Rural America faces significant housing challenges, but many states are finding some relief through housing trust funds. From combatting homelessness and providing housing for veterans to increasing housing stock by constructing small affordable homes on nonconforming lots, states across the nation are allotting funds from housing trusts to meet the unique needs of their rural communities.
The Center for Community Change explained in a recent report, “Overall, states are relying on state housing trust funds to fill gaps in housing finance and related services not addressed by typical federal housing funding sources. This is the beauty of state housing trust funds: the ability to respond efficiently to meet housing needs that are not served by any other programs including the specific non-urban needs of that state.”
In total, 47 states and the District of Columbia have invested $10 billion in funding from housing trust funds on alleviating housing challenges over the last three decades, according to State Housing Trust Funds: A Rural Housing Lifeline, published by the Center for Community Change.
The acute housing challenges in rural America include a shortage of affordable housing that is not in “substandard condition,” the unavailability of mortgage credit products often available in urban areas, and insufficient affordable rental housing. In fact, among renters in rural areas, nearly half are “housing burdened,” spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
As the Center for Community Change puts it, “Overall, housing options in rural America are often too expensive, are of poor quality, or are inaccessible to many individuals and families, especially those with low incomes.”
Housing trust funds are both flexible and efficient, according to the center.
States relying on housing trust funds allocate the funds in various ways, with 86 percent using funds on new construction, 75 percent spending on multifamily preservation, 66 percent allotting funds for acquisition and rehabilitation, 60 percent aiding in homeowner repairs, 47 percent spending on single-family preservation, 41 percent directing funds toward homebuyer assistance, and 34 percent spending on rehabilitation.
The Center for Community Change highlighted a few notable ways states are using housing trust funds. For example, in Maine, which is home to an aging population and the oldest housing stock in the nation, housing trust funds have been allocated to home maintenance and safety checks. As a result, falls and hospitalizations in the area declined 56 percent following the home improvements, according to the center.
In Nebraska, which faced a shortage of affordable housing and a stock of dilapidated abandoned houses sitting on nonconforming lots, the Lincoln County Community Development Corporation designed a 900 square-foot, two-bedroom home to fit narrow lots. The homes will be built on small lots and will be available with financial assistance to those earning below 80 percent of the area median income.
In Oregon, housing trust funds have gone to housing for homeless veterans, and Washington has developed a seasonal farmworker housing project with its trust funds.
Indiana, Georgia, and Arizona have all allotted housing trust funds toward homeless prevention.
“Survey results show that states are relying on housing trust funds to meet a variety of housing needs, serving many different populations with an array of housing programs,” stated the Center for Community Change.