Policy News from the Administration

HAC Supports USDA’s Interest in Racial Justice, Equity, and Underserved Communities

Federal policy and programs benefit some areas of the United States while harming others. HAC was pleased to see the Administration’s Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, published on President Biden’s first day in office. In Section 2 of that Order, we were glad to see “persons who live in rural areas” included in the list of groups who need to be granted “consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment.” Further, we were glad to see “geographic communities” a category that should be considered when determining an “underserved community.”

On this basis, HAC supports USDA’s efforts to advance justice and equity for communities underserved by USDA itself and by others. HAC’s comments submitted in response to USDA’s request for information on Identifying Barriers in USDA Programs and Services; Advancing Racial Justice and Equity and Support for Underserved Communities at USDA address actions that are necessary in several areas. Building capacity, improving access to capital, increasing flexibility, and engaging with stakeholders are among the subjects addressed in HAC’s comments.

In a similar vein, HAC also recently commented on an administration request for input on equity across all federal agencies.

HAC and rural CDFIs receive “massive” $353 million investment

The US Treasury announced it is investing $1.25 billion of COVID-19 relief funds in Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). We are excited to announce that the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has received the maximum award: $1,826,265.

HAC will invest our $1.8 million award through our Loan Fund to support affordable housing organizations across rural America. As Eileen Neely, director of HAC’s Loan Fund explains, “$1.8 million means we can invest in more rural communities and help more low-income Americans get housed.”

Overall, the US Treasury is awarding $353 million to rural CDFIs. “This massive investment in rural CDFIs will help unlock the potential of rural communities,” said David Lipsetz, President & CEO of the Housing Assistance Council. “We are thrilled for the opportunity to expand our work for disinvested rural communities.”

Everyone deserves a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. This award strengthens HAC’s work to make that vision a reality for rural America.

Rural Prosperity Report Cover

Building Better Fundamentals for Rural Progress: Good Data, Fairer Media Practices, and Stronger Local Organizations

David Lipsetz
Katharine Ferguson

Sector-specific solutions dominate rural policy. We often hear about rural health, rural water, rural housing, broadband, agriculture.  These are pieces of something bigger: rural communities. What would it look like to consider the needs and priorities of rural communities in an integrated and holistic way?  To start: building better fundamentals for rural progress with good data, fairer media practices and stronger local organizations.  Also foundational: a deep and sustained commitment to cross-sector collaboration among national and regional rural-focused organizations.

Since its modest beginnings with a $2 million War on Poverty grant in 1971, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has been able to successfully fund rural affordable housing, inform sound policy on rural housing programs, build capacity for local housing providers, and become the nation’s foremost source of information on rural housing. The Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group (Aspen CSG) is the outgrowth of a rural policy program and state policy program that, finding case studies and policy papers were insufficient to effect local change, shifted its attention to helping equip, convene and inspire local leaders through peer-to-peer engagement. Today, Aspen CSG supports leaders as they work to build more prosperous regions and advance those living on the economic margins—with approximately 75 percent of its work in rural America. With somewhat differing subject matter expertise and organizational strengths, HAC and Aspen CSG are not natural organizational partners, but we discovered we are each asking the same question: “What does it take for rural communities to thrive?” Above all, our shared concern about geographic inequality and our shared commitment to advancing equity and opportunity, especially in rural and tribal communities, brings us together.

And so, over the past two years, Aspen CSG and HAC, with support from the Ford Foundation, have organized three discreet projects to lay some groundwork for a more cohesive and connected rural development field. Each was designed to provide a foundational understanding of a fundamental challenge that obscures the nation’s understanding of and attention to rural issues and progress. The end result: three reports that set the stage for future work on improving rural data collection and use, bringing to light truer narratives about the realities and diversities of rural America, and investment in the tools and resources rural-serving organizations need to do right by the communities they serve—especially in the midst of COVID-19 response and recovery.

