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USDA Rural Development program offer assistance to residents, business owners

The USDA Rural Development office of Southeast Minnesota held a summit Wednesday to discuss federally funded loan programs that can help home and property owners in rural communities across the region.

Pine Island
South Main Street on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Pine Island.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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RED WING — Need help buying that first home? Updating a business? The USDA has some solutions.

The United States Department of Agriculture has opened its Rural Development program for residents of Goodhue County as well as surrounding cities including Fairbault, Owatonna and Northfield. The program focuses on three areas of development in living and operating areas such as business, housing and utilities programs in rural areas.

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Residents who can become eligible for the housing program in Goodhue County and surrounding cities must be unable to acquire financing for a housing loan through conventional home loan lenders such as mortgage brokers. They must also occupy the property they are hoping to finance through the loan they apply to get from the Rural Development Housing program.

Chuck Phillips, director of the Rural Development office in Faribault, spoke on additional qualifications of loan eligibility for applicants in the county seeking help through the housing program.

“As far as eligibility, the individuals have to be either first time home buyers or own adequate housing. That can be a pretty broad definition as we work with people in rental situations, individuals that own a home inadequate for their needs, general concerns with the property. We can look at making a rural development loan on a new property and help sell their old one,” said Phillips.

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Pine Island
South Main Street on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Pine Island.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

For those who want to apply for the Rural Development Housing program, they must contact the USDA Rural Development office based in Faribault if they are residents in Goodhue County, Faribault, Owatonna, or Northfield. From there, applicants will be referred to the USDA Single Family Housing Direct Loans page to review resources and training needed to complete the application.

The maximum loan limit for Goodhue residents that apply and receive financial assistance for the 502 housing program is $336,500. Phillips shared there are no set deadlines for applicants to apply for the program or to receive loans from the program.

“There's really no application date, we accept applications for the fiscal year. There might be periods of time at the beginning of our fiscal year, if Congress hasn't passed a budget, or we don't have a continuing resolution, where there might be a slight gap and financing. But in general, we have funding for them pretty much here around as far as being able to assist homeowners,” said Phillips.

Over the period of 2019-2022, five households in Goodhue County received $905,360 divided between them for direct housing loans for mortgage payments. In addition, another 224 households received $41,968,000 in funding through the Rural Development Guaranteed Single Family Housing program.

Pine Island
South Main Street on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Pine Island.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

In addition to the 502 Rural Development Housing Program, the Small Cities Development Program was another focus of the summit Wednesday morning. The Small Cities Development Program is federally funded and the program provides non-entitlement funds through a competitive grant process that focuses on awarding said grants to cities with less than 50,000 residents and counties with less than 200,000 residents.

Those who seek to apply for the Small Cities Development Program must use the funds for federally based objectives such as eliminating slum and blight conditions of downtown or the targeted area of the community that the program concentrates the funding for.

Applications for the Small Cities Development Program must be submitted by mid-March annually to the Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Once the application is submitted, SEMMCHRA will award funding to properties or businesses that are current on property taxes, are permanent structures and have adequate insurance to cover all mortgages including repayment.

The Small Cities Development Program has already provided for 20 properties in Goodhue County and 19 in Pine Island. Since its inception in 1987, the Small Cities Development Program has rehabilitated 389 properties, averaging 11 per year according to Karen DuCharme, administrative development director at SEMMCHRA.

Theodore Tollefson is a business reporter for the Post Bulletin. He is originally from Burnsville, Minn., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a bachelor's degree in journalism in December 2020. Readers can reach Theodore at 507-281-7420 or ttollefson@postbulletin.com.
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