Policy Update: AFT Submits Comment on Heirs’ Property Relending Program
On Friday, October 8, AFT submitted a comment to USDA regarding the final proposed rule for the Heirs’ Property Relending Program. This rule is the last step toward implementing the program, which was originally authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. In the past, AFT has advocated for USDA to release the final rule.
Heirs’ property is a form of inherited ownership that occurs when a property owner dies without a will. The property passes to all of the heirs collectively, without a single sole owner. Unfortunately, this poses numerous challenges to the owners, who are overwhelmingly BIPOC or low-income – until recently, heirs’ property owners could not access federal Farm Bill or disaster relief programs, and they still cannot use their property as loan collateral. Most importantly, heirs’ property is at high risk of forced partition sales.
The Heirs’ Property Relending Program authorizes institutions to relend federal money to heirs’ property owners to help them to resolve the title to their property. The program also prioritizes lending to institutions located in states that have passed the Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act (UPHPA), a state law that helps to ensure that forced partition sales are the last resort, rather than the first choice, and that in the case of sale, the owners receive fair compensation. AFT is working in several states to advance adoption of the UPHPA.
AFT’s comment commended USDA for releasing the proposed final rule, and highlighted the importance of the program. However, it also stated that:
- That USDA should pay particular attention to input from BIPOC-led organizations and other groups that specialize in working on heirs’ property issues.
- The program could potentially be more effective as a grant program, rather than a relending program, since taking on significant debt to resolve title could spell disaster for low-income producers if they were unable to repay the loan.