Governor Cuomo releases 2022 Executive Budget

Governor Cuomo released his 2022 Executive budget proposal yesterday (January 19, 2021).  Due to the impact of COVID 19, this is a rather complicated budget with built in contingencies.  The budget as presented is based on an assumption that the Federal Government will provide New York State with $6 billion in COVID relief to be budgeted over two years.  This is the amount the Governor sees as the minimum amount that would come to New York under the Biden administration.  The budget contains a contingency that if the federal government provides New York with the $15 billion that the Governor believes we are due, funds cut from large accounts like education, medicaid and other large programs would be restored.  On the other hand, if the State receives less that $6 billion in Relief funding, further cuts will have to be made. For the most part, housing programs seem to have been protected from the initial cuts (see the attached table). 

The Rural and Neighborhood Preservation programs are funded at last year’s level with funding from the Mortgage Insurance Fund (MIF).  Rural Preservation is scheduled to receive $5.36 million and Neighborhood Preservation is allocated $12.83 million

Rural Rental Assistance is funded at $21.63 million. Advocates expect to see additional funds for rural renters from the recently announced federal rental assistance program.

The LPA programs are funded at last year’s level with Access to Home funded at $1 million and RESTORE at $1.4 million.  Main Street is scheduled to receive its customary $4.2 million,  Keep in mind that in recent years these funding levels have been enhanced with funds from the JP Morgan Chase settlement.  The JPMC funds are now exhausted so it should be expected that the amount funds awarded under these programs will be slightly reduced going forward.   There is no funding in this budget for the Mobile and Manufactured Home Replacement Program. The Manufactured Home Advantage Program will receive $5 million.

The major capital programs are generally flat funded with the Housing Trust Fund receiving $44.2 million in bonded funding.  Homes for Working Families will receive $14 million from the same source.    A major disappointment for Rural Advocates is that the Affordable Housing Corporation remains flat funded at $26 million.  AHC is an area where Rural Advocates expects to press for additional funds from legislature.

The Governor continues his commitment to Homeless and Supportive housing with HHAP receiving $128 million in capital funds again this year.  The HHAP supportive services programs are scheduled to receive $45 million from the MIF and $65 million in MIF funding will be directed to NYC homeless shelters. The Cuomo budget promises to continue funding of a multiyear capital plan with a commitment of $186 million in new bonded capital to continue funding for the development of 20,000 units of supportive housing . There is an additional $64 million for supportive housing in the OTDA budget.

There is no funding for HOPP or other foreclosure programs in this budget.  HOPP currently has funding available to carry the program into July.  Rural Advocates will be following the lead of HOPP providers in advocating for additional funds to continue the program.

That’s what we know so far.  Stay tuned for more information as it comes available and please plan on joining our virtual advocacy event on February 23rd.  We will have more information on that event soon.

To see the budget table click below

NYS State Legislature passes COVID-19 Housing Legislation

The New York State Legislature returned to Albany last week for the first time since early April to pass a legislation addressing the COVID 19 pandemic.

The action at the Capitol includes the passage of the emergency rent relief act of 2020. The legislation creates an interim rent assistance program that will provide vouchers to building owners on behalf of eligible low income, rent burdened households and will cover the gap between 30% of the household’s income and contract rent up to 125% of FMR. To be administered by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal the program will cover a period from April 1 through July 31, 2020 and is funded with $100 million in federal funds provided to the State through the CARES Act. The commissioner of DHCR is authorized to delegate the administration of portions of the program to other state agencies, counties, cities or towns, PHAs and non-profit organizations.

In other housing related action, the Legislature amended state banking law to require New York regulated financial institutions to grant up to 90 days of forbearance to residential mortgage holders who can demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The borrower can choose either to extend their loan for the length of the forbearance or defer the arrears as a lump sum payment due at the maturity of the mortgage.

Also passed by both houses of the Legislature and sent to the Governor is the Tenant Safe Harbor Act that allows courts to issue money judgments but prohibits the eviction of residential tenants suffering hardship during the COVID-19 period for the non-payment of rent.

Governor Cuomo is expected to sign these and other COVID-19 related legislation into law.

