Policy News from the Administration

HAC Recommends FHFA and the GSEs Prioritize Addressing Inequity

HAC submitted comments in response to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Request for Input on the Enterprises’ 2022-2024 Duty to Serve Underserved Markets Plans. Through the Duty to Serve mandate, the Enterprises (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are tasked with increasing liquidity and investment capital in three traditionally underserved markets: Rural Housing, Manufactured Housing, and Affordable Housing Preservation. HAC’s comment noted that secondary housing market policy is and has historically been part of a system that is delivering vastly different outcomes for people depending on where they are born – and this inequity must be addressed by more ambitious Duty to Serve investment and purchase goals.

Key Takeaways from HAC’s Comments

 

  • Be Ambitious

    More ambitious purchase and investment goals are needed as we enter the next phase of Duty to Serve.

  • Prioritize Equity

    Racial and geographic equity should be core to the Duty to Serve mission.

  • Encourage Partnership

    Strong rural partnerships are essential to Duty to Serve’s success.

  • Measure Success

    More transparent data is needed for stakeholders to truly understand and evaluate the success of Duty to Serve.

Policy News from the Administration

HAC Recommends Federal Actions for Rural Equity

HAC submitted comments in response to an Office of Management and Budget request for input on whether federal agency policies and actions equitably serve all eligible individuals and communities, including rural residents. Noting that rural and persistently poor places have historically been and continue to be underserved by federal programs, HAC recommended a focus on capacity building, access to capital, and proactive and deliberate tailoring of federal programs to produce lasting rural equity.

Key Takeaways from HAC’s Comments

 

  • Rural Inclusion

    HAC is thrilled to see rural and persistently poor places included explicitly in the Executive Order on equity that President Biden released on his first day in office, and that is the basis for this OMB effort.

  • Historic Disinvestment

    Rural and persistently poor places have historically been and continue to be underserved by federal programs.

  • Focus on Equity

    We need federal focus on capacity building, access to capital, and proactive and deliberate tailoring of federal programs to produce lasting rural equity.

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.

White Mountain Apache Housing Authority Serves its Veterans

The White Mountain Apache Housing Authority (WMAHA) helps the members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe to overcome their individual housing needs. Of these, almost 500 are U.S. military veterans. Working in the Fort Apache Indian Reservation located in eastern central Arizona, WMAHA serves the 16,000 enrolled members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and strives to ensure that every tribal member has safe housing they can afford. The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is proud to be a partner of WMAHA and their amazing work. In 2018, we awarded a $30,000 grant through The Home Depot Foundation‘s Veteran Housing Grants Program to WMAHA to help support their veterans. In celebration of Veterans Day and Native American Heritage Month, we’d like to highlight just a few of the many ways the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority serves the veterans of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Before rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018 

Before rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018

After rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018 

After rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018

Before and after of a rehab of a veteran’s home completed by WMAHA in 2018 

 

As many veterans know, service doesn’t end when you’re discharged. It’s a value that is carried for a lifetime. For WMAHA, service is key to the mission. The Veteran Home Rehabilitation Program serves those who have served our country. Many of the low-income Apache veterans the Housing Authority assists are in desperate need of multiple, expensive repairs to make sure their homes are safe, accessible, and livable. But without the ability to make these repairs themselves, many veterans need help.

Over the last eight years, the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority has rehabilitated (or in one case built!) 19 homes for their veterans, each of which required multiple major repairs for health, safety, and accessibility. All of this was performed at no cost to the veteran or their family. Last year WMAHA was able to set a record with 5 rehabilitations.

Making sure their veterans have safe and healthy homes is a point of pride for WMAHA and for the entire White Mountain Apache community. After all, WMAHA doesn’t work alone: each rehabilitation is made possible by scores of volunteers. As the team from WMAHA explains, “the number of volunteers who come and help with demolition and construction cleanup during the projects” is a testament to the rehabilitation program’s “impact on the community.” From the Housing Authority to everyday members, including community partners, the White Mountain Apache Tribe takes care of its veterans. By taking care of those who took care of us, WMAHA is serving both its community and the broader community of veterans nationwide.

The COVID pandemic has hit many Native communities particularly hard, and tragically, the White Mountain Apache are no exception. During the pandemic, unemployment, which usually runs 80% according to WMAHA, has far surpassed that amount, and food insecurity is “at a critical level.” Many of the low-income veterans WMAHA assists don’t have a way to pick up food from the local food bank, so the Housing Authority is starting to deliver the food boxes itself. Not content to just help house their veterans, WMAHA is committed to improving their quality of life.

