Oregon Rural Developments Newsletter (Summer 2018)

Oregon Rural Developments Newsletter

Welcome to the quarterly newsletter of USDA Rural Development in Oregon. Here, you will find updates on funding opportunities and program activities through Business, CooperativeEnergyElectricTelecommunicationsWater and EnvironmentalCommunity FacilitiesMulti-Family Housing, and Single Family Housing programs.

USDA Celebrates Homeownership Month

Graphic: Keys to Homeownership

For many families, homeownership means long-term financial stability, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) helps to make that a reality for thousands of rural residents each year. In Oregon alone last year, Rural Development’s suite of Single Family Housing Programs provided $403 million in loans and loan guarantees and $1.3 million in grants to help more than 2,160 low-income rural Oregonians purchase, build, or repair their homes.

As we celebrate National Homeownership Month this June, we are taking a deeper look at some of the innovative solutions USDA offers for achieving homeownership, along with personal stories of success. Learn more inside this edition.

A Journey from Generational Homelessness to Homeowner

Photo: After growing up in foster care and homeless, Mendiola was finally able to purchase her first home with assistance from Rural Development.

“My journey to homeownership was not easy,” said Mendiola. It wasn’t just saving up the money, improving her credit, or finding the right lender. Mendiola had never lived in one place very long. She grew up in foster care and is a trafficking survivor. “I ended up on the streets, eating out of garbage cans,” she said.

Mendiola has been renting for the past 25 years, but when costs began to climb, she found herself paying $1,700 a month for an 800-square-foot apartment. It was time. Mendiola had been steadily improving her credit. She completed her master’s degree a few years ago, and has a stable job with a nonprofit as a licensed qualified mental health practitioner, where she helps those with severe mental illness, particularly the homeless.

But one bank after another told her she did not qualify for a loan. That’s when her realtor contacted USDA Rural Development. Through its Single Family Housing Program, USDA provided a mortgage loan with no down payment required. “The USDA program for me, I just have no words,” said Mendiola. “The people who work at USDA have a level of integrity that is beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”

With her loan secured, Mendiola bought a small three-bedroom home in rural northwest Oregon, leaving behind a history of generational homelessness. She is now saving $415 per month on her housing costs compared with her rental expenses while also building equity. 

“As I sit here in my backyard…I am reminded that this is home and I am safe,” she said. “It is my tranquil space where I come at the end of the night after serving my peers...because they too will heal and find their home where safety lies.”

Learn more online…

Pilot Program Offers Expanded Assistance for Manufactured Housing

Photo: Bella Vista Mobile Home Cooperative in Boardman, Oregon

This June, USDA Rural Development in Oregon expanded its homeownership assistance through a pilot program to help low-income rural residents purchase manufactured homes. USDA’s Single Family Housing direct and guaranteed loans can now be used to purchase an existing manufactured home in Oregon.

To qualify, the manufactured home must have been constructed on or after January 1, 2006, and must have had no alterations. This ensures the home meets the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards.

Rural residents can also apply for loans and grants to repair their manufactured home through the Single Family Housing Repair Program. The applicant must own the home and the land on which it is located. Additionally, the home must either be on a permanent foundation or the applicant must plan to use the program’s financing to place it on a permanent foundation.

To learn more about USDA financing options for manufactured homes in Oregon, potential applicants and lenders are invited to contact a local Single Family Housing staff member.

VIDEO: Oregon Families Building Their Way to Homeownership

Photo: Groundbreaking celebration for the Whispering Meadows Subdivision, a new mutual self-help community in McMinnville, Oregon

In partnership with local nonprofits, USDA Rural Development helps rural families build their way to homeownership. The nonprofit Community Home Builders in McMinnville has used USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Program to help more than 200 families achieve the dream of homeownership.

A new short video explores how the program works and tells the story of one Oregon family that achieved homeownership using their own sweat equity to buy down the price of the house.

Watch the video today!

School’s Out and Summer Meals are Beginning! Register as a Meal Site Today

Photo: Girl drinking milk

In Oregon and across the nation, many children receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch while school is in session. However, when schools are out over the summer, many of these children are likely to have limited or no access to these two daily meals.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service serves free, healthy meals to low-income children and teens during the summer months. Community facilities and multi-family housing complexes funded by USDA Rural Development often make ideal locations to host the Summer Food Service Program in rural communities, and there is still time to sign up.

