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Category: Rural Development

Secretary’s Column: USDA Support Keeps Old Glory Flying High

What began as a small sail-making shop in 19th century New York City has evolved into the modern realization of one family’s American Dream—a family-owned and –operated small business whose product has been a part of some of the most iconic images in our nation’s history.

Alexander Annin’s sail-making shop, established in the 1820s, has evolved into the oldest and largest flag company in the United States and is still in operation today. Commencing with Zachary Taylor’s 1849 presidential inauguration; to the flag-draped coffin of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865; onward to the iconic image of U.S. Marines hoisting the flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi in 1945; to the flag planted by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969—all were Annin-made flags. Read more »

Homeownership and Independence Day Go Together Like Baseball and Apple Pie

Closing out National Homeownership Month on June 30, 2014, RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez inside the home with new homeowners, Jay Pauley and Johanna Mansfield, along with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, representing Southwest Washington's 3rd Congressional District, at the Lower Columbia Community Action Program (LCCAP) Self-Help Housing Project in Castle Rock, Wash. Photo by Phil Eggman.

Closing out National Homeownership Month on June 30, 2014, RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez inside the home with new homeowners, Jay Pauley and Johanna Mansfield, along with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, representing Southwest Washington's 3rd Congressional District, at the Lower Columbia Community Action Program (LCCAP) Self-Help Housing Project in Castle Rock, Wash. Photo by Phil Eggman.

This year, Independence Day will be even more meaningful for tens of thousands of families across the nation. With financing assistance from USDA, they will be able to gather their loved ones in their own homes and back yards to celebrate the holiday as homeowners.

As the Administrator for USDA’s housing programs, I spent the past weeks celebrating National Homeownership Month with rural families who are achieving the American Dream with USDA assistance. On the final day of the month-long celebration, I joined families who are now constructing their homes through USDA’s Mutual Self-Help program, as well as another group of families moving into their new homes just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July. Read more »

USDA Rural Development Assistance Helps Massachusetts Family Afford Home

Pictured above are Heidi Richards and her daughter in their newly constructed Habitat home with Deputy Under Secretary, Patrice Kunesh.

Pictured above are Heidi Richards and her daughter in their newly constructed Habitat home with Deputy Under Secretary, Patrice Kunesh.

Recently, I visited the Habitat for Humanity homes on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in celebration of National Homeownership Month, a time to recognize the important role that housing plays in the economy. The construction of these homes was made possible through loans from USDA Rural Development (RD).

The partnership between USDA Rural Development and the Cape Cod Chapter of Habitat for Humanity continues to help provide numerous low-income families with safe, affordable, and well-built homes. USDA Rural Development and the Cape Cod Chapter of Habitat for Humanity first partnered in 2011. In FY 2013, USDA Rural Development financed four out of five of the Habitat homes built on Cape Cod, and they are currently on track to finance eight more Habitat homes being built on Cape Cod in FY 2014. Read more »

Supporting Regional Economic Development Strategies in Oklahoma’s Tribal Communities

USDA is supporting economic development strategies in Oklahoma's Indian Country.

USDA is supporting economic development strategies in Oklahoma's Indian Country.

Rural Oklahoma is home to many important tribal communities.  Among these, the Choctaw Nation spans over ten counties in southeastern Oklahoma, while the Cherokee Nation runs along the state’s northeast border, and Muscogee (Creek) Nation lies farther west.

These communities play a critical role in developing businesses, affordable housing, and infrastructure like water, roads, and telecommunications. However, these areas endure chronic poverty, limited opportunities and countless other economic challenges.  For instance, most of the 1,100 residents of Boley, Oklahoma – located in the heart of Creek nation – live on less than 25 dollars per day.

Earlier this year, I joined Leslie Wheelock, Director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations, on a visit to the area. Read more »

The Sweat Equity Route to Homeownership: Raising Walls & Building a Community!

Wayne Bodley (far right) built his home through the Self-Help program with assistance from USDA Rural Development and the Housing Assistance Corporation. Bodley designed the bear which is displayed in downtown Hendersonville, NC, and will be auctioned off to benefit the local Self-Help program.

Wayne Bodley (far right) built his home through the Self-Help program with assistance from USDA Rural Development and the Housing Assistance Corporation. Bodley designed the bear which is displayed in downtown Hendersonville, NC, and will be auctioned off to benefit the local Self-Help program.

In celebration of USDA’s annual Homeownership Month, I toured a flourishing neighborhood tucked in the woods of Edneyville, North Carolina. Along with me were families who never thought it possible to own a home or have a yard for their children or a garden. Their dreams were realized by building not only their own home, but the homes of their neighbors too! In the process, they also built enduring bonds of a caring community.

This neighborhood is being developed by the private, nonprofit Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC) of Hendersonville using Rural Development’s Self-Help Housing program.  Since 1971, USDA has helped build more than 50,000 across the nation. Through the Self Help Housing program, homeowners save money and earn “sweat equity” toward their homes by completing 65% of the labor.  Ten to 12 families pool their efforts and work a minimum of 40 hours a week working on all the homes — and no one moves into their home until every home is completed.  Working together, families pour foundations, frame homes, install electrical wiring, hang doors and windows, and lay tile and paint. Their sweat equity qualifies as their down payment. Once completed, USDA Rural Development provides the families with mortgages through the Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program. Read more »

South Dakota Partnership Helps Native American Families Own Their Future through Homeownership

“Our home is a beautiful white house with a porch and a creek runs through our backyard,” said Joe Donnell. “There is lots of space for our family to grow. This house is an amazing gift from the Lord!”

“Our home is a beautiful white house with a porch and a creek runs through our backyard,” said Joe Donnell. “There is lots of space for our family to grow. This house is an amazing gift from the Lord!”

With their family of eight, Myron Doud and Stephanie Richards were in tight quarters when they were living with Myron’s parents in a four-bedroom house.  Like them, Joe and Danielle Donnell and their young one had resided with Danielle’s family.

“Our daughter was very excited about her new bedroom, and she wasn’t even scared to sleep in a room all by herself!” said Stephanie Richards. “The kids now have room to have sleep-overs with their friends and a nice backyard to play.”

These South Dakota families, like many starting out in rural America, just needed a little assistance to begin their lives — and begin building assets for the future — as homeowners.  They found the help they needed through USDA Rural Development’s Direct Housing Loan, which offers 100-percent, affordable mortgages to rural homebuyers who cannot access affordable conventional financing. Read more »