Sens. Tina Smith and Mike Rounds introduce Rural Housing Service Reform Act of 2023

Lack of affordable housing remains a huge problem for many rural towns to attract new business and residents.

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News File / WDAY News

FARGO — U.S. Sens. Tina Smith, DFL-Minn., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., spent the last year holding several bipartisan hearings and meetings with stakeholders to improve rules in rural apartment and housing programs.

Last week, the lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation that would update the U.S. Department of Agriculture rural housing programs in more user-friendly ways: 

  • Make it easier for non-profits to acquire properties by the USDA, especially in Minnesota
  • Partner with local CDFIs, to make mortgage loans available in Native communities through a permanent USDA pilot program
  • Make USDA practices more like HUD’s practices
  • Modernize USDA’s foreclosure process to cut red tape to better protect homeowners, make sure properties stay affordable
  • Update rules for home repair loan program
  • Ensure loans are processed quickly through new computer systems

The Rural Housing Service Reform Act of 2023 will be the result of making it easy for community members to find a place to live, Smith said.

"These are the places that you will find seniors who are living on a fixed income or places for people who are living with disabilities in their community or families that are working in very low wage jobs," Smith said.

She said it will also result in keeping families in homes that they can easily update so "people can stay and age in place."

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