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Rural Communities, Rentals and Affordability

National  + Weekender  | 

Affordable HousingAffordable housing is a concern across most of the United States. The issue, however, is even more problematic among rural communities. A recent article from the Urban Institute’s Urban Wire points out that 54 million rural residents live in United States Department of Agriculture-eligible areas with a moderately severe, to severe need, for more affordable rental housing.

The article focused on Roosevelt County, NM. Its population of 20,000 works at 30 local dairies, with more than 40% of the households renting their homes. With renter incomes at an estimated $8.68 per hour ($1,400 a month for a 40-hour work week), more than 50% of renters end up paying more than half their total income for rent each month.

Though the need for affordable housing in Roosevelt County — and similar areas — is acute, it’s difficult for developers to just go in and build workforce apartments or houses for a variety of reasons.

Scarce funding. Most federal programs supporting affordable housing have either been significantly curtained or ended. While the low-income housing tax credit has helped some rural communities, it continues to face challenges.

Low capacity. In a few cases, property owners and developers have worked with the federal or state housing programs to build affordable units. There is, however, little to no capacity to really find a solution to the issue. Urban Institute suggests that “a combination of technical assistance and incentives” will be necessary to get construction moving in these areas.

Lack of coordination. While federal agencies have, in the past, financed existing affordable rental units in rural communities and have authority to provide new-construction lending, “supply shortages must be addressed by preserving existing subsidized units . . . and building more units,” Urban Institute said.

The organization’s call to action noted that the way to address this affordable housing shortage is to study current resident and community needs, then determine what types of housing can be built, financed and located to meet those needs.

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About Mark El-Rayes

Mark El-Rayes is an award winning designer and photographer from Beirut, Lebanon. El-Rayes has over 15 years in the design industry, 5 years of which he served as a Mass Communication Specialist in the United States Navy at Naval Air Station North Island, Navy Public Affairs Support Element - West (NPASE). El-Rayes is a full-stack developer, seo specialist, photographer, and artist.