Solar panels covering parking spaces at Calistoga Family Apartments The U.S. Department of Agriculture

“Worst Case” Rental Housing Needs Changed Little from 2017 to 2019

Only 62 affordable rental units were available for every 100 very low-income renters in 2019, according to Worst Case Housing Needs: 2021 Report to Congress, released on October 5 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While data on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession that began in 2020 is not yet available, the report notes that they pose a “great risk of widespread housing problems.”

Households with worst case needs are defined as renters with very low incomes (at or below 50 percent of area median income) who do not receive government housing assistance and pay more than half their income for rent, live in severely inadequate conditions, or both. Cost burden – the mismatch between income and housing costs – is by far the most significant housing problem in all geographic areas. Inadequate housing quality caused only 3 percent of worst case needs nationwide.

In 2019 there were 7.77 million renter households with worst case needs in the U.S., 42.2 percent of all very low-income renters. This represents an improvement from the record high of 8.5 million (44 percent) in 2011 but it remains above the rate during the years preceding the 2007-2009 recession.

Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of worst case renters in 2019 had extremely low incomes (at or below 30 percent of area median), the highest proportion since 2005. Worst case needs were highest among American Indian or Alaskan Native households at 55 percent; 53 percent among Asian households, 45 percent among Hispanic households, 44 percent among non-Hispanic White households, and 36 percent among non-Hispanic Black households and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander households.

Worst case needs declined in the Midwest, Northeast, and South from 2017 to 2019, but those improvements were offset by an increase in worst case needs in the West.

Registration for Virtual National Rural Housing Conference Coming Soon

A Message from HAC’s President & CEO

We’ve had a remarkable year here at the Housing Assistance Council and look forward to finishing the year in that same fashion with HAC’s National Rural Housing Conference, scheduled to take place virtually on November 30 – December 3, 2021. This year’s virtual format will allow us all to reconnect and gather safely, regardless of location. With an exciting and full schedule of workshops and new virtual gathering spaces, the Conference will offer attendees a premier opportunity to learn from experts and connect with the entire affordable housing industry.

We will host more than 30 workshops and stakeholder convenings—covering topics including best practices for rural housing and community development, resource development, organizational management, and creative placemaking. This conference offers an excellent opportunity to connect with federal agencies, national housing organizations, and on-the-ground practitioners from across rural America. For many, this conference represents the year’s only opportunity to connect directly with federal policymakers, program experts, friends around the affordable housing industry and others who share their interests in a thriving rural America.

Registration opens soon. Be on the lookout for our announcement so you can reserve your place as we gather for HAC’s 2021 National Rural Housing Conference. We look forward to connecting with you this December!

Warm Regards,

David Lipsetz
President & CEO

Policy News from Congress

Updated Sept. 14 – Rural Rental Housing and Repairs for Homeowners Included in Draft Bill

UPDATE September 14, 2021 – More rural housing funding has been added to the House Financial Services Committee’s portion of the reconciliation package. It now includes:

  • $4.36 billion for new construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of Section 515 rental housing and Section 514/516 farmworker housing;
  • $200 million for Section 521 Rental Assistance;
  • $70 million in budget authority for Section 502 direct homeownership loans (estimated to support loans totaling about $3.7 billion);
  • $95 million for Section 504 repair grants; and
  • $25 million for Section 523 self-help.

The bill sets no time limits for spending most of these funds, although the Rental Assistance money would expire on September 30, 2024.

Funding for HUD’s Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) was also added when the draft was revised. An additional $50 million would be available for SHOP over 10 years. As noted below, the bill provides substantial new funding for numerous HUD programs.

The Financial Services Committee began its consideration of the bill on September 13 and is continuing on September 14. The markup session will also consider a bill to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), which would establish a new annual 5 percent setaside for tribes under USDA’s Section 502, 504, 515, 533, and 538 programs, as well as the Rural Utilities Service programs.

The Financial Service Committee’s portion of the reconciliation bill will be combined with pieces from other committees to create the full $3.5 trillion package. The House is expected to approve it. Then it will be considered in the Senate, where it needs only a majority vote to pass, but it is not yet clear whether enough Senators will vote for it.


September 9, 2021 – Congress’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation package includes $5 billion for USDA’s rural rental housing programs and $100 million for repairs to rural owner-occupied homes. The House Financial Services Committee released legislative text on September 9, providing details that were not previously available.

The $5 billion rural rental total would be used for new construction of Section 515 rental housing and 514/516 farmworker housing, and for preserving existing properties through the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization program.

USDA’s Section 504 grant program, which covers the costs of health and safety repairs to owner-occupied homes in rural areas, would receive $100 million. These grants are usually available only to homeowners age 62 or older, but that age restriction would be waived for this pool of funds. The requirement that homeowners have very low incomes would remain in place.

