The House passed H.R. 2112, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriation Act of 2012, on June 16 by a vote of 217 to 203. Nineteen Republicans opposed the bill, which includes deep cuts to rural rental assistance and capital programs that assist extremely low income and very low income residents.
The bill would take rental assistance away from thousands of currently housed tenants by cutting funding for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 521 Rental Assistance Program from $955.6 million in FY11 to $890 million for FY12, according to calculations by the Housing Assistance Council.
The 521 program provides rental assistance to some of the lowest income rural residents. Ninety-four percent of the households living in housing created by these programs have incomes averaging $11,364 annually. Additionally, 60% are elderly or persons with disabilities.
The rural appropriations bill would also cut funding for the USDA 515 Rural Rental Housing Program and the 514/516 Farm Labor Housing Program, by 16% and 36.5% respectively. These programs operate in tandem with the 521 Rental Assistance Program to create deeply subsidized rental opportunities that the lowest income households can afford.
These cuts were compounded by an amendment from Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA), chair of the rural appropriations subcommittee, for an across-the-board cut of .78 % to several USDA programs. The amendment takes this percentage from the first six titles of the bill (Rural Development is Title III) to supplement FY12 funding for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program with $147 million.
The bill provides for an increase in funding for the USDA 502 Homeownership Direct Loan program, which assists low income people in purchasing homes in rural areas. The bill also includes funding for the 523 Self Help Housing Program, which was in danger of elimination in the Administration’s budget proposal.
NLIHC issued a press release on the passage of H.R. 2112 shortly after the vote, listing the specific cuts to rural housing programs and emphasizing the need for alternative methods to balancing the budget that do not involve cuts to programs that assist the neediest people in rural communities. NLIHC also published a post on its blog, On the Home Front, on June 15 describing the effects the bill could have on extremely low income rural residents.
NLIHC joined 32 other members of the Coalition for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) in signing a June 15 letter to Congress expressing deep concern that cuts to the 521, 515, and 514/516 rural housing programs would disproportionately harm the most vulnerable. The letter urges Congress to preserve the USDA’s full portfolio of rural housing programs.
Housing advocates will now shift attention to the Senate to advocate that rural housing programs are funded at levels that make certain all program participants are assisted. The Senate has yet to take up any appropriations measures for FY12.
View NLIHC’s press release at http://nlihc.org/press/releases/6-16-11
View NLIHC’s blog post at http://nlihc.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/rural-misappropriations-thanks-a-83-7-million/
View the CHCDF letter at http://www.nlihc.org/doc/CHCDF-Rural-Approps-Letter-6-15-11.pdf
View the Final FY12 RD Budget & Appropriations at: http://www.ruralhome.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=393:fy12-rd-budget-and-appropriations&catid=45