Bozeman, Mont., May 30, 2014 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Anthony Preite, State Director, USDA-Rural Development Montana, today kicked-off National Homeownership Month by highlighting USDA's record delivery of single-family housing assistance to rural families and encouraging rural residents to purchase or refinance homes in rural areas.
"Since the start of USDA's single-family housing programs in 1949, USDA employees have helped nearly 3.4 million rural residents buy homes of their own," Vilsack said. "Many of these are lower-income, first-time homebuyers who are earning a leg up into the middle class. Homeownership is a critical step on the ladder of opportunity as it helps build equity and increase assets. Simply put, homeownership means long-term financial stability and security for these rural families."
In Montana, 14,423 rural families have been assisted in purchasing their homes since 1970, totaling more than $1.7 billion in loans. USDA-RD in Montana has also provided 253 loans, supporting 139 multi-family housing projects.
"The availability of modest affordable housing is not only essential to the well-being of Montanans, but is also a critical element in expanding community development economic efforts. This will lead to the creation of additional job opportunities in rural Montana," according to Director Preite.
USDA Rural Development will be highlighting National Homeownership Month with events across the Nation and in Montana throughout June. To learn more about USDA homeownership assistance and events, follow us on the USDA Facebook page.
The Obama Administration housing's policies are helping to strengthen rural communities and the overall rural economy. In 2013 alone, USDA helped more than 170,000 rural residents become homeowners, investing more than $23.4 billion in loans, grants and technical assistance to provide affordable, safe housing for rural families. Of those, 733 loans were made in Montana, totaling more than $116 million. In both people served and dollars, 2013 was the most successful year in the history of USDA single-family housing programs.
USDA Rural Development programs that support rural homeownership include:
· Direct home loans for very-low-income applicants. Payment assistance is provided that can lower the loan's interest rate to as low as one percent.
· Guaranteed home loans for moderate-income families. The agency works in partnership with private-sector lenders to back the lenders' loans.
· Home repair loans and grants to help rural homeowners make improvements or repairs. Examples include making homes accessible for people with disabilities or removing health and safety hazards like poor wiring or plumbing.
In 2012, as part of President Obama's ongoing efforts to help middle-class families, USDA launched a rural refinance pilot program in states hardest hit by the housing downturn. The program lets people with USDA direct or guaranteed home loans refinance in order to take advantage of lower interest rates and lower their monthly mortgage payments. In January 2013, 15 more states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico were added to the pilot.
USDA is making changes to the guaranteed home loan program to help create jobs, enable more people to participate, spur new home construction and inject more capital into rural areas. The changes will increase the availability of housing loans in underserved communities, such as those targeted by USDA's StrikeForce initiative to help alleviate rural poverty.
The changes take effect on September 1, 2014, and include:
· Increased lender eligibility. Many small community banks and credit unions, which are currently ineligible, will be able to participate.
· Construction-to-permanent financing. Currently, only "take-out" financing is permitted once construction is complete. "Construction-to-perm" financing — also called "single close" financing — will provide funds when construction begins. This will encourage homebuilders, lenders and borrowers to build more new homes.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.
USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).