The House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon passed a bill that reforms the Rural Housing Service's single-family program, extending it through Sept. 30 to prevent a shutdown. 

Supporters of the bill (H.R. 5017) hope the Senate acts quickly to approve the measure this week. The chief sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., said RHS could run out of loan guarantee authority by the end of April.

The bill makes RHS self-funding by increasing the upfront guarantee fee to 4% from the current 2% requirement. The Agriculture Department, which administers the program, is expected to impose a 3.44% fee on borrowers.

The original bill allowed the Agriculture secretary to assess a 0.5% annual fee on the loan balance, but the measure was dropped during a committee markup. Congress originally granted RHS $13.1 billion for loan guarantee authority for fiscal 2010, but thanks to the program's popularity, the allocation is nearly gone.

The bill increases that authority to $30 billion, but it expires Sept. 30 when the fiscal year ends. Congress will have to renew RHS's loan guarantee authority as part of the FY 2011 appropriations process. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the short-term extension is needed to foster a return of private lenders.

"We must be aware of the impact on the private market and ensure that private entities are able to regain appropriate market share," she said during a floor debate on the bill.

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