Help Rural America Thrive on Giving Tuesday

Good things are happening in rural America. Be a part of it.

Too often, the prevailing narrative about rural America is that it is failing compared to its urban and suburban counterparts. While rural America is certainly facing its share of struggles, there are so many bright spots and amazing things taking place in small towns and communities across the country. We know because we see it every day.

In October, HAC kicked off the Citizens Institute on Rural DesignTM (CIRD) with the CIRD Learning Cohort Summit in the towns of Thomas, Davis, and Elkins in rural West Virginia. The Citizen’s Institute on Rural Design™ is a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council, along with buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. Participants representing 23 rural communities from across the country convened to learn the fundamentals of rural design and how it can help solve some of their community’s most challenging problems.

Giving Tuesday 2019

Over the next year, these 23 communities will receive access to the resources they need to convert their own good ideas into reality. Here a few examples of the challenges these communities will be tackling:

  • One of the pressing issues still facing the residents of Iola, Kansas is the lack of quality, affordable housing. Thrive Allen County and the City of Iola will use the design challenge to develop an affordable housing master plan for a neighborhood on the north side of town.
  • The town of Entiat, Washington is exploring how it can reinvent itself as a destination for recreation, agritourism, small business development, and residential development.
  • The Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society in Athens, Ohio plans to rehabilitate the Mt. Zion Baptist Church into a multi-use space devoted to the contributions of African Americans in Southeast Ohio – honoring its founding in 1905 by a community of free-born and formerly enslaved people of color.

2020 holds many possibilities for HAC and the communities we partner with, like Iola, Entiat, and Athens. This #GivingTuesday, your donation to HAC will have more impact as every dollar raised will meet HAC’s match for the CIRD program. And every donation made to HAC on Facebook on #GivingTuesday will be matched by Facebook. You can be a part of changing the story in rural America.

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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.

Supreme Court Rules Citizenship Question on Census Needs a Better Rationale

The Supreme Court has ruled that including a citizenship question on the decennial census is permitted by the Constitution, but that the Commerce Department’s stated reason for adding the question is not supported by the facts. The case will now return to a lower court. It is not clear whether a final determination can be made in time to include the question on the 2020 Census, even if different justification is provided.

Those who oppose adding the question argued in court that it would make non-citizens, even those with legal status in the U.S., less likely to respond to the 2020 Census because of concerns about immigration enforcement. Rural residents, especially those who live in remote areas, and minorities are already undercounted.

The nine Justices split differently in parts of the June 27, 2019 decision in Department of Commerce v. New York. Five justices – Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Thomas – comprised the majority holding that the Constitution allows inclusion of a citizenship question. A majority consisting of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor held that the Commerce Department must provide a better explanation of its reasons for including the question. Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act was the Department’s public rationale for asking about citizenship, but evidence cited by the court indicated that was not its real motivation.

The decennial census did include a question about citizenship until 1950. From 1960 to 2000, the question was included on the “long form” census questionnaire that went to a sample of households and asked more detailed questions than the “short form” distributed to everyone. In 2010 the American Community Survey (ACS) replaced the long form and began asking about citizenship. The ACS surveys a sample of the population every year, so its data is constantly updated, unlike the census count every ten years.

Based on the most recent ACS, the Census Bureau estimates that 2.8 percent of the population in rural places and small towns are non-citizens. To view the data for your community and its reliability, visit HAC’s Rural Data Portal.

New Leadership for Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design Brings Broad Reach

by David Lipsetz

Children in front of a mural - Photo: [bc]

The National Endowment for the Arts has selected the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) as its partner for the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD), one of the Arts Endowment’s leadership initiatives. As HAC’s CEO, I couldn’t be more excited.

CIRD‘s goal is to enhance the quality of life and economic viability of rural America through planning, design, and creative placemaking. It offers communities access to the resources they need to convert their own good ideas into reality. The program awards competitive funding to small towns and rural and tribal communities to host multi-day community design workshops. With support from a wide range of design, planning, and creative placemaking professionals, the workshops bring together residents and local leaders from non-profits, community organizations, and government to develop actionable solutions to the community’s pressing design challenges. Following the workshop, the community receives additional support through webinars, web-based resources, and customized follow-up support.

