By Bill Menner, USDA Rural Development State Director in Iowa
Editor's note: Please contact Darin Leach at Darin.Leach@ia.usda.gov or (515) 284-4747 for a photo of Bill Menner. Menner was appointed as the USDA Rural Development State Director in Iowa in July 2009. In his position he oversees state activities of the USDA mission area that provides housing, community facility, energy and business support across rural America.
USDA Celebrates National Homeownership Month
Earlier this month Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off June National Homeownership Month by highlighting USDA’s ongoing role to help residents of America’s small towns and cities purchase homes in rural areas.
In his announcement he mentioned how owning a home is one of the best ways American families enter the middle class and that USDA has helped provide homeownership for rural Americans for more than six decades.
In the last six years USDA Rural Development has invested $1.4 billion to help 14,800 rural Iowa households with home loan purchases, either through a direct home loan or a loan guarantee used by a financial institution. We are also investing in loans and grants to help elderly, disabled and low-income homeowners make critical improvements and repairs to improve the quality of a community’s overall housing stock.
Homeownership provides a strong foundation to help build household wealth, start a business or fund education through home equity. It can also give someone a chance to build a better future.
For example, my staff recently worked with a mother who was living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions in a metropolitan area. We were able to find her and her adult son, who was recently diagnosed with cancer and forced to move in with her, a safe home in a rural community with a mortgage payment $50 less per month than what she was paying in rent.
After hearing of the family’s recent medical hardships a local contractor from that rural community was so moved by her story that he donated his services and materials for the new egress window he was installing in their new home.
This is how you build community in rural Iowa.
Last year USDA Rural Development housing programs provided $246 million to help more than 2,400 Iowa households with their home purchases. An abundant amount of funding is available in these guaranteed and direct home loan programs again this year.
The programs offer competitive interest rates, fixed terms and require no down payment to help eligible families living in rural communities and areas purchase new or existing homes. Loans, and some grants, are also available to help families make needed repairs to their homes.
In most cases a family of four with an adjusted annual income of up to $74,050 may qualify for our guaranteed home loan program. If that same family of four’s adjusted annual income is less than $47,850 they may also qualify for a direct loan. These income limits increase in communities located near metro areas.
Also, if your house is in need of essential repairs such as a new furnace, roof, siding, or accessibility improvements, USDA Rural Development’s home repair low-interest loan and/or grant program is available to help eligible households make needed improvements.
Loans have a fixed interest rate as low as one percent and typically may be repaid over a term of 20 years. Grants are available to help applicants who are 62 or older, and who cannot repay a loan, remove health and safety hazards or to make the home accessible for a disabled family member.
Please recognize National Homeownership Month with us as USDA employees celebrate our commitment to provide affordable housing opportunities for rural Americans with limited means. Indeed, homeownership provides a strong foundation that helps people build household wealth and climb ladders of economic opportunity.