Success Story
Release No.STELPRD4010957
, Jun 20, 2011 --

USDA Home Loan Program Helps Single Father Achieve the American Dream of Homeownership in Cambridge

Chris Olson learned firsthand that there is much more to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) than meat inspection and production agriculture. Now he wants to share his story with others.

Olson used USDA Rural Development’s direct home loan program to purchase a home in Cambridge. The home offers the ideal environment for Olson to raise his son Reed, 11. Olson learned about Rural Development’s home loan programs online.

“People need to know about this program,” Olson said. “It’s been great for my son and I. Having the opportunity to own a home of your own is amazing.”

Rural Development’s direct home loan program offers financing to qualified very-low and low-income applicants that are unable to qualify for traditional financing. No down payment is required and the interest rate could be as low as one percent with a subsidy. Applicants must meet income and credit guidelines and demonstrate repayment ability. The program is available in rural communities of 20,000 people or less in population.

Applicants work one-on-one with a local Rural Development specialist throughout the application process. Olson worked with Jenny Rydberg in Rural Development’s Cambridge office. Applicants also are required to take a homeownership education course to ensure they are fully prepared for homeownership.

“They really make sure that you understand everything there is to know about owning a home,” Olson said. “Payments, budgets, expenses, home maintenance – the homeownership course covers all of that so you are fully prepared before buying the house.”

Olson’s monthly mortgage payment is actually less than what he was paying in rent. The home also is perfect for Reed, who has a disability.

“It shows my son that home ownership is possible,” Olson said. “It shows him that hard work and doing the right thing pays off.”

June is Homeownership Month and Olson was recognized during a special ceremony at his home on Monday, June 20. Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer and other USDA officials presented Olson with a plaque to commemorate his achievement.

In addition to providing home ownership opportunities to people like Olson, Rural Development’s home loan programs increase economic development and job creation in rural communities. According to the National Association of Realtors, the sale of an existing median-priced home generates over $58,000 in economic activity. This includes direct real estate industry supports, home furnishings, appliances and landscaping and other stimulated economic activity.

“Rural housing results in rural jobs,” Landkamer said. “By increasing the number of homeowners in rural communities, you’re increasing the number of people that shop at local businesses and contribute to the regional economy.”

Rural Development has invested over $1 billion since 2009 to increase homeownership in rural Minnesota. In addition to the direct program, Rural Development offers a home loan guarantee program. The guarantee program is targeted at median-income individuals and families and “guarantees” loans made through traditional lenders such as banks or mortgage brokers.

A home repair program through Rural Development helps low-income homeowners make essential home repairs such as replacing a furnace, installing new windows or fixing a leaky roof. The maximum repair loan is $20,000 repayable over 20 years at one percent interest. Grants are available to homeowners over the age of 62 and must be used to remove health or safety hazards.

For Olson – a single father working to make ends meet while raising a child with a disability -- the direct program was the perfect match.

“Sometimes I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders,” Olson said. “The USDA program really helped out. There are people who will give you a chance. I felt like I was rewarded for doing the right thing and rebuilding myself. “

To learn more about Rural Development’s home loan programs, call the area office in Cambridge at (763) 689-3354, ext. 4, or visit To learn more about the USDA’s Hispanic and Women farmer’s claim process, visit