Governor Cuomo releases 2021 executive budget proposal

January 22, 2020

Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his annual budget address yesterday afternoon in Albany.  The actual budget bills were not released until later in the evening.  Advocates have been concerned about news that New York State is facing a 2021 budget deficit in excess of $6 billion making funding cuts a possibility and restoration of cuts much more difficult.  But, for RPCs and NPCs the news was very good.  Governor Cuomo has proposed to fund RPCs at $5,360,000 or at last year’s final level from excess reserves of the Mortgage Insurance Fund (MIF).  This is a very big win for Rural and Neighborhood Preservation companies in that it establishes a new base line of funding for the program.  NPC is funded at $12,830,000 – also last year’s final number.  It is not yet clear how this will translate to RPC contract amounts for the 2020/2021 contract cycle as there are still some unanswered questions but organizations can expect funding at a level similar to those of the past several years.  This show of support from the Governor is a testament to the great work being done by RPCs.  Congratulations to you all!

Rural Advocates are disappointed by flat funding of the Affordable Housing Corporation at $26 million. The proposed level of funding represents a $1 million or a 4% increase in total over the past 35 years.  There is a proposal under active consideration and supported by Rural Advocates to increase AHC’s per unit limits.  Given demand for the program and the impact of new per unit limits, AHC desperately needs a funding increase.  Rural Advocates has joined with Habitat for Humanity and others to call for AHC funding to increase from the current $26 million to $44 million which would put the program on par with the Housing Trust Fund.

Funding for the continuation of our foreclosure mitigation efforts does not appear this budget proposal.  Advocates are calling for $20 million to continue a HOPP-like foreclosure program . Rural Advocates support an expanded, full service housing counseling program with pre and post purchase counseling in addition to the foreclosure work. 

The Rural Rental Assistance Program is funded at $21 million from the Mortgage Insurance Fund.  For several years, RRAP was under a great deal of pressure but the program now seems to be on a stable funding trajectory.

The capital programs budget is very similar to last year.  RESTORE is proposed at $1.4 million. Rural Advocates support a funding increase for RESTORE to bring the program to $2.4 million.   Access to Home is at $1 million – flat funding for a program that is much needed in rural communities and for which there is plenty of demand. 

The Housing Trust Fund is funded at $44.2 million. Rural Advocates supports a modest increase in HTF in order to fund a small project set aside to support a program modeled after the Office of Community Renewal’s Small Rental Project Development Initiative (SRDI). 

New York State’s very successful Main Street program is also flat funded at $4.2 million.  

Big news alluded to in the Governor’s address, HHAP funding will be increased from the current $64 million to $128 million. This increase reflects the success that the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA) has had in funding projects that provide high quality housing for homeless individuals and families in a very wide range of settings. HHAP has been a great source of funding for small projects serving special populations in rural communities.    The Homeless services programs will also receive funding from the MIF at $42.641 million.

Join the New York State Rural Advocates In Cooperstown

NYS Rural Advocates invite you to join us for a day long discussion of state and federal housing policy at our annual Policy Retreat at the beautiful Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown.  Our meeting will convene at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, October 30.  The discussion will be used by Rural Advocates Board of Directors as we develop our 2020 Legislative Agenda.

Wednesday meeting will include coffee and pastries in the morning and wonderful Otesaga luncheon buffet.  If you can join us for an overnight, you will be treated to a late afternoon reception in one of the hotels lovely suites followed by an elegant sit down dinner in the Otesaga’s main dining room.  Thursday morning, after breakfast, the Board will hold its annual re-organizational meeting and adopt a legislative agenda.  Fee for the event is $110.  Overnight stay at the Otesaga is $243 which includes a great room and three delicious meals.  For meeting registration click here. For Room reservations, please contact the hotel directly (607) 547-9931 between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday and mention NYS Rural Advocates.

NYS Rural Advocates to Convene in Albany

New York State Rural Advocates will hold their annual Legislative Conference February 26 and 27 in Albany.  The Legislative Conference offers Advocates’ members and supporters an opportunity join with colleagues to discuss current legislative and policy issues.  It is also the time to meet with elected officials to discuss how the state budget and legislative initiatives will impact their communities.

The event kicks off with a Rural Advocates’ Board dinner on the evening of February 26 at the Holiday Inn express in downtown Albany.  On Wednesday morning the 27th the event moves to the State Capitol complex with a breakfast meeting in the Albany room.  The chair persons of the Assembly and Senate Housing Committees have been invited to join us as Advocates prepare to spend the day visiting with elected officials and legislative staff.

Additional information and registration materials are available here  2019 Legislative Meeting Registration

NYS Rural Advocates’ road to Albany goes through Cooperstown!

New York State Rural Advocates have set November 8 for their Annual Meeting and Policy Discussion at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown.

