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Walters spreads word on USDA Rural Development

By By Steve Gillespie/staff writer
Jan. 7, 2002
Nick Walters is state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Rural Development, formerly known as the Farmers Home Administration.
Since his appointment by the president in March 2001, Walters has been on an information campaign, visiting communities and media to let people know of the help available through the agency.
USDA Rural Development assists residents of rural Mississippi with a range of programs to provide affordable housing, water system upgrades and economic development. The agency also awards grants and issues loan assistance to local governments and non-profit organizations for police and fire protection, health clinics, libraries and other public uses.
Along with his own efforts to get the word out about rural development programs, Walters wants to do a better job of bringing the agency to the people, rather than waiting for the people to find the agency.
For more information about USDA Rural Development, visit the Web site, www.usda.gov. The following is an overview of USDA Rural Development programs:
Rural housing
The Guarantee Rural Housing Program is a private-public partnership between the government and private mortgage lending businesses to help families who have the income, but lack down payment capabilities, purchase a home.
Loans, guaranteed by Rural Development, can be used to buy a new or existing home with no down payment required. Loans can be made for up to 100 percent of the appraised value of the home. Terms of the loan can be for up to 30 years at a fixed rate of interest.
Multi-family housing
The Rural Housing Service offers two types of home ownership loans guaranteed and direct loans for the purchase, construction, rehabilitation or relocation of a dwelling for low- to moderate-income rural persons.
Self-help housing loans are available to groups of six to 10 low-income families to build their own homes by providing materials and labor they can not furnish themselves. The families must work together until all the homes are finished.
Rural rental housing loans are made to finance building construction and site development of multi-family housing for people with low to moderate incomes.
Home improvement and repair loans and grants are for low-income rural homeowners to use to remove health and safety hazards from their homes and to make homes accessible for people with disabilities.
Site loans are used to buy building sites for development of a community by private or public organizations.
Farm labor housing loans and grants are for farmers, public or private nonprofit organizations and state and local governments to build, buy, or repair farm labor housing in either dormitory or multifamily apartment style.
Housing preservation grants are used to help low-income homeowners repair or rehabilitate their homes. The grants are also available to rental property owners, if they agree to make their units available to low-income families.
Housing subsidies of monthly mortgage and rental payments are also available, limiting the costs to no more than 30 percent of the adjusted monthly income of the applicant. The subsidies can be used for home ownership, rural rental and farm labor programs.
USDA Rural Development provides direct and guaranteed loans and grants for communities to construct, enlarge, or improve properties used for health care, public safety or public services.
Funds are available to communities up to 20,000 in population, but priority is given to rural communities with populations of 5,000 or less. Municipalities, counties, special-purpose districts, nonprofit corporations and tribal governments may apply for help. Up to 75 percent of the project cost can be approved for funding.
Rural utility services
The Rural Utility Service Electric Program provides leadership and capital to upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural electric infrastructure.
The rural utility service telecommunications program provides single-party service to customers and offers sources of financing assistance to telecommunications providers in rural areas.
Loans and grants for water, waste disposal, waste water systems and storm drainage programs are also administered to public entities for rural areas under various water and environmental programs through rural utility services.
Rural business cooperative service
The Business and Industry Guarantee Loan Program gives financial backing to rural businesses by guaranteeing up to 80 percent of a loan made by a commercial lender. Loans can be used for working capital, machinery and equipment, buildings and real estate and some debt refinancing.
The program also provides loans to public entities and private parties that are unable to obtain credit from other sources. Loans to private parties can be made for improving, developing, or financing business and industry and creating jobs.