Owning your own home is part of the American dream. For 65 years, USDA has helped millions of rural residents achieve the dream of homeownership through our affordable home loan programs. This year, USDA Rural Development has helped nearly 3.4 million rural families and individuals become homebuyers through 65 years of delivering housing assistance.
Affordable home financing creates ladders of opportunity to help families grow and thrive. Every year, USDA Rural Development’s direct and guaranteed home loans help tens of thousands of rural residents become homeowners. Here in Nebraska, since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA Rural Development has made or guaranteed loans for more than $642.8 million to more than 7,400 rural residents.
We also have a home repair loan program, and grants for very-low-income seniors, to help homeowners protect and preserve their most precious asset.
In 2013 alone, Rural Development helped more than 170,000 rural residents become homeowners through direct loans, guaranteed loans, grants and technical assistance to provide them with affordable, safe homes. In both people and dollars, 2013 was the most successful year on record in the history of USDA’s single-family housing programs.
In Nebraska, the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan program and the Single Family Housing Direct Loan program brought homeownership to 1,299 households in Fiscal Year 2013 through more than $129 million. In addition, the Rural Home Repair Loan and Grant program provided $273 thousand in assistance to 50 Nebraska homeowners for essential repairs. In Fiscal Year 2014, Nebraska has more than $120 million available to finance home loan purchases and almost $470,000 for home repairs in rural communities.
Homeownership is a conduit to neighborhood, family and community, and the positive impact of more than three million rural American homeowners across the U.S. is difficult to overstate. The benefits extend beyond the homeowners themselves. Homeownership creates economic opportunities for home builders, for providers of durable goods such as lumber or appliances, and for Realtors. Local governments benefit from increased revenue through property taxes. Simply put, the millions of rural homebuyers assisted through USDA are strengthening the rural economy and helping small-town, rural America remain vital and vibrant.
At its core, homeownership is about families, preserving rural values and the rural way of life. Research shows that families experience greater educational achievement, improved health and reduced crime in areas with higher homeownership rates.
President Obama has said the true engine of America’s economic growth is a rising and thriving middle class. For most Americans, a home is the largest single investment they will make — and the largest asset they will hold — in their lifetime. A home is a monumental waypoint on these families’ journey toward a brighter financial future. Homeownership helps build equity, assets, and long-term financial security — the foundation for upward mobility.
Although rural America is changing due to the rise of new technologies like the Internet and the advent of globalism, one thing still holds true: homeownership remains one of the most important factors that help rural residents thrive and prosper economically.
During National Homeownership Month, please join us as we celebrate these rural families who, with USDA’s help, are investing in their future through a home of their own.
Tony Hernandez administers USDA Rural Development’s housing and community development programs. Maxine Moul is the USDA Rural Development State Director in Nebraska.