    1. In Search of “Good” Rural Data

      Data that actually represents the needs of rural communities is imperative to provide evidence that will shape better policies and practices that advance prosperity and equity. This new report scans existing data sources that measure rural prosperity and unveils how these sources too often fail to provide sufficient or accurate data needed to design and improve economic development and investment in rural communities. The researchers interviewed rural practitioners, conducted a data scan of important go-to data sets, and uncovered key inadequacies in existing data sources that hamper analysis important to devising better economic development and investment in rural communities. The report explains these shortcomings, makes note of what is “good” in rural data, and outlines a number of strategies that can produce better data, such as new data collection methodologies, better data integration and alternate sources.
    2.  Revealing Rural Realities: What Fuels Inaccurate and Incomplete Coverage of Rural Issues? 

      More than two-thirds of the nation’s 3,143 counties are rural. So are the vast majority of the thousands of incorporated places. Moreover, nearly all the 574 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. have significant presence in rural regions of the country. And nearly 20 percent of our nation’s total population lives “rural” full-time, not counting growing numbers of part-time rural dwellers. Reporting on the lived experiences of the people who live in rural and tribal communities is thus a journalistic imperative; it should be done in a way that is true to the lived experiences of people in rural regions and in Indian Country. This second report explores how rural people and places show up in national media. It draws from interviews with local and national journalists, media editors, and people who live and work in rural America. along with a scan of both print and social media. The findings demonstrate a gulf: How rural people think and talk about their own communities differs widely from what national outlets typically report and cover. The report includes recommendations for increasing the quality and quantity of representative and nuanced stories about rural America in national and regional media.

    3. Ground Truth from Rural Practitioners: Findings from a survey of U.S. rural practitioners 

      Local and regional rural-serving organizations shape and strengthen the fabric of their communities. But what kinds of organizations work in rural places? On what range of topics do they work? What expertise and resources do they have – and what do they need?  Based on the findings from a survey of over 350 rural-serving organizations in 45 states, this research brief begins to provide policymakers, funders and other well-meaning folks who want to do right by rural with information on the inner workings of rural-serving organizations. The goal: policy, investments and partnerships that are better tuned to rural realities and the self-identified strengths, expertise and needs of rural-serving organizations.

Economic recovery in rural areas will require surfacing pernicious structural and cultural issues, embedded over decades, and evident in the disparities COVID-19 has laid bare. That excavation process starts with better rural data. Better data and information is essential to rural-serving organization’s ability to assess what is working and what is not, to recognize the assets their communities have as well as the inequities in local outcomes; and to determine how to deploy their assets in ways that result in more resilient and fair communities where everyone belongs. While today’s available data indicates rural distress – and reporting about rural and tribal communities should acknowledge this – the media can be true to the complexity of reporting on rural and tribal communities by also showcasing assets, diversity, innovation, natural beauty, cultural richness and opportunity.

We often talk about the need for collaboration in community; collaboration is needed among national rural-focused organizations too. Three additional national organizations partnered in our work – the Urban Institute with data expertise, and Hattaway Communications and the Center for Rural Strategies on communications. In addition, a host of on-the-ground rural practitioners made important contributions to all three projects. We are grateful that, as a result, the byproducts of this project include new and stronger relationships among these organizations and practitioners; though we have different areas of expertise, we have an overarching shared interest in advancing rural and urban America together. Improved lines of communication, better understanding of organizational strengths, and new ways to share intellectual property may not sound glamorous, but they are the building blocks of collaboration. And so, through this project and other new, joint endeavors, we will continue to walk the talk and do the sometimes-cumbersome but often-productive work of collaboration.

