Thank you very much, Chairman Clay. I am very pleased that you are focusing on rural housing as the first hearing held by this Subcommittee. It is one of the many housing issues that has been overlooked for far too long by this Committee, and it is an issue that I am hopeful that we can work on in a bipartisan way.
We know that rural Americans are more likely to live in poverty and more likely to live in moderately or severely substandard housing. The need for investment in rural housing is clear, particularly when it comes to preservation of the aging stock of affordable housing.
But federal investment in rural housing programs is insufficient and the federal response to the growing preservation issues with USDA housing has been wholly inadequate. In particular, there are 400,000 families living in properties backed by USDA Section 515 and 514 loans that could be at risk of displacement in the coming years if we do not figure out a strategy for preserving these properties and preventing displacement. These are rural families with an average income of $13,000, the majority of whom are elderly or disabled, and they deserve better from us in Washington.
Mr. Chairman, the Housing Subcommittee today is taking an important step towards creating the conditions for a broadly shared American renaissance, both in rural areas and urban areas. Thank you for holding this hearing, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.