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JAN 31, 2014 1:38pm ET

Farm Bill Helps Rural Housing Loan Program

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Congress is on the verge of passing a farm bill that will ensure borrowers in 900 communities in 48 states will continue to have access to Rural Housing Service-backed single-family loans for several more years.

The 900 communities have been in danger of losing their RHS eligibility due to population growth, which put them over the 25,000 limit. Many of these communities have become part of metropolitan areas.

The farm bill will preserve their eligibility until the 2020 census is completed and population data are provided to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bill also increases the population limit for rural communities to 35,000.

The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the farm bill on Feb. 4 and send the measure to the White House for the president’s signature.

For the past several years, Congress has passed temporary resolutions to ensure these communities did not lose their access to Rural Housing Service loans. Passage of the farm bill will give lenders and borrowers more certainty. It is expected to maintain the status quo—not expand RHS’s reach.

Lenders originated nearly 163,000 RHS-guaranteed loans in fiscal year 2013 totaling $22.4 billion.

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