This year’s meeting is timed to allow for a discussion of critically important November 6th state and federal elections.  The U.S. House of Representatives and the New York State Senate both may face a change in the majority party.  There is even a chance that the U.S. Senate could flip.  A change of the party in control of any or all of those bodies will result in new Legislative leadership, new committee chairs and a change in status for your elected representative.  This will be our first chance to discuss what any changes might mean.

The annual fall meeting is where the Rural Advocates begins building our state legislative agenda for the 2019 session of the New York State Legislature.  In order to better understand the needs of rural New York, Advocates solicits input from members, colleagues and peers and we use that information to craft our initial legislative agenda.

Please join us in Cooperstown for this important gathering.  Find the registration and hotel details here NYSRA annual meeting notice 2018


Housing Fairs Well in New York’s FY 2019 Budget

After a banner year in 2017/18, the New York State budget for FY 2019 returned housing spending to more customary levels in the recently adopted appropriation plan.  Even so, the final budget bill increased housing spending by some 63% over Governor Cuomo’s proposed executive budget to over $687 million for the accounts tracked by NYS Rural Advocates.

Rural and Neighborhood Preservation companies were spared a proposed 37% cut as the Assembly and Senate Housing Chairs negotiated an additional $6.172 million in Aid to Localities to supplement just over $12 million from the Mortgage Insurance Fund reserves proposed by the Governor.  For the Rural Preservation Program the final 2019 appropriation totaled $5.360 million with $150,000 carved out for training and technical assistance to be provided by NYS Rural Housing Coalition.  The RHC funding level is one hundred thousand dollars less than Rural Advocates had been calling for and came in spite of the Senate proposal to increase funding for the Coalition to $250,000.

The New York State Rural Rental Assistance program which provides section 8 like rent subsidies to residents of USDA Section 515 Rural Rental Housing is funded at $23,649,000 – an amount sufficient to meet anticipated demand for the program.

The 2019 budget plan will provide $132 million towards Governor Cuomo’s five year plan to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing and to provide an additional 6000 units of supportive housing.  The Capital Projects bill allocates $44.2 million to the Housing Trust Fund; $14 million for Homes for Working Families; $4.2 million for the New York Main Street Program and $63 million for the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program. Capital Projects bill also contains a new appropriation of $250 million for critical repairs and improvements for the New York City Housing Authority.

An allocation from the Mortgage Insurance Fund will provide the City of Albany $9 million to address its anticipated budget shortfall.

In an important policy change, the budget contains language that will allow for the bifurcation of the State Low Income Housing Tax Credit.  This change will allow project developers to de-couple SLIC from federal Low Income Housing Tax credits in any given deal.  This change is expected to vastly improve both the marketability and pricing of the State’s tax credit program.

Not included in the final budget agreement were two programs proposed by the Senate and supported by New York State Rural Advocates.  The Senate one house budget bill included $10 million for the establishment of an Affordable Independent Senior Housing and Resident Advisor Program inspired by HUD’s Resident Advisor program.  The Senate proposals would have appropriated another $10 million for the creation of a Statewide Manufactured Home Park Preservation Loan Fund to provide loan funds for improvements to park infrastructure and to replenish the fund used to assist in financing Mobile Home Park coop conversions.  While neither proposal was included in the final budget, efforts to fund both programs are expected to continue.

The Senate one house budget bill would also have added $4 million to the Access to Home Program and $3.6 million for the HOPE/RESTORE program from the Mortgage Insurance Fund.  In the final agreement, those programs were funded as the Governor proposed in the Capital Projects budget at $1 million for Access and $1.4 million for RESTORE.  The Affordable Housing Corporation was funded at $26 million; $10 million less than was recommended by NYS Rural Advocates.

Two ongoing “budget” programs were created in state law with some important improvements to both.  Again, resulting from efforts of the Senate Housing Committee, The HOPE/RESTORE program has become Article 29 of Private Housing Finance Law In codifying the RESTORE program, the Legislature acted to insure that grantees will be allowed administrative fees of 7.5% and provided for concrete time frames to complete programs.  The new Article 30 of PVH is the New York Access to Home for Heroes Program.  The program currently being funded as Access for Veterans has been placed in statute and definitions of eligible veterans has been modified to make the program available to a much wider group of military veterans.

A table comparing 2017/18 to the FY 2019 budget for items tracked by NYS Rural Advocates is included below.

