Cedar Creek, Texas (KXAN) — Add people looking to buy homes in rural areas to the ever-growing list of Americans whose lives are impacted by the ongoing federal government shutdown.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is one of the departments impacted. Besides providing food assistance to consumers and aid to farmers, this department also offers loans which help people live and work in rural America.
Politico reported that USDA offices across the country stayed open for the first six days of the shutdown, but are now closed. As of last week, the department stopped issuing new loans for rural development which could go to housing, community facilities, utilities, and businesses.
24-year-old Logan Zimmerhanzel and his wife had just been approved for one of those loans days before the shutdown started. They are newly married, both from Lockhart but working in Austin, and living with Zimmerhanzel’s parents as they save to buy a home of their own.
They were looking at homes in rural areas around Austin because that fits the lifestyle they want as well as their budget. Then they found the home of their dreams in Cedar Creek — vaulted ceilings, an acre of land, a yard for the dogs to run in — it seemed perfect.
“We made sure we knocked [the paperwork] out as fast as possible, of course, we didn’t know there was going to be a government shut down,” Zimmerhanzel explained.
His loan officer advised they take out a USDA loan, so he applied and was approved days before the shutdown happened for a single family housing loan guarantee.
“And the reason we went for USDA [loan] is because of the 100 percent guaranteed financing, that they would pay for our down payment as long as we take care of the appraisal, take care of all the septic inspection, the house inspection,” Zimmerhanzel said.
He and his wife filled out all the necessary paperwork and were set to close on the house on January 17.
But his loan officer called last week with bad news.
“He received all my paperwork, everything was fine he received my IRS documents,” Zimmerhanzel said. “He told me literally he has everything he needs for me to move on, but the government was shut down and it puts me at a direct halt.”
Zimmerhanzel says he’s not sure what will happen if the shutdown doesn’t end before the time he is supposed to close on the home. Zimmerhanzel said that it’s been stressful for him and his wife, they’ve been praying things smooth out.
“I don’t know too much about politics, it’s not my area of expertise,” he said. “I just really want my house and my wife wants our house and this is all we want.”
While it is clear the federal government is not providing new rural development loans, it’s tough to tell how exactly this process works or how many people will be impacted.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stopped posting to it’s Facebook and Twitter pages, an email KXAN sent to the USDA’s communications employee who is listed as specializing in the rural development program bounced back with a note saying she was on “furlough without access to email, due to the lapse in federal government funding.”
The National Association of Home Builders alerted their members that most rural development programs won’t continue without funding, and certain rental assistance and voucher programs will continue until funding runs out. The association also said that a shutdown of more than two weeks is likely to have a significant impact on rural development programs.
The NAHB also noted this shutdown could mean delays for any housing-related federal government programs.