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HAC in the News

HAC’s Lance George Discusses Housing Affordability and Tourism with NPR Washington

In an interview on the Soundside podcast, Lance George, HAC’s Director of Research and Information, speaks about the importance of affordable housing not only in high amenity rural communities, but in rural communities throughout the U.S. He stresses that housing affordability has been an ongoing problem that is only getting worse and argues that comprehensive community-based solutions are needed to address the issue.

“It’s a misperception that rural communities should be more affordable or shouldn’t have affordability challenges and pressures that you’re know seeing. In fact, housing affordability has always been the challenge in rural communities, as well as urban communities.”

HAC in the News

CIRD Work Featured by New Hampshire Newspaper

Representatives of the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council, drew attention from the Keene (N.H.) Sentinel when they toured an area in Keene, New Hampshire targeted to become an arts corridor.

National Rural-Design Agency Advising Keene on Proposed Arts Corridor

by Caleb Symons

November 22, 2021

The mural needed a second look.

Sylvie Rice, a volunteer with the Historical Society of Cheshire County, had pointed out that Abraham Lincoln’s profile is deliberately etched into the clouds of an otherwise colonial-era scene on Church Street in downtown Keene. In unison, the small group of local arts promoters and rural-development advisers craned their necks to better see the 16th president.

HAC News: September 23, 2019

News Formats. pdf

September 23, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 19

Senate committee approves FY20 funding for USDA and HUD, continuing resolution moves forward • HUD offers technical assistance for disaster-impacted cities under 40,000 • House passes rural rental preservation bill • HUD proposes regulations on income and assets for public housing and Section 8 • Community design awards announced • DJ LaVoy sworn in as Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development • Low-cost rental units show long-term decline in every state • White House homelessness recommendations include deregulation and policing • September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic American Heritage Month “Colonias Investment Areas – Texas” webinar set for September 26 • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

September 23, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 19

Senate committee approves FY20 funding for USDA and HUD, continuing resolution moves forward.

  • On September 19 the Senate Appropriations Committee passed FY20 funding bills for several departments, including USDA and HUD. After the full Senate approves the bills, differences between the Senate measures and those previously passed by the House will need to be resolved by conference committees. Because there is not enough time to complete the appropriations for all federal agencies before the new fiscal year begins on October 1, a continuing resolution is expected to fund the government through November 21 and avoid a shutdown. The House approved a CR, H.R. 4378, on September 19 and the Senate should vote on it the week of September 23. It includes a provision allowing maintenance of HUD Section 202 rental assistance, even if the necessary funds exceed the FY19 amount.
  • The Senate’s FY20 USDA bill would keep most rural housing programs at FY19 levels with increases to Section 521 Rental Assistance and Section 542 rural housing vouchers. The version approved by the House in June, on the other hand, increased several programs above FY19 levels, including Sections 514 and 515 as well as self-help housing and the MPR rental preservation program. Details are on HAC’s website. The Senate bill also includes $25 million for relocating ERS and NIFA to Kansas City, while the House bill would block the move.
  • The Senate’s HUD bill increases the department’s overall funding above its FY19 level, but rejects a number of increases included in the House’s bill. The Appropriations Committee voted 15-16 against inclusion of an amendment that would have reauthorized NAHASDA; the bill does fund the Native American housing programs for FY20.

HUD offers technical assistance for disaster-impacted cities under 40,000.

HUD’s Distressed Cities Technical Assistance program is designed to assist local governments of communities with populations under 40,000 that experienced a presidentially declared disaster in or after 2015. The program focuses on financial management, economic development (including affordable housing) and disaster recovery planning. Instructions for requesting TA are posted online.

House passes rural rental preservation bill.

On September 10 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3620, the Strategy and Investment in Rural Housing Preservation Act. The Senate seems unlikely to consider the bill, which would strengthen USDA’s rental preservation efforts.

HUD proposes regulations on income and assets for public housing and Section 8.

Comments are due November 18 on a proposed rule to implement provisions of the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 that relate to income calculations and reviews for public housing and Section 8, with corresponding changes to the regs for HOME, the Housing Trust Fund, and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program. Information contacts vary by program and are listed in the notice.

Community design awards announced.

Twenty-three communities from across the country were selected to join the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, a collaboration among HAC, the National Endowment for the Arts and buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. The partner towns, tribes, nonprofits and other organizations were selected in a national competition to receive assistance in addressing design and creative placemaking goals. Three communities – Millinocket, Maine; Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico; and Athens, Ohio – will host multi-day design workshops that bring experts and locals together.

DJ LaVoy sworn in as Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development.

Donald “DJ” LaVoy, most recently the head of HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center, was sworn in September 17 as Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at USDA. The Under Secretary position, eliminated by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and reinstated by the 2018 Farm Bill, remains vacant.

Low-cost rental units show long-term decline in every state.

Documenting the Long-Run Decline in Low-Cost Rental Units in the U.S. by State, a working paper from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, looks at the reduction in low-cost rentals from 1990 to 2017. These homes were a declining share of the housing stock in every state, and all but a few states also had declines in the absolute number of low-cost units. The steepest drop occurred from 2012 to 2017. The paper reports a strong correlation at the state level between the extent of losses of low-cost rentals and rising housing cost burdens for low-income households.

White House homelessness recommendations include deregulation and policing.

A new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, The State of Homelessness in America, focuses on homelessness in major metro areas on the East and West coasts. It identifies the major causes of homelessness as high housing costs due to overregulation of housing markets, “tolerable conditions” including warm weather and policing policies, right-to-shelter policies offering “substitutes to permanent housing” and individual factors such as severe mental illness and low incomes. It criticizes past federal policies and expresses doubt whether homelessness has actually decreased since 2007 (as HUD has reported). Solutions offered include removal of regulatory barriers, expanded drug treatment, “an increased emphasis on serious mental illness,” support for police in promoting safe cities, and stronger encouragement for self-sufficiency.

Recent publications and media of interest

  • Income and Poverty in the United States: 2018 is an annual data report from the Census Bureau. The national median household income remained essentially the same in 2018 as in 2017, while the poverty rate fell by 0.5 percentage points to 11.8%. The drop in poverty was statistically significant for urban residents, but there was no statistically significant change for nonmetro or suburban residents.
  • New Partnership Addresses Affordable Housing in Rural Areas details how the South Dakota economy is benefitting from a $10 million partnership between Avery Health and the Rural Electric Economic Development Fund. These funds will go toward building quality workforce housing to help attract and retain skilled staff in all business sectors.
  • Rural References Bounce in and out of Democratic Debate, a Daily Yonder article, looks at the various ways contenders in the September 12 presidential debate touched on issues affecting rural America.
  • Small, Rural Markets Left Behind as Large Metros Struggle to Match Housing to Job Gains explains some results of rural housing markets’ and rural economies’ inability to rebound at the same rates as large metropolitan areas since the Great Recession (2007-2009). Before the recession housing and economic growth in rural areas were generally similar to those in large metropolitan areas, but now they are lagging in job creation and home value gains.
  • Something Special is Happening in Rural America, by writer Sarah Smarsh, argues that recent shift in public sentiment and increasing affordability challenges for large urban areas are indicators of a coming “brain gain” for rural areas. Smarsh, author of Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, recently launched a new podcast, The Homecomers, focused on providing “a more accurate story of those ill-understood spaces [rural communities.]”

September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic American Heritage Month.

Colonias Investment AreasTexas” webinar set for September 26.
HAC, in partnership with Fannie Mae, will hold a webinar presenting data and research on Colonias Investment Areas, a geographic concept developed to target strategies and opportunities for mortgage finance and resource investment in colonia communities along the southwest U.S. border. The September 26 session will focus on colonias in Texas. Recent webinars on colonias in New Mexico and Arizona are available on HAC’s YouTube channel. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC’s loan funds provide low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development and construction/rehabilitation. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.

Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).

