Building on Two Decades of Partnership: HAC & the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority

In the summer of 2022, the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority (MFA) faced a difficult challenge. Several state legislators and farmworker groups asked the organization to help meet the housing needs of migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Since farms employ farmworkers with the shifting seasons, many farmworkers only stay in a community for a few months before needing to move elsewhere in search of work. Affordable housing development is complex in the best of cases. Underwriting a project that would have a near complete turnover of residents every four or five months seemed almost impossible.

So, MFA called the Housing Assistance Council (HAC). This wasn’t the first or second time that HAC helped MFA address challenges in its programs. In fact, HAC and MFA have a working relationship well over two decades old. Because of this extensive engagement, MFA Executive Director and CEO Izzy Hernandez knew he could rely on HAC Housing Consultant Eugene (Gene) Gonzalez to help find a solution to this challenge.

Gene connected MFA with groups across the southwest working on similar projects housing migrant farmworkers. With HAC’s help and advice from peers, MFA was able to identify a developer and line up alternate financing options for a project that meets this critical housing need. The development is in its initial phase, but for Hernandez, this is just the latest example of HAC’s reliable, ongoing partnership.

HAC began working with MFA in the early 2000s. A few years earlier, MFA was selected to administer all of New Mexico’s housing programs. Many of the on-the-ground housing organizations who needed MFA funding the most were struggling to obtain designation as community housing development organizations (CHDOs). CHDO designation is a prerequisite to accessing the federal and state programs MFA administered. So, HAC helped eight organizations identify their capacity needs, provided technical assistance to meet those needs, and guided them through the process to obtain CHDO designation.  As a result, each of the eight organizations was able to access MFA funds, which allowed MFA to turn those program dollars into homes in communities that desperately needed them.

While the specifics of HAC and MFA’s collaboration has evolved over time to meet the unique needs of each project, the core challenge HAC helps MFA address remains the same. Like all state housing authorities, MFA relies on the success of its client housing organizations. If they do not succeed, MFA cannot make the most of federal and state programs and cannot meet, as Hernandez puts it, “the extraordinary need for affordable housing.” HAC has long helped and continues to help build the capacity of MFA clients. This not only helps to build more affordable homes in rural New Mexico; according to Hernandez, HAC’s work helps MFA “reach communities we couldn’t reach before.”

When HAC began working with Tierra Del Sol Housing Corporation, one of MFA’s clients, the organization was rehabbing nearly 100 homes per year and building only about nine units per year. HAC provided training and technical assistance to help Tierra Del Sol with land acquisition, green building, energy efficiency, and more. With HAC’s help, the nonprofit expanded its self-help program, began building entire neighborhoods of farmworker housing, and grew to become the largest housing rehabber in the state of New Mexico. In addition, TDS accomplished all this development while focusing work in colonias, communities near the U.S.-Mexico border characterized by high poverty rates and substandard living conditions. Looking back on this incredible success, Hernandez is quick to say that “HAC has played a big role in that.”

Nowadays, MFA frequently refers struggling clients to HAC. Once referred, HAC often includes these organizations in our capacity building and technical assistance cohorts, where they receive one-on-one technical guidance and capacity building assistance. According to Hernandez, whenever HAC receives a new round of funding for technical assistance, he receives a call from Gene asking which groups in New Mexico need help. “We have some groups that were on the bubble of surviving or not,” says Hernandez, “but we have never had one group go out of business. HAC kept them in the game.”

The three hundred plus housing organizations in New Mexico all play an important role in meeting the state’s housing needs. In 2021, they collectively assisted more than 25,000 families in finding quality affordable housing. HAC capacity building assistance helps to ensure that these groups can build homes, effectively implement housing assistance programs, and remain in compliance.

Click here to learn more about HAC’s training and technical assistance. 

