The HAC Rural Housing Conference App

The HAC 2016 Rural Housing Conference is going mobile! Here are just a few benefits and reasons why you do not want to miss out on the app:

  • Access the event schedule and customize your agenda with personal appointments
  • See all the speakers, read their bios, and view their presentations
  • Check out the exhibitors and locate their booths more easily through an interactive map
  • Get important updates and exciting offers through the app through Push Notifications
  • See who’s attending and share contact information by networking with other attendees

The app will soon be live. Stay tuned for the app release details and more info on how you can use the app to enhance your event experience.

2016 conf app screenshot

A look back at the 2014 HAC Conference

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is pleased to share with you a report on the 2014 HAC Rural Housing Conference held in Washington, DCin December 2014. The Conference was a tremendous success, according to evaluation results that are summarized in the Conference Report.

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is pleased to share with you a report on the 2014 HAC Rural Housing Conference held in Washington, DC this past December. The Conference was a tremendous success, according to evaluation results that are summarized in the Conference Report. The Report briefly reviews the plenary sessions, workshops and other Conference events. Links to videos of each plenary session as well as materials from select workshops are also made available in the Report.

Hope to see you at the 2016 HAC Rural Housing Conference!

Download the Report


Watch the Plenaries


Materials from the Conference


A Conversation with the HUD Secretary

Moises Loza interviews Secretary Julian Castro #R3ConfHAC was fortunate to be visited by two Cabinet Secretaries and several members of Congress at the 2014 HAC Rural Housing Conference. During one of those visit, HUD Secretary Julián Castro sat down with HAC’s Executive Director Moises Loza to discuss HUD’s role in rural America, his passion for public service, and how he thinks HUD can better serve rural communities across the country.

View the entire discussion on Youtube

Moises began the discussion by asking How is HUD working in Rural America and what should HUD’s role be in rural places?


Secretary Castro then shared his most poignant experience at HUD so far – visiting the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He went on to discuss what HUD could do to address housing issues and challenges on Native American Lands.


The theme of the 2014 HAC Rural Housing Conference, Retool, Rebuild, Renew, emphasizes the need for housing organizations to train and engage the next generation of rural housing professionals to take over the field as many of the current practitioners transition towards retirement. While this topic was discussed at length in the opening plenary session, Moises asked Secretary Castro for his perspective on motivating young people to enter the afordable housing and public service fields.


Mr. Castro also spoke to the importance of a strong public housing infrastructure as a means of providing affordable housing in rural areas…


And expressed his support for the CDBG program as a vehicle for community and housing development in rural and urban areas.


More from the chat

In a surprising moment, Moises revealed that he had known the Secretary’s “activist” mother from his days in Texas, which lead to a conversation about what compelled Mr. Castro to seek a career in public service.


The Secretary reflects on how his experience as Mayor of San Antonio will help him at HUD.


Moises asked the Secretary what can and should be done about credit standards and their impact on homeownership.


From around the web

Secretary Castro on The Daily Show with John Stewart

Materials from the 2014 HAC Conference

The 2014 HAC Rural Housing Conference was a tremendous success. With distinguished speakers like HUD Secretary Julián Castro, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, several members of congress, and a panel of emerging housing leaders, the conference was a highly energizing and engaging experience. To access materials from the Conference and stay connected with fellow attendees, please visit the Conference App.

Additional Resources from the Conference

HAC Trainings App

The HAC Trainings App will continue to host materials from the conference including workshop handouts and presentations.

Videos of the Plenary Sessions

Visit HAC’s Youtube channel to view the general sessions from the 2014 Conference.


#R3Conf Storify

What were people talking about on Social Media during the Conference? Check out the #R3Conf Storify

Pictures from the Conference

Take a look at more than 4,000 photos of the conference participants, speakers and activities.

Conference program now available

The HAC Rural Housing Conference is only 12 days away! Get a preview of what to expect at the conference by downloading the newly released Conference Program. Review the conference activities ahead of time and make sure to download the HAC Trainings App so you can access a more expansive and dynamic program.

Discussion Paper, Next Generation


Continue the Discussion on LinkedInContinue the Discussionby Matt Huerta, Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley, CA, and Karen Jacobson, Randolph County Housing Authority and Highland Community Builders, WV


Public and private investment is increasingly being focused in urban or suburban neighborhoods while rural areas continue to have high needs for infrastructure support in housing and other basic services. It can be exceedingly challenging to compete for talent with our urban counterparts. Meanwhile, our current workforce is aging and many rural areas are experiencing a “brain drain” of college educated residents. The young professionals that we have been fortunate enough to recruit can be equally challenging to retain. Rural housing professionals typically work across many disciplines and program areas in order to develop their projects and programs. Within a few short years, rural housing professionals have acquired unique but transferrable skillsets. These could include developing financial pro formas, managing projects, navigating land use entitlements, leading community engagements, and many other highly specialized and valuable skills. It is important for rural housing organizations to retain these competencies for as long as possible. How do we recruit, nurture, and maintain rural housing professionals, particularly in an environment that seems hostile to our mission?

