The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Housing and Community Facilities Programs helps rural communities and individuals by providing loans and grants for housing and community facilities.
Pam Hysong is area director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development in 19 counties in Western North Carolina. Hysong’s office is in Asheville, with processing offices in Franklin and Spruce Pine. After graduation from Louisiana State University, Hysong began her career with the U. S. Department of Agriculture in 1980, having been hired to work for the Farmers Home Administration, now called USDA-Rural Development.
Hysong has worked in Western North Carolina throughout her 32-year career with USDA, gaining experience with many of the 43 loan and grant programs offered by Rural Development. For the last 17 years, she has worked with public bodies and nonprofits with community facilities, business and economic development and water and sewer infrastructure loans and grants. She was promoted to area director in 2009.
Carolina Public Press asked Hysong to talk about the programs the department offers homeowners across Western North Carolina, especially those services available to low-income residents of rural communities.
Carolina Public Press: How does the Rural Development section provide assistance for housing?
Pam Hysong: “We offer two ways to finance a house with loans and loan guarantees for low-income households in rural areas,” said Pam Hysong, area director.
The Section 502 Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan program is used primarily to help low-income households build their own homes. Housing must be modest in size, design and cost. These loans require no down payment and no private mortgage insurance. Loan amounts can be up to 100 percent of the appraised value. Terms are typically 33 years with very low interest rates. Payments are based upon income, with loan recipients paying 30 percent of their income for housing.
“As income increases, payments increase,” Hysong said. “When the mortgage is paid off, or if the house is sold, any subsidized amount must be repaid.”
CPP: Is this program only for first-time homeowners?
Hysong: “No. While this program offers the opportunity for low-income individuals or families to purchase their first house, they could have owned a house in the past, but do not currently own a house,” Hysong said.
CPP: Who qualifies for this assistance?
Hysong: Applicants for direct loans may have an income of up to 115 percent of the median income for the area. That varies by area. The eligible income for a couple, for example, in Buncombe County is $37,350, while the allowed income for a household of a couple in Haywood County is $35,100. Families must be without adequate housing, but be able to afford the mortgage payments, including taxes and insurance. In addition, applicants must have reasonable credit histories.
CPP: How does the loan guarantee program work?
Hysong: If the applicant meets the guidelines and if the property is in an eligible area, the application is processed and send to a USDA-approved lender that underwrites it. The lender then submits the underwritten package directly to the Rural Development’s local office. The Rural Development official will review the loan package and issue a “Conditional Commitment for Guarantee” or ask for additional information within 48 hours. When the loan is closed, the lender uses the final submission check list and submits the closing package to Rural Development, along with the guarantee fee. The loan guarantees the lender against loss.
CPP: Does Rural Development offer assistance for repairs or improvements?
Hysong: There are loans and grants for very low-income homeowners to repair, improve or modernize their dwellings or to remove health and safety hazards. Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Grants are funded directly by the government. A grant is available to homeowners 62 years old or older. Funds may only be used for repairs or improvements to remove health and safety hazards, or to complete repairs to make the dwelling accessible for household members with disabilities.
CPP: How does someone apply for Rural Development assistance?
Hysong: “The easiest thing to do is to call our office at 254-0916,” Hysong said. “We can do the pre-qualification over the phone. If an individual or family qualifies for assistance, we can send them an application.”