HAC is Hiring a Portfolio Manager

The Portfolio Manager, Self-Help Housing, is responsible for the overall asset management, monitoring and reporting for an assigned portfolio of primarily self-help housing loans made to entities engaged in affordable housing activities in rural communities throughout the United States. This individual will work directly with local non-profits building affordable homes. He/she will provide ongoing monitoring, reporting, and compliance activities; communication with HUD; communication with borrowers; development of and delivering workshops and trainings; coordinating and leading regular peer-to-peer exchanges among self-help housing borrowers; and developing informational materials.

Read the position description and application instructions.

AYUDA Proves Impact of Holistic Rural Housing Support

Almost every local housing nonprofit begins with a vision: meeting the housing needs of their community. Unfortunately, the path from recognizing that need to meeting it can be difficult. Labor shortages, increasing construction costs, and the complexity of financial transactions and government programs can all make it challenging for housing non-profits to succeed. 

That’s why the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) works with housing organizations across rural America to help them overcome both financial and technical challenges. HAC’s goal, as Director of Training and Technical Assistance Shonterria Charleston puts it, is to “create a pipeline for capacity building that allows our partners to get many of their needs met by one organization.”  

For thirty years, Adults and Youth United Development Association (AYUDA) has worked to improve housing conditions and increase access to public services in the colonias in and around San Elizario, Texas. According to AYUDA’s Housing and Community Services Director Miguel Chacon, the group was established to advocate for running water and septic tanks in colonias but has grown to providing home repair, rental assistance, vaccine outreach, food distribution, and more.  

As AYUDA has grown, it’s turned to HAC for support. For twelve years, HAC Housing Specialist Anselmo Telles and Housing Development Consultant Eugene Gonzales have provided technical assistance to help AYUDA navigate the hurdles of managing new and expanded housing programs. “I didn’t know anything about housing back then,” remembers Miguel. But, with HAC’s help, AYUDA has developed deeply impactful housing programs. Between 2016 and 2021, AYUDA built or rehabbed over 200 homes. Despite this track record, AYUDA ran into a problem in early 2021.  

“We were having trouble with our cash flow,” Miguel explains. AYUDA’s home repair and construction programs are financed by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). Still reeling from the COVID pandemic, the Department was taking months to reimburse AYUDA for the costs of rehab and construction. This put AYUDA in a difficult position. They could stop work while waiting for payments from TDHCA or they could keep their projects moving forward while struggling to pay their contractors on time.  

“As I do the organizational assessment, I look to see if they need money for construction, staffing, or anything like that,” Eugene explains. It was during an organizational assessment of AYUDA that he saw that cash flow was the largest bottleneck in AYUDA’s construction process. So, Eugene reached out to Kristin Blum, HAC’s Senior Loan Officer, to see if our Loan Fund could help. Kristin notes that we wanted to be creative and find a solution that worked for AYUDA. As HAC’s Director of Lending Eileen Neely points out, HAC doesn’t try to fit organizations into boxes. Instead, we focus on understanding each group’s unique needs and tailoring financing to help them achieve their goals.  

After meeting with both AYUDA and HAC’s technical assistance team, the Loan Fund came up with a creative financing option. The plan was to establish a $367,000 revolving line of credit. When AYUDA would complete a new home or rehab project, it could draw on this line of credit to bridge the funding gap until TDHCA issued grant reimbursements.  

In July 2021, the loan was approved, and AYUDA began to draw on its new line of credit just two months later. According to Miguel, this capital ensured that AYUDA was able to keep building and keep moving forward. Pointing to the 25 homes AYUDA has built or rehabbed in the last year, Miguel explains that “we were able to accomplish that because of the line of credit.” 

The upshot of HAC’s holistic approach to capacity building is, according to Eugene, “that groups get the money they need, and then TA comes in to make sure they’re on track.” Ultimately, this means groups can build more affordable homes. Miguel shared that when AYUDA was weighing whether to halt construction at the beginning of the pandemic, his clients urged AYUDA to find a way to keep going. With HAC’s help, AYUDA kept building throughout 2020 and 2021. “That gave our community hope,” says Miguel.  

The collaboration between HAC’s lending and technical assistance made both more effective. Our Loan Fund would have never known about AYUDA’s challenges without Eugene. As Kristin notes, collaboration is what made this loan possible in the first place. Plus, as Eugene explains, the on-going technical assistance relationship gave the Loan Fund a sense of confidence that this financing solution would work.  

By pairing technical assistance and lending, HAC also helped AYUDA expand its capacity as an affordable housing non-profit. Miguel says that AYUDA never had a line of credit before. Now, his staff have experience as borrowers, with more knowledge about how to navigate the financing process and manage tasks like fulfilling reporting requirements. The financial stability afforded by this line of credit and the support of technical assistance make it easier for the organization to expand the programs it offers. In fact, the State of Texas has tapped AYUDA to manage American Rescue Plan rental assistance across a four-county service area. His organization’s growing capacity gives Miguel the confidence to say that there’s nothing they can’t learn. 

The story of HAC’s work with AYUDA isn’t an isolated example—it’s how HAC operates. HAC regularly includes borrowers in our technical assistance rounds and makes loans to current TA recipients. As Shonterria notes, “the Loan Fund is our first stop when we work with a group that needs capital.” The years-long relationships built by HAC housing specialists make it easier to craft lending products to fit each group’s needs. “The more we know about a potential borrower and their mission, the better we are at what we do,” explains Eileen.  

HAC is committed to building the capacity of our local partners, expanding their ability to meet their neighbors’ housing needs. No organization faces only technical challenges or financial hurdles—every organization grapples with both, at one point or another. By working with groups holistically, we help them overcome whatever challenges come their way.  

Click here to learn more about HAC’s lending products, and click here to learn more about HAC’s training and technical assistance.  

HAC is Hiring a Research Associate

The Research Associate conducts original research, manages data, and disseminates information that informs local strategies and national policies to improve conditions for Rural Americans. The Housing Assistance Council’s Research team is widely recognized as a leading source of research, data, and information for community-based practitioners, public and private stakeholders, and policymakers working on housing issues that impact rural communities. A strong candidate will bring to the job analytic rigor and a deep desire to help rural people and places thrive, plus the willingness to grow as a thought leader in the field.

Read the position description and application instructions.

HAC is Hiring a Training Coordinator

The Training Coordinator is a full-time position that will work collaboratively with and serve as the immediate backup to the Director of Training and Technical Assistance to support the successful management and delivery of HAC’s training activities as well as its biennial National Rural Housing Conference. The Training Coordinator will be responsible for organizing training and events related to HAC’s annual programs training calendar, with a focus on in-person events — including virtual engagements.

Read the position description and application instructions.

How HAC’s Training and Technical Assistance Supports Homebuyer Education

Homeownership isn’t just part of the American Dream—it is a pathway to decent, affordable housing and one of the best opportunities families have to build wealth. For over fifty years, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has empowered rural nonprofits to better meet the housing needs of their communities. From self-help housing to sustainable design, HAC’s training and technical assistance supports a variety of homeownership programs. Because June is National Homeownership Month, join us as we explore one way HAC supports rural homeownership: helping our nonprofit partners provide homebuyer education.  

For many families, navigating the homebuying process can be a challenge. Homebuyer education prepares buyers by helping them understand the homebuying process, building their financial skills like budgeting, and teaching how to maintain their new home. In addition, many first-time homebuyer programs (including most government-funded homeownership initiatives) require that prospective buyers complete homebuyer education to qualify for assistance.  

HAC’s one-on-one technical assistance supports organizations at every stage of providing homebuyer education. “Many of the groups I work with want to offer homebuyer education because nobody else in their community is doing it,” says HAC Housing Specialist Kelly Cooney. We assist organizations with deciding which homebuyer education courses to offer, navigating of the process of becoming a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved housing counseling agency, and even refining existing courses to better meet the needs of their clients. HAC’s Technical Assistance program also promotes peer-learning and resource-sharing by connecting our partner organizations with other like-missioned groups in their area and around the country.  

