Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the availability of $52.5 million in loans and grants to construct off-farm housing and help low- and very-low-income homeowners make needed repairs.

"The funding made available will go a long way toward ensuring that all rural residents have access to decent, safe, affordable housing," Johanns said. "Affordable housing is one of several important contributors to strong rural communities and since 2001 USDA has helped more than 765,000 people build, improve or rent affordable housing in rural America."

USDA plans to make available $31.9 million for Section 514 farm labor housing loans and approximately $10.5 million for Section 516 farm labor housing grants. Requests for aid may not exceed $3 million combined for loans and grants. Grants may not exceed 90 percent of total development costs.

Applicants for farm labor housing aid may include requests for Section 521 Rental Assistance and operating assistance.

In addition to the farm labor housing assistance, the Department plans to distribute $10.1 million to help finance rural housing repairs through the Section 533 Housing Preservation Grant program. Non-profit organizations and public agencies may apply for grants to help homeowners make repairs. The funds also may be used to help owners of multi-family and cooperative housing complexes make repairs if they agree to make the units available to low- and very-low-income households.

Applications for farm labor housing assistance as well as for housing preservation grant aid are due June 18. Applications may be obtained by contacting the applicant's USDA Rural Development State Office.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. Rural Development has invested more than $76.8 billion since the beginning of the Bush Administration to provide equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure. As a result, more than 1.5 million jobs have been created or saved through these investments.

Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov