its attention to rural needs, including through proposals to extend broadband Internet access to more rural communities.