The bill would also provide significant funding for numerous HUD programs including $35 billion for HOME and $8.5 billion for Community Development Block Grants. The colonias on the U.S.-Mexico border would receive a $1 billion setaside of CDBG funds.

The  Financial Services Committee will mark up this bill on September 13. (At the same session the committee will also consider two other bills, one to assist renters in the wake of the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the federal eviction moratorium, and one to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act.)

All funds appropriated through the reconciliation bill would be in addition to the usual annual funding for these programs. Congress has not completed work on USDA’s or HUD’s annual appropriations for fiscal year 2022, which begins on October 1, 2021. The year is likely to begin with a continuing resolution holding programs at their FY21 levels.

HAC in the News

Rural Veterans and Local Nonprofits Receive Critical Housing Support

Contact: Shonterria Charleston
(202) 842-8600

Rural Veterans and Local Nonprofits Receive Critical Housing Support

Funded by The Home Depot Foundation

Washington, DC, August 16, 2021 – Veterans and their families in 10 rural communities will have better lives, thanks to The Home Depot Foundation and the Housing Assistance Council. The Foundation is awarding grants totaling $295,000 to 10 local nonprofit housing agencies around the country to preserve housing for veterans in rural America.

The grant is part of The Home Depot Foundation’s mission to improve the homes and lives of U.S. veterans and invest $500 million in veteran causes by 2025. Many veterans and their families face major housing challenges, often exacerbated by issues related to unemployment, age and service-related disabilities. The Home Depot Foundation and the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) are dedicated to giving back to those who have answered the highest call of service to our nation.

As part of its Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans (AHRV) Initiative, HAC works with The Home Depot Foundation to administer grants that bolster and support the work of rural nonprofit housing agencies to deliver critical housing support to veterans.

“HAC’s continued partnership with The Home Depot Foundation is now even more critical in strengthening the capacity of local rural organizations to build and preserve veteran housing units across rural America,” said David Lipsetz, HAC’s CEO. “Together we’ve been able to support a nimble response to the housing challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As rural America is home to a disproportionately high number of service women and men, HAC remains deeply committed to supporting our nation’s service women and men by uplifting local nonprofits and their work to house and ensure the safe habitability of their homes and rural communities.

The grantee organizations – described below – provide a range of programs. With the grants, veterans who own homes in Alabama, Arizona, North Carolina, Louisiana, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee will obtain critical repair assistance. Altogether, 55 veterans and their families will benefit from these grants.

About The Home Depot Foundation 

The Home Depot Foundation works to improve the homes and lives of U.S. veterans, train skilled tradespeople to fill the labor gap, and support communities impacted by natural disasters. Since 2011, the Foundation has invested more than $375 million in veteran causes and improved more than 50,000 veteran homes and facilities. The Foundation has pledged to invest half of a billion dollars in veteran causes by 2025 and $50 million in training the next generation of skilled tradespeople through the Path to Pro program.

To learn more about The Home Depot Foundation visit and follow the Foundation on Twitter @HomeDepotFound and on Facebook and Instagram @HomeDepotFoundation.

About the Housing Assistance Council
The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is a national nonprofit that supports affordable housing efforts throughout rural America. Since 1971, HAC has provided below-market financing for affordable housing and community development, technical assistance and training, research and information, and policy formulation to enable solution for rural communities.

About the Grantees

  • Bogalusa Rebirth, Bogalusa, LA will utilize $30,000 to provide critically needed rehabilitation for three (3) veteran homes, prioritizing women veterans and those needing wheelchair accessibility features. For additional information on Bogalusa Rebirth, visit their website at
  • Community Action Commission of Fayette County, Washington Court House, OH will utilize $30,000 to rehabilitate ten (10) veteran-owned homes with health, safety, accessibility, and critical roof repairs or replacements. For additional information on Community Action Commission of Fayette County, visit their website at
  • Community Service Programs of West Alabama, Inc., Tuscaloosa, AL will utilize $30,000 to rehabilitate six (6) veteran homes from Bibb, Dallas, Fayette, Hale, Green, Lamar, Perry, Pickens, or Sumter counties. For additional information on Community Service Programs of West Alabama, Inc., visit their website at
  • Creative Compassion, Inc., Crossville, TN will utilize $30,000 to provide critically needed home repairs for five (5) veterans through partnerships with local Department of Veteran Affairs assistance offices and veteran-focused nonprofits in Cumberland and Fentress counties. For additional information on Creative Compassion, Inc., visit their website at
  • Appalachia Service Project, Johnson City, TN will utilize $30,000 to provide four (4) veterans with critical repairs and/or assist in constructing new homes for homeless veterans in Central Appalachia. For additional information on Grants and Strategic Corporate Partnerships Appalachia Service Project, visit their website at
  • Habitat for Humanity Orange County, Chapel Hill, NC will utilize $25,000 to support the repair of four (4) rural veteran homes in Orange County, NC. For additional information on Habitat for Humanity Orange County, visit their website at
  • Home Works of America, Columbia, SC will utilize $30,000 to assist ten (10) veteran homeowners with critical roof replacements. For additional information on Home Works of America, visit their website at
  • White Mountain Apache Housing Authority, Whiteriver, AZ, will utilize $30,000 to support the rehabilitation of three (3) veteran owned units on the Fort Apache Reservation. For additional information on White Mountain Apache Housing Authority, visit their website at
  • Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, Inc., Wilmington, NC, will utilize $30,000 to support the repair of five (5) veteran owned homes in their service area. For additional information on Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, Inc., visit their website at


