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Category: Rural Development

Addressing the Needs of Working Families in Rural America

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post:

Last Wednesday, I participated in a regional forum of the White House Working Families Summit that was held at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Coming from a small town in Southwest Georgia myself, I can relate to the unique challenges that rural Americans face. Growing up, my father worked seven days a week on our peanut and cattle farm with help from my mother. To make sure our family had a constant source of income and health insurance, my mother also worked off the farm at the local independent bank. I am fortunate to be the product of hard working parents who provided my sister and me with the best opportunities possible.

All families have a right to have access to a good education system, affordable healthcare and jobs. Our rural families are concerned about creating strong prospects for their children, whether it is on or off the farm. But it is also essential that there are opportunities that will attract young people back to rural areas and help us secure the future of agriculture. Read more »

Small Loan Makes Big Difference for Family in Remote Area of Navajo Nation

Mark Snyder, Tony Hernandez and the Schulers check out the solar array.

Mark Snyder, Tony Hernandez and the Schulers check out the solar array.

Some mornings Nona Schuler would make the teeth-jarring drive along a washboard dirt road from her home on the Navajo Nation to her job in town only to discover when she got there that her earrings didn’t match. Without electricity and lighting, it was often difficult for her to see what she was doing in those early morning hours.

It was those small inconveniences that she spoke of most during a visit to her home on June 17 by USDA Rural Development Housing Administrator Tony Hernandez.

Hernandez, my staff, and I were at the Schulers to present the family with a certificate naming them as Homeownership Family of the Year for Arizona Rural Development. The designation was in honor of a solar PV system that was added to the Schuler home through a partnership with USDA, Grand Canyon Trust and Snyder Electric. Read more »

USDA Rural Development Housing Programs: The Faces Behind the Numbers

The Sumner family moved into their USDA-financed home just four days before baby Holly was born.

The Sumner family moved into their USDA-financed home just four days before baby Holly was born.

As part of USDA’s ongoing celebration of National Homeownership Month, I visited several communities bordering Illinois and Missouri last week to meet some of the people whose lives have been changed with homeownership.

Joe and Heather Sumner had been renters in Highland, IL, who needed more space for their growing family. They were struggling to find affordable financing options, until they learned about Rural Development from their real estate agent. They soon qualified for a USDA Direct Housing Loan, and they were able to move into their new home in time for their new baby, who arrived just four days later.  Mrs. Sumner told me they were especially pleased with the amount of house they could afford through the Rural Development program. Read more »

June is Pride Month, National Homeownership Month: USDA Brings Homeownership Assistance to Rural LGBT Communities

Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell, Rural Development, discuss USDA’s dedication to civil rights in employment and program delivery at the Northwest Pride Festival in Portland, OR, on June 14.

Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell, Rural Development, discuss USDA’s dedication to civil rights in employment and program delivery at the Northwest Pride Festival in Portland, OR, on June 14.

June marks the 2014 celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.  USDA is taking this opportunity to recognize the immeasurable positive contributions made by the LGBT community — including our coworkers, partners and clients — to help rural America innovate and thrive, protect our natural resources and promote sustainable agricultural production to help feed the world. In addition, we are demonstrating our commitment to treating our LGBT customers and coworkers fairly and respectfully through educational events, outreach efforts and listening sessions across the country.

June is also National Homeownership Month, and the theme is “Own Your Future. Own Your Home.”  With concurrent Pride and Homeownership Month observances, it’s a great time to raise awareness among LGBT communities about USDA home mortgage and home repair programs that can help rural residents own their future. Read more »

Strength in Numbers: USDA Employees Join Delaware Residents Who Are Building Their Homes in Order to “Own” Their Future

USDA Rural Development employees join Mutual Self-Help Program participant Michelle Mosely for a break from installing floor beams to Michelle’s future home.

USDA Rural Development employees join Mutual Self-Help Program participant Michelle Mosely for a break from installing floor beams to Michelle’s future home.

A stormy sky didn’t dampen spirits as a crew of us from USDA Rural Development’s national headquarters celebrated National Homeownership Month by helping Mutual Self-Help Housing Program participants build their own homes in Lincoln, DE.

USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Housing Program offers families with modest means a hands-on approach to achieve homeownership.  Groups of families work side-by-side on nights and weekends to construct their homes, and no one moves in until all the houses are completed. Read more »

Build Your Way to Homeownership With USDA’s Help

Maria and Ignacio Gordillo of Reedley, Calif., helped build their house last year through USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan Program. More than 50,000 rural families have become homeowners using their “sweat equity” as a down payment on an affordable USDA mortgage.

Maria and Ignacio Gordillo of Reedley, Calif., helped build their house last year through USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan Program. More than 50,000 rural families have become homeowners using their “sweat equity” as a down payment on an affordable USDA mortgage.

More than 50,000 rural families have become homeowners using their “sweat equity” as their down payment on an affordable USDA mortgage.

What is “sweat equity?” These families have helped build their own homes and provided most of the construction labor with guidance from a qualified construction supervisor through USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan Program. The “sweat equity” — the savings in labor costs — reduced the amount of the home loan and made the monthly payments affordable.

June is National Homeownership Month. USDA is celebrating the self-help program and the 50,000+ rural families who have invested in a home of their own through self-help housing. Read more »