Affordable Passive Solar Homes

New-from-the-ground-up passive solar homes could be available to you for as little as $29,000.

| May/June 1981

It's not too often that we here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS get a chance to compliment our federal government. So, when such an opportunity does arise, you can bet that we'll play it fair and square and let folks know where some of their tax dollars are being put to good use.

Now since this article deals with passive solar homes, you might expect that our kudos will be directed toward an energy -related branch of our republic's management. But, unusual as it may seem, in this case the credit has to go to the Farmers Home Administration, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Mom, a Home, and a Piece of the Solar Pie

The FmHA is, you see, the "credit" arm of the USDA. It provides low-interest housing loans to qualified people for the construction of some 110,000 homes and apartments annually in rural locales. (Such areas, for eligibility purposes, are defined as either open country or towns with populations of less than 20,000.)

As a decentralized agency with 1,884 county offices throughout the nation, the FmHA is able to relate—at a grassroots level—to people who need to borrow affordable money not only for shelter, but also to provide new employment, start businesses, or help purchase or operate farms. However, far from being yet another big government "giveaway" plan, the Farmers Home program relies almost totally on insured loans. Such loans are made and serviced by federal personnel but use private capital obtained through the sale of notes. The 100% mortgage funds are available—at interest rates as low as one percent—to families with annual adjusted incomes of no more than $15,600. The difference between the borrower's and lender's premium is the "tab" that comes out of the federal till.

Making home ownership possible for those who can't afford high-interest housing, the FmHA people believe, will bolster the rural economy by encouraging responsible people to settle and work in such areas. Furthermore, the resulting construction can provide jobs for local builders, contractors, and tradespeople which might otherwise be difficult to find.

Of course, the FmHA isn't just a money-lending agency. It has, in fact, a comprehensive program that embraces everything from actual structure design to public relations and is involved in bringing its services to the attention of businesspeople, planning groups, and local and state officials, as well as to possible recipients.

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