OIG reviewed USDA’s rural housing programs to determine potential areas of overlap, duplication, and fragmentation.
In 2018, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget requested assistance from the Offices of Inspector General (OIG) in evaluating the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of Federal expenditures on housing assistance programs within the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs. This request stated that, in 2012, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that multiple agencies administer programs that serve the same purpose, illustrating the fragmentation of homeownership and rental housing programs. In addition, the request stated that, in 2017, GAO noted a lack of information about the areas where specific statutory changes are needed to help mitigate overlap and fragmentation and decrease costs. To help bridge this information gap, the Chairman requested that each Department’s OIG review its host Department’s housing assistance programs and expenditures and provide a written evaluation that includes an analysis of specific areas of overlap, duplication, or fragmentation.
In 2011, the Inspectors General of four Federal agencies that play a significant role in supporting housing programs conducted a joint initiative to create a compendium on Federal housing programs and activities. The compendium provided background information and focused primarily on single-family mortgage programs and related activities. USDA’s single-family housing (SFH) guaranteed loan program and direct loan program were included in the compendium.
The mission of USDA’s Rural Development is to increase economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for Americans in rural areas. “Rural area” means any open country, or any place, town, village, or city that is not part of or associated with an urban area, and generally with a population of less than 35,000. The Rural Housing Service (RHS), an agency within the Rural Development mission area, offers 16 housing assistance programs to build or improve housing in rural areas.
In fiscal year (FY) 2019, RHS housing assistance programs were appropriated over $26.7 billion for loans, grants, loan guarantees for single- and multi-family housing, and housing for farm laborers. RHS also provides technical assistance loans and grants in partnership with non-profit organizations, Indian tribes, State and Federal Government agencies, and local communities.
RHS administers nine SFH assistance programs that help rural communities build robust and sustainable economies by providing direct loans or loan guarantees to help very low-, low-, and moderate-income rural residents build or buy safe, affordable housing in rural areas. RHS works with partners to leverage funding from other sources such as private lenders, nonprofit organizations, and State and local agencies. RHS also has partnerships to promote homeownership in underserved areas and works with potential homeowners to navigate the home buying process. RHS also offers loans for site infrastructure, home repairs, and grants to elderly homeowners for accessibility, health, and safety hazards.
RHS also administers seven multi-family housing (MFH) programs that offer loans to provide affordable rental housing for very low-, low- and moderate-income residents, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. RHS also offers rental assistance to help eligible rural residents with their monthly rental costs.
In 2015, GAO published an evaluation and management guide to assist analysts and policymakers in identifying and evaluating instances of fragmentation, overlap, and duplication among programs. Each step includes detailed guidance on what information to consider and what steps to take when conducting a fragmentation, overlap, and duplication review. For our review, we utilized step one of the guide, which outlines how to identify fragmentation, overlap, and duplication among a selected set of programs.
Our inspection objectives were to determine potential areas of overlap, duplication, and fragmentation within USDA’s rural housing programs. Specifically, our objectives were to identify each housing program, its purpose, and the population served, and provide 5 years of budget information.
WHAT OIG FOUND
USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) offers a total of 16 rural housing programs, which include 9 single-family housing programs and 7 multi-family housing programs. These programs offer a variety of ways to build or improve housing in rural areas through loans, grants, and loan guarantees to eligible populations. In addition, RHS provides technical assistance loans and
grants in partnership with organizations. For fiscal year (FY) 2019, Congress appropriated $26.7 billion to these housing assistance programs. In response to a Congressional request, OIG conducted an inspection to determine potential areas of overlap, duplication, and
fragmentation within USDA’s rural housing programs.
We found instances of potential overlap among USDA RHS’ rural housing programs. However, we did not find any instances of fragmentation or duplication. RHS generally agreed with these observations, but reiterated the various differences between each program. In addition, RHS officials noted that, even though some of the programs have similar purposes, it does not mean they should be recommended for consolidation or be considered duplicative. We agreed that each rural housing program had differences that made them unique, but we also noted that there is potential for the programs to overlap. The purpose of this report was to identify the RHS housing programs and provide observations on fragmentation, overlap, and duplication. We did not identify any issues that would warrant recommendations. Therefore, we are not making any recommendations in this report.