Discussion Paper, Policy

RURAL HOUSING AND PUBLIC POLICY

Continue the Discussion on LinkedInContinue the Discussionby Joe Myer, NCALL Research, DE

Background

Rural areas are often at a disadvantage when addressing housing and community development needs because they experience lower median incomes than cities and suburbs, more substandard housing, substantial affordability gaps, less housing infrastructure and capacity, and minimal access to resources, financing, and capital. Also, politically, rural areas can be viewed as less important because of their smaller, more dispersed populations. Yet their needs are often greater or different, and affordable housing can be more difficult and sometimes more costly to deliver because of the above conditions. USDA has been the primary source of rural housing assistance for decades; however, in recent years the agency has not made its housing programs a priority, and budgets and attention have suffered. Each year Congress has had to save Section 502 direct, self-help housing, farm labor housing, and other programs. Meanwhile financing for new rental construction and rental assistance has disappeared, at a time when affordable rentals are in demand. USDA’s fine, well-proven, and cost-effective housing programs are at risk from year to year. In addition, HUD pays attention to rural only sporadically.

Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities

Given the disparity between needs and resources, it has become increasingly difficult to ensure that adequate state and federal resources are allocated for rural housing and community development. Yet affordable housing, and particularly rural housing, competes with many varied interests for local, state, and national attention and resources.

To assure adequate, sustainable resources for ongoing program operations and housing financing, decision and lawmakers and federal and state agencies must understand the needs of rural communities, yet too often they do not.

The annual fight for funding of USDA’s housing programs does not address the need for longer-term stability for developers and service providers to deliver programs and products.

Discussion Questions
  • How can we as practitioners and advocates communicate better with policy makers?
  • What are the themes we should use to resonate with policymakers at state and national levels?
  • How can we invest sufficiently in advocacy and public policy to be sure rural housing has a voice that is heard at state and national levels?
  • Are there new models of advocacy and public policy that could be employed? If so, what?

Discussion Topics, HAC National Rural Housing Conference 2014

Conversation is one of the best things about HAC’s Rural Housing Conference. Every two years the Conference offers a unique opportunity for discussion among hundreds of rural housers from across the U.S. who are not often in the same place at the same time. Many exchanges are informal, during meals or in the halls between workshops. Others are more structured, and in 2014 HAC will provide an opportunity for facilitated discussions on six topics. HAC asked expert rural housing practitioners to write two-page papers on each of these subjects. On the second day of the conference, attendees will choose among these topics and participate in discussions during a working lunch. Each discussion group will report its thoughts and recommendations to the conference as a whole.

PDF containing all six papers

You do not need to attend the conference to contribute your thoughts! The discussions are beginning now on LinkedIn.

Coming Together for a Common Cause

by Eric Oberdorfer

It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since the last HAC Rural Housing Conference. As rural housers, we have faced our share of challenges recently. Congress is deadlocked, funding for needed federal housing programs remains historically low, and the stock of safe, high-quality, affordable housing in rural America continues to decline, leaving too many low-income families and individuals without sufficient housing options.

These past years have seen the support and resources necessary for our network threatened, and we have had to fight to maintain our work. These challenges make coming together for our common cause even more important in 2014. The rural housing network has a proud history of empowering individuals and families, improving lives, and making lasting impacts across rural America. However, for a number of years, we have been in a defensive posture. It is time for us to shift away from this and go on the offensive. To do this we mustretool our collective talents, rebuild the innovative spirit that got us where we are, and renew our passion for the mission that guides us.

Retool, Rebuild, Renew is the theme of our conference this year. Although this theme could describe the construction or rehab of housing, the theme is not about bricks and mortar. It’s about a housing movement – these actions are more critical to our work than ever before.

Rural communities desperately need affordable housing to combat serious challenges that have developed over the past few years. The United States’ economy fell into one of the most severe economic recessions in a half century. Our country’s rapidly aging population will have significant impacts on our current housing stock. Poverty rates in rural America have grown. Further compounding these issues is the continued downsizing of federal programs that support the development of housing in rural communities, programs that are needed now more than ever. Luckily, rural housers are a resourceful group and have met these issues head-on by learning new skills, forging new partnerships, and considering new approaches. It is time we come together to share our successes and determine strategies to ensure our continued ability to provide our communities with safe, affordable housing.