HAC CEO David Lipsetz tours housing projects on the Pine Ridge reservation

If you are familiar with CIRD, but haven’t worked with HAC before, you might be wondering why a housing organization was chosen. Let me tell you a bit about us and hopefully it becomes clear. HAC’s mission is to build homes and communities across rural America. We’ve been doing so for nearly 50 years and have worked with over 10,000 rural communities.

HAC is attuned to rural life. We appreciate that every small town is unique. We understand that projects succeed or fail on the strength of local leadership and engagement. We see our job as building the capacity of local organizations to thrive well after we are gone. We know housing, but in rural places you never have the luxury of working with only one of the tools of community development. You must be able to wear many hats, and over the years we’ve amassed quite a collection.

I’m eager to watch CIRD’s core mission carried out through HAC. I’m equally eager to watch the interaction—both locally and nationally—of rural housing and community development practitioners working alongside designers and planners. CIRD will maintain its competitive funding for small and tribal communities to host multi-day design workshops. We will leverage our 50-state reach and capacity building network to bring peer learning and design-rooted capacity building to an additional 20 communities, and couple it with support for navigating funding opportunities. In late May 2019, CIRD will release a Request for Applications, inviting communities to apply for the program. Join CIRD’s mailing list to stay abreast.

If you are reading this post, you probably already know of rural and tribal communities that are trendsetters in design and creative placemaking. They often want to continue turning their community-rooted design ideas into reality. They want steady funding streams, coupled with the know-how to access such. They want to exchange ideas and break bread with their rural peers, gaining hands-on exposure to best practices. And they want to engage with the country’s best designers, including architects, planners, and other experts with a rural bent. They need a repository for what works and connection to a national conversation, boosting their collective capacity. HAC has been creating such connections for decades, and the National Endowment for the Arts has given HAC the resources to build even more via CIRD.

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP (bc), a nonprofit community design organization, will join HAC as a key partner in carrying out CIRD. bc is known for engaging low-income communities with award winning design and planning. bc has earned the respect of local partners in Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, and beyond. Their expertise is a perfect complement to HAC’s reach and reputation for building local capacity.

CIRD - Studio in the Park

The National Endowment for the Arts and HAC have committed to furthering CIRD’s reach because CIRD works. HAC hopes to spend a decade leading CIRD in close consultation with a CIRD Steering Committee comprised of rural design leaders. Behind the National Endowment for the Arts decision to select HAC is HAC’s success with a National Endowment for the Arts-funded creative placemaking award, HAC’s groundbreaking report on Placemaking in Native American Communities, and a growing consensus among policymakers, pundits, and most recently the National Governors Association that arts, placemaking, and design are drivers of rural economic development.

NEA’s support is also allowing HAC to host bc and several design fellows and other visitors at the intersection of rural and design to collaborate. Deliberate co-locating of top designers and planners with HAC’s expertise in rural policy and programs will deepen everyone’s understanding. The idea grew out of a bc-led session at HAC’s recent National Rural Housing conferences. HAC has an ear to the ground in rural America; merging such with bc’s design bona fides and a mutual respect for rural practitioners will bring about design rooted upshot for hundreds of small towns.

Finally, HAC will put CIRD’s track record and potential to work with philanthropy and other non-government actors. Ensuring quality rural design on a scale commensurate with the need for such requires investment from business and foundations. In boosting CIRD’s funding level to reach up to 20 additional communities, the National Endowment for the Arts signaled a commitment to rural design as a driver of rural prosperity—even in a competitive funding environment. Private and public support, including Community Reinvestment Act-motivated capital toward creative and design-focused endeavors is already producing results. We are looking for several more foundations and financial institutions to join our journey.

