Kuster Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Help Prevent Thousands of Low-Income Tenants Across the Country from Losing their Homes

The “The Rural Housing Preservation Act” would help ensure that tenants like those living at Pine Tree Lane do not lose their housing as a result of loan maturation

Washington, DC – (RealEstateRama) — Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced the Rural Housing Preservation Act, a bill to help maintain rental assistance for thousands of rural Americans. Kuster introduced the bill after tenants living in a low-income apartment complex in a town in her district – Lebanon, New Hampshire – had their USDA rental assistance threatened because the loan on the property had matured. Congressman Rick Nolan (MN-08) is the lead cosponsor of the legislation, and Senator Shaheen (D-NH) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

The Rural Housing Preservation Act is supported by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Housing Law Project, the National Housing Trust, LeadingAge, the New England Housing Network, the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, and Housing Action New Hampshire.

“The residents who take advantage of USDA rental assistance are among some of our most vulnerable citizens, including seniors and individuals with disabilities. It is unacceptable that thousands of residents like these could lose their homes because of maturing loans. What’s worse, many of these individuals live in rural areas where low-income housing is extremely limited – leaving folks with no place to turn. We cannot allow this to happen,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “That’s why I’m so proud to introduce the Rural Housing Preservation Act, which would take a huge step towards ensuring that none of these residents lose their homes. I’m so thankful to my partners and colleagues for their support, and I urge Congress to act swiftly to pass this crucial piece of legislation. The livelihood of thousands of Americans across the country could depend on it.”

“Affordable housing is imperative to the survival of our rural communities,” Nolan said. “Our legislation will provide relief to Eighth District families – particularly seniors and individuals with disabilities, at the highest risk of losing their homes. Ensuring the preservation of affordable housing through USDA’s rural housing assistance program is critically important to maintain access to the housing options families need and deserve, and we’re proud to be fighting in support of that program.”

“Affordable rural housing is critically important in New Hampshire and around the country,” said Senator Shaheen. “As we witnessed last year at Pine Tree Lane, the uncertainty of safe, affordable housing can unsettle and shake an entire community. We must work together to ensure that other communities don’t face the same threat to rental assistance for low-income families, which is why I will be introducing the Rural Housing Preservation Act in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing to work to extend the promise of safe, affordable housing to all Americans.”

Last year, residents of Pine Tree Lane in Lebanon, New Hampshire, a 50-unit affordable housing complex now known as the Village at Crafts Hill, learned that their homes would no longer qualify for federal rent subsidies through the USDA-Rural Development Section 515 housing program. Because the Pine Tree Lane mortgage had matured, the tenants’ rental subsidies were due to expire, leaving residents at risk of losing their homes. In response, Congresswoman Kuster, USDA-Rural Development, and other community stakeholders were able to arrange a sale of Pine Tree Lane to the Twin Pines Housing Trust. Rental assistance is continuing under this new ownership, preventing potential home loss for the tenants. However, more than 11,000 additional properties across the country have loans that are set to mature over the next ten years, putting another 344,000 individuals in jeopardy of losing their homes.

“The National Low Income Housing Coalition applauds Representative Kuster’s leadership in working to ensure residents receiving USDA rural housing assistance continue to maintain access to affordable housing after the federal loans supporting their properties mature,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Without interventions such as those provided by this important legislation, extremely poor households risk losing their homes. We urge Congress to move quickly to enact Representative Kuster’s legislation.”

“Rep. Kuster’s bill proposes significant positive changes to the Rural Housing Service’s rental housing programs,” said Gideon Anders, a Senior Attorney at the National Housing Law Project, which operates nationally to protect low-income residents and promote the preservation of affordable housing. “It will help protect up to 300,000 low- and very low-income households from displacement and will keep needed affordable housing in rural communities throughout the country. It also makes permanent a program designed to revitalize older developments so that they can provide decent and affordable housing for at least 20 more years.”

The Rural Housing Preservation Act will take several steps to prevent renters in 515 properties with USDA mortgages from losing their rental assistance – including providing vouchers to residents in buildings with maturing loans, so they can maintain housing assistance even after a mortgage has been pre-paid or matures. The legislation would also allow USDA to work with property owners to enact a rental assistance contract without the presence of a USDA loan on the property. Additionally, the bill would make it easier for non-profit entities to manage Section 515 properties, while permanently codifying the successful USDA Multi-Family Preservation and Revitalization Restructuring Program.

Kuster held a press conference on Friday in Lebanon, New Hampshire to discuss the details of the bill with city officials, regional planners, statewide housing leaders and residents of the Pine Tree Lane property. She also took a tour of the Village at Crafts Hill and met with current tenants who shared personal stories about the threat of losing their rental assistance.

“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.

“LeadingAge is pleased to support the Rural Housing Preservation Act. Representative Kuster’s bill would provide rural affordable housing communities with more tools to ensure these homes are preserved and their residents, the majority of whom are elderly or have disabilities, have stable housing into the future,” Katie Smith Sloan, President and Chief Executive Officer of LeadingAge, an association of 6,000 not-for-profit organizations working to improve life for elderly Americans.

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