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High Five Series: Rural America is Home for the Holidays

Posted by Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez in Rural
Dec 31, 2015
One of the fifty families in New Hampshire
One of the fifty families in New Hampshire whose affordable rental home was preserved for 30 more Holiday seasons to come.

Oh, there’s nooooo place like hooooome for the holidays… Every time I hear that song I get an extra spring in my step knowing that I work for an organization that helped more than 160,000 families afford to buy, rent, or repair their homes this year. That’s 160,000 families in rural America that are home for the Holidays.

This year, 50 New Hampshire families living in one of our rental housing facilities were on the verge of losing their homes, but because of local community action groups, and my amazing team of affordable rural housing professionals, USDA Rural Development is able to continue to provide rental assistance to 50 Granite State families for the next 30 years.  Last month, we were able to close a deal that will keep these 50 families, and an additional 50 elderly and disabled tenants in a neighboring affordable housing community in their homes affordably for the next 30 years.

Meanwhile in Michigan, a hard-working single mother, Ms. Weber, was able to become a first time homeowner thanks to a partnership between Habitat for Humanity and USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Housing and Direct Home Loan Programs.  She put in more than 40% of the hours to build her and her neighbor’s homes this year.  Ms. Weber was so dedicated to the project that when heavy rains this summer forced a six-month delay due to standing water, she enlisted her mother and together they bailed out the property with five-gallon buckets to get things back on schedule. Because of her hard work, she and her daughter were able to be home for the Holidays in their brand new house this year.

Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez giving a Holiday gift to the Weber’s in their new home
Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez gives a Holiday gift to the Weber’s in their new home.

In Montana, another single mom, Christy Milburn, and her two children were able to move out of homelessness and move into their very own home after successfully building her and 9 of her neighbor’s homes through a self-help program offered by Neighborworks Montana. She was able to purchase the home affordably through our Direct Home Loan Program.  Before Christy achieved homeownership, the Milburns were staying in spare bedrooms and sometimes even on couches belonging to friends of Christy. This Holiday season, instead of insecurity, Christie and her kids are experiencing the stability and independence of having their very own place to call home.

In California, because of financial support from USDA Rural Development’s Farm Labor Housing Program, Calistoga Family Apartments, a new 48-apartment rental community developed by Corporation for Better Housing, opened their doors this year. The apartments are unique in a couple of ways. First, they are dedicated specifically to farmworkers and their families.  To ensure rents remain affordable for the tenants, USDA also provides Rental Assistance so no one pays more than 30 percent of their income on rent.  Secondly, this is a Net Zero Energy project, which means that the project is designed to generate as much energy as it consumes.  That translates to nearly non-existent monthly electric bills, and a peace of mind for families living on incredibly limited budgets.

In Oregon, retiree Ariel Waddington suddenly became the sole guardian of her three young grandchildren when her daughter passed away. Because her mobile home park did not allow children, the four of them moved to a cramped, two-bedroom apartment, which was all Ariel could afford on her Social Security retirement income. With the help of USDA Rural Development, Ariel was able to purchase a home for her and her grandchildren with a USDA Rural Development Direct Home Loan.

All over America, families are able to make snow angels in their front yards, share hot cocoa in their living rooms, and have dinner around the table together in peace knowing their homes are both stable and affordable. Welcome home, Rural America, and Happy Holidays from all of us here at USDA Rural Development.

The Waddington Family outside their new home in Oregon
The Waddington Family outside their new home in Oregon.
Category/Topic: Rural