Fostering the development of new skills and partnerships is a key part of the National Rural Housing Conference. More than just a collection of workshops and plenaries, the Conference is about coming together to share our collective experiences, build our expertise, and gain a better understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and why. It is a space that encourages networking and the sharing of ideas between people who know firsthand the challenges the housing movement faces. It provides an opportunity to gain new tools that can help us succeed in the current environment of housing and community development.

Although the landscape for affordable housing has changed dramatically since the first National Rural Housing Conference 45 years ago, one thing remains as true as ever – individuals, families, and communities need to have high-quality affordable housing in order to thrive. To respond to the needs of rural communities we must first come together. The National Rural Housing Conference gives us the chance to gain new tools, learn from each other, and, most importantly, renew our commitment to affordable housing.

The HAC Rural Housing Conference will be held December 3-5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Registration is currently open.

Registration is now open for the HAC Rural Housing Conference

slider 1600x400 rnd3

ABOUT THE CONFERENCE

Register-Now-Button

The biennial HAC Rural Housing Conference brings together stakeholders in the field of rural affordable housing from local nonprofits, federal agencies, Congress, state and local governments, and other industry leaders for two-and-a-half days of training, discussion, and networking.

The Conference features nearly 40 workshops where participants will learn best practices for housing development, organizational management, resource development, and innovative approaches to housing and community development. The Conference also includes a pre-Conference day, packed with gatherings for coalitions, association, and working groups.

For rural nonprofits, the Conference provides an excellent opportunity to network and improve connections to federal agencies and national nonprofit organizations. For many of the attendees, this conference represents their sole opportunity during the year to connect with these important policy makers and experts.

Retool, Rebuild, Renew

This year’s conference theme is Retool, Rebuild, Renew. Although these verbs could describe the construction or rehab of housing, the theme is not about bricks and mortar. It’s about our movement. The rural housing network has a proud history of accomplishment and has empowered, improved, and made lasting impacts across rural America. However, for a number of years, we have been in a defensive posture-the support and resources necessary for our network have been threatened. It is past time to shift from a reactive to a proactive posture. It is time go on the offensive and retool our collective talents, rebuild the innovative spirit that got us where we are, and renew our passion for the mission that guides us. HAC’s Rural Housing Conference will help get us back on track to expand the accomplishments of the past.

For more information on the HAC Rural Housing Conference, visit HAC’s registration portal.

Conference app

Discussion Topics and Papers

National Rural Housing Conference 2012

AC_banner-02

Materials from the 2012 HAC Conference
Promises to Keep in Challenging Times

Thank You to everyone who attended the 2012 National Rural Housing Conference. Look forward to seeing you all again in 2014!

Join the National
Rural Housing Conference group
on LinkedIn and network with your fellow attendees before you even attend!

LinkedIn

HAC’s National Rural Housing Conference is an expression of our continuing commitment to provide local organizations with the resources needed to build affordable housing in rural America. The Conference will bring together more than 700 community-based housing advocates for a celebration of our collective efforts to develop and sustain affordable housing in rural communities. Based on the theme, “Promises to keep in Challenging Times” the Conference will focus on the promise America made through the Housing Act of 1949 and how those promises still apply even in the face of America’s new fiscal reality. Scheduled events will include numerous workshops, networking sessions, peer-learning opportunities, our awards program and entertainment.

The theme brings to mind the vision and promises America has made through the Housing Act of 1949 and all subsequent housing legislation and policy. While these promises, that include the opportunity for quality affordable housing, still remain the country continues to face a difficult fiscal situation with many questions or concerns about what can be done to protect affordable housing as an industry in the future, particularly in rural areas. Keeping the vision and promises is important, not just to increase the quality of life for low-income Americans, but also to build stronger and more sustainable communities as a whole.

Where:

The Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001

When:

December 6-7, 2012

Pre-Conference Activities December 5

Stay Informed:

Sign up for the HAC News [vresponse][/vresponse]

Donate to the Conference:

Help HAC keep registration fees low for our participants.
Please donate to HAC’s conference.