National Endowment for the Arts funds Design Assistance for Twenty-three Rural Communities

Contact:
Office of Public Affairs, publicaffairs@arts.gov, 202-682-5570
Evelyn Immonen, evelyn@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600

Twenty-three Rural Communities Receive Design Assistance From National Endowment for the Arts

Washington DC, September 10, 2019—In its ongoing support of rural communities, the National Endowment for the Arts announces the 2019 communities taking part in its national initiative, the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design™ (CIRD). New this year, the Arts Endowment is expanding CIRD’s offerings to include a peer-learning component for rural leaders from 23 communities. These leaders will receive training in rural design and creative placemaking as well as support in navigating funding opportunities to make their communities better places to live, work, and play. Along with the peer-learning component, CIRD will conduct its traditional community design workshops in three new places: Millinocket, Maine; Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico; and Athens, Ohio.

This year is the first with initiative partners the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) and buildingcommunityWORKSHOP [bc]. This year also marked a record for the initiative with 85 applications received, the highest in the program’s history.

”It was inspiring to see overwhelming interest in the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design program this year,” said Arts Endowment Director of Design and Creative Placemaking Jen Hughes. “Rural and tribal communities across the country are putting forth ambitious visions for their future and view design and creative placemaking as a way to not only celebrate their cultural history, but also to drive economic development.”

Since 1991, CIRD has worked in communities with populations of 50,000 or less to enhance quality of life and economic viability through planning, design, and creative placemaking. To date, the Arts Endowment has convened more than 80 workshops in all regions of the country, bringing together local residents with teams of design, economic development, and creative placemaking professionals. Together, professionals and citizens leverage local and regional assets to guide the design of their communities.

The multi-day design workshops in the three selected communities will focus on different challenges. Dates for each workshop and members of the resource team are forthcoming.

Millinocket, Maine (population 4,400): The residents of Millinocket, located near Maine’s Mount Katahdin, have mobilized around sustainability, mental health/wellness, and diversifying the town’s economic base after the departure of the paper industry. The goal is to create a design principles guidebook that will inform downtown revitalization plans and be used by local businesses to help create a unified sense of place.

Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico (population 1,241): The Pueblo is developing an ambitious master plan for the Village of Laguna (one of six in the Pueblo) that seeks to address longstanding challenges, including a dearth of affordable housing and the need for both walkability and commercial space that builds on indigenous cultural assets such as artisanship and arid-land farming. The University of New Mexico’s Indigenous Design + Planning Institute will join local institutions to support the workshop.

Athens, Ohio (population 23,832): Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society wants to preserve and reimagine the use of a century-old church built by free-born and formerly enslaved black artisans. In addition to architectural rehabilitation, the Preservation Society and its partners envision the place as an economic engine and as a hub for black history and culture.

In addition to these three communities, 20 additional communities will form the inaugural peer-learning cohort and will meet for a Rural Design Summit in West Virginia, October 9-11, 2019:

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Organization

City

State

City of Eufaula

Eufaula

AL

Eastern Sierra Artists

Bishop

CA

Dancing Spirit Community Arts Center

Ignacio

CO

Huerfano County Economic Development, Inc.

Walsenburg

CO

Economic Council of Okeechobee County, Inc.

Okeechobee

FL

Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency

Sebring

FL

action pact

Waycross

GA

Thrive Allen County, Inc.

Iola

KS

Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative

Hazard

KY

Snow Pond Center for the Arts

Sidney

ME

City of Excelsior Springs

Excelsior Springs

MO

McComb Creative Economy Partnership

McComb

MS

Clay County Historical and Arts Council

Hayesville

NC

Divide County Economic Development Council, Inc.

Crosby

ND

Woodward Arts & Theatre Council, Inc.

Woodward

OK

City of San Elizario

San Elizario

TX

Town of Scottsville

Scottsville

VA

Shenandoah County Office of Economic Development

Shenandoah County

VA

NCW Economic Development District

Entiat

WA

Laramie Main Street

Laramie

WY

For more information about the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design go to the initiative’s web page.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit www.arts.gov.