The State of The Nation’s Housing – 2021

Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University
Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies - 2021 Cover

Even as the US economy continues to recover, the inequalities amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic remain front and center. Households that weathered the crisis without financial distress are snapping up the limited supply of homes for sale, pushing up prices and further excluding less affluent buyers from homeownership. At the same time, millions of households that lost income during the shutdowns are behind on their housing payments and on the brink of eviction or foreclosure. A disproportionately large share of these at-risk households are renters with low incomes and people of color. While policymakers have taken bold steps to prop up consumers and the economy, additional government support will be necessary to ensure that all households benefit from the expanding economy.

HAC is a proud sponsor of Harvard’s State of the Nation’s Housing report.

HAC in the News

HAC and rural CDFIs receive “massive” $353 million investment

The US Treasury announced it is investing $1.25 billion of COVID-19 relief funds in Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). We are excited to announce that the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has received the maximum award: $1,826,265.

HAC will invest our $1.8 million award through our Loan Fund to support affordable housing organizations across rural America. As Eileen Neely, director of HAC’s Loan Fund explains, “$1.8 million means we can invest in more rural communities and help more low-income Americans get housed.”

Overall, the US Treasury is awarding $353 million to rural CDFIs. “This massive investment in rural CDFIs will help unlock the potential of rural communities,” said David Lipsetz, President & CEO of the Housing Assistance Council. “We are thrilled for the opportunity to expand our work for disinvested rural communities.”

Everyone deserves a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. This award strengthens HAC’s work to make that vision a reality for rural America.

Our Work

A celebration of Black history and Black families

February is Black History Month. At HAC, we observe this important time by reflecting on the history of Black Americans and the contributions they’ve made to our communities for more than 400 years . Black history matters. Tragically, just as America has silenced and ignored Black voices, we have omitted Black history.

Even today, we often leave Black Americans out of our conception of rural America. Racial minorities represent 23% of rural America, yet they make up almost 60% of the population of rural counties with persistent poverty. These are the communities HAC serves, and we stand steadfast in our commitment to them. Every day, our work helps the most underserved rural communities meet their housing needs.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the founders of Black History Month, have named this February’s theme to be The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. While community developers build houses, it’s families that make them into homes. Our work has supported Black families build community and access the safe, affordable housing they deserve for decades.

We’re excited to take this month to celebrate Black families and their contributions to rural America. This month, we’ll be highlighting our work with Black communities and sharing more about our ongoing commitment to them. For 50 years, HAC has helped build homes in the most rural and poorest places in America. Our work is driven by a commitment to making the more just and equitable world we dream of. Still, there is much work to be done to realize that dream of true equity and justice. We hope you’ll join us in that work.

Our Work

HAC Awarded Nearly $1.3 Million in SHOP Funding

Last week, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it has awarded the Housing Assistance Council almost $1.3 million under its Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP). Under the self-help model, homebuyers contribute hundreds of hours of labor as “sweat equity” instead of a down payment, making their new home more affordable.

HAC will lend this $1.3 million to organizations around the country building affordable self-help homes in rural communities. In fact, our lending will help finance the land purchase and infrastructure improvements necessary to build at least 69 self-help homes for low-income families.

If the borrowers meet their production goals, up to 90% of the loan can be forgiven.  This forgiveness frees up more funding for the organization to make the homes even more affordable, establish a revolving loan fund, or fund future self-help housing development. We are thankful for the opportunity to continue investing in the organizations making more affordable housing for rural America.

Happy Holidays from the Housing Assistance Council

With the holiday season upon us, we would like to take a moment to reflect on 2020. We have mourned the loss of family and friends to COVID-19, celebrated the focus on racial justice and longed for a more civil society. Our organization, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC), has strived to respond to the challenges. We know every American needs a safe, stable and affordable home like never before.

HAC’s focus is on the small towns and rural regions that are least equipped to respond to the current crisis. That is why we are working overtime with our allies and local partners to respond to the overwhelming demand for housing and community development. We are inspired by our partners’ daily acts of courage in the offices and on the construction sites that produce homes for people in need. And to our sponsors and supporters, we are grateful that you have joined us in this work.

Like many of you, HAC has pivoted to meet this moment. HAC’s biennial National Rural Housing Conference is one of the most powerful tools we have for training and sustaining rural housing allies. While COVID may have forced us to push the conference back to 2021, last week we hosted our first ever virtual symposium—Recovery Through Resiliency. It was a resounding success. Over 600 rural housing developers, government officials, community members, and housing advocates registered to attend. Hundreds of different people joined in every one of the panels that highlighted our work and the work of our industry. Attendees explored how the communities we all serve can move forward together from this trying moment. All in all, this symposium was an excellent chance for HAC to come together with our partners and the rural development community.

2020 was also a very busy year for our Loan Fund. With $11 million lent this year, our Loan Fund has increased lending by 22%. This included an increase in loans made to BIPOC-led housing developers. Across rural America, our financing is supporting safe, healthy, and affordable housing. The Loan Fund has also raised more than $4 million in lending capital, expanding our lending capacity for years to come.

Our work to build capacity in rural communities has also ramped up. Since March, HAC staff has moved our operations on-line to deliver hundreds of hours of training to rural housing organizations. We helped rural organizations navigate CARES Act programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and supported strategies to weather the current crisis. We also helped dozens of local organizations develop their own tailored business continuity plans to respond to natural and man-made disasters. Rural resiliency became our mantra so that even after this crisis passes, our partners will be prepared for the next.

Through the Citizens Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) we’ve helped rural communities use creative placemaking to come together while the pandemic keeps so many of us apart. This summer CIRD hosted its first hybrid virtual and socially distant in-person workshop to restore the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, a historic Black church in Athens, Ohio. Working with community members, CIRD designers developed a plan to breathe life back into the historic building and, by extension, the entire community.

Our Research and Information division has long been a prominent voice on the issues affecting rural America, and 2020 was no exception. In addition to analyzing the impacts of the pandemic on rural places, R&I delved into rural population change, the impacts of aging rural populations, how tax policy affects Section 515 preservation, and much more. In fact, this summer’s issue of Rural Voices focused on rural aging, exploring housing’s place in broader strategies to care for seniors as well as solutions to the challenged faced by aging rural populations. Our latest issue of Rural Voices engages with rural design, showcasing the power the arts have in uplifting rural communities.

There is a lot to look forward to in 2021. Next year, we celebrate HAC’s 50th anniversary. It’ll be a time for us to reflect on how far we’ve come in the last half century. More importantly, it will be an opportunity to highlight what must be done in the next 50 to eliminate rural poverty and housing needs. With a new administration, HAC is working to establish a seat at the table for rural issues from day one. Our flagship publication Taking Stock will analyze what the latest Census tells us about rural America. And, the full HAC conference will resume next December for us all to come together as an industry and as rural communities.

Our many partners and supporters deserve so much of the credit for our success. As we continue to grow in 2021, we hope you’ll consider making a gift to HAC and help us make rural communities even stronger, more vibrant, and more resilient. Thank you for all your help this year.

Remembering Bill Powers

On Thanksgiving Day, the affordable housing community lost a dear friend and advocate. Bill Powers was a friend of the Housing Assistance Council since its earliest days as one of our first staff members and later board member and chair.


A true affordable housing advocate, Bill devoted over 50 years of his life to the promotion of affordable housing and once said that the work has been “a lifetime interest.” When Gordon Cavanaugh became HAC’s first executive director in late 1971, he hired Bill, whom he had met while both men were working for the city of Philadelphia’s housing programs. Initially Bill helped start HAC’s lending programs and later he took on responsibility for government affairs.

As a housing program developer for the Rural California Housing Corporation, he was credited with raising over $1 million in a single year to support housing development in that state. Even after retiring, Bill donated his time to many organizations, served as a board member of several local housing agencies and HAC, and worked closely with the California Alliance of Retired Americans. He was also the recipient of the Congress for California Seniors Lifetime Achievement Award.

The death of Bill Powers is a loss for the affordable housing community. We will keep his memory alive by building on the work he spent his life doing: supporting rural communities’ access to safe, healthy, affordable homes. “I think HAC ought to be proud we’ve survived this long and proud of the movement we helped create,” Bill once said. “As long as there is a need for housing in rural America there will be a desperate need for organizations like HAC.” Rest in peace, Bill. Thank you for all you’ve done for us and for low-income rural Americans.