Tuesday Roundup: The 20K Rural Home

Rural Studio architects design affordable homes for the poor • Modem fees will generate up to $150 million a year for Time Warner cable • AT&T purchases rural wireless system in Iowa • Lack of oversight mean USDA subsidies may go to dead farmers • White House pushes agriculture benefits of immigration reform • Study compares examines rate of substance use by f rural New Hampshire youth.

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 A House for $20K. Rural Studio, the program that aims to train “citizen architects” to meet community needs, is poised to put some of its designs for low-cost houses on the market.

For years the Auburn University program has challenged architecture students to design and build houses for low-income clients for $20,000 in materials and labor. Rural Studio is preparing to make the plans available for sale next year to individuals, housing advocacy organizations and church mission groups, Stell Simonton reports in the Christian Science Monitor.

The $20,000 houses are small but sturdier, more energy efficient and more likely to appreciate in value than mobile homes. Rural Studio set the $20,000 threshold because that’s the highest mortgage feasible for someone subsisting on Social Security, Simonton reports.

Modem Fees to Increase. Time Warner Cable is raising the monthly fee to rent modems, Reuters reports. The price will rise from about $4 to about $6 a month. Analysts say the higher fee could generate $150 million in revenue this year.

AT&T Purchases Rural Wireless Business. A communications company serving rural Iowa is selling its rural wireless phone business to AT&T. The company, Long Lines, will invest proceeds from the sale in its other services like cable TV, voice, broadband and fiber optic. The decision was based in part on the company’s lack of access to smart phones and other digital devices, a company spokesman said.

Joan Engebretson reports in telecompetitor that she was surprised AT&T purchased the wireless company when the corporation has been focusing on expanding in larger markets. Engebretson said she doubted AT&T would make many more such purchases in rural areas.

Payments to Dead Farmers. USDA doesn’t have enough controls in place to monitor its farm subsidy and conservation payments, according to a Government Accountability Office report. As a consequence, the department may have erroneously paid millions of dollars to dead farmers.

The agency found $22 million in payments from 2008 to 2012 may have gone to farmers who had been dead for at least two years. The report found similar issues in the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency.

The report said that the payments may have been proper but that USDA did not have the controls in place to make certain.

The GAO study was requested by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.

Immigration and Ag. The White House has a new report on the potential economic benefits of immigration reform on American agriculture. The report says that changes in the worker visa program could increase the domestic product by $2 billion next year and $9.8 billion by 2045, UPI reports.

The report is new, but the message is time-tested.

Last month at the National Rural Assembly both Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House rural policy adviser Doug McKalip mentioned the importance of immigration reform to the agriculture industry. Crops are rotting in the field because farmers lack labor for the harvest, Vilsack said, and immigration reform could fix that problem.

Youth Substance Use in Rural New Hampshire. Young people in New Hampshire’s most rural county were more likely than other rural youth nationally to report that their use of substances like alcohol or marijuana caused them to have problems with family members or friends.

The finding is part of the Carsey Institute’s ongoing series of reports on Coos County, New Hampshire. The research project is analyzing data about young people in Coos County as they approach young adulthood and make decisions about remaining in their community or leaving.

The report on teen substance use compares Coos County youth with a national rural sample. Other findings:

  • Coos County teens were less likely than the national sample to report using tobacco.
  • Coos County boys were twice as likely as the national sample to use marijuana three or more times a week.
  • Across the board, alcohol was the most common substance teens reported using. 

 

 

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