New York State Housing Budget
Capital Projects Fund 2018 Enacted 2019 Proposed 2019 Adopted
Affordable Housing Corp $26,000,000 $26,000,000 $26,000,000
Homes for Working Families $14,000,000 $14,000,000 $14,000,000
HOPE/RESTORE $1,400,000 $1,400,000 $1,400,000
Housing Program $541,525,000 $132,000,000 $132,000,000
Housing Trust Fund $44,200,000 $44,200,000 $44,200,000
New York Main Street $4,200,000 $4,200,000 $4,200,000
Public Housing Modernization $6,400,000 $6,400,000 $6,400,000
Access to Home $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Homeless Housing and Assistance Program $63,000,000 $63,000,000 $63,000,000
New York City Housing Authority Program $250,000,000
Total $701,725,000 $292,200,000 $542,200,000
Aid to Localities
Housing Development Fund $8,227,000 $8,227,000 $8,227,000
CDBG $40,000,000 $40,000,000 $40,000,000
Weatherization $32,500,000 $32,500,000 $32,500,000
Local Area Program $4,256,000 $3,140,000 $3,140,000
Rural Preservation $1,821,000
Neighborhood Preservation $4,351,000
Total $84,983,000 $83,867,000 $90,039,000
Mortgage Insurance Fund*
Rural Rental Assistance $22,960,000 $23,649,000 $23,649,000
Neighborhood Preservation $8,479,000 $8,479,000 $8,479,000
Rural Preservation $3,539,000 $3,539,000 $3,539,000
Mitchell Lama $39,500,000 $0
Community Investment Fund $34,500,000 $0
Housing Trust Fund $21,000,000 $0
Homes for Working Families $2,000,000 $0
HHAP/AIDS operational support $6,522,000 $8,333,000 $8,333,000
HHAP Supportive Services $0 $0 $2,000,000
City of Albany $12,500,000 $0 $9,000,000
Mobile Home Replacment $1,000,000 $0
Land Trusts $1,000,000 $0
NORC $1,000,000 $0
NORC $1,000,000 $0
Total $155,000,000 $44,000,000 $55,000,000
Total Housing spending $941,708,000 $420,067,000 $687,239,000
* Appropriations from the Mortgage Insurance Fund were moved from the ELFA Article VII to the State Revenue Bill in the final budget




Trump’s 2019 Budget Would Devastate Affordable Housing Efforts: Rural Housing Advocates Have More Immediate Concerns

President Donald Trump’s administration released its FY 2019 federal budget proposal on Monday (2/11/2018) and as with his 2018 budget; the President proposes to slash affordable housing and community development programs.  Trump would zero out the HOME Partnership Program, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and the National Housing Trust Fund.  At USDA Rural Development the budget eliminates funding for the Section 502 direct mortgage loan program, Section 504 loans and grants, Water and Wastewater grants and guarantees and Community Facility Loans.  The list of cuts and program eliminations goes on and on but as was the case with the President’s 2018 budget, Congress is expected to ignore the President’s proposal.   (A table is appended to the end of this article with 2017 adopted budget and 2018 budget proposals from the Senate and House).

As of this writing, Congress and the President have our federal government operating on the fourth of a series of Continuing Resolutions (CR) that generally funds the government at 2017 levels.  Both Houses of Congress now believe that they are closing in on a deal for a FY 2018 budget that would cover the period October 1, 2017 through September 2018.  In adopting the current CR, Congress agreed to lift the 2011 Budget Control Act limits allowing defense spending to increase by $80 billion and domestic spending to rise by $63 billion in FY18.   This step was not assured but was absolutely necessary if they were going to avoid deep cuts in a range of domestic spending including HUD and USDA programs.  Advocates should be watching as the Congress attempts to negotiate an FY 18 budget by early next month.  Generally, housing advocates would favor the Senate’s approach to the budget over the House proposal.

Meanwhile, the recently adopted federal tax bill and the Cuomo administration’s proposed FY 19 New York State budget contain serious challenges for the development of affordable rental housing.  While housing advocates were successful in lobbying for the continuation of the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), Private Activity Bonds and their associated 4% tax credits in the tax bill, the value of these tax credits will be somewhat diminished as the corporate tax rate falls from 35% to 21%.  The net result is that New York’s commitment to invest $2.55 million in affordable housing will leverage less in private equity investment than would have been the case under the previous tax law.

Further diminishing the leverage of state housing capital, Governor Cuomo proposes to defer claims for the State Low Income Housing Credit (SLIHC) for two years.  While this action does not stop the allocation of SLIHC it is expected to cool the interest of investors and result in a reduced amount of equity that developers will raise through the sale of the credits.

