Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) reintroduced the “Rural Housing Service Reform Act of 2023” (S.2790) in the U.S. Senate. The bill, which was reintroduced with revisions and six new bipartisan cosponsors, would aim to improve the housing programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Housing Service (RHS) through several reforms, including decoupling rental assistance from maturing mortgages, permanently establishing the Multifamily Housing Preservation and Revitalization Demonstration (MPR), improving USDA’s Section 542 voucher program to better serve voucher holders, permanently establishing the Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Relending pilot program, and improving staff training and capacity within RHS. NLIHC provided feedback on and endorsed the updated legislation.
The “Rural Housing Service Reform Act of 2023” was the result of work by Senator Smith and Senator Rounds that was conducted while the two senators served as chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development. “This legislation is the direct result of bipartisan hearings and conversations with stakeholders who helped identify ways we can make federal rural housing programs work better for people struggling to find a safe, affordable place to live,” said Senator Smith in a statement. The bill’s new cosponsors – each a member of the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs – are Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY and Ranking Member of the Senate Banking and Housing Subcommittee) and Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Steve Daines (R-MT), and John Fetterman (D-PA).
Compared to the previously introduced version of the bill (see Memo, 5/8), the updated text includes a sunset provision regarding the authorization to address staffing and technology issues and requests a report from the Government Accountability Office to assess staffing and technology needs at the Rural Housing Service. NLIHC worked with Enterprise, the National Housing Law Project, the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing, the Housing Assistance Council, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to offer feedback and recommendations for the updated bill.
Read Senator Smith’s press release and see a list of endorsers at: https://tinyurl.com/ycyr6hkm
Read the bill text and see its cosponsors at: https://tinyurl.com/3wr2tdup