Join the Conversation:

Join the National Rural Housing Conference Group on LinkedIn and tweet your thoughts, expectations and ideas for the Conference using hashtags #nrhc12 and #rural2012.

Don’t forget to Follow HAC for more on the Conference and all things rural housing.

[addthis2][/addthis2]

Past Recipients of HAC’s Rural Housing Service Awards

What are the Rural Housing Service Awards?

Once every two years at the HAC Rural Housing Conference, HAC acknowledges rural housing leaders whose efforts have led to improved housing in rural America. The Cochran/Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing for the Rural Poor honors individuals who have provided outstanding and enduring service, with national impact, for the betterment of housing conditions for the rural poor. The Skip Jason Community Service Award recognizes individuals whose efforts have improved the housing conditions of the rural poor in their communities. Below is a list of past awardees.

2018 Awardees

Skip Jason Award

Cochran/Collings Award
Henry B. González Award

2016 Awardees

Skip Jason Award

Cochran/Collings Award
Henry B. González Award

2014 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
Cochran/Collings Award
  • The Honorable Christopher “Kit” Bond, U.S. Senate (Retired), Missouri
Henry B. González Award

2012 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
Cochran/Collings Award
  • Shirley Sherrod, Founder, The Sherrod Institute, Albany, Georgia
Henry B. González Award
  • The Honorable Barney Frank, U.S. House of Representatives (D – Massachusetts)

2010 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
Cochran/Collings Award
Henry B. González Award

2008 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
Cochran/Collings Award
Henry B. González Award
  • The Honorable Geoff Davis, U.S. House of Representatives (R-Kentucky)
  • The Honorable Ed Pastor, U.S. House of Representatives (D-Arizona)

2006 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
Clay Cochran Award
  • The Honorable Rubén Hinojosa, U.S. House of Representatives (D-Texas)

2004 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
Clay Cochran Award
Special Recognition
  • The Honorable Artur Davis, U.S. House of Representatives (D-Alabama)
  • The Honorable Rubén Hinojosa, U.S. House of Representatives (D-Texas)
  • The Honorable Rick Renzi, U.S. House of Representatives (R-Arizona)
  • The Honorab
    le Rep. Walsh, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Harry Bowie, HAC Board of Directors
  • Art Collings, HAC Staff

2002 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
  • Lynn Luallen, Chief Executive Officer, Kentucky Housing Corporation, Frankfort, Kentucky
  • Madeleine Miller, Executive Director, Wil-Low Nonprofit Housing, Hayneville, Alabama
Clay Cochran Award

2000 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
  • Lauretta Brice Stephens, Florida Non-Profit Housing, Inc., Sebring, Florida
  • Cora Esquibel, Arizona
  • Arturo C. Gonzales, Southeastern Wisconsin Housing Corporation, Burlington, Wisconsin
  • Dana M. Jones, Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Action Association, Hughesville, Maryland
Clay Cochran Award
  • Eileen Fitzgerald, Washington, DC

1998 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
  • Guillermo Castaneda
  • Dwayne Yost
  • John Zippert
Clay Cochran Award
  • Arnold Sternberg

1996 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
Clay Cochran Award
  • Maureen Kennedy, Former Administrator, Rural Housing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC
Special HAC 25th Anniversary Award
  • The Honorable Henry B. González (D-Texas), U.S. House of Representatives

1994 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
Clay Cochran Award
  • The Honorable Eva M. Clayton, U.S. House of Representatives (D-North Carolina)
  • The Honorable Bennie G. Thompson, U.S. House of Representatives (D-Mississippi)

1991 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
  • Bessie Swann
  • Ted Smith (posthumous award)
Clay Cochran Award

1985 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
  • James Wilcox
Clay Cochran Award
  • Art Collings

1983 Awardees

Skip Jason Award
Clay Cochran Award

1981 Awardees

Community Service Award
  • Moriah Milton, Hardwood, Louisiana
Clay Cochran Award
  • Gordon Cavanaugh, former Executive Director, Housing Assistance Council, and former Administrator, Farmers Home Administration, Washington, DC

1979 Awardee

Clay Cochran Award
  • Clay Cochran, former Executive Director, Rural America, Washington, DC

Rural Housing Awards

Skip Jason Community Service Award
Cochran/Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing
Henry B. González Award

Skip Jason Community Service Award

Past Recipients of the Skip Jason Award

The Skip Jason Community Service Award acknowledges people whose efforts have improved the housing conditions of the rural poor in their communities.

