An review is underway to see if Shiloh is still “rural” — at least in the eyes of the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development is conducting a review of nine areas across Illinois, including Shiloh, to determine if they still meet the parameters of its housing programs.
The review is to determine if an area remains what USDA deems “rural in character.”
Douglas Wilson, director of USDA Rural Development in Illinois, said Shiloh is currently “box in on three sides” by urban areas.
“So you can see very clearly, the neighborhood has changed,” Wilson said.
Such reviews are performed every five years, said Lindsey Keyes, Illinois Housing Program director for USDA Rural Development.
The last rural area reviews in Illinois were performed in 2012-2013, using 2010 U.S. Census data. The current review will utilize 2015 American Community Survey data.
The village of Shiloh saw its population grow more than 8 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to a special census commissioned by the village that was published last year. Shiloh’s official population now stands at 13,961.
Population growth and Shiloh being located in the St. Louis metropolitan area are reasons for the reevaluation process.
“Ten thousand is the population limit where we begin to review eligibility,” Keyes said.
What the designation means
Having a “rural” designation as a community means that low- and moderate-income home buyers can get financing through USDA. The loans are typically 30-year, fixed rate.
Rural Development is one of only two government agencies that offers such long-term financing — the other being the Veterans Administration.
The agency also offers a program where it acts as the guarantor on loans for multi-family housing. A developer wanting to build an apartment complex in a rural area would first go a a private lender for financing, then USDA guarantees payment on the note, if all the agency’s requirements are met.
“You could look at us as the co-signor,” Wilson said.
The agency currently has 34 active loans on single-family homes in Shiloh, four of which were made last year.
None of those homeowners would see any change to their mortgages, and they would still be allowed to refinance their loans in the future, even if Shiloh were lose its eligibility to participate in the program.
“Current borrowers are not effected in any way,” Keyes said.
“If we make a commitment to a homeowner, we honor that commitment,” Wilson said.
The agency does not have an current partnerships for multi-family housing in Shiloh, Wilson said.
Wilson said the review process is done in areas where urbanization has begun to creep.
“The look and the feel of ‘rural in character’ tends to change,” he said.
Reviews are necessary to ensure that limited dollars go to the types of communities that the program was meant to aid, Wilson said. However, he added, the review is just that — nothing is predetermined.
The agency is still collecting comments from the public, which it will take into account before it makes its final decision.
“If you really have a feeling — positive or negative — you need to comment on that,” Wilson said.
The public has until Feb. 28 to submit comments regarding Shiloh’s potential change of eligibility in the program. After the comment period is closed, the agency will have a 30-day “public inspection” where those comments will be available for all to see. Final updates to maps will be made on June 4.
Comments can be emailed to Champaign-GRH@il.usda.gov.
For details, or questions about specific changes, contact Keyes, the Illinois Housing Program director, at 217-403-6222.