Way back in 1971, HAC’s founders called for “foster(ing) planning” and “citizen participation in housing and community benefit” on a national scale. They were prescient in outlining the importance of locally-driven planning and citizen participation. I’m glad that the National Endowment for the Arts is trusting HAC, via CIRD and with bcWORKSHOP, to take on work that our founders knew as important, then and now.

People and Places 2019

The Housing Assistance Council is a co-host of People & Places 2019 on April 15–17 in Arlington, Virginia (minutes from Washington, DC). Eighteen national nonprofits have joined forces to present this national community development event. We’re raising up local solutions that advance prosperity in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. HAC will be presenting a session on April 15th from 4:15 to 5:45 entitled “Rural Arts & Design: a Proven Strategy Toward Equity, Affordable Homes and Stronger Local Economies.”

Explore the agenda an speakers for this dynamic, peer-learning event. Learn what’s working to promote equitable development, strengthen the flow of capital, remediate blight, make places healthier, and much more. Together, our networks will go to Congress to raise our voices on behalf low-income people and disinvested places.

People and Places 2019 Event Banner

Materials Posted – Looking at 2020: The Administration’s Rural Housing Budget

Materials Posted

Power Point Presentation | Webinar Recording

The Trump Administration’s budget for fiscal year 2020 proposes to eliminate many housing programs. Caps on federal spending are due to come back into force for FY20. The House and Senate are now controlled by different parties. What can we anticipate as the funding process moves forward?

Join HAC’s rural housing experts for a review of the current situation and an explanation of the next steps.

Register Now: Section 502 Packaging Training in Kansas City, MO

Join HAC on in Kansas City, MO on May 7 – 9 2019 for the Section 502 Packaging Training for Nonprofit Housing Developers.


This three-day advanced course covers USDA Rural Development’s Section 502 Direct Loan Program and provides invaluable insight as to how this homeownership financing resource can be utilized. Learn how to assist potential borrowers and work in partnership with RD staff, as well as other nonprofit organizations and regional intermediaries to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages.

This course is intended for and specifically framed for those experienced in utilizing Section 502 and/or other affordable housing mortgage products. Participants will learn regulations and practical applications of the loan program, while developing a strong understanding of 502 direct underwriting and packaging standards. Following the course, participants are encouraged to take the online certification exam.

Following the course, participants are encouraged to take the online certification exam.

The registration fee for this event is $750.

Updated data on USDA tenants released

February 26, 2019 – USDA has released its annual “fair housing occupancy report,” which provides data on the characteristics of tenants in its multifamily portfolio. The report, which uses September 2018 data, shows the average annual income of Section 515 tenant households is $13,112 with the average income of Section 515 residents who receive USDA Section 521 Rental Assistance at $10,911.

White non-Hispanics make up 67.8 percent of tenant households in Section 515 developments, while 79.8 percent of Section 514/516 farmworker households are Hispanic. Female-headed households (71.0 percent) and elderly/disabled households (62.8 percent in all properties and 64.4 percent in Section 515) also comprise large majorities of the tenant population.

Almost seven in ten households receive USDA Rental Assistance (68.4 percent), with an additional 13.1 percent getting some other form of rent aid. Just under 12 percent of tenant households are cost-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their incomes for their housing. More than a third of the cost-burdened tenants pay over half their incomes for housing.

The report says the number of properties in USDA’s rental portfolio fell by 1.79 percent over the past year. The portfolio lost 227 Section 515 properties and 24 farmworker housing properties, with a total of 4,820 units. No additional information about these developments is provided.

Altogether, the report offers more than 40 pages of national and state-level data for tenants living in Section 515 rental housing, living in Section 514/516 farm labor housing, or receiving Section 521 Rental Assistance. Reports from past years are available on HAC’s website.

Father and son

HAC now accepting applications for rural veterans housing grants

vets fin resourcesHAC’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 areas. Grants may be up to $30,000 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 March 11.

Download the Application package: Application | Application Guidelines

For more information, contact HAC staff,