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Realtors call for restart of the USDA-loan program

The National Association of Realtors called on the Trump administration this week to resume processing a growing backlog of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) home loans, which have been left in limbo so far during the government shutdown. 

In a letter to the Trump administration, the Realtors trade group said the administration should reopen the Rural Housing Services, a branch of the USDA, to address a backlog of USDA-guaranteed loans, which are home loans guaranteed by the agency for people who typically live in rural areas. USDA announced it was temporarily reopening Farm Services Agency offices, a separate branch of the USDA, on Wednesday to process farming loans during the shutdown.  

govshut“On Wednesday, NAR [the National Association of Realtors] asked the Trump administration to provide relief to people whose Rural Housing Loan Program mortgage applications have been held up by the partial government shutdown,” NAR President John Smaby said.

“Specifically, we have requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the Rural Housing Service, to secure adequate staff to process outstanding USDA loans during the department’s temporary reopening of its Farm Service Agency offices.” Smaby said. “NAR will continue working with congressional leaders and the administration to ensure Americans currently pursuing USDA loans can complete the homebuying process as quickly and seamlessly as possible.”

The USDA-loan program and the reverse mortgage program overseen by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are the only federal loan programs that have been directly impacted by the shutdown, which dragged into its 27th day on Thursday.

USDA originators have told Scotsman Guide News they haven’t been able to close on loans that didn’t have commitments from the USDA prior to the shutdown. The USDA-loan program is relatively small in scale. It is designed for lower- to mid-income households in specific geographic areas that require up to 100 percent financing.  

According to the American Enterprise Institute, USDA guaranteed 103,000 home-purchase loans and 1,200 refinances in 2018 through October.  

The Community Home Lenders Association (CHLA), which represents nonbanks, also has called on the Trump administration to restart the program.

“The shutdown has cast a pall over our members' ability to originate RHS [Rural Housing Services] loans for their borrowers, and just yesterday a [CHLA] member indicated they can't get an RHS-loan payoff done and RHS is not responding,” said CHLA Executive Director Scott Olson. Olson said the shutdown has also begun to cause “headaches” for lenders in programs not directly impacted by the shutdown.  

“The mortgage industry is trying to do workarounds of various things, but the longer the shutdown goes on, the harder it is to do that,” Olson said.


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