It is past time to end this shutdown

Housing Assistance Council Statement on Federal Government Shutdown

by David Lipsetz, CEO, Peter Carey, Chair, Peggy Wright, President

It is past time to end the government shutdown. As the budget stalemate continues, the impact on small towns and rural families grows more severe. Every day Americans are losing out on billions of dollars’ worth of affordable housing, clean drinking water, and community facilities, like town halls, fire stations and hospitals. Like it or not, the federal government does important work, and must be reopened now.

The shutdown has thrown countless rural home sales into limbo. U.S. Department of Agriculture offices are closed, so the department’s Rural Housing Service is not making mortgages, guaranteeing mortgages made by banks, or processing requests for new mortgages.

The homebuying industry is central to the entire U.S. economy. Because USDA is closed, rural residents and businesses have lost the annual equivalent of more than $25 billion of business. Some of that activity will go forward when the government reopens, but some will not. Sellers have found other buyers. Buyers are losing out on the stability and wealth-building of home ownership. Businesses are not selling furniture and other goods and services to new home buyers. Realtors and local banks are losing time, money and, potentially even worse for the long-term health of the housing market, their customers’ confidence in publicly-backed privately-managed mortgages. Ripples from these, and all the other shutdown-related missed opportunities, will extend to the national economy, and will get bigger as the shutdown continues.

Rural Stop Landscape - Antelope Island Utah - Pink Sherbert Photography CC

The Housing Assistance Council has been hearing about these ripple effects from rural community organizations we work with around the country. A group in Utah has to find $1.3 million to reimburse electricians, plumbers and others for work they have already done on USDA-financed houses under construction. A realtor in a small town in Tennessee has lost 90 percent of their business without USDA mortgages. In Alaska and elsewhere, families are hearing from their insurance companies that USDA has not made their homeowners’ insurance payments – the money is there, escrowed from the residents’ monthly mortgage payments to USDA, but there are no staff at USDA to send out the funds.

HAC is also keeping in close contact with rural tenants and landlords who rely on USDA. More than 268,000 tenant families receive USDA rental assistance. Their annual incomes average less than $11,000 and two-thirds of them are elderly or disabled. If the shutdown continues into February, USDA will run out of money to help thousands of those tenants pay their rent. This is putting renters and their landlords into an impossible situation. Renters will have to decide whether to divert their grocery money to cover the gap in rent or to risk eviction. Landlords will have to decide whether to punish renters for non-payment or stop paying for other things like insurance, taxes and property management staff.

At the same time, USDA’s multi-billion dollar loan programs for water systems, rural health clinics, schools and fire halls are shut down; tens of thousands of low-income tenants who rely on the Department of Housing and Urban Development for similar programs are losing their rent support; and countless other Americans are suffering in myriad ways.


This is no way to manage the public’s programs. End this shutdown now!

About the Housing Assistance Council

The Housing Assistance Council helps build homes and communities across rural America. Founded in 1971 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., HAC is a national nonprofit and a certified community development financial institution dedicated to helping local rural organizations build affordable homes by providing below-market financing, technical assistance, training, research, and information services. To learn more, visit

Fed Chair talks strong economy and rural poverty at HAC Conference

Federal Reserve Board of Governors chairman Jerome Powell addressed the HAC Rural Housing Conference on December 6, 2018. Chairman Powell discussed the strength of the economy while acknowledging that not everyone has enjoyed the benefits of the strong economy equally.

conf-2018-powell“While the economy is strong overall, we recognize that some communities have yet to feel the full benefits of the ongoing expansion,” Powell said.

During his speech, Chairman Powell praised the work of the community development functions in each of the 12 Federal Reserve banks and what their work means for local communities. He stressed the importance of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and praised HAC’s research on the subject as beneficial to the Fed’s plans around potential CRA reform.

He closed his remarks by acknowledging the work of community development organizations like HAC’s partners in improving rural communities across the country. He stressed that their work is critical to expand the benefits of the strong economy into more rural areas.

Press Coverage:

Rural Poverty Remains Unchanged: Incomes Also Stagnant in Rural Areas

Download HAC's Research NoteThe number of rural Americans living in poverty has remained relatively unchanged, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall, the official poverty rate for the United States was 14.8 percent in 2014 – the same as in 2013. Released today, the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014, estimates that 46.7 million people had incomes below the poverty line in 2014, making this the fourth year without a statistically significant change in the number of people in poverty at the national level.


Taking Stock 2010


More from Taking Stock at #RuralFacts and Poverty in the United States (Map)

Purchase the Report

Press Conference


Nearly 30 years ago the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) published Taking Stock, one of the first comprehensive assessments of rural poverty and housing conditions in the United States. Since the 1980s, HAC has prepared an updated Taking Stock every ten years following the release of decennial Census data. Now HAC presents the newest edition of Taking Stock, using data from the 2010 Census and American Community Survey (ACS) to describe the social, economic, and housing characteristics of rural Americans.

Executive Summary

Download Taking Stock (PDF):

Introductory Documents


Rural People and Places: The Demographics of Rural and Small Town America

The Rural Economy

Housing In Rural America



Border Colonias

Zavala County, Texas

Central Appalachia

Hancock County, Tennessee


Kern County, California

Lower Mississippi Delta

West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana

Native American Lands

Shannon County, South Dakota



Appendix A. About the Data

Appendix B. Tables

Download Complete Publication (30MB)

More on Taking Stock information on Twitter #RuralFacts

To purchase a physical copy of Taking Stock for $26, click on the Amazon link.

Press Conference: On December 6, 2012, HAC hosted a press conferenceto announce the publication ofTaking Stock, HAC’s detailed report on Rural People, Poverty, and Housing in the 21st Century. Access an archived recording of the webcast here.

All Files are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Questions? Contact Dan Stern at HAC,, 202-842-8600.

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