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 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.

“There Is More Work To Be Done” Call for Artists

Honoring the legacy of photographer George Ballis (1925-2010) and his deep ties to rural housing & community development, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) with support from the National Endowment for the Arts is seeking photographers for an upcoming exhibition, “There Is More Work to Be Done”. Scheduled for December 2020, the exhibition situates Ballis’ work alongside new images of rural America’s Places, its People, their Plight and Perseverance, and the Process of change still underway.

George Ballis had a storied career at the intersection of photography and social justice. He chronicled seminal movements in American history, insisting on capturing images of ordinary community members in addition to leaders at the forefront of social change. According to Ballis, strong leaders like Cesar Chavez were simply the spokespeople of ordinary folks – it was the everyday person that he strove to capture. Carrying on his legacy, “There Is More Work To Be Done” seeks works that authentically display the conditions of rural America and rural Americans today.

“There Is More Work To Be Done” is searching for photographers to document the impact of rural housing and rural community development programs in areas across the USA such as Appalachia, Central California, the Native American Lands of Northern New Mexico, the Texas Rio Grande Valley, and beyond. The exhibition looks to situate the work of Ballis alongside new images that showcase the progress of rural affordable housing and aligned efforts across the country, and to expose the work that still needs to be done.

Selected photographers will be guided by Matt Herron, a contemporary of Ballis’, and work with HAC to develop new photos according to the main themes of the project. Participants will be awarded a stipend of approximately $2000 for their contributions. The developed images will be exhibited physically and virtually at national rural development gatherings.

Please note that once you start this form you cannot save it or exit it until it is complete. We recommend that you prepare your answers in advance before you start this form. Please also note this application has maximum character counts for some responses, and spaces count as a character.

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Applications are due at 5:00 PM EST, August 14th, 2020.

Please contact with any questions or concerns.

*HAC understands public health concerns and will take them into consideration when carrying out this project, making adjustments as necessary.

Census 2020 Logo

Respond to the 2020 Census

The 2020 Census is happening now and HAC encourages everyone living in the United States to respond. The Census is supposed to count every resident. The numbers are used to determine how billions of dollars of assistance are distributed, as well as how representation in Congress is divided. If you don’t respond, or if the Census misses you, your community gets fewer resources.

The 2020 Census does not ask about citizenship or documentation. It is illegal for the Census Bureau to share any of your information with any other government agencies, including law enforcement or immigration.

You can complete your questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail. Click here for information from the U.S. Census Bureau about the Census and how to respond.

You can complete the census online or by phone in 13 different languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.

The Census Bureau also offers webpages and guides in 59 non-English languages, including American Sign Language, as well as guides in Braille and large print. Click here to learn more.

Claudia Miranda and her mother, Martha Baltazar, in front of Martha’s home at Rosaleda Village in Wasco, Calif.

Federal Funding Extended to Dec. 20

Just before federal funding expired on November 21, 2019, Congress passed and President Trump signed a second continuing resolution that funds the government at fiscal year 2019 levels through December 20, 2019. The bill includes tweaks to some non-housing programs and adds funding for 2020 Census preparation.

The House and Senate have passed differing USDA and HUD appropriations bills for fiscal year 2020, which started on October 1, 2019. Much work remains to be done on these and other funding measures before December 20. HAC will post updates on its website and in the HAC News newsletter. Subscribe to the free HAC News here.

Applications Due soon! HAC Seeks Proposals for Its Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans (AHRV) Initiative

HAC’s Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans initiative supports local nonprofit housing development organizations that meet or help meet the affordable housing needs of veterans in rural places. Grants typically range up to $30,000 per organization and must support bricks-and-mortar projects that assist low-income, elderly and/or disabled veterans with home repair and rehab needs, support homeless veterans, help veterans become homeowners, and/or secure affordable rental housing.

This initiative is funded through the generous support of The Home Depot Foundation.

Applications are due by 5:00PM (EST) on or before November 15, 2019.

Download the Application Package: Application | Application Guidelines

For more information, contact HAC staff, No phone calls please.