Kuster Announces Introduction of Bill to Help Prevent Thousands of Low-Income Tenants Across the Country from Losing their Homes
West Lebanon, NH – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) held a press conference in West Lebanon, New Hampshire to announce the introduction of her Rural Housing Preservation Act. This bill would help maintain rental assistance for thousands of rural Americans, like those living at the former Pine Tree Lane apartments in Lebanon. Senator Shaheen will be introducing companion legislation to the bill in the Senate next week.
“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, regardless of whether the loans on their properties have matured or not. I’m so thankful to my partners here today for their support, and I urge my colleagues in Congress to act swiftly to pass this crucial piece of legislation into law. The livelihood of thousands of Americans across the country could depend on it.”
“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, 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.
“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.”
At Friday’s press conference, Congresswoman Kuster discussed how her Rural Housing Preservation Act will help prevent renters in properties with USDA mortgages from losing their rental assistance. Her bill will take several steps to maintain assistance for residents in 515 properties, like Pine Tree Lane – including providing vouchers to residents in buildings with maturing loans, so they can remain in their homes 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. Decoupling rental assistance from the terms of a mortgage would allow USDA to provide rental assistance for a property even in the absence of a mortgage.
Kuster was joined at the press conference by 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.
"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.
The Rural Housing Preservation Act is supported by Housing Action New Hampshire, the New England Housing Network, the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Housing Law Project, and the National Housing Trust. Senator Shaheen will be introducing companion legislation to the bill in the Senate next week.