Below is the table that NYS Rural Advocates will be using to track progress towards the FY 2018 and FY 2019 federal budget.  Once again, we would like to thank Rapoza Associates and the National Rural Housing Coalition for this template.

Federal Housing and Community Development Programs
HUD Appropriations – Selected Programs,  FY 17 Final, FY18 Budget, House, Senate and FY 19 Budget — $ in millions
HUD FY 17 Final FY 18 Budget FY 18 House FY 18 Senate FY 18 Final FY 19 Budget
HOME 950 0 850 950   0
Capacity Building 0 0 0 0   0
Transformation Initiative 0 0 0 0   0
Housing Counseling 55 43 50 47   43
Community Development Fund 3060 0 2960 3060   0
  CDBG Formula funding 3000 0 2900 3000   0
Choice Neighborhoods Initiative 137.5 0 20 50   0
Housing Trust Fund** 220 0       0
SHOP ## 54 0 45 54   0
Section 108 Program Level 300 0 300 300   0
Section 202 Housing for Elderly 502.4 510 573 573   566
NeighborWorks 140 0 140 140   27.4
EPA FY 17 Final FY 18 Budget FY 18 House FY 18 Senate FY 18 Final FY 19 Budget
Clean Water SRF 1393.8 1393 1143.8 1.394   997
Safe Drinking Water SRF 863.2 863.2 863.2 864   863
**Mandatory Account authorized under HERA of  2008 and proposed for elimination in 2018
## House number includes $30m ($ 5m for rural) for Sec.4;$5 million for national technical assistance for rural; $10 M for SHOP loans
Senate number includes $35 m for capacity building for Sec.4 ;$5 m for rural; $10 m for SHOP loans;$4 m for veterans



Agriculture Appropriations — Selected Programs  FY 17 Final, FY18 Budget, House, Senate, FY 19 Budget  — $ in millions

RHS/RUS Programs FY 17 Final FY 18 Budget FY 18 House FY 18 Senate FY 18 Final FY 19 Budget
502 Single Family Direct 1,000 0 900 1,000   0
502 Single Family Guaranteed 24,000 24,000 24,000 24,000   24,000
504 Loans 26.278 0 24 26.278   0
504 Grants #28.7 0* [0] #28.7   0
514 Farm Labor Housing Loans 23.855 0 15 23.855   0
515 Rural Rental Housing 35 0 23.398 35   0
516 Farm Labor Housing Grants 8.336 0 6 8.336   0
521 Rural Rental Assistance 1,405.03 1,345.29 1,345.29 1,345.00   1,371.00
523 Self-Help TA 30 0 25 30   0
533 Housing Preservation Grants #5 0 [0] #5   0
538 Rental Housing Guaranteed 230 250 230 230   250
Multi-Family  Restructuring (BA) 41.4 20 35 41.4   0
Housing Preservation  Demonstration 0 0 (15) (22)   0
Voucher Demonstration (19.4) (20) (20) (19.4)   0
Supervisory TA Grants 0 0 0 0   0
Community Facility Loans 2,600 3,000 2,600 3,000   3,500
Community Facility Grants 30 0* [0] 30   0
Community Facility Guarantee 148.305 0 148.305 148.305   0
Water-Wastewater Disposal Program Account 571.19 0 472.70 550.38    
Water-Wastewater Loans 1,200 0 1,200 1,200   1,200
Water-Wastewater Grants 391.98 0 358.9 393.98   0
Water-Wastewater Guarantee 50 0 50 50   0
Solid Waste Grants 4 0 4 4   0
Small Systems Revolver 1 0 1 1   0
Rural Business Enterprise Grants 24 0 24 24   0
Intermediary Re-lending 18.889 0 17.5 18.889   0
RCDI 4 0 0 4   0
B&I 919.765 0 919 919   0
Rural Microenterprise Investment BA/Program Authority 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0   0
   Rural Economic Infrastructure Grants N/A 162 122.692 0   0
            REIG – Appalachian  Region   [80] [60] N/A   0
( ) included in amount displayed for Multi- Family Restructuring
* Included in Rural Economic Infrastructure Grants, established in the 2018 Budget Request.
# Included in the amount provided for Rural Housing Assistance Grants – $33.701 million.
[] included in the amount for REIG


Rural Advocates schedule 2018 Legislative Conference

NYS Rural Advocates 2018

Legislative Conference

 February 26, 2018 – Hilton Garden Inn, Troy

February 27, 2018 – The Albany Room, Empire State Plaza

Monday, February 26, 2018

New York State Rural Advocates has secured a small block of rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn in Troy 235 Hoosick Street, Troy at the very special rate of $111/ night (The HGI is 10 miles and 15 minutes from the Empire State Plaza).  For room reservations, call the HGI reservation desk at (877) 782-9444 and mention room code RADV.  The room block is valid through 2/5/2018.

