Bills Introduced to Preserve Affordable Rental Homes in Rural Areas

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Representative Ann Kuster (D-NH) introduced the “Rural Housing Preservation Act of 2018” as companion bills S.2574 in the Senate and H.R.5352 in the House. The bills are intended to help preserve affordable housing in rural communities by offering several provisions that extend rental assistance for the Rural Development (RD) rental housing programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Rental assistance through RD’s Section 521 program is only available while an RD-assisted Section 514, 515, or 516 mortgage is active. Many Section 515 and 514 mortgages are beginning to mature, which could leave tenants without Section 521 rental assistance and rural communities with fewer affordable units as rents are allowed to rise to market rates in properties with mature mortgages.

The bills offer several solutions to this problem. One solution would allow the RD Section 521 rental assistance to be decoupled from the mortgage, allowing Section 521 rental assistance to continue even if the Section 515 or 514 mortgage has been paid in full. Another solution would offer an RD Section 542 preservation voucher to households living in units with maturing Section 515 or 514 mortgages, providing low income households an affordable housing option once Section 521rental assistance ends. The bills would also direct the Secretary of Agriculture to ensure that RD policies are better aligned with the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, thereby expanding opportunities to preserve affordable housing in rural communities. Finally, the bills would permanently authorize the Multifamily Housing Revitalization Program, currently a demonstration program.

More information about RD rural rental programs is on page 4-35 of NLIHC’s 2018 Advocates’ Guide,