Senators Shaheen and Smith Introduce Bill to Preserve Affordable Housing in Rural Areas

Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced on September 26 the “Rural Housing Preservation Act of 2019” (S. 2567). The bill would expand U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) rental assistance programs, permanently authorize a program to preserve and revitalize multifamily housing in rural areas, and direct RD to better align its policies with the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program, thereby expanding financing opportunities.

RD-assisted housing is a crucial source of affordable, accessible homes for low-income households living in rural areas. Many USDA properties financed through the Section 515 and 514 programs, however, are projected to lose their affordability provisions in the coming decades, and no new properties have been financed in several years. Additionally, rental assistance through RD’s Section 521 program is available only while a mortgage assisted through the Section 514, 515, or 516 programs is active.

The new legislation aims to address this problem by expanding rental assistance in two ways. First, the bill would decouple Section 521 rental assistance from the mortgage, allowing the assistance to continue – subject to funding availability – even after the mortgage is paid in full. Second, the bill expands the Section 542 Rural Development Voucher program. Currently, these vouchers are available only to tenants of RD-assisted properties where owners have pre-paid their mortgages; this bill extends the eligibility to tenants in properties with matured loans and directs RD to model the program after HUD’s Enhanced Voucher program. The bill also permanently authorizes the Multifamily Housing Revitalization program, currently a demonstration, to help preserve this critical housing resource in rural areas.

Learn more about the bill at: