On October 19, 2017, The US Department of Agriculture - Rural Development (USDA) released new guidance on how to determine if an area is Rural in Character (RIC), in anticipation of the upcoming five-year periodical rural review that determines eligibility for USDA rural development programs. The last reviews were conducted in 2012-13.
The types of areas that can qualify as RIC have either (1) a population between 2,500 and 10,000 if it is rural in character, OR (2) is an area that was previously determined to be rural and has a population between 10,000 and 35,000, meets the rest of the RIC analysis, and has a serious lack of mortgage credit for lower and moderate-income families.
In determining population density for RIC analysis, the field offices are now directed to take into account the following:
- Economic Vitality. Whether the area’s economy faces high unemployment due to loss of a major employer or similar factors, and whether the population is shrinking due to people leaving the area.
- Colleges and Universities. Whether the population fluctuates or is transient due to student presence from a local college or university.
- Prison Population. For FY2017, prison populations should not be included in the population calculation. At this time, this does not apply to any other year.