JEC Releases Report on the State of the Rural Economy

July 19, 2018
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Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee, recently released a report entitled “Investing in Rural America,” which provides a deep dive into the current state of the rural economy and the policies that may help advance opportunity in rural areas—which includes opportunities for affordable housing.

According to the report, rental units comprise 28 percent of all rural housing in 2010 compared to 35 percent nationally. Rural renters are more likely to experience financial hardship than both rural homeowners and urban renters. Almost half of rural renters are cost burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent. Of these cost-burdened households, more than half spend over 50 percent of their monthly income on rent.

A stronger LIHTC program would help address the need outlined in the report for affordable rental housing in rural areas. Rural communities might be vulnerable if the LIHTC program experiences a future decline in investment. Between 1987 (when the program was created) and 2015 (the most recent year that National Housing Preservation Database data are available), LIHTC has built or preserved around 236,000 units in almost 1,600 rural counties.

2016 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development data show that LIHTC has preserved almost 200,000 USDA Section 515 units aimed at low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Although the USDA data are analyzed separately, there is likely overlap with the National Housing Preservation Database units.

For 51 rural counties, LIHTC investments have financed 12 percent or more of all county rental units. For these “high-share” counties scattered across 21 states mostly concentrated in the South, LIHTC has significantly expanded housing opportunity.