Senators Shaheen & Smith, Representatives Kuster, Shea-Porter & Nolan Introduce Legislation to Protect Thousands of Low-Income Families in Rural Areas from Losing their Homes

March 21, 2018

**The Rural Housing Preservation Act will protect families that are largely elderly and disabled**

(Washington, DC)—Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), and Rick Nolan (MN-08) introduced legislation in the Senate and the House this week to ensure that thousands of low-income tenants are able to maintain access to safe and affordable housing. The Rural Housing Preservation Act will protect access to affordable housing for families that are largely elderly, disabled, and live in rural areas, who are at risk of losing rental assistance through the US Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service. In order to protect rural families, the bill will maintain rental assistance by providing rural housing vouchers to residents in prepaid or maturing properties, who are at risk of losing theirs. The bill also permanently authorizes the Multi-Family Preservation and Revitalization Restructuring Program to operate in the future and creates a new tool for communities to maintain affordable housing by allowing USDA to continue rental assistance to residents even if there is no longer a USDA loan on the property.

“The USDA Rural Housing Service has helped provide thousands of vulnerable Granite Staters with the assistance necessary to purchase and maintain homes for their families,” said Senator Shaheen. “This legislation will empower low-income, elderly and disabled individuals by ensuring they can keep their homes and not experience a major disruption through the loss of rental assistance.”

“As a leader of the rural development caucus, a top priority of mine is to help communities with issues like housing access,” said Senator Smith. “I’ve had a lot of conversations about expanding affordable housing since becoming Senator—and in fact, I recently held a roundtable discussion on the topic in Rochester. But we also need to make sure that people who already have a place they call home can keep it that way. And that’s what this bill does. Our measure would help families and elderly Minnesotans stay in their homes.”

“The individuals who utilize USDA rental assistance are some of the most vulnerable Americans, including senior citizens and people with disabilities,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “It’s unconscionable that these individuals could be potentially put out on the streets because of the way USDA rental assistance is administered. This legislation would be an important step toward protecting thousands of Americans and Granite Staters, particularly in rural areas, from facing the loss of rental support when the loans on their properties have matured. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this legislation to ensure thousands of Americans across the country are able to stay in their homes.”

"Affordable housing is essential for a family’s financial security, and there are only a few programs that assist low-income families and individuals in rural communities with this problem,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “This bill will help Granite State rural families, especially elderly and low-income families, to stay in their homes, which is essential for healthy communities and a strong rural economy.”

“With affordable housing already at a premium in rural America, it’s more important than ever to ensure that thousands of low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities have the Section 515 Rural Rental Housing program available and fully funded,” said Congressman Nolan. “Our bill will help provide tenants with the assistance they need to stay in their communities with families and friends nearby. This common sense measure is good for people, and it will help make rural America stronger.”

“It’s important to remember that many rural areas have affordable housing challenges too,” said Elissa Margolin, Director of Housing Action NH, a coalition of 80 organizations and businesses that collaborate to increase the supply of affordable housing. “USDA’s Rural Development programs have been critical to providing many of NH’s most vulnerable residents an affordable home. Representative Kuster’s bill provides the updates needed to ensure residents living in RD properties are not displaced, and New Hampshire keeps these housing options.”

"This bill is an important step forward in addressing a critical housing issue affecting New Hampshire and the rest of the country," said Dean Christon, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.

The Rural Housing Preservation Act will take several steps to maintain rental assistance for residents that depend on low interest, direct loans from the Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Loans Program. It will provide vouchers to residents who receive rental assistance and live in properties with prepaid or maturing loans, while ensuring the values of housing vouchers are flexible so they can provide assistance to beneficiaries in higher cost areas. The legislation will also decouple rental assistance from the term of a mortgage, allowing USDA to renew rental assistance for a property regardless of the length of the mortgage, and it will make it easier for non-profit entities to acquire Section 515 properties.