Year 2014

HAC Honors Seven Leaders for Rural Housing Work

Contact: Dan Stern
202-842-8600, ext. 137

Washington, D.C., November 20, 2014 – Seven distinguished individuals will receive awards from the Housing Assistance Council recognizing their rural housing work at the local and national levels. The honors will be presented at a December 4th ceremony at the 2014 HAC Rural Housing Conference in Washington, D.C.

The Henry B. González Award recognizes individuals who have contributed to the improvement of housing conditions for low-income rural Americans through elected office. The award is named for the late Congressman Gonzalez of Texas, former chairman of the House Banking Committee. This year HAC will present this award to:

Service on the national level is recognized with the Clay Cochran/Art Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing for the Rural Poor. It honors individuals who have provided outstanding and enduring service, with national impact, for the betterment of housing conditions for the rural poor. It is named for the late Clay Cochran and the late Arthur Collings, pioneers in the rural housing movement. HAC will present this honor to:

  • Former Senator Kit Bond (R-MO)

Nominated by their peers and selected by HAC’s board of directors, four honorees received the Skip Jason Community Service Award, which recognizes individuals whose efforts have improved the housing conditions of the rural poor in their communities. It is named for Robert M. “Skip” Jason, a long-time housing activist with considerable community experience, who died in 1982 while employed as HAC’s Government Services Director. This year’s awardees are:

“These individuals represent the very best of people working to build stronger rural communities,” said Moises Loza, HAC’s executive director. “With these awards, HAC thanks not only these seven people, but also many, many others who are dedicated to ensuring that everyone in the United States has a decent, safe, affordable home.”

Brief biographies of the awardees are attached.

About the Housing Assistance Council

A national nonprofit corporation headquartered in Washington, D.C., and founded in 1971, the Housing Assistance Council helps local organizations build affordable homes in rural America by providing below-market financing, technical assistance, research, training and information services. HAC’s programs focus on local solutions, empowerment of the poor, reduced dependency, and self-help strategies. HAC is an equal opportunity lender.



Henry B. Gonzalez Award

Senator Patrick Leahy, Vermont – Patrick Leahy was elected to the United States Senate in 1974 and has long been a champion of and advocate for rural America. At 34, he was the youngest U.S. Senator ever to be elected from the Green Mountain State. Leahy is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. As the senior-most member of both the Appropriations and Agriculture Committees, he has long been s leading voice for affordable rural housing and other rural concerns. On Appropriations, Senator Leahy is a member of the T-HUD Subcommittee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on State Department and Foreign Operations. He ranks first in seniority in the Senate and is the President Pro Tempore.

Representative Harold Rogers, Kentucky – Serving Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District since 1981, Hal Rogers is currently in his 17th term representing the people of southern and eastern Kentucky, and is the longest serving Kentucky Republican ever elected to federal office. Focused on economic development, job creation, fighting illegal drug use and preserving the natural treasures of Appalachia, Rogers has a reputation for listening to his constituents and fighting for the interests of his region. As Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Rogers has been a strong supporter of rural America and especially of the USDA rural housing programs. He has helped save those programs from steep cuts or elimination. He also represents the most rural Congressional district in the nation.

Cochran/Collings Award

Hon. Christopher “Kit” Bond – Kit Bond represented Missouri in the US Senate from 1987 to 2011. Earlier in his career, Senator Bond served two terms as Governor of Missouri, from 1973 to 1977 and from 1981 to 1985. In the Senate, he served as both chairman and ranking member of the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee. In that role, Sen. Bond was instrumental in establishing the HUD Rural Housing and Economic Development program and in always urging HUD to pay attention to rural. He annually would reject OMB’s efforts to kill the small RHED program. In retirement, Sen. Bond has been a co-chair and member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission. He played a vital role in ensuring that the widely-followed final report of the Commission had a significant section on affordable rural housing.

Skip Jason Award

Brad Bishop, Provo, UT – Since creating Rural Housing Development Corporation in 1998, Brad has been awarded and completed 8 successful 523 Grants provided for over 350 homes completed in rural Utah areas. His efforts in making the Mutual Self-Help Program a success in rural Utah and Wasatch counties in Utah has had an impact on more than 1,415 people, in 350 families, with a place to call home. Brad has been involved in multiple projects outside of Self-Help housing. He was involved in the development and management migrant farm labor housing; partnered to develop and restore an historic property and into single-family homes; and partnered on multiple Low Income Housing Tax Credit project for seniors. Brad is committed to affordable housing. He serves on many boards of organizations that assist affordable housing National Rural Housing Coalition, Neighborhood Housing Services of Provo, Utah Housing Coalition, NeighborWorks Provo and National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials. Brad has 18 years combined housing experience with Rural Housing Development Corporation. His positive and contagious attitude and great leadership abilities have improved many communities throughout rural Utah.

Martha Mendez, Indio, CA – Martha currently serves as Director of Single Family Housing Development at the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition. She has long exemplified a commitment to her community in building and preserving more than 1,000 single-family affordable housing units in the City of Coachella, California. For 13 years she has worked to transform lives by leading the development of rural affordable housing. She not only helps families fulfill the dream of homeownership she also, in her spare time, encourages students in her local community to pursue higher education through her work with Dr. Carreon Foundation and the Indio Rotary Club. Supporting people at the local and national level has been equally important to Mendez. She is a valuable advocate for rural housing and has carried the message that quality affordable housing for farm workers and low-income persons is essential to a robust economy and vibrant communities. Mendez has a remarkable ability to build networks, to touch people personally, to inspire giving back to the community, and to lead.
Retha Patton, Johnson City, TN – In 15 years at Eastern Eight CDC Retha has become a voice for affordable rural housing locally, regionally, and nationally. When she began her tenure at E8CDC, she joined a staff of 2 that was building 5 homes a year, managing 9 rental units, and providing homebuyer education to nearly 100 people annually. Within 5 years, production was up to 50 homes a year and rental units have steadily increased to the current level of 150 managed. More important than the numbers is the collaborative and innovative way that Retha achieves results. She brought to E8 the importance of partnerships and collaborations. In her capacity as executive director of E8CDC she has formed partnerships with over 30 agencies, local governments, and nonprofits that are working to improve the housing conditions the rural poor and special needs populations. Retha is known for thinking “outside-the-box” and takes “no” as just another way to rethink the proposed solution/project. Examples of her innovative solutions are numerous, some examples are: advocating for the needs and securing funding for both rental housing development and single-family homeownership options for veterans, and developed the first post-purchase education program in Tennessee.
Andres Lazaro Saavedra, Washington, DC – Saavedra is a former employee of HAC and is currently a Senior Program Officer with Rural LISC. He has also done extensive work in the high-needs delta region with NE-Louisiana Delta Community Development Corp. and Mid-South Delta LISC. Andy has worked in the trenches for many years and in diverse environments as a community servant committed to improving the lives of low-income people living in rural areas. He has worked to build the capacity of rural nonprofits, facilitated collaborations to positively impact community change, and leveraged investments into rural development initiatives. Andy worked in the most impoverished parishes of Louisiana to implement rural housing programs. His work has helped hundreds of low-income families become homeowners and build millions of dollars in assets. With 20 years of experience at rural housing nonprofits, Andy is a devoted community development professional who has committed his career to improving the lives of low-income rural families.