U.S. Senator Tina Smith Leads 29 Colleagues in Push for Robust Rural Housing Funding

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) led 29 of her Senate colleagues in a push for more funding for rural housing programs in the FY2025 Appropriations bill. In their letter, the Senators noted that rural communities saw only a 1.7% increase in the number of housing units between 2010 and 2020, with almost half of states seeing a decrease in the number of rural units. According to the Minnesota Housing Partnership, every county in Minnesota has a shortage of affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income households. 79% of counties have a shortage that exceeds 100 homes, and 31% have a shortage exceeding 500 homes.

“Without a safe, decent, affordable place to call home, nothing in your life works – not your job, your health, your education or your family,” said Senator Smith. “While the housing crisis is hurting communities across the country, the burden has been especially hard on small towns and rural communities. The severe shortage of affordable housing is hurting rural America’s ability to prosper, and it is imperative we direct more funding to address this housing shortage and finally bring our communities some relief. 

“Against this backdrop, federal rural housing programs have shrunk to the point that only about 3,500 direct loans are available for low-income families to purchase or build their own home, the lowest level since 1957. Funding to preserve rental and farm labor housing is meager by any standard and by no means adequate to provide new housing opportunities or preserve existing housing resources,” wrote the Senators. “In the coming years, the number of maturing Section 515 mortgages will only accelerate, resulting in an even worse state of rental housing in rural America as some rural communities’ only source of affordable housing is lost.”

“In Minnesota, rural residents are desperate for homes they can afford and many of our affordable homes are substandard or ready to exit affordability terms. We need all hands on deck to provide more affordable homes to rural residents and preserve the ones we have to be healthy and stable,” said Elizabeth Glidden, Deputy Executive Director for the Minnesota Housing Partnership. “Increasing resources for rural housing and rural development is a practical solution that works to keep residents in their homes and rural communities thriving – we applaud these efforts to focus on the needs of rural communities across the U.S.”

“There is ample evidence that Senator Smith’s efforts are sorely needed. Over 1.5 million occupied substandard housing units in rural areas, and over 750,000 units lack piped water. A rising tide of maturing U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rural rental housing loans threatens the availability of affordable housing. The number of USDA rural home mortgages for low and moderate-income households is at its lowest level since the mid-1950s,” said Bob Rapoza, Executive Secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition. “We very much appreciate the Senator’s leadership and good work on rural housing.”

The letter specifically requests:

  • $1.585 billion for section 502 direct homeownership loans, including $20.8 million for the Native American Relending Pilot Program;
  • $40 million for section 523 Mutual and Self-Help Housing;
  • $76 million for home repair through section 504 and section 533;
  • $200 million for Section 515 rural rental housing loans;
  • $90 million for multi-family preservation;
  • $1.69 billion for Section 521 rural rental assistance;
  • $68 million for farm labor housing loans and grants authorized under section 514 and 516;
  • $1.61 billion Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program loans and $726 million in grants; and
  • $22.745 million for the Rural Community Development Initiative.

The letter was signed by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Angus King (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Peter Welch (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

A full copy of the letter can be found here.

Senator Smith has long been a champion of expanding affordable housing programs. Her bipartisan legislation with Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) would improve federal rural housing programs, cut red tape, and strengthen the supply of affordable housing. The legislation would represent the most significant Rural Housing Service reforms in years.