Rural Research Briefs are a series of data and findings from the recently released decennial Census and American Community Survey (ACS), highlighting various social, economic, and housing characteristics of rural Americans.

Manufactured Housing in Rural America


Manufactured homes are an often overlooked and maligned component of our nation’s housing stock, but these homes are an important source of housing for millions of Americans, especially those with low incomes and in rural areas. Although the physical quality of manufactured housing continues to progress, the basic delivery system of how these homes are sold, financed, and managed is still in need of improvement to ensure that they are a viable and quality source of affordable housing.

Homeownership in Rural America Research Brief Cover

Homeownership in Rural America

Homeownership in Rural America Research Brief Cover

Owning a home has traditionally been the bedrock of the “American Dream,” conveying prosperity, financial security, and upward mobility. The United States is largely a nation of homeowners and homeownership is more prevalent in rural areas. But many rural households still face challenges in accessing, attaining and affording the purchase of a home. Lack of available stock, affordability and high cost loans are barriers to homeownership.

This Rural Research Brief examines the state of homeownership in rural America.

Ground Truth from Rural Practitioners Cover

Ground Truth from Rural Practitioners

Ground Truth from Rural Practitioners Cover

Local and regional rural-serving organizations shape and strengthen the fabric of their communities. But what kinds of organizations are these? What is of the range of topics they work on? What expertise do they have—and what expertise do they need? Based on the findings from a survey of over 350 different rural-serving organizations in 45 states, this research brief strives to provide policy makers, funders and other well-meaning folks who want to do right by rural with information on the inner workings of rural-serving organizations. The survey results highlight policy, investments and partnerships that are better tuned to rural realities and the self-identified strengths, expertise and needs of rural-serving organizations. It also demonstrates the resilience and strength of rural organizations despite great odds, while guiding national partners and philanthropy to build on and invest in their success.

Apartments in rural America

Tax Considerations for Rural Housing Preservation

Tax Relief Rural Research Brief coverA crisis is building for many federally supported rental properties, which are an important source of affordable housing for low-income rural residents. Particularly, USDA Section 515 mortgages are nearing the ends of their terms, and property owners may wish to convert their properties to other uses (for example, market-rate housing) or sell them to others who will convert them. If owners sell to entities that will continue to use them as affordable rentals, rural tenants benefit and the existing federal investment in these properties is protected. Yet many owners are reluctant to sell their properties for preservation because they will experience adverse tax consequences at sale. This paper explores those tax consequences, indicates where they may have the greatest impact, and suggests ways they might be mitigated in order to encourage preservation.

Tax consequences arise as a result of depreciation over the lifetime of a rental property. Federal tax law allows a rental property owner to reduce their annual tax liability by claiming depreciation in the property’s value every year. When the property is sold, however, tax law requires that a portion of the taxes deferred by depreciation must be recaptured. If a property’s market value has appreciated over time, a higher sales price can cover the depreciation recapture and also provide the seller with a profit. If the value has not appreciated, however – as is the case in many rural areas – or when a purchaser needs to buy at less than market value in order to preserve affordability, the tax liability can use up most or all of the sales receipts.

The paper presents several technical, market and legislative strategies that could help mitigate the identified tax-related barriers and enhance preservation efforts.

Communities impacted by Eligibility Cover

Communities Possibly Impacted by USDA Eligibility Changes

Rural Research Brief: USDA Eligibility Impact

In June 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a list of more than 900 communities that may no longer be eligible for Rural Development (RD) housing assistance based on population increase and changes in rural composition and character. The proposed communities that may become ineligible are located in 420 counties across 49 states and territories.

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) investigated recent USDA-RD loan and program activity in areas that are slated for change in their eligibility status. It is important to note that RD obligation data are not available for the specific communities that may become ineligible. This brief provides a general indication of possible impacts to communities that may lose their USDA eligibility status.

Rural Economies and Industry Research Brief

Rural Economies and Industry

Rural Economies and Industry

rrn-econ-cover-thbHAC’s seventh Rural Research Note takes a brief look into rural America’s economies and industries. Rural economies, and people in general, are often perceived as being heavily reliant on farming and other natural resource industries. While it is true that the majority of these industries are located in rural places, they employ only 5.5% of rural and small town workers. Overall, the sector-by-sector employment profile of rural America is surprisingly similar to that of suburban and urban America.

This Rural Research Note presents employment data and maps that highlight the similarities, and differences, between rural America and more densely populated regions. Additionally, the effects of large agribusiness are explored within the context of small family farming.

July 2012

Homeownership in Rural America

Homeownership in Rural America

rrn-ho-thumbIn its fifth Rural Research Note, HAC examines Homeownership in Rural America . In rural and small town communities, homeownership rates are even higher than the national level. In 2010, approximately 17.9 million, or 71.6 percent of occupied homes in rural communities were owned by their inhabitants. Consistent with national trends, the rural homeownership rate declined by two percentage points from the year 2000.

This research note includes analysis of:

  • Homeownership across the rural spectrum;
  • True homeownership rates in rural America; and
  • Homeownership rates decline between 2000 and 2010.
Poverty in Rural America Research Brief

Poverty in Rural America


HAC has conducted extensive research on poverty in rural America, including:

Housing Occupancy Research Brief Cover

Housing Occupancy and Vacancy in Rural America

Seasonal and Recreational Homes Contribute to Higher Housing Vacancy Rates in Rural & Small Town America

According to the 2010 Census, there are just over 30 million housing units in rural and small town communities, making up 23 percent of nation’s housing stock. Of these, approximately 25 million, or 82 percent, of rural homes are occupied. Housing vacancy rates in rural and small town areas are approximately 7 percentage points higher than the national level. Much of the higher vacancy rate in rural areas is due to the number of homes unoccupied for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use. In fact, nearly 60 percent of all vacant seasonal, or recreational homes nationwide are located in rural and small town areas. Additionally, the number of housing units in rural and small town communities increased by nearly 3 million (11 percent) between 2000 and 2010.

For more information on this issue, check out HAC’s newest Rural Research Note: Housing Occupancy and Vacancy in Rural America (PDF)