Rural Advocates Board and guests will gather for dinner at 5:30 at the HGI where we expect to put the final touches on our Legislative Agenda.  Dinner will be some form of “Dutch treat” and all are welcome to join us.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

 Rural Advocates will host a Legislative Briefing and Breakfast in the Albany Room on the Concourse at the Empire State Plaza.  All Rural Advocates members are encouraged to attend.  Our agenda will include an overview of Rural Advocates 2018 Legislative Agenda, updates on legislative action to date,  a review of Tuesday’s legislative appointment schedules, and tips on making the ask.  We want to make the most of your time in Albany.  Our discussion will focus on of YOUR rural housing concerns including our top priority of securing an increase in Rural Preservation funding and protecting the housing programs we use.  We expect to be joined at the meeting by several leading members of the New York State Legislature.

After a hot breakfast in the Albany Room, we move to the Capitol for legislative visits. Plan on making appointments with your Senators and Assembly Members and join with others from your region to remind your elected officials of the impact of your work.  Rural Advocates will coordinate meetings with Legislative and Administration leaders.  Please contact us at nysruraladvocates if you need assistance.

Registration Deadline Feb 15, 2017: Return the form below with payment to NYS Rural Advocates: PO Box 101, Cambridge, NY 12816.   Phone: 518-573-2255. Registration of $110 includes breakfast, gratuities and advocacy materials.


NYS Rural Advocates 2018

Legislative Conference

 February 27, 2018 – Empire State Plaza


I (we) will be participating in NYS Rural Advocates’ Legislative Conference and will be advocating for the Rural Preservation Program and for a fair shake for Rural New York!

Name: _____________________________________________________________

Organization: _______________________________________________________

Number of Attendees: _________________

Amount Enclosed ($110/attendee) $ ___________________

Names of Additional attendees: ________________________________________









2018 Legislative Meeting Registration

Rural Advocates and Rural Housing Coalition present budget testimony


Presented to a Joint hearing of

New York State Senate Finance Committee


New York State Assembly Ways and Means Committee, January

Presented by

Blair W. Sebastian, for New York State Rural Advocates

Colin McKnight, New York State Rural Housing Coalition


Good Morning Senator Young, Senator Krueger, Assemblywoman Weinstein, Senator Little, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, distinguished members of the panel.  On behalf of the New York State Rural Advocates and the New York State Rural Housing Coalition, thank you for this opportunity share our thoughts and observations about the impact of the proposed 2017/18 executive housing budget on small towns and rural places across our State.

My name is Blair Sebastian, I represent NYS Rural Advocates and I am joined today by Colin McKnight.  Colin is the acting executive director of the New York State Rural Housing Coalition.  Together we represent private and nonprofit organizations, developers and architects, engineers and accountants that work to address affordable housing needs in New York State’s rural communities.

As you know, Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget proposals on housing for the New York State fiscal year 2018/2019 are lean in many areas.  After last year’s robust housing budget, this proposal is a bit of a rude awakening but given the State’s current financial position, it is no surprise.  Lean budgets are to be expected in difficult financial times.  The key to successful budgeting in tough times is to focus on priorities and attempt to invest precious resources towards our State’s most pressing housing needs.

We would like to begin by calling your attention to an article that appeared in the Albany Times Union this past week.  The TU story uses data from the Economic Innovation Group’s Distressed Communities Index (DCI) to compare Saratoga County, the County with the lowest DCI to adjacent Montgomery County with the highest Distressed Communities Score in the State.


Source: EIG Distressed Communities Index

We have reprinted the EIG’s map of distressed communities for New York State above and it comes as no surprise to those of us who work in rural communities that the Counties that rank most distressed on the map, with the sole exception of Bronx County are all rural.

