Groups Oppose Rural Development Cuts

[imgbelt img=4145620194_f1f266d8e1.jpg]More than 1,400 advocates sign a petition to stop cuts in federal programs that provide low-cost home ownership loans and water-treatment grants. They say rural development isn’t a priority for the administration.


National Rural Housing Coalition (NRHC), delivered a petition to Congress, voicing strong opposition to the significant funding cuts proposed in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs. These proposed changes include a 60% cut in low-cost homeownership loans and over $150 million in cuts to grants that help small, rural communities provide potable water and waste disposal systems to residents.

“Rural communities are more than disappointed with the administration’s little support for rural development,” said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of NRHC. “Small communities need affordable housing and clean water. This budget cuts both.”

Rural advocates argue that rural America’s community development needs are not a priority for the administration and urge Congress to reject the proposed reductions as “unwise and unwarranted.” They warn that the president’s budget will only make it harder for low-income families, the elderly and persons with disabilities to access decent, healthy and affordable housing and will hurt struggling rural economies.

Key members of Congress, including Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), have voiced similar concerns about the president’s budget. At a committee hearing earlier this month, Rogers claimed the proposed reductions demonstrate USDA’s “lack of respect for our rural communities and the constituents who have made these programs successful.”

Rogers cited NRHC members Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, Frontier Housing and the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE) as effective and successful organizations that have used USDA’s Self-Help Housing and Section 502 Direct Loan programs to help low-income, working families become homeowners.

Chairman Rogers voiced concern about how the president’s proposed cuts would affect families who benefit from these programs. For example, Rogers highlighted the story of a woman who had been the victim of extreme domestic abuse who called Kentucky Highlands hoping to find a home for herself and her young daughter. With some financial counseling and guidance from Kentucky Highlands, she was approved for a $66,000 Section 502 Direct Loan. And with the Self-Help Housing program, she was able to build her own home for about $35,000 less than it would have cost to hire a contractor. That means that today, she is living in a home that she can afford that she built with her own hands.

“Without the Self-Help Housing program and Section 502 Direct Loans, she would not have been able to have the benefits of homeownership and the clean slate that opportunity afforded her,” said Rogers.