Issues and Challenges

Most, if not all, rural housing organizations aspire to have workforces that reflect the diverse populations within the communities they serve.

This is critical to maintain credibility and program impact. Many rural groups continue to experience challenges in recruiting and retaining talented staff who may be drawn to positions in urban areas because of the potential for higher earnings, a perception that “rural work” is less important or innovative, and better access to training programs or networking opportunities. Once young professionals acquire some initial work experience or complete their advanced degrees, what will incentivize them to stay at a community organization focused on rural housing?

Discussion Questions
  • What specific challenges is your organization experiencing with recruiting or retaining younger professionals?
  • What is your organization doing to address this critical issue?
  • What are some examples of model recruitment tactics or training programs that can be replicated?
  • Are there community-wide efforts that rural housing groups can join or initiate that would help address this challenge? Housing organizations are not the only employers that are affected by “rural brain drain.”
  • What role might a local college, community college, or university play in solving this issue?

Discussion Paper, Adaptation


Continue the Discussion on LinkedInContinue the Discussionby Lenora Jarvis-Mackey, River City Community Development Corporation, NC


In these tough economic times, rural housing nonprofits cannot simply continue to do what we have done in the past and hope things will get better. Nonprofit organizations, like for-profit companies, are facing a rapidly changing environment. Funders want more for less and private organizations are competing on what was traditionally seen as nonprofit territory. Sustainability is a constant worry.

Historically, nonprofits gauged our success by keeping good records on the number of people we served; the impact on poverty reduction; facilitating or building safe decent and affordable housing; and our advocacy for clean water, sanitary sewer, the provision of livable wage jobs and many other issues not properly addressed by the private sector or by state and federal government agencies. In today’s environment, however, cataloguing success is not enough to ensure continued funding for a nonprofit. Funders are more selective. Track records are important but are not ultimately determinative to long term funding and survival of a nonprofit.

Even with positive track records, nonprofits must remain keenly aware of the need for continued innovation and creativity to sustain our business models and to continue to provide services for our beneficiaries. “Operating like a nonprofit” has somehow evolved into a perception of being overworked, underfunded, and tax exempt. To stay alive and relevant we must operate more like traditional businesses and become more quantumly responsible to survive.

Harold Barnes, president of the Center for Quantum Leadership, defines “quantum responsibility in business” as:

The active process of the business, the leadership and employees holding themselves accountable to each other for the direction and success of the organization. This accountability will lead to the exponential positive growth of the organization and will encourage and facilitate innovation, creativity and productivity such that all segments of the organization will have the opportunity and tools to make a significant leap forward.

Issues and Challenges

Ensuring nonprofit survival and ongoing viability presents an array of issues and challenges. To keep nonprofits functional, nonprofit leaders must appreciate and value the best of what is, as well as envisioning what might be and how to get there. We must read the signs that predict imminent changes in economic trends and make decisions before circumstances are out of control. Useful techniques may come from many sources, including for-profit entities.

Discussion Questions
  • When and how often should we evaluate our organizations?
  • How do we systematically discover what gives life to a nonprofit?
  • When is a nonprofit most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable of serving its customers?
  • How can nonprofits best innovate, adapt, and create the kinds of organizations that are sustainable into the future?
  • How do we go about implementation of quantum responsibility?

Discussion Paper, Outreach and TA


Continue the Discussion on LinkedInContinue the Discussionby Stan Keasling, Rural Community Assistance Corporation, CA, and Blair Sebastian, New York State Rural Housing Coalition


Nonprofits, local governments, and tribal governments are working individually and collectively to improve the quality of housing and community infrastructure in rural areas. The technical assistance (TA) needs of rural groups vary widely and often require very different approaches. Rural communities’ TA needs may also differ substantially from the TA needs found in more urbanized places. What are the needs, and where are opportunities and methods, or approaches, to improve the outreach to these entities and the effectiveness of TA delivery in rural America?

Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities

Over the past few years there have been significant changes to the resources available for the rural technical assistance delivery system. HUD has introduced the Community Compass (formerly OneCPD) system of technical assistance, and Congress has required new competitions for Rural Capacity Building and NAHASDA TA funding. In addition, USDA is still considering the utility of the intermediaries in the Section 502 packaging demonstration, and planning for a community facilities support system. These changes have meant that the intermediaries and other TA providers are often trying to suggest new strategies to the funding agencies in order to enhance their competitiveness, rather than pursuing outreach and TA practices that have been successful in the past.

While some federal initiatives have focused on providing technical assistance to rural and tribal communities, the approach has not been well synchronized. Rural and tribal communities generally must find and request TA themselves. Much of the available TA is provided through programs that are ‘siloed’, not coordinated. In addition – aside from the former Rural Housing and Economic Development and Rural Innovation Fund, Rural Capacity Building TA, and NAHASDA TA – HUD-funded TA is most often delivered to formula grantees. Assistance from USDA is also requested through specific programs such as Self-Help Technical and Management Assistance, and not all USDA programs have a TA component.