Unfortunately, many rural families travel long distances to reach the nearest class.  During the fall of 2020, HAC provided training to 14 local housing organizations, helping them convert their in-person homebuyer education courses to a virtual format. Over the course of three sessions, attendees learned best practices for online teaching, success stories from peers, and how to keep their clients engaged.  

As Elizabeth Mooney, a Housing Counselor at Community Action Commission of Fayette County, explains, “HAC has been so helpful in the transition of our homebuyer education classes during COVID. They scheduled calls to check in on the transition, offered solutions that other agencies were using, and connected me with even more resources. They even offered me a scholarship for some of the virtual trainings I attended.”  

You can request technical assistance and explore HAC’s calendar of training events. 

Rural Voices: 50Years of HAC - Cover

Rural Voices: 50 Years of HAC

HAC is celebrating its 50th anniversary! That does not mean we are simply congratulating ourselves for our good work and good fortune. We are glancing fondly backward, to be sure, but mostly we are looking forward. In May 2021 we launched a three-year capital campaign with an ambitious but achievable goal: “All families in rural America have a safe, decent, affordable place to live by 2071.”

This issue of Rural Voices considers the past 50 years while focusing on the next 50. It revisits some of the many rural communities in which HAC has worked, and it features visions of the future from rural places and rural housing leaders around the country.


VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

A Half Century Legislating for a Thriving Rural America
by Senator Patrick Leahy

The Senate President Pro Tempore reflects on his time leading the Senate Appropriations Committee, making a priority of investments in housing programs, and the challenges that remain.

FEATURES

Building on Past Successes for a Bright Future
by David Lipsetz

HAC’s CEO considers what needs to be done in the next 50 years.

Vision2071: What do Rural Communities Need to Succeed?
by Mackenzie Webb

Across the diverse tapestry of rural America, dedicated housing professionals hold an equally diverse set of visions for their communities.

Building an Abundance Mindset for the Rural Future
by Brian Fogle

A Missouri nonprofit offers a new way of thinking to ensure rural growth.

Revisiting Rural Success Stories
by Mackenzie Webb

A safe, healthy, and affordable home has an immediate impact when a senior no longer has to live with mold or a family finally has a home of their own. But, many of the effects reveal themselves over the course of decades. That’s why we are revisiting success stories from the Housing Assistance Council’s 50 years of helping build rural communities. Our homes shape our lives and our communities for generations to come. Decades after they concluded, these projects in Alamosa, Colorado, and Concordia Parish, Louisiana, continue to positively impact their communities—places where HAC still works.


INFOGRAPHIC

What is Your Vision for 2071?

During the 2021 National Rural Housing Conference, we asked attendees to share their vision for Rural America in 50 years. We would like to know: What is your vision for 2071?

 

 


Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please comment on these stories by sending a tweet to #RuralVoices, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

HAC is Hiring a Housing Specialist- Native American Communities

The Housing Specialist – Native American Communities is responsible for providing direct technical assistance, coaching, and training to tribal communities, tribal housing departments, tribal housing authorities, and nonprofit organizations serving tribal communities. The Housing Specialist – Native American Communities contributes to all aspects of HAC’s mission through a combination of responsibilities and special projects involving place, people, and community-based strategies, with a primary focus on development and sustainability of capacity to improve the housing conditions for the rural poor.

Read the position description and application instructions.

2021 HAC Annual Report

HAC’s 2021 Annual Report

HAC would like to present its Annual Report for the year 2021.

HAC 2021 Annual Report

A Message from HAC President & CEO and Board Chair

For 50 years, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has worked with rural communities to build a better future. As we celebrate the first half-century of HAC, we are prompted to look back on the lessons of the last 50 years. But more importantly, we are inspired to look ahead. We envision a future in which everyone in rural America will have a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home. Since our ambitions are mighty, the challenge before us in 2021 was to build the launchpad for that vision. 