With that economic distress we also find distressed housing markets.  Housing tenure in rural New York is dominated by homeowners with over a half a million owner occupied units comprising more than 70% of the rural housing stock.  Rural New York’s housing stock is decidedly old with more than one third of rural New York’s occupied housing having been built before 1939.  Thirty percent of the housing stock in rural communities is deemed inadequate.  Over one quarter of all owner occupants in rural New York are considered “cost burdened” paying 30% or more of their income for housing.

Meanwhile, of over $541 million included in the 2017/2018 Capital Projects budget towards Governor Cuomo’s $2.55 billion five year housing plan, only 10% was directed at homeownership programs (including mobile homes).  In the 2018/2019 proposal Capital Projects budget,18% of $229 million is directed toward owner occupied housing.  We think it is time that we provide New York’s rural homeowners with a fair shake by more aggressively funding programs that invest in owner occupied housing.

These are the communities served by New York State’s Rural Preservation Companies – they are among the most distressed counties in our State and they are dominated by homeowners. Much of our housing stock is old and substandard, our rental properties are equally distressed and small in scale and our efforts to assist in these matters are decidedly underfunded.

According to NYSHCR’s Annual Program report, Rural Preservation Companies leveraged and delivered over $115 million in state, federal and private funds to meet the affordable housing needs in rural communities in the State.  With New York’s increasing commitment to small development projects, we are seeing Rural Preservation Companies beginning to return to the work of developing important new, appropriate scaled rental projects and they are always looking for serving their rural communities access other state and federal funds.

To this end, NYS Rural Advocates encourages NYSHCR to repeat last year’s Small Rental Development Initiative funded with federal HOME funds.  As the response to this program was overwhelming, Rural Advocates recommends an addition of $10 to the Capital Project Fund to enhance a second round of SRDI.

RPCs are now facing a reduction of some 35% of their core funding as a result of the exhaustion of the JP Morgan Chase settlement funds. Governor Cuomo is proposing to provide $3,539,000 for the Rural Preservation Program (RPP) and $8,479,000 for the Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP) from excess reserves of the Mortgage Insurance Fund and we appreciate this core support.  In order to maintain current funding levels, NYS Rural Advocates is recommending the addition of $6.5 million from MIF or other sources for RPP/NPP.  Even with this addition, we will be left with a half dozen high need rural counties that are not being served by an RPC.  In order to reach those high need rural counties, Rural Advocates recommends an additional $500,000 to fund five new RPCs.

Rural Advocates recommends the addition of $250,000 to support the work of the New York State Rural Housing Coalition that provides technical assistance and training to the Rural Preservation network.  Since the beginning of the Cuomo Administration we have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of NYSHCR staff devoted to managing the Rural and Neighborhood Preservation Programs.  Gone are the days when an organization could expect to see a HCR contract manager visit their site on a regular basis.  Gone are the days when HCR staff would coach and guide new directors or demand the most aggressive workplans possible from an organization.  That important work now falls to the Rural and Neighborhood Coalitions.  In addition to its training and TA role, the New York State Rural Housing Coalition has undertaken a project to place federal VISTA volunteers in a number of RPCs.  NYSRHC assists RPC boards of directors to plan for leadership succession and they provide critical training and orientation to new RPC directors.  The Rural Housing Coalition has identified a growing need to assist small municipalities in the use of federal CDBG and HOME block grants and proposes to incorporate that activity into its contract workplan.

Rural Preservation Companies are important for the role they play in delivering an array of state and federally funded programs.  These include the federal CDBG and HOME programs along with State funded programs including Affordable Housing Corporation (AHC), Access to Home, HOPE/RESTORE, NYS Main Street Program and Access to Home for Veterans.

This last program, Access to Home for Veterans has been particularly challenging and Rural Advocates members have been disappointed in their lack of ability to serve those who have served our country and who are now faced with housing related challenges due to a disability.  This program is funded with proceeds from the JP Morgan/Chase settlement and is intended to provide for accessibility improvements and removal of barriers in housing occupied by disabled military veterans.  Without specific guidance from the legislation, HCR – needing a definition for a disabled veteran – adopted the definition found in the Access to Home Program (Article 25, Section 1201 of Private Housing Finance Law).  This definition limits program benefits to veterans with service related disabilities – a population that is already being served by the United State Veterans Administration.  NYS Rural Advocates recommends the adoption of the NYS Access to Homes for Heroes Program (S. 3933) amended in such a way as to allow any honorably discharged veteran with a disability and an income of 80% of area median income or less to be served by the program.  The Program should continue to allow Veterans with a service related disability to be eligible for assistance if their income equals 120% of area median or less.  We believe that these changes to the existing program would allow for a much more active and effective program.

