Tester, Johanns proposal cuts red tape for rural housing agencies

Sidney Herald

U.S. Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Mike Johanns, R-Neb., are pushing a bipartisan proposal that slashes burdensome red tape for small public housing agencies nationwide so they can more easily provide affordable housing.

Tester’s and Johanns’ bipartisan Small Housing Opportunity Act would simplify strict inspection and compliance requirements and eliminate excessive paperwork for public housing authorities that support fewer than 550 homes.

This will bring the requirements more in line with the resources and number of units that small public housing agencies manage so they can focus on serving low income families.

Small public housing agencies are currently required to follow the same reporting and inspection rules as large urban housing authorities even though they have far fewer resources and control fewer housing units. Federal budgets have reduced support for public housing, and cuts have disproportionately impacted small and rural housing agencies.

“Federal regulations should ensure that small rural housing agencies are not hampered in providing affordable housing to rural communities,” Tester said. “This bipartisan plan will make sure rural housing agencies aren’t overburdened and that they have the flexibility they need to serve their communities.”

“By implementing the reforms in this legislation, small housing authorities will be able to spend more time helping their residents and less time on burdensome paperwork,” Johanns said. “This bill gives small housing authorities – especially those in rural communities – the flexibility they need to operate more efficiently and effectively without government getting in the way.”

Tester also noted the measure would help reduce regulatory burdens on housing officials in Sidney they grapple with rapid growth due to Bakken development. Tester earlier this week met with Paul Groshart, executive director of Richland County Housing.

Tester and Johanns also recently teamed up to exempt farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small businesses from costly investment requirements.