As we reflect on what we set out to accomplish with this initial collaboration, we have three hopes.  First, we hope the three documents we’ve produced will be picked up and prove useful to those who seek to better understand rural realities. Second, we hope to spark curiosity and prompt important conversations about how we collect data and tell stories, and how what we know (or don’t) about the actors at work in rural regions influence the understanding – or misunderstanding – of rural people and  places, let alone our perceptions of what’s possible. And finally, we hope that the commitment to collaboration that was at the heart of this effort will continue, mirrored and multiplied across the many organizations that are invested in fostering a more inclusive, more prosperous rural America.

 

Rural Voices: Building Capacity for Rural America

Affordable rural housing and stronger rural communities are a longterm endeavor. There are no quick fixes. But there is one constant magic elixir, and it is worthy of ongoing investment: capacity building. That is how local organizations learn skills, tap information, and gain the wherewithal to do what they know needs to be done.

This issue of Rural Voices magazine describes in more detail what it means to build the capacity of rural housing organizations, why it is important, who does it, how it is done, and how it is financed. These stories show that capacity building succeeds. They also show that capacity building is an ongoing process – when an organization masters one set of tasks, it can move on to tackle something different or more complex. Affordable housing development, like life, requires continual learning.

VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

Rural America Will Thrive
Representative Bennie G. Thompson

The Delta’s future depends on a sustained investment in local economies and residents’ well-being.

FEATURES

The U.S. Must Invest in Capacity Building for Affordable Rural Housing
by David Lipsetz

HAC works to empower local entities in rural regions and tribes so they may flourish.

Thinking Nationally, Building Locally
with Suzanne Anarde, Marietta Rodriguez, Terri Ludwig, and Sue Henderson

Rural Voices interviewed four national intermediaries to learn more about how they assist with capacity building needs unique to rural organizations.

Intermediary Support Continues to be Invaluable
by Fannie Brown

Central Mississippi Housing and Development Corporation benefits from intermediary partnerships.

Building Help Improve Texas Colonias Housing
by Jose Alvarez

Building AYUDA’s capacity has empowered them to build the capacity of other local organizations.

A Communitywide Capacity Building Approach is Key

A West Virginia organization works with their community to find solutions to their housing issues.

Learn from Our Experience
by Randall Hrabe

Northwest Kansas Housing offers advice about building capacity.


Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please comment on these stories by sending a tweet to #RuralVoices, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

Rural Voices: Action for a Rapidly Changing Rural America

This issue of Rural Voices reports on some of the learning and brainstorming that occurred at the Housing Assistance Council’s 2016 Rural Housing Conference: Building Rural Communities. The magazine presents some of the conference highlights. Several articles are adapted from speeches given there. A set of maps taken from a conference presentation by Lance George, HAC’s Research Director, provides a dramatic view of some current “ruralities” – the ways rural America’s demographics and housing are changing. A series of five articles addresses action for a rapidly changing rural America on topics ranging from persistent poverty to creative placemaking. These pieces are based on white papers developed for the conference and in-depth participant discussions at the event. Their recommendations are timely and important as rural housing faces changes in policy and funding.

VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

Inequality Harms Us All
by Congressman Keith Ellison

Investing in rural America will not only improve the lives of people who live there, but will also help create a thriving country where everyone can succeed.

FEATURES

Ruralities: The Changing Face of Rural AmericaRuralities: The Changing Face of Rural America

A set of maps demonstrate the ways rural America’s demographics and housing are changing.

Rural Community Development Can Address Inequality
by John Henneberger

A model demonstration Rural America Community Building program in each state would help overcome racial and economic inequality.

Action on Housing Programs and Infrastructure
by Hope F. Cupit and Julie Bornstein

Rural advocates can act on housing programs and infrastructure needs by improving messaging and advocacy efforts.

Action on Persistent Poverty and Rural Inequality
by R. Scott McReynolds and Ann Williams Cass

Rural advocates can act on persistent poverty and rural inequality by building the capacity of nonprofits and local government agencies in persistent poverty areas.

