Most Americans will agree the economy is tough right now. Inflation is soaring, and costs of basic necessities are beginning to stretch beyond the means of many Americans. For those at the lowest income levels, keeping food on the table and the lights on are daily stressors impacting health and wellness.
For rural Americans, there can be compounding factors adding to financial strain: finding available work, being paid a livable wage, or having high-speed internet connectivity to stay competitive in work or school environments. For those faced with these challenges, homeownership can improve a family’s financial well-being, but the path to homeownership can seem insurmountable. How can someone struggling to make ends meet even begin to save for a down payment on a home? The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development has solutions via their Single-Family Housing Programs.
Rural Development’s Single-Family Housing Program offers different solutions for low-income families wishing to purchase, build, or repair a single-family home in eligible rural areas. In Nebraska, Single Family Housing Program Director Krista Mettscher and her team are passionate about getting Nebraskans into homes, so much so, just five months into Fiscal Year 2022 the program has reached a milestone investing $1.5 million in rural Nebraska to assist 14 families. Mettscher celebrated with her team, who shared stories among themselves of some of the delightful families they were able to help, and how proud they were of the work they were doing.
Letters come into the offices at USDA from Nebraskans who have benefitted from the program. In Plattsmouth, a grant recipient sent his appreciation to Krista’s team after they helped him secure the funds he’d applied for twice. After realizing their fellow Nebraskan was struggling with eyesight, they visited his home in-person to help him with his application.
“I’m so excited about the work we’re doing,” said Mettscher. “Homes are getting more expensive, and people feel like homeownership is out of their reach, but there are so many exciting opportunities available through USDA RD, I hope more Nebraskans realize we have funding and may be an option for them. There’s no better feeling for me than helping a family get into a home of their own.”
State Director Kate Bolz agrees adding, “USDA Rural Development offers housing programs that help people make rural America home and strengthen the spirit and character of our hometowns. In particular, we offer assistance for home repair that may help seniors, families, and individuals with disabilities stay in the homes and communities they love. We encourage anyone to contact our team to take advantage of these opportunities.”
Home purchases can be made with no down payment and low-interest rates for qualifying applicants in rural communities. Individuals or families must be within income guidelines established for each county. Potential homebuyers must have a stable source of income, meet repayment guidelines, and have an acceptable credit history. There is no minimum credit score, however, applicants with a 640-credit score or higher receive streamlined credit reviews.
Properties eligible for Rural Development financing must be located in rural communities, which are those communities with a population of 20,000 or less, including Columbus and Norfolk.
The direct homeownership loan program provides a long-term fixed interest rate, which is currently 2.5 percent. Eligible applicants for the direct program cannot exceed 80 percent of the county median income. For example, a four-person household in Nebraska can have a household income ranging from $57,450-$70,250, depending on the county.
Mortgage payments are adjusted according to household income; therefore, the effective interest rate paid by the homeowner may be further reduced through interest rate subsidy to qualified applicants, to as low as one percent. Maximum mortgage limits apply for home purchases from $285,000-346,840 in Nebraska, depending on the county. Households interested in the Direct Homeownership Loan Program should contact 402-437-5551 Option 1, or email: SM.RD.NE.SFHQST@usda.gov Visit www.rd.usda.gov/ne for more information.
USDA Rural Development also offers a Guarantee Loan Program that provides 100 percent financing with competitive interest rates. Loans through the Guarantee Program are made through approved conventional lenders. A list of approved lenders is available at: www.rd.usda.gov/ne on the Guaranteed Home Ownership Loan page. The guarantee enables the lender to offer more affordable mortgage terms. Eligible applicants for the Guarantee program cannot exceed 115 percent of the median county income. For Nebraska, a one-to-four-person household can have an income ranging from $92,450 - $101,000, depending on the county.
Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/ne.
USDA Rural Development is prioritizing projects that will support key priorities under the Biden-Harris Administration to help rural America build back better and stronger. Key priorities include advancing equity in rural America. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/priority-points. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.