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Jay Fletcher (202) 690-0498
Highlights USDA Housing Programs That Help People Obtain Homes, Weatherize and Increase Energy Efficiency
PEORIA HEIGHTS, Ill., June 1, 2009 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today kicked off National Homeownership Month at a rural housing roundtable in Peoria Heights, Ill., to discuss USDA’s rural homeownership programs. The roundtable took place at Advocates for Access, a local organization that helps persons with disabilities become homeowners.
"Homeownership remains the foundation by which families and communities lay claim to the American dream," Vilsack said. "USDA’s efforts will not only provide opportunity and security to homeowners, the injection of funding into communities will help stimulate local economies and create jobs."
USDA’s housing programs are helping more people than ever. USDA provided homeownership loans to more than 72,000 rural Americans last year – a record number. And through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), USDA is on track to help more than 130,000 this year. Since the bill’s passage in mid-February, USDA has distributed $4.3 billion to 32,000 families.
"We are committed to bringing the necessary financial and technical resources to rural America to afford rural families the opportunity to purchase and preserve a place they can call home," Vilsack said.
At the event, Vilsack highlighted several families that have realized their dream of homeownership through these USDA programs. In nearby Astoria, Ill., Raymond Parks had the challenge of finding a home that could accommodate his disabilities, so he worked with Advocates for Access and obtained a loan which also allowed him to build a ramp for wheelchair access. Meanwhile, in Hiawatha, Kan., Jennifer Neal, who works two part-time jobs and is raising a 7-month-old child, has become a proud homeowner in her community of 3,000 citizens. In Greenfield, Calif., Jorge and Elva Perez joined their daughters to also become homeowners in the same subdivision. Having worked hard all their lives as farm laborers, they never were able to realize their dream due to high housing costs and a low income. But today, after learning about USDA’s housing programs, they were able to realize their dream.
In dozens of communities across the nation, "Preserving Homeownership" will be the theme for USDA events and activities throughout the month as communities and USDA highlight the benefits of homeownership and share information on ways families can remain successful homeowners during difficult economic conditions. Activities will also feature weatherization and energy efficiency programs available to rural homeowners to increase energy efficiency in their home, reduce health and safety risks and improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities. In 2008, for example, Rural Development financed more than $67 million in repairs for 11,000 rural homeowners.
USDA Rural Development’s mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development, and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s web site at www.rurdev.usda.gov.