Congressional Joint Economic Committee Democrats Release Report on Rural America

The Congressional Joint Economic Committee Democrats released Investing in Rural America: Bringing Progress and Economic Opportunity to Rural Communities, a report on issues impacting rural communities in the U.S., including affordable housing. Rural communities have a limited supply of rental units, in part because of high development costs and aging housing stock. Many of these challenges are even greater for American Indian communities, which also deal with substandard housing and overcrowding issues.

Rural communities face unique challenges when dealing with the affordable housing crisis. As of 2010, only 28% of existing rural units were rentals, compared to 35% nationally. Because development does not generally occur at a large scale in rural areas, construction costs are often higher in rural communities compared to urban areas, which reduces the incentives for private investment. Additionally, a lack of access to credit in many rural areas limits funding for maintenance of existing units. These factors leave a mere 3% of all existing housing available for purchase or rent and force almost half of rural renters to pay more than 30% of their incomes on housing costs.

On tribal lands, the lack of housing leads to severe overcrowding, which impacts about 16% of households. Many families also live in substandard conditions, with 6% of homes lacking fully functioning plumbing. The report estimates 68,000 new units are needed to ensure American Indian families have safe and sanitary homes. The federal government holds tribal lands in trust, however, making homeownership and development even more difficult for these communities.

The Committee Democrats provide several policy recommendations to address the affordable housing crisis for rural and American Indian communities, including increased funding for USDA and HUD programs, particularly those that provide resources to non-profits that support the creation of affordable housing or target American Indian communities. The report also recommends additional investments in senior living facilities and multi-unit housing to ensure older residents are able to age in place.

Read the full report at: