On Tuesday, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance (Subcommittee) held a hearing titled “The Affordable Housing Crisis in Rural America: Assessing the Federal Response.”  The hearing brought attention to the foreclosure crisis and rental housing shortages that deprive rural families from affordable housing opportunities.  

The Subcommittee considered several legislative proposals to reform Section 514 and 515 of the Housing Act, which authorize loan programs that provide housing opportunities for the elderly and low-income families in rural areas.  Many of the housing contracts that are financed through Section 514 and Section 515 loans are expiring over the next decade which could displace over 400,000 households.

The aging housing stock in rural areas has increased the rate of rural residents living in substandard housing that lack basic considerations of health, safety, and dignity.  The decaying supply of housing is partially the result of a steady decline of federal investment in rural housing programs, particularly for low and very low income households.  House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-California) told her colleagues there is a clear need for new federal investment in rural housing to address the substandard housing supply and the impending displacement of households living under Section 514 and Section 515 loans.  Chair Waters also said rural housing is an issue of bipartisan concern and a potential area for cooperation with her Republican colleagues.