Rural Housing Crisis
By: Jeremiah Geffe
Student Writer for The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, Volume 18
The increase in housing problems occurring in rural areas can be attributed to the subprime mortgage crisis. These subprime loans were “distributed in the rural U.S. at even higher rates on average than in metropolitan counties.” At the peak of the riskiest lending in 2006, over thirty-five percent of the mortgages in rural areas were given to borrowers who were credit risks. This has led officials in the federal government to promise increased regulation of mortgages and financial aid to rural communities. Indeed, some politicians are pushing to have some of Bank of America’s and J.P. Morgan Chase’s settlement funds funneled to rural Ohio neighborhoods that were struck particularly hard by the subprime mortgage to help alleviate the housing crisis.
While the cost of housing in rural communities is lower, income in rural areas is also lower due to fewer economic opportunities for rural citizens, and the fact that traditionally rural industries are struggling. Additionally, the poverty rate in rural areas is higher than in metropolitan areas. One of the largest issues that is facing people living in rural communities is the maintenance of their homes. One stark example of this is Lynne Bouknight’s situation, who moved back into her childhood home in rural Virginia. When she grew up in the home, her father maintained the property and kept the entire house livable. However, when Lynne moved back in, she was unable to maintain the house in a similar fashion. At first, it was small things, like the running water, but she had a well that she could use on the property. Then it was the furnace, but she kept warm by using a wood burning stove and timber from her property. Finally, however, the little bits of damage added up to the point where the only habitable part of her home was her childhood bedroom.
Lynne was unable to secure any aid from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which is the group that provides aids to those in rural communities who are in need of housing assistance. Lynne’s story does have a happy ending because she was able to get assistance from HOPE, Inc., an organization that provides housing assistance in Southwest Virginia. HOPE, Inc. provides assistance for homeowners in maintaining their properties as well as running an income restricted apartment complex that people are able to rent.
There is a housing crisis in our rural communities, and it has gone underreported. However, there are programs and organizations in place that can help reduce the and solve the rural housing crisis, but they need more resources to be able to effectively ensure that everyone, including those in rural communities have proper housing.