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is a national nonprofit that strengthens communities across rural America through investment and assistance with affordable housing and community and economic development. Based in Washington, DC, HAC is actively involved in shaping federal policy and the affordable housing industry with its research, lending and conferences. We also deliver technical assistance, training and affordable loans to local organizations that help rural communities prosper.

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]) is a Texas based nonprofit community design center seeking to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making. We enrich the lives of citizens by bringing design thinking to areas of our cities where resources are most scarce. To do so, [bc] recognizes that it must first understand the social, economic, and environmental issues facing a community before beginning work.

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HAC News: April 19, 2019

News Formats. pdf

April 19, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 8

Appropriators express support for rural housing • National Endowment for the Arts taps HAC for the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design • New funding available • HUD asks for input on maximizing Opportunity Zones’ benefits • Comments from tribes requested on Section 184 regulation changes • Rural needs noted at Community Reinvestment Act hearing • House committee approves the Ending Homelessness Act • Housing Week of Action scheduled May 30-June 5 • National poll shows strong support for federal action on affordable housing • Hearing spotlight continues on rural housing affordability • RuralSTAT • Recent publications of interest • HAC offers Section 502 packaging training for nonprofits in May • Need capital for your affordable housing project?

HAC News Formats. pdf

April 19, 2019
Vol. 48, No. 8

Appropriators express support for rural housing.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue appeared before the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee on April 9 and the Senate subcommittee on April 11 to defend the Administration’s budget request. Responding to a question from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Perdue said he could not disagree on the importance of the rural housing programs, but suggested the Administration may have proposed no funding for most of them because it thought they could be moved to HUD – something not mentioned in the budget documents. Sen. Merkley and Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) both opposed the proposed move of ERS and NIFA. Legislators from both parties spoke in favor of improving rural broadband service.

National Endowment for the Arts taps HAC for the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design.
The NEA has selected HAC, along with buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, to carry out the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design. With the HAC partnership, CIRD will maintain competitive funding for small and tribal communities to host multi-day design workshops, helping to turn good ideas into reality. CIRD will reach up to 20 additional communities with peer learning and design-rooted capacity building, coupled with support for navigating funding opportunities. In late May CIRD will release a Request for Applications, inviting communities to apply for the program. Join CIRD’s mailing list here. HAC CEO David Lipsetz shared his thoughts on the new initiative.

New funding available

  • USDA’s ReConnect Program will fund state and local governments, tribes, nonprofits, for-profits, limited liability companies and coops to provide broadband infrastructure in rural areas with populations under 20,000. Applications are due May 31 for grants, June 21 for loan/grant combinations and July 12 for loans.
  • Rural Cooperative Development Grants will be made to nonprofits and public or private institutions of higher education to help individuals and businesses start, expand or improve rural cooperatives and other mutually owned businesses. Apply by June 3.
  • Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants or Planning and Action Grants are available to nonprofits, PHAs, local governments and tribal entities in communities with severely distressed public or HUD-assisted housing. Apply by June 10.
  • Family Self-Sufficiency grants are offered for PHAs that did not receive FY16, FY17 or FY18 FSS grants. Applications are due June 13.

HUD asks for input on maximizing Opportunity Zones’ benefits.
HUD seeks recommendations on actions it can take to encourage public and private investment “in urban and economically distressed communities, including qualified Opportunity Zones.” Comments are due June 17, 2019. For more information, contact Daniel Marcin, HUD, 202-402-2967.

Comments from tribes requested on Section 184 regulation changes.
HUD has drafted changes to the regulation governing the Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee program and seeks comments from tribes by June 3. The proposed rule will be published later in the Federal Register for general comment. For more information, contact HUD staff.

Rural needs noted at Community Reinvestment Act hearing.
On April 9, the House Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions held a hearing entitled “The Community Reinvestment Act: Assessing the Law’s Impact on Discrimination and Redlining.” The hearing focused on how CRA could better reach underserved communities, and rural members like Reps. Scott Tipton (R-CO) and David Kustoff (R-TN) brought up the importance of making sure CRA works well for rural America. Some of the experts testifying at the hearing also specifically highlighted rural CRA needs.

