Tester Leads Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Rural Housing Supply Across Montana

Senator’s Rural Housing Service Reform Act of 2023 will support housing and community development in rural areas

In his continued push to lower costs and address affordable housing shortages in Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester recently introduced his bipartisan Rural Housing Service Reform Act of 2023. Tester’s bipartisan legislation would improve federal rural housing programs and strengthen the supply of affordable housing across Montana.

“Improving access to affordable housing is one of the most pressing issues facing our country, especially in rural states like Montana,” said Tester. “As a third-generation Montanan who has lived in a rural community my whole life, ensuring that working families can afford to put a roof over their head for generations to come is personal to me. That’s why I’m proud to team up with Republicans and Democrats on this commonsense, bipartisan legislation that will support housing and community development in rural areas.”

Tester’s bipartisan Rural Housing Service Reform Act of 2023 would improve and build upon a number of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rural housing programs. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Fix a longstanding problem for USDA Sec. 515 properties that were financed decades ago and now have maturing mortgages, by making it easier for non-profits to acquire those properties and ensure that rental assistance doesn’t disappear when those mortgages mature. 
  • Make permanent a USDA pilot program to make mortgage loans available in Native communities by partnering with local CDFIs.
  • Bring the USDA’s outdated way of measuring incomes in line with HUD’s practices.
  • Modernize the USDA’s foreclosure process to cut red tape, better protect homeowners, and ensure USDA-owned properties stay affordable.
  • Update the rules for a home repair loan program to make it less burdensome to get smaller loans.
  • And make much-needed investments in IT so that USDA can process loans more quickly and with less staff time wasted on paperwork or manual data entry.

Tester has been Montana’s leading champion for rural housing accessibility. In April, Tester pressed national housing experts on solutions to the affordable housing crisis in rural America during a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

Last December, Tester secured significant wins for housing affordability in the 2023 government funding package, including $85 million for a new “Yes in My Back Yard” grant program, $225 million for manufactured housing preservation and revitalization, $170 million for Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (NeighborWorks), and $12.5 million for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP). That same month, he secured more than $637,000 for housing accessibility in Helena through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance Grant Program.

And in April of 2021, Tester secured more than $15 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support affordable housing construction, purchasing, and rehabilitation for low- and very low income- families. Tester was the only member of the Montana delegation to vote in support of this funding.


Related Issues