Join USDA in the fight against childhood hunger this summer. Apartment managers in Oregon can contact Wes Cochran, (503) 414-3310, and community facility managers can contact Jill Rees, (503) 414-3302, to learn more about serving as a meal site.

To find a summer meal site in your community, call (866) 338-6479 or visit the summer meal site finder.

Learn about Community-driven Economic Development in New Video Series

Graphic: Video Series WealthWorks in Practice

WealthWorks is an approach to community-driven economic development that aligns assets around a shared set of values and goals and seeks new business opportunities in response to changing markets. The approach intentionally builds multiple forms of wealth, local ownership, and inclusion. 

A new four-part WealthWorks in Practice video series is designed to support practitioners as they implement this approach. The four videos include:

  • Introduction to WealthWorks
  • Selecting a Sector and Defining a Market Opportunity
  • Mapping and Analyzing a Value Chain
  • Analyzing Market Demand

The videos were produced by Amy Hause and Mallory Rahe through a collaboration between Rural Development Initiatives (RDI) and Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service. The production of this video series was funded by USDA through a National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to the University of Idaho, in partnership with RDI and OSU. 

Financing is Available for Solid Waste and Storm Water Infrastructure

Photo: Rimrock Recycling in Hines, Oregon

Is your rural community ready to build, expand, or upgrade a solid waste disposal system or storm water drainage infrastructure? USDA Rural Development may be able to provide financing through its Water and Waste Disposal Program.

Up to $65 million in direct loans, $10 million in grants, and loan guarantees of up to 90 percent of the project costs are available in Oregon through September 30.

Most state and local government entities, private nonprofits, and federally-recognized tribes are eligible to apply. Projects must be located in a rural area with a population of 10,000 or less. Applications are accepted on an on-going basis.

Need help getting started? Low-income communities can apply for grants of up to $30,000 through the Water and Waste Disposal Predevelopment Planning Grant Program for help starting their applications. Very small communities with a population of less than 2,500 and a median household income of less than $42,284 can also apply for planning grants through the Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households (SEACH) Program.

Get started today. Contact a Community Programs Specialist near you to discuss your project concepts and to learn more about submitting a successful application.

Training Courses Help Rural Communities Access USDA Financing

Photo: Rural Development hosted a Community Programs Made Easy Workshop in Pendleton this June

Earlier this month, city managers, engineers, and other professional staff joined USDA Rural Development in Pendleton to learn about environmental, engineering, and electronic application processes for our Community Programs. We hope it was a valuable four hours for all who attended. Prior workshops were held in Portland and Bandon. 

If you were interested but unable to make it to these sessions, tell us your suggestions for locations around the state for future workshops. Contact us at patricia.cousins@or.usda.gov or (503) 414-3336.

Register Today for the Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Finance Workshop in July

Photo: Girl drinking from water fountain

You can still register for the second of two Oregon Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Finance Workshops. The next workshop will be held on July 20 in Winston. 

This is a great opportunity for utilities serving fewer than 10,000 people to network, connect, and learn. During the workshop, you can meet state and federal agency staff, learn about funding and resources to support your project, network, and receive training on how to better manage your systems.

These workshops are sponsored by Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), based upon work supported under a grant from USDA Rural Development, and supported with funding from Business Oregon.

Register today! Lunch is included for those that sign up at least one week in advance. For questions, contact RosAnna Noval, RCAC, (503) 228-1780.

Fueling Wage Growth, Business Expansion in the Columbia Gorge

Photo: Downtown Hood River, Oregon

Rural businesses on both sides of the Columbia River—from a brewery to an assisted living facility, from a Thai restaurant to a tribal fish market—are improving the local economy by hiring more employees and providing higher wages. These myriad small businesses have one thing in common: they were unable to obtain conventional loans. Instead, they financed the start-up or expansion of their business with assistance from the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD). 

USDA Rural Development helped to capitalize MCEDD’s revolving loan fund through $2.86 million in Intermediary Relending Program loans. So far, the portion of MCEDD’s revolving loan fund capitalized by USDA has assisted more than 80 small businesses.

