Rep. Axne Introduces Bill to Protect Renters in Rural Communities During COVID-19

May 8, 2020
Press Release
Legislation provides an additional $700 million to support Iowans in rural rental housing during the pandemic

Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03), a member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, introduced new legislation to provide an additional $700 million of support for rural renters during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The Protect Rural Renters Act would add $700 million for assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Section 515 and Section 521 rental housing programs, which help elderly and low-income Americans in rural areas find rental housing and stay in their homes.

With rural Americans out of work and farm incomes at risk, these programs will need additional support to make up for lost income or unemployment during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“I’ve heard from Iowans across my district who are gravely concerned about being able to make their rent next month and some who’ve already made impossible choices just to make it to the first of May,” said Rep. Axne. “Housing costs are not only an urban issue, but also we need to ensure that rural Americans don’t get forgotten or left out of relief efforts during these difficult times. This bill provides critical assistance to ensure that older Iowans and those making less are still able to stay in their homes.”

USDA provides affordable rental housing options by making loans to developers to finance housing projects for low-income, elderly, and disabled individuals in rural communities.

As part of this program, USDA also provides rental assistance to tenants, which caps their contribution at 30% of their income. In addition, after those property owners have paid off these loans in full, USDA offers vouchers to allow the current tenants to remain in their home and afford the market rate.

“We applaud Congresswoman Axne for introducing legislation to provide a much needed $700 million in additional rental assistance for USDA’s rural housing programs,” said David Lipsetz, CEO of the Housing Assistance Council. “Rural areas are seeing an increasingly severe prevalence of COVID-19 cases, especially in persistently poor rural communities. And like renters all over the country, rural housing residents are experiencing job loss and decreased income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will be absolutely essential for keeping rural tenants housed, and we encourage Congress to follow Congresswoman Axne’s lead in ensuring that rural America is not left behind in this crisis.”

Last year, the House unanimously passed legislation supported by Rep. Axne that focused on ensuring the long term sustainability of USDA’s rural housing programs. H.R. 3620, the Strategy and Investment in Rural Housing Preservation Act, was advanced by Rep. Axne and fellow members of the House Financial Services Committee in July 2019.