Rural Misappropriations: Thanks a ($83.7) million

Today the House of Representatives looks likely to approve H.R. 2112, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriation Act of 2012. While its long-winded and lackluster title may not immediately incite passionate protest, the likely passage of this bill could deliver a devastating blow to low income individuals and families in rural areas.

Specifically, H.R. 2112 proposes cuts to 3 branches of the USDA Rural Housing Program for FY12: The Rental Assistance Program (Section 521), the Rural Rental Housing Program (Section 515) and the Farm Labor Housing Program (Section 514/516).

Let’s look at some numbers: The Rental Assistance Program faces a 7% cut of $65.6 million, the Rural Rental Housing Program looks at a 16% cut of $10.6 million, and the Farm and Labor Housing Program is staring down a 36.5% cut of $7.2 million That is an $83.7 million reduction in funding to those who need it most, and it doesn’t take an inordinate amount of mathematical prowess to understand that the magnitude of those numbers is paralleled only by the financial and emotional hardship that low income individuals and families will face.

Put plainly, 66,000 tenants currently assisted by the Rural Rental Housing Program alone will find themselves stranded, having been cut off from desperately needed help.

In May of this year, the Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies proposed an allocation $2.6 billion lower than the FY11 enacted level for rural housing. Perhaps the only aspect of the proposition more egregious is that the allocation was also $5 billion lower than the President’s FY12 request for addressing rural housing needs. The trend of taking away funding to rural housing continued into this month when H.R. 2112 passed out of committee, the move that makes today’s vote possible.

While the steady decline in attention and projected funding for rural housing was happening on Capitol Hill, we at NLIHC were dedicating our monthly conference call with our state coalition partners specifically to the issue of rural housing. On the call, national experts joined us to discuss ways to reverse the trend of neglecting rural housing needs, to transcend the departmental separation, and to work towards the goal of preserving and developing affordable housing for all those who need it.

The passing of H.R. 2112 would not only do harm to rural communities, whose high concentrations of industrial and farm workers are essential to our economy, but it also, on an immediate and pressing level, reflects the ironic and tragic trend of trying to find balance in the federal budget by cutting funding to those in the greatest need. Our hope is that the Senate will strike a very different note when it turns to its own rural appropriations bill later this year.

To learn about the final vote on H.R. 2112 and read analysis from NLIHC, look for the June 17 issue of Memo to Members on Monday, June 20 on our website or, if you’re a member, in your inbox. To learn  more about rural housing issues, check out the Housing Assistance Council.

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