The award acknowledges people who work “in the trenches” and usually go unrecognized outside their communities. The award was originally called the Community Service Award and was named for Robert “Skip” Jason, a long-time housing activist with considerable community experience, after he died in 1982 while employed as HAC’s Government Services Director.

SKIP JASON (1939-1982)

Robert Mayer (Skip) Jason, a former HAC employee and housing advocate, was committed to improving living conditions for the rural poor.

Skip was a native of Bluefield, West Virginia where he first learned about the challenges facing poor rural residents. In 1963, he became one of the first Peace Corp Volunteers to be sent to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Upon his return to the United States, he worked for community action agencies in Indiana, West Virginia, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. In 1974, he helped to set up Buffalo Housing, Inc. in southern West Virginia, a nonprofit organization established to help victims of the Buffalo Creek flood disaster.

Skip first joined HAC in its Atlanta office. In 1978, he moved to HAC’s Government Services Division in Washington, D.C. As a HAC employee, he worked on the Community Development Block Grant program, which included a set-aside for small cities and rural communities. Skip was also instrumental in developing the Farmers Home Administration’s Homeownership Assistance Program which, although never funded, resulted in a Congress that was more supportive and more aware of rural housing issues.

Cochran/Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing

Past Recipients of the Cochran/Collings Award

The Cochran/Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing honors individuals who have provided outstanding and enduring service, with national impact, for the betterment of housing conditions for the rural poor.

The award is named for two men who dedicated their careers to improving housing for rural Americans.

CLAY COCHRAN (1915-1982)

Clay L. Cochran was a fierce housing advocate who has often been credited as the founder of the U.S. rural housing movement. Clay, a fiery commentator on housing and basic needs, strongly believed that the federal government must not shirk its responsibility of providing basic shelter for low-income rural people. He also believed that the people, given the power to govern themselves, had the capacity to “create a society where there is less human anguish than yesterday.”

Some of his many accomplishments were to organize the Rural Housing Alliance, Rural America, the National Rural Housing Coalition, and the International Self-Help Housing Association. He claimed that his enthusiasm for decent housing resulted from a winter during his teens when his family lost its farm and lived out the coldest months in a tent on the West Texas plains.

ART COLLINGS (1928-2010)

Arthur M. (Art) Collings, Jr. began working in rural housing in 1955. He started in New Jersey as an assistant county supervisor at the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA), quickly moving up to county supervisor and then to a variety of other positions in New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

Beginning in 1972, the year in which the newly created Housing Assistance Council began hiring staff, Art’s jobs at FmHA alternated with periods at HAC. He served as special assistant to FmHA Administrator Gordon Cavanaugh from 1977 to 1980. From 1986 until his reluctant retirement at the end of 2004, Art served as HAC’s senior housing specialist.

Gordon Cavanaugh, HAC’s first executive director, once explained that he hired Art because he was told Art was the most liberal staffer at FmHA. “He taught the rest of us everything we knew,” said Cavanaugh. “Arthur was just extraordinarily dedicated, well informed, and a good-humored gentleman.”

Art wrote dozens of publications about USDA’s rural housing programs, from manuals on how to use them to analyses of how they could be improved. He authored a number of amendments to these programs, advised people all over the country on their use, and conducted countless training sessions.

Art’s dedication to improving housing conditions for low-income rural Americans was unmatched. His feistiness and humor, added to his extensive knowledge of USDA’s rural housing programs, made him unique, sometimes frustrating to work with, and well-loved around the country.

Henry B. González Award

Past Recipients of the Henry B. González Award

The Henry B. González Award recognizes individuals who have contributed to the improvement of housing conditions for low-income rural Americans through elected office.

REP. HENRY B. GONZALEZ

The award is named for Rep. Henry B. González, who represented the 20th District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1961 until ill health forced him to retire in 1998.

Beginning in 1981, he chaired first the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development and eventually the full Committee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs (now the Financial Services Committee). In these powerful positions he championed numerous bills to improve housing conditions for people in both urban and rural areas. Rep. Gonzalez passed away in 2000.