Given the vast number of rural and tribal entities and the lack of direct federal department/agency contact with many smaller communities, mechanisms are needed to allow them to identify and secure technical resources in the most appropriate manner for them. TA providers are interested in prioritizing the greatest needs of rural and tribal communities and identifying the best methods of delivering that assistance to ensure that the array of federal technical resources are directly available to the local jurisdictions, organizations, businesses, and families.

Discussion Questions
  • What technical assistance services do rural housing and community development organizations need to be more productive?
  • What are the best ways to inform local rural organizations about available TA?
  • What are the challenges facing local and tribal governments in trying to manage federal funds and design effective strategies for community development?
  • What support do the state grantees, including PJs, need to be more effective at administering federal pass through funds and coordinating with federal agencies to maximize impact?
  • What processes should be used to identify needs at the local level in rural America?
  • Are there changes federal departments/agencies should consider making to their system of identifying TA needs and allocating resources to local rural and tribal efforts?

Discussion Paper, USDA


Continue the Discussion on LinkedInContinue the Discussionby Tom Collishaw, Self Help Enterprises, CA, and Selvin McGahee, Florida Non-Profit Housing, FL


USDA budgets and allocations for major housing production programs have trended downward since the late 1970s. In recent years, even the agency’s physical presence in rural America has lessened dramatically. Historic core housing production programs have been cut so much that, for example, Section 515 Rural Rental Housing has been reduced to little more than a maintenance and repair effort. Single-family direct lending through the Section 502 mortgage program has likewise been a dwindling resource. It feels as if the current administration, given the choice, would focus entirely on mortgage insurance (502 guaranteed loans) and maintenance efforts (Rental Assistance) and call it “Rural Housing.” The current level of funding for USDA’s housing programs is due largely to the efforts of rural housing advocates from throughout the country and their lobbyists going directly to Congress.

Given this sobering reality, rural housing development organizations have adapted by accessing a broader range of assistance, ranging from Low Income Housing Tax Credits and federal HUD programs such as HOME, FHA and CDBG, to non-governmental resources such as LISC, Enterprise, and NeighborWorks®, and a variety of state and local programs. Many of these sources have also been cut or depleted, most notably HUD allocations, intensifying the resource-deprived and competitive environment for rural housing providers.

Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities

With dwindling resources as a backdrop, a central question is whether rural housing organizations should continue to focus their primary federal advocacy efforts on USDA or expand them to include other agencies. Are there opportunities being missed, for instance, with the Affordable Care Act? There is a growing movement around health (both individual and community environmental health) and its relationship to housing, which may create new avenues to resources and relationships. How would we preserve a dedicated slice of this pie for rural communities?

On the non-governmental front, there is increasing evidence that “impact investing” is a largely untapped resource for nonprofit housing organizations, who might benefit from favorable lending rates in return for providing investors with social impacts they believe in. Also, the world of social media and crowdsourcing has opened up new possibilities for fundraising.

Discussion Questions
  • Are USDA programs worth fighting for or are they a lost cause in the long run?
  • What other federal agencies or programs should rural housers pursue as partners?
  • Are there examples of collaboration with other community health or improvement efforts that have been useful in expanding resources for rural housing?
  • What other tactics have been successful?

Discussion Paper, Partnerships


Continue the Discussion on LinkedInContinue the Discussionby David Haney, Wyoming CD Authority, and Marcia Erickson, GROW South Dakota


Resources for community and economic development – both human capital and dollars – continue to dwindle across rural America. As rural housing organizations seek ways to continue their work, one strategy that seems to have promise is creation of effective partnerships. Those engaged in rural housing development need to be appropriately partnering and aligning with those who focus on other elements such as telecommunications, transportation, education, and healthcare. When various parties can reach consensus about the most important priorities, the multiple voices of conflicting interests can speak more clearly and with greater impact.

Regionalization also has considerable merit. Gathering a number of small diverse rural communities together into a louder and more consistent voice can increase impact. Best practices can be shared or integrated.

Affiliated organizations may consider merging to reduce redundancy. For example, consolidation of core operating functions can cut costs.

Issues and Challenges

Partnerships may be very formal or informal or can be as simple as sharing, but they are not always easy. Numerous issues may arise. For example, frequently participants lay claim to their own specialty or territory, making it extremely difficult to create a successful consensus or collaboration. In addition, one partner may bring greater financial or leadership resources to a collaboration that creates an imbalance of power. It can be challenging to break down traditional silos that exist between organizations and to move beyond an “us vs. them” mentality. For partnerships to be effective, each partner organization must understand not only its own strengths, but the strengths of the associated organizations as well.

Regionalization can be an effective way to partner, although it requires significant effort on the part of all organizations involved. Effective partnerships must maintain mutual trust and respect. This requires any imbalances, including those in financial or leadership resources, to be addressed. Organizations must work together to effectively prioritize needs and goals so that they may share accountability, an effort that can be challenging if the partners do not share core missions and goals.

Discussion Questions
  • What capacity building is needed? What role can HAC play in furthering constructive partnerships?
  • How do we prioritize needs, while still maintaining an inventory of future issues, to avoid missing key priorities?
  • Can you identify best practices from your region or community?
  • Are there trends at the state or federal level that are promoting collaboration, partnerships, or mergers?