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Housing and Homelessness

Although low-income and working families in rural areas are more likely than their urban counterparts to own their homes, many rural homeowners live in substandard housing. The social service programs that provide assistance to families to bring their homes up to code are few and far between. The elderly, a significant population in rural areas, need housing accommodations that enable them to stay in their own homes rather than be forced to leave their communities for assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Homelessness exists in rural communities although it is less noticeable because relatives or friends often provide temporary living arrangements for homeless individuals.

Most housing and social service providers in rural communities are located in county population centers, or they are multi-county organizations that are not easily accessible. Various federal agencies have housing programs that provide help. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds three primary types of housing assistance to low-income families: public housing, tenant-based housing and project-based programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) operates a broad range of programs that provide assistance regarding homeownership, housing rehabilitation and preservation funding, rental assistance and help to developers of multi-family housing and community facilities.


For information on improving housing conditions for the rural poor
Housing Assistance Council (HAC)
Telephone: 202.842.8600

For information on human service resources
United Way's 2-1-1 information centers are available 24/7 (services vary from community to community). Dial 2-1-1 to reach a center.

For information on rural housing programs
USDA Rural Development/Rural Housing Programs
For questions about the programs and for applications, contact the Rural Development Office for your state.
Find your Rural Development State Office

RD/RHS Centralized Servicing Center
Telephone: 800.414.1226 (English and Spanish)

For technical assistance, training, and information resources to support rural housing and economic development
HUD-Rural Housing and Economic Development Gateway
Telephone: 877.787.2526 (English and Spanish)
For funding and best practices, see the program website.

There are more organizations related to Housing and Homelessness in the organizations section.

Frequently Asked Questions

Last Reviewed: 8/20/2013

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Funding for this project was supported by Grant Number U56RH05539 from the Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the funder.