House committee approves the Ending Homelessness Act.
On March 28 the House Financial Services Committee approved H.R. 1856, which would provide $13.27 billion in new funding over five years for new affordable housing units, new vouchers, case management and technical assistance. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.

Housing Week of Action scheduled May 30-June 5.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition offers online guides for how to plan activities such as rallies, press events, teach-ins, meetings with elected officials and letter-writing campaigns, as well as sample materials and content including talking points, tweets, op-eds, press releases, social media images and posters.

National poll shows strong support for federal action on affordable housing.
A recent poll commissioned by the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign through Hart Research Associates found 85% of respondents believe that ensuring everyone has a safe, decent, affordable place to live should be a top national priority. Almost as many (83%) agree that elected officials are not paying enough attention to affordable housing needs. Seventy percent of city dwellers, as well as 59% of suburbanites and 53% of rural residents, say housing affordability is a problem in their area.

Hearing spotlight continues on rural housing affordability.
Continuing a theme from testimony in front of the House subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance, HAC discussed the issue of an affordability crisis in rural housing with various media outlets. HAC’s research director Lance George spoke with CBS News about Housing’s hidden crisis: Rural Americans struggle to pay rent. Additionally, CEO David Lipsetz sat for an interview with Newsy to elaborate on the characteristics of the crisis and highlight possible solutions.

RuralSTAT. An estimated 20% of homes in rural and small town areas are vacant – which is nearly twice the vacancy rate for suburban and urban communities. For more information on housing vacancy in your community, visit HAC’s Rural Data Portal.

Recent publications of interest

  • 2019 Advocates’ Guide: A Primer on Federal Affordable Housing & Community Development Programs is the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual update of its overview of programs and policy tools.
  • 2019 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, released by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, focuses on the link between housing and health at the county level, finding that severe housing cost burden affects health. The report website allows researchers to explore how healthy different counties are and to review policy solutions including mixed use development and legal support for tenants in eviction hearings.
  • USDA’s Census of Agriculture, conducted every five years, presents numerous indicators for U.S. farms and farm producers. The data from 2017 indicated that the number of overall farms declined by 3.2 percent from 2012, and the median age of farm producers increased to 57.5 years.
  • Any Federal Infrastructure Package Should Boost Investment in Low-Income Communities, published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, details the needs of low-income communities that could be addressed through a federal infrastructure package, including affordable housing for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Dying Too Soon: County-level Disparities in Premature Death by Rurality, Race, and Ethnicity, a brief from the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center, reports that the highest rates of premature death were observed in counties where a majority of residents were non-Hispanic Black or American Indian/Alaskan Native. For all racial/ethnic groups (except American Indian/Alaskan Native, for which comparison data was lacking), premature deaths were significantly higher in rural counties than urban ones.
  • The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, reports that only 37 affordable and available homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households nationwide and there is a shortage in every state.
  • Paycheck to Paycheck, by the National Housing Conference, offers a report and database with information on housing affordability for working households.
  • The State of Homelessness in America, issued by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, reviews data at the national and state levels to show trends in homelessness, homeless assistance and at-risk populations.

HAC offers Section 502 packaging training for nonprofits in May.
This three-day advanced course trains experienced participants to assist potential borrowers and work with RD staff, other nonprofits, and regional intermediaries to deliver successful Section 502 loan packages. The training will be held May 7-9 in Kansas City, MO. For more information, contact HAC staff, 404-892-4824.

Need capital for your affordable housing project?
HAC’s loan funds provide low interest rate loans to support single- and multifamily affordable housing projects for low-income rural residents throughout the U.S. and territories. Capital is available for all types of affordable and mixed-income housing projects, including preservation, farmworker, senior and veteran housing. HAC loan funds can be used for pre-development, site acquisition, site development and construction/rehabilitation. Contact HAC’s loan fund staff at hacloanfund@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600.
Please note: HAC is not able to offer loans to individuals or families. Borrowers must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations or government entities (including tribes).