USDA Programs Highlighted During Homeownership Month


June is Homeownership Month, which is a topic that has become a concern for many throughout Utah and nationwide due to the major fluctuation that has taken place in the housing market.

Michele C. Weaver, State Director of Utah, Rural Development, took time to discuss housing and rural Utah, speaking on a number of programs and resources that are available to Utahns that are in the search for a home, rental assistance and more. She began by stating that they are seeing interest rates rise and they are short on units with the housing crisis.

Efforts are being organized as statistics show that Utah is about 40,000 units short of affordable units within the state. Weaver explained that interest rates change quarterly and they will soon see the next hike, anticipated in the beginning of July. Though a shift is expected, they are not sure by how much.

Weaver then spoke about Affordable Guaranteed & Direct Home Loans. It is a 502 group guarantee that is administered by private lending institutions and approved lenders that the USDA connects with. There is an active lender list that is searchable on the USDA’s website that has the participating lenders.

The program goes up to a 115% average median income, which Weaver stated is a nice factor of the program as those that apply have the ability to make a little more money. That particular program has a guarantee fee. The way that it works is that there is 100% financing, with the guarantee fee included in the financing.

There are also Home Repair loans and grants, with Weaver explaining that there is what is called a 504, which goes up to $25,000 in loans or grants. If an applicant is 62 or older, they are able to obtain about $7,000 in grant monies.

The other is a low-interest loan that can be used to repair a home if it has health, safety or efficiency issues, such as windows, mold, etc. The program will work to rehabilitate the home.

Weaver then spoke on the multi-family rental assistance, which she remarked is great as the administration is not isolating the programs and assistance to homeownership. Weaver believes that it is advantageous to want to expand to rental assistance as homeownership is not for everyone. She said that looping in the rental component makes it truly inclusive.

Through the multi-family rental assistance, there is the ability for tenants to apply when living in USDA-financed multi-family housing. Weaver explained that the voucher obtained is equal to supplemental rental payments and is similar to Section 8. There is a multi-family rural development program voucher guide and a multi-family direct loan guarantee, similar to single-family housing direct and guaranteed loan programs.

Weaver stated that part of what the USDA is seeing in rural areas, and has always been a challenge, is getting materials to rural areas that are not as easily accessible the way that they are along the Wasatch Front. In addition, having licensed and experienced contractors in rural areas can also be a challenge. There are a lot of barriers in a rural area, but Weaver said that having a governor that comes from a rural area has been a huge support.

Weaver believes that rural development is actually the best resource for financing as there are not a lot of those available in rural areas. She acknowledged that, when looking at things like housing shortages and rental needs in a place like Green River or a small, remote town, it is a smaller need but it has a bigger impact.

She continued by explaining that though Green River may only need six units compared to 150 in Provo, it is hard to finance as you lose the economy scale when building smaller. The USDA has been speaking with representatives of the state to make the programs more collaborative and stackable.

Finally, Weaver wished to emphasize the programs and resources that are available. She said maybe people do not know, with rural development, how great the programs are. The programs work well together to create a healthy, vibrant community; however, she said maybe people do not see or understand that as it is sometimes hard to look past the politics.

Weaver ended by sharing that the government really does wish to help individuals and residents and she hopes that, with her time invested, she can truly highlight that.

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