In many ways, 2021 was our most impactful year yet. But, we didn’t just help build 820 homes, publish 11 new research products, and train 1,894 housing professionals. We did all that in ways that set up HAC and the communities we serve for long-term success. 

In December, we hosted the National Rural Housing Conference, welcoming over 550 rural housing experts and on-the-ground professionals from across the country. With speeches from members of the President’s Cabinet, Congressional leadership, and civil rights icons, and discussions with panels of industry leaders, the conference was a platform for innovative ideas about how to harness the innovation of rural America. Through more than 40 workshops, our attendees gained the knowledge and skills they need to create meaningful, lasting change in their communities.

We also deepened our relationships with the policymakers who oversee federal rural housing programs. These relationships resulted in the inclusion of new and expanded rural programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through a variety of coalitions and working groups, HAC is bringing the rural housing industry together to advocate for the programs our communities need to succeed. As HAC expands our policy work, we’ll be guided by policy priorities we crafted in 2021—priorities for both 2022 and for the next 50 years.

While we are celebrating the work HAC has done since its founding in 1971, we are laying the foundation for our next fifty years of rural success. We are building support for our ambitious vision of rural America’s future through a new campaign: Vision 2071. Through the Vision 2071 campaign, we published stories that explore what local organizations need to address their communities’ housing challenges and what role a national intermediary like HAC can play in bringing us all together. Over the next three years, HAC will raise funding and capital to help all of us achieve the vision of a rural America where everyone has a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home. 

Our work in 2021 was the launchpad for achieving that goal. Thank you for supporting the Housing Assistance Council’s work this year. We’re excited for what the next 50 have in store.

HAC Names Jonathan Harwitz Director of Policy

Housing Assistance Council Names Jonathan Harwitz Director of Policy

Contact: Dan Stern
(202) 842-8600
dan@ruralhome.org

Housing Assistance Council Names Jonathan Harwitz Director of Policy

Jonathan will manage HAC’s policy initiatives.

Washington, DC, March 1, 2022 – The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is pleased to announce the hiring of Jonathan Harwitz as HAC’s new Director of Policy. He brings years of experience working with policymakers on affordable housing issues. Jonathan will spearhead and expand HAC’s place as the national source for independent, non-partisan policy solutions for rural housing and community development.

Jonathan joins HAC from his role as Director of Housing Community Development and Insurance Policy for the House Financial Services Committee.  Prior to that he served as Managing Director of Federal Policy and Government Affairs at the Low Income Investment Fund, a large national Community Development Financial Institution.  Earlier in his career, Jonathan served as: Deputy Chief of Staff for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development; Counsel to the Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee; Professional Staff to the Housing and Transportation Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee; and in various policy-related positions at the Corporation for Supportive Housing. Prior to entering the field of federal policy, he clerked for two federal District Court judges and was a lawyer in private practice.

Jonathan was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. He earned a Bachelor’s degree with honors from Yale College, and a JD from Harvard Law School. He currently resides near Washington, DC with his wife and kids.

“Federal policy has an important and lasting impact on rural places,” said HAC CEO David Lipsetz. “We are incredibly excited to have Jonathan join the HAC team and help us make the case for equitable investment in rural areas across the country.”

For the last 50 years, HAC has been the voice for the poorest of the poor in the most rural places. HAC’s policy priorities are focused on the importance of capacity building, access to capital, and geographic equity in federal policymaking – with a specific lens on persistently poor and high-needs regions like the Mississippi Delta, rural Appalachia, farmworker communities, the Southwest border colonias and Indian Country. Our independent and non-partisan policy work ensures the most vulnerable rural populations have improved access to safe and affordable housing opportunities.

To learn more about HAC’s policy work, visit https://ruralhome.org/our-work/policy/.

###