The availability of over $4.2 billion in funding to build and improve rural housing facilities has been announced by theU.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Development housing programs.

The funding includes approximately $99.2 million in direct loans and $99.2 million in loan guarantees for multi-family housing. The funds may be used to repair and rehabilitate existing units and to build new units.

Also available are $44 million in competitive loan and grants for the construction of off-farm rental housing units for domestic farm workers, and $8.8 million in competitive grants to non-profit organizations and public bodies to assist more than 2,100 very low- and low-income rural residents repair and rehabilitate their homes or rental housing.

The Rural Rental Housing Direct Loan Program provides loans for multi-family housing complexes in rural areas. Under the Guaranteed Rural Rental Housing Program, USDA provides loan guarantees to lenders, who in turn provide loans for the construction of rural multi-family housing complexes. USDA will guarantee the lender's loan, up to 90 percent of the total development cost. This year's farm worker housing funding will be available to broad-based nonprofit organizations, nonprofit organizations of farm workers, federally recognized Indian tribes, state and local governments, and public agencies (such as public housing authorities). May 13, 2005 is the deadline for submitting applications for funding.

Housing preservation grant funds are awarded to qualified public agencies, private nonprofit organizations, and other eligible entities, which will leverage the USDA grant funds with private, state and local funds to further extend the housing repair assistance into their local community.

In addition, USDA Rural Development announced that over $4 billion in single-family housing funds are available to assist more rural families become homeowners as part of President Bush's Ownership Society initiative. Over 10 percent of these funds will help families build their own homes and bring homeownership opportunities to families living in the Colonias, underserved areas and Federally designated communities (Enterprise Communities, Empowerment Zones, and Rural Economic Area Partnership Zones).