HAC’s full length research reports provide detailed information and analysis on a wide array of social, economic, and housing issues that impact affordable housing needs and provision in rural America.

Understanding the Colonias Investment Areas

Located along the U.S. and Mexico border, colonias communities lack a widely accepted definition and standardized boundaries, hindering investment. Fannie Mae and the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) have partnered to address this underserved market. Insights gained from our research are leading to greater understanding of the colonias region and potential investment opportunities.


Working Toward a Better Understanding of Colonia Communities for Mortgage Access and Finance

This research proposes an industry-standard, universal definition of colonias communities. The adoption of this definition can increase the effectiveness of future research and can help increase the understanding of potential investment opportunities. Learn more about this unique region and the 2.5 million people who call it home.


Colonias Mapping Tool


Find colonias communities and explore detailed tract and county data using our interactive mapping tool.

Access the Data

Download census tract level data that defines Colonias Investment Areas. The data also identifies how many communities in each Colonias Investment Area are associated with a federal, state, or local program.

In Search of "Good" Rural Data Cover Image

In Search of “Good” Rural Data

In Search of "Good" Rural Data Cover Image

The Housing Assistance Council has long been working to address the shortcomings of rural data for rural housing developers nationwide. The efforts of one organization alone, however, cannot address the significant issues with rural data collection, dissemination, and use. Data is essential to understanding demographics, housing costs, poverty, housing finance, and financial well-being. This report familiarizes us with the limitations of commonly used data sets and identifying shortcomings that could be addressed through new methods. Check out this new report, “In Search of Good Data: Measuring Rural Prosperity,” now.

Rural Prosperity Report Cover

Revealing Rural Realities: What Fuels Inaccurate and Incomplete Coverage of Rural Issues?

Rural Prosperity Report Cover

This report underscores and articulates how ongoing changes in the structure and business of media and journalism contribute to the gap between rural realities and public perception of rural America. It also highlights the outsized role that social media is playing in shaping public perceptions. Interviewees shared their recommendations for overcoming the challenges they identified and for making the most of emerging opportunities. Accordingly, this report provides a set of recommendations that could result in better rural-focused journalism.

Picking Up the Pieces: HAC’s Natural Disaster Guide

Picking Up the Pieces - CoverWhen a disaster strikes a rural area, one of the most serious problems may be a lack of information about resources and assistance available for recovery efforts. HAC’s guide, Picking Up the Pieces: Restoring Rural Housing and Communities After a Disaster, is intended to help survivors and local organizations identify resources to rebuild their homes and communities. This report emphasizes housing assistance.

Rental Housing for a 21stCentury Rural America

Rental Housing for a 21st Century Rural America: A Platform for Production

In their new report, Rental Housing for a 21st Century Rural America: A Platform for Production, The Urban Institute examines the issue of maturing mortgages in USDA’s Section 515 rental housing portfolio. This report is a companion piece to HAC’s Platform for Preservation report, the report analyzes the demand for new affordable rental housing in rural places and suggests ways to increase funding and capacity to deliver new units.

Rural America is Losing its Affordable Rental Housing

Native American Mortgages White Paper

Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities for Mortgage Finance in Indian Country

This report, Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities for Mortgage Finance in Indian Country, examines mortgage lending to American Indian and Alaska Natives particularly activity on federally recognized reservation lands (“reservations”). The analysis touches on the historic and social factors that have helped create the constrained mortgage lending environment on reservation lands. In addition to barriers like geographic isolation, economic distress, and mistrust, which are often found in rural areas, these lands have a nonstandard land ownership situation and an extra layer of federal oversight, as well. A review of mortgage lending data for Native American borrowers confirms activity is constrained on reservations. Such activity includes low origination rates, high denial rates, and a high proportion of loans made for manufactured homes.

Download the report

Sponsored by The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation.


Native American Creative Placemaking

Native American Creative Placemaking

That “Placemaking was always known to Native Americans” undergirds a new “Native American Creative Placemaking” report from HAC. The report examines a handful of established Native American creative placemaking efforts while offering a first of its kind interactive map of Native American creative placemaking projects. The paper also notes funding sources and emphasizes that placemaking “offers Native people on opportunity to reconnect with their traditional ways of life” as an antidote to injustices including forced assimilation, trauma in boarding schools, and extreme poverty.The paper encourages tribal leaders to establish a voice for Native Nations in placemaking efforts in the United States.

In 2016-2017, HAC took on a National Endowment for the Arts funded creative placemaking partnership with bcWORKSHOP aimed at sharing placemaking resources with HAC’s rural partners across the country.


Sponsored by The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation.

Soldier's Home Cover

Soldier’s Home: A Closer Look at the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) Home Loan Program

This report provides a descriptive analysis of the VA home loan program between 2005 and 2014. The analysis provides an overview of the VA loan program, its trends, borrowers, and lenders. The findings highlight the growing role of VA loans in home finance markets since the beginning of the Great Recession. VA loans represented approximately 9 percent of all mortgage lending activity in 2014, up from less than 2 percent in 2005. The lenders originated at least one VA loan in 95 percent of all counties during the 2012 to 2014 period.

During this time, refinance loans came to represent a majority of VA lending for three straight years (2012-2014) because of historically low interest rates. VA origination rates are consistently high for minority home purchase loans, when compared to conventional home purchase loans, even as default rates are said to be low, which may, at least in part, reflect the programs’ approach. Private mortgage companies and large volume lenders play a big role in the market, with program lender requirements possibly limiting small lender involvement. As long as the program can adapt to future changes, such as a smaller and more diverse veteran population and an increased importance of internet access, the VA loan products will continue to be a source of high quality, affordable housing finance for many veterans and their families.

Outstanding CRA Institutions Map

Making CRA Work in Rural America: Finding “Outstanding” Financial Institutions

The Housing Assistance Council’s report exploring the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), entitled Making CRA Work in Rural America: Finding “Outstanding” Financial Institutions, takes a closer look at lenders who consistently excel in meeting their CRA obligations. Is this a common phenomenon? Are there things which these lenders have in common? This research begins a discussion about how we can learn from those lenders which already do an outstanding job of providing credit to all of their service areas.

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requires federally insured lenders to make credit available in all areas where they do significant business or take deposits. The CRA charges federal bank regulators with evaluating depository institutions on a regular basis to ensure they are meeting this obligation.

The overwhelming majority of financial intuitions earned Satisfactory CRA ratings on their most recent CRA examinations. Regulators awarded Outstanding ratings to only 9 percent of lenders. Consistently Outstanding-rated lenders are important because they serve as examples of institutions that continually exceed CRA requirements in serving all portions of their service area. While making up a majority of all FDIC-insured depository institutions, little is known about rural lenders in general and even less about how they fulfill their CRA obligations.

This report looked more closely at the lenders who consistently received Outstanding ratings on their last three examinations. The data show that this is an uncommon occurrence, only 4 percent of lenders are consistently outstanding, and these banks most often large asset, urban headquartered institutions. While the inclusion of distressed and underserved census tracts in lender service areas was associated with being consistently rated outstanding, the analysis found no association with being headquartered in rural areas. Additional research of these lenders is needed to better understand how they are able to successfully serve all communities.

This report is part of HAC’s Three-Part “CRA in Rural America” series.