Action on the Opioid Epidemic and Rural Affordable Housing
by Alan Morgan

Rural advocates can act on the opioid epidemic and connected housing needs by making resources available, educating relevant parties, and working with partners to coordinate services.

Action on Creative Placemaking
by Bob Reeder and Lisa Neergaard

Rural advocates can use creative placemaking to help act on community needs.

Action to Nurture Rural Leaders
by Gisela Salgado and Janet Topolsky

Rural advocates can act on the need for future leadership by improving staff recruitment and retention, as well as educating and involving policymakers and community leaders.


Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please feel free to comment on this story by sending a tweet to #RuralVoicesMag, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

Rural Voices: Innovation in Building Technology for Affordable Rural Housing

Building decent, affordable housing for the lowest-income rural Americans requires creativity – in financing, design, planning, and even in administering organizations. This issue of Rural Voices is meant to provide helpful examples for the field, and we encourage readers to share other innovations as well.

FEATURES

Small Size, Big Results: Tiny Houses in Hale County, Alabama
by Pam Dorr

Tiny homes, from 400 to 850 square feet, can provide decent, affordable homes for rural Americans with very low incomes, while blending beautifully into existing communities.

Cargo Containers Become Simple, Decent, Affordable and Energy-Efficient Homes…It’s Happening in Kentucky
by Mary Shearer

Abandoned cargo containers are converted to highly energy-efficient, simple homes for extremely low-income Kentuckians.

Kicking and Screaming All the Way to Greater Energy Efficiency
by Patrick Shiflea

After hesitating to adopt new construction techniques and add costs, Alaska CDC staff have concluded increased energy efficiency is worth it for homeowners.

Factory-Built Housing as an Affordable Housing Solution
by Stacey Epperson

Modern manufactured and modular housing options can serve as an affordable alternative to site-built structures.

From Tornado to Sustainable Community in Saint Peter, Minnesota
by Rick Goodemann

After a major disaster, intensive planning and community-wide innovation produced new affordable housing as well as improved electricity and broadband service.

The Basics of Process Improvement for Affordable Housing Organizations
by Josh Crites

New ideas that improve project management can pave the way to an efficient and organized affordable housing process.

View from Washington

Doubling Down in a Time of Uncertainty
by Ellen Lurie Hoffman and Michael Bodaken

As advocates for affordable housing face the uncertainties of a new Administration, it is clear that our work and our partnerships have never been more essential.


Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please feel free to comment on this story by sending a tweet to #RuralVoicesMag, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

Some Mistakes Have Been Made

Rural Housers Share Their Favorite Mistakes, and What They Learned from Them

This edition of Rural Voices features stories from rural housing professionals who share notable mistakes they or their organization made. These candid and even humorous accounts of mistakes in rural housing are intended to convey that blunders are inevitable, but assessing and learning from mistakes can actually improve your organization and its efforts.

Rural Housers Share Their Favorite Mistakes, and What They Learned from Them

Download a pdf version of Rural Voices
rvspring15-cover
This edition of Rural Voices features stories from rural housing professionals who share notable mistakes they or their organization made. These candid and even humorous accounts of mistakes in rural housing are intended to convey that blunders are inevitable, but assessing and learning from mistakes can actually improve your organization and its efforts.

A VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

HUD Secretary Julián Castro Discusses Rural Housing
by the Housing Assistance Council

Newly Appointed Under Secretary of Rural Development Lisa Mensah
by Lisa Mensah

FEATURES

“My House Is Backwards!”
by Scott McReynolds

The Housing Development Alliance takes a calm but straightforward approach to mistakes: admit them, fix them, and learn from them in hopes of not making the same mistake twice.

A Promising Concept… With a Harsh Realization
by Laura Buxbaum

After self-examination, a housing nonprofit in Maine asks, “How did we get here? What might we have done differently? And would we ever, under any circumstances, do it again?”

