Tag Archive for: NEA

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

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:





City of Eufaula



Eastern Sierra Artists



Dancing Spirit Community Arts Center



Huerfano County Economic Development, Inc.



Economic Council of Okeechobee County, Inc.



Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency



action pact



Thrive Allen County, Inc.



Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative



Snow Pond Center for the Arts



City of Excelsior Springs

Excelsior Springs


McComb Creative Economy Partnership



Clay County Historical and Arts Council



Divide County Economic Development Council, Inc.



Woodward Arts & Theatre Council, Inc.



City of San Elizario

San Elizario


Town of Scottsville



Shenandoah County Office of Economic Development

Shenandoah County


NCW Economic Development District



Laramie Main Street



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.


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).

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.