Rural Advocates believes that a significant increase in funding for the Affordable Housing Corporation program would go a long way in achieving a more appropriate balance between our State’s investment in homeownership programs and rental housing in rural areas.  AHC provides funding for important owner occupied rehabilitation programs that protect our single family housing stock and allow low income homeowners to invest in their properties.  AHC also provides subsidies that facilitate the acquisition and rehabilitation of existing one to four family housing and the supports the new construction of owner occupied housing.   Rural Advocates recommends an increase in Capital Project Funding from the proposed $26 million to $35 million in 2018/2019.

The experience of our members suggests that the foreclosure crisis which began with the 2008 collapse of the housing market is still impacting upstate and rural communities.  Mortgage foreclosures continue at an unacceptably high level in our communities.  New York State Rural Advocates has long argued that a more well developed pre and post home purchase counseling program would have prevented a great many of these unfortunate events.  Rural Advocates urges the appropriation of $3 million to allow RPCs and NPCs to provide housing counseling services.

Rural Preservation Companies are active participants in the HOPE/RESTORE program which provides for emergency home repair grants for low income seniors.  The Executive Budget proposes to fund HOPE/RESTORE from the Capital Projects Fund at $1.4 million.  Rural Advocates recommends an increase of $1 million for a total program of $2.4 million. We wish to call your attention to an ongoing problem concerning the cost of delivering the program.  HOPE/RESTORE has become increasingly expensive to deliver as overall costs have risen and NYSHCR has added requirements for environmental clearances, fully developed work specifications and exposure of the projects to multiple contractors.  While appropriators have been careful to insist on providing a percentage based administrative fee for the program, the very small size of these projects means that the not for profit delivering HOPE/RESTORE find that allowed fees fall well short of what it takes to recover the cost of delivering the home repair projects.  Rural Advocates suggests that appropriators include a flat fee administrative reimbursement for each project undertaken by a not for profit housing agency in an amount of not less than $350 per unit.

The New York Main Street Program has proven to be a particularly useful tool for the revitalization of small downtowns all across our State.  The Executive proposes to fund NYS Main Street with $4.2 million from the Capital Projects Fund.  NYS Rural Advocates has repeated called for a substantial increase in funding for the Main Street Program but we understand that NYSHCR is concerned that they and their communities may lack the capacity to administer a larger program.  Rural Advocates recommends the creation and funding of a New York Main Street Center that would provide for adequate staffing to manage a larger program and to assist in the development of local capacity to deliver Main Street programs.  Rural Advocates further recommends that the program be removed from the Regional Economic Development Council administration in favor of a direct NYS HCR Request for Proposals.  The NY Main Street experience suggests that these modest programs often fail to show up on the REDC radar and routinely fail to gain the support of some Regional Councils.  This leaves communities in some Regions without access to this small but powerful community revitalization tool.

Many Rural Preservation Companies have developed and now own and manage multifamily projects funded by the USDA’s Rural Development, Section 515 program.  New York State has invested in this program and has leverage many millions of federal dollars by providing rental subsidies through the Rural Rental Assistance Program (Article 17-A of PVH).  Governor Cuomo’s Executive budget proposed to fund RRAP with $23,649,000 from the Mortgage Insurance Fund.  NYS Rural Advocates support this appropriation.

Rural Advocates are pleased that the Governor has continued his commitment to his $2.55 billion, five-year Capital Housing Development Plan by proposing to appropriate $132 million from the Capital Projects Fund.  Rural Advocates continues to argue that such appropriations should include a detailed allocation plan to allow the Legislature and the public to fully evaluate the proposal and facilitate later evaluations of the program’s performance.

Rural Advocates express reservations about the executive budget proposal to provide $8.227 million from the general fund to the Housing Development Fund.  Our organization continues to support the role of the HDF as a source of bridge loans, interim and construction financing.  By statute, HDF is a revolving loan fund. The HDF has been provided with funds for each of the 40 years of its existence and it would seem, as a revolving fund, it should have sufficient fund balance to carry it through a lean period at a time when current funds might be better used in support of other affordable housing efforts.

The Homeless Housing and Assistance Program provides essential capital funding for appropriately scaled projects that provide safe, decent and affordable housing for homeless families and individuals in all parts of our State.  HHAP has a proven record of addressing homelessness in small communities and rural places.  NYS Rural Advocates supports the appropriation of $64 million from the Capital Projects Fund for HHAP projects.