The Gray Panthers of El Dorado, Amador, and Placer Counties: How the Good Guys Finally Won
by John Frisk

A local citizenboard and a group of rural “housers” kept a project afloat after near-collapse in its early years resulting in a development that now serves the community with 40 units of senior housing.

Always Improving, One Misstep at a Time
by Nick Mitchell-Bennet and Kathy Tyler

“I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison was no stranger to failures, but he took a healthy approach to mistakes.

Farmworker Housing Travails from Pennsylvania
by John Wiltse

PathStone stayed the course through a ten-year predevelopment process and emerged a stronger real-estate developer.

Underestimating Bureaucracy in Bureaus
by Marvin Ginn

Cutting through red tape on tribal lands comes with unique pitfalls

Trust AND Verify
by Wilbur Cave

A seemingly small oversight can become a big problem quickly

Additional Content

rvspring15-infographic-thumbMortgage Lending and Access in Rural America

Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please feel free to comment on this story by sending a tweet to #RuralVoicesMag, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

Looking to the Future: Youth and Housing in Rural America

thumb_rvmarch2014-coverThe March 2014 issue of Rural Voices, “Looking to the Future: Housing and Youth in Rural America” is now available for download from the Housing Assistance Council. This edition looks at the unique issues related to youth and housing in rural America. The edition also features several organizations that directly serve rural youth.

FEATURES

Children Growing up in Rural America
by Marybeth J. Mattingly and Cynthia M. Duncan, The Carsey Institute

Characteristics and challenges of a changing population.

Serving Families from Roots to the Moon
by Nadia Villagrán, Coachella Valley Housing Coalition

How California’s Coachella Valley Housing Coalition helped improve the lives of one rural farmworker family.

Young People Build Affordable Housing and Transform Their Lives
by Karen Jacobson, Randolph County Housing Authority

YouthBuild provides young rural Americans with the opportunity to build job skills, and homes, in their own communities.

Young Rural Housing Leaders Reflect

A group of graduates from the California Coalition for Rural Housing’s Youth Internship program discuss opportunities for youth in rural America.

Lead Poisoning: Not Just a Problem for Urban Youth
by Ron Rupp,

Lead paint is common in older rural housing and is considered to be the leading environmental health threat to young children.

VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

Congress Acts on Rural Housing
by Joe Belden and Leslie Strauss

A federal budget and extension of eligibility for rural communities are positive steps for affordable rural housing. The proposed 2015 budget? Not so much.

MAPS

thumb_childrenandyouthmapChildren & Youth in Rural America – (Interactive Prezi)

Add your Response

Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please feel free to comment on this story below, tweet #RuralVoicesMag, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

7 Issues Facing Rural America

The Spring 2013 issue of Rural Voices focuses on 7 issues facing rural America, and conversations from the 2012 National Rural Housing Conference around those issues.

FEATURES

7 Issues Facing Rural America: Leading Rural Housing Forward
by the Housing Assistance Council

Saving USDA Rural Development and Its Programs
by Peter Carey, Self-Help Enterprises, Inc.

Rural Rental Housing Preservation
by Tom Bishop, Homestead Affordable Housing, Inc., and Leslie Strauss, HAC

Energy Efficiency Issues in Rural Affordable Housing
by Meghan Walsh, USDA Rural Development

Housing Options for Rural Seniors
by Gus Seelig, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board

Serving High Needs Areas and Vulnerable Populations
by Marty Miller, Office of Rural Farmworker Housing, Andy Saavedra, Mid South Delta LISC, and Leslie Strauss

Building a New Generation of Rural Housing Professionals and Leaders
by Gisela Salgado and Rob Weiner, California Rural Housing Coalition

Strategic Partnerships for Rural Nonprofits
by David Dangler, NeighborWorks Rural Initiative, and Tom Carew, FAHE

View from Washington

Sequestration Hurts and Disappointing FY14 Budget Doesn’t Heal
by The Housing Assistance Council

Add your Response

Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please feel free to comment on this story at the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.