Many of those businesses are investing in higher wages and training for their employees. An independent analysis of the impact of this lending program over the past 15 years found that 85 percent of the businesses assisted were able to increase hiring as a direct result of their loan from MCEDD, and 88 percent were stable or growing after concluding their financial relationship with the nonprofit. Still more impressive, the study found that MCEDD’s assistance resulted in a total wage growth of $40 million in the region.

The increased access to capital is significantly contributing to the creation, growth, and success of local business ventures, which is improving the economy and opportunities for residents. Learn more online…

Creating a Path to Employment in Rural Areas for People with Disabilities

Photo: Rosa Cortes found employment at the nonprofit REACH, where her disabilities are accommodated

Rosa Cortes was struggling to find work in the rural town of Klamath Falls in southern Oregon. She volunteered to build her experience, but found her disabilities made employers reluctant to offer her a job. 

Then Rosa discovered REACH, a nonprofit that provides work, rehabilitation, and training for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment. Rosa completed an internship and was offered an administrative assistant position at the nonprofit.

After a study found that about 500 people in the county were eligible for disability employment services but local providers could only meet 20 percent of that need, REACH started work to expand its programs, but struggled to find a lender willing to finance the expansion of its facilities.

With the assistance of a loan guarantee provided by USDA Rural Development through its Business and Industry Program, the regional loan fund Craft3 provided REACH with a $2.7 million loan to purchase and convert two properties. The nonprofit has since expanded enrollment in its employment services by nearly 40 people and hired an additional 37 staff members.

Rosa’s job provides flexible hours that can accommodate her flare-ups, and she received an ergonomically-designed workspace to help with her arthritis. When asked what this job has meant to her, Rosa answered without hesitation: “It gave me my life back.” Learn more online…

Food Co-op Provides Leadership on Sustainability

Photo: Ashland Food Co-op installed new rooftop solar panels with help from USDA

Since it was founded nearly half a century ago, the Ashland Food Co-op in rural southwest Oregon has modeled social and environmental responsibility. In addition to providing sustainably grown, local, organic food, this consumer-owned grocer also strives to minimize its impact on the environment and has set a goal to become a zero-waste, carbon-neutral business by 2030.

Reducing your carbon footprint can come at a high up-front cost for any business, but the Ashland Food Co-op was able to take a significant stride toward achieving its goal with assistance from USDA Rural Development. A Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant helped offset the cost of a new rooftop solar electric system.

The co-op’s new renewable energy system is generating about 45,600 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which is enough to power four residential homes. It is supporting this certified organic retailer’s goal of providing leadership toward a clean energy future by decreasing its carbon emissions. It is also benefiting the co-op’s 10,000 members by reducing the business’s monthly utility bill, demonstrating that a rural business can prosper while also becoming a leader on issues important to the community. Learn more online…

Inside this Edition

Upcoming Application Deadlines

Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) Program
Deadline: June 25

Nonprofits, low-income rural communities, and federally recognized tribes can apply for grants to provide technical assistance and training to help nonprofits and communities develop their capacity to undertake economic development. Learn more…

Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) Program
Deadline: June 30 

Rural utilities can apply for zero-interest loans and some grant funds to relend to local businesses for projects that will retain or create new employment opportunities in their community. Learn more…

Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training Grant Program
Deadline: July 2

Private, public, and nonprofit organizations and tribal entities can apply for grants to help rural communities develop locally-based solutions and access USDA financial resources to support essential facilities and services. Learn more…

Repowering Assistance Program
Deadline: July 19

Biorefineries can apply for financial incentives for installing systems that use or produce new energy from renewable biomass, such as ethanol, biodiesel, or pellets. Learn more…

Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) Program
Deadline: July 24 (electronic) or July 30 (paper)

Nonprofits and institutions of higher education can apply for grants to help individuals and businesses start, expand, or improve rural cooperatives. Learn more…

Socially-Disadvantaged Group Grant (SDGG) Program
Deadline: July 24 (electronic) or July 30 (paper)

Cooperatives, groups of cooperatives, and cooperative development centers can apply for grants to provide technical assistance for socially-disadvantaged agricultural producers and rural business owners. Learn more…

Rural Broadband Access Program
Deadline: September 30

Broadband providers seeking to expand service to rural areas where at least 15 percent of households are currently unserved can apply for loans or loan guarantees to help finance the expansion of telecommunication infrastructure. Learn more…