Caring for veterans extends outside the home, too. For WMAHA, ensuring their veterans have access to the Veterans Affairs benefits they deserve is a critical mission. With 1.67 million acres, the Fort Apache Indian Reservation is large and rural. This creates challenges for many of the Tribe’s low-income veterans. Many of the nearest VA hospitals are hundreds of miles away, which makes even getting to routine appointments incredibly difficult. This distance makes it so challenging to receive disability ratings, see specialists, and make necessary appointments that, according to Barb Connerley, a consultant who works with WMAHA, “many of the veterans…do not know what VA benefits are available to them.”

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

This veteran’s home was in such disrepair the team from WMAHA decided to tear it down and start from scratch.

The White Mountain Apache Housing Authority has created a solution to help connect their veterans to the VA medical care they earned through their service. Since 2017, the White Mountain Apache Tribe Department of Transportation has operated Fort Apache Connection Transit (FACT), a 2-route bus system serving 12 stops across the Reservation. While this system doesn’t provide access to the nearest VA hospitals, the Housing Authority recently began repurposing one of their buses to transport veterans to their VA appointments. Multiple times a month, WMAHA will be providing veterans with a bus ride to their appointments and back home. They even take the time to help the veterans complete their paperwork to file for VA benefits.

For the trip, WMAHA provides their veterans with water, snacks, masks, and COVID safety information. They hope that this program can also serve as a teaching event, helping their veterans learn more about COVID safety as well as how to access their VA benefits. The program’s strength is its ingenuity—bringing together transit, healthcare, and informational services—in solving a critical problem for the Tribe’s veterans. Thanks to the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority, veterans living on reservation now have access to the critical VA healthcare they’ve earned through their service.

Many veterans return from their service to find it difficult to access the resources of their communities, including housing. Tragically, Native communities are overrepresented among persistent poverty counties, making these resources even harder to access. The Housing Assistance Council is committed to helping build community resources for housing where they’re needed most. Partners like WMAHA help us give back to our veterans and uplift Native communities. As Barb Connerley puts it, the Tribe’s veterans “have a proud tradition of military service and sacrifice.” The work of the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority pays respect to that service and sacrifice through service, care, and ingenuity of its own.

Census 2020 Logo

Respond to the 2020 Census

The 2020 Census is happening now and HAC encourages everyone living in the United States to respond. The Census is supposed to count every resident. The numbers are used to determine how billions of dollars of assistance are distributed, as well as how representation in Congress is divided. If you don’t respond, or if the Census misses you, your community gets fewer resources.

The 2020 Census does not ask about citizenship or documentation. It is illegal for the Census Bureau to share any of your information with any other government agencies, including law enforcement or immigration.

You can complete your questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail. Click here for information from the U.S. Census Bureau about the Census and how to respond.

You can complete the census online or by phone in 13 different languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.

The Census Bureau also offers webpages and guides in 59 non-English languages, including American Sign Language, as well as guides in Braille and large print. Click here to learn more.

Rural Voices: Meeting Native American Housing Needs

This issue of Rural Voices focuses on the progress being made in improving the housing conditions of Native Americans. Considerable challenges, including substandard conditions, overcrowding, insufficient funding, and persistent poverty, face Indian Country, but tribes and their housing organizations are equally persistent in working to overcome them. Rural Voices authors share what readers need to know when working with tribes, highlight innovative projects, discuss funding opportunities, and further describe challenges for a diverse population of Native American tribes across the country. The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation has provided generous support for this issue of Rural Voices, and for HAC’s other work on Native American housing needs and solutions.

VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

Building a Stronger Indian Country: The BUILD Act and Indian Housing
by Senator John Hoeven

The BUILD Act aims to improve the development of tribal housing projects and reauthorize critical Indian housing programs.

FEATURES

Creating Sustainable Homelands through Homeownership on Trust Lands
by Patrice H. Kunesh

A multifaceted approach can help leverage resources to improve housing and economic development in Indian Country.

Partnering with Tribes to Address Housing Needs
by Deana Around Him and Yvette Roubideaux

Open communication, cultural humility, and respect go a long way when working together with tribes.

Important Considerations for Working with Tribes
by Twila Martin Kekahbah

Understanding tribal governance,sovereignty, and the barriers to tribal development is critical to doing business with American Indian tribes.

Housing Solutions that Work for Native Americans
by Anthony Walters

The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act is an important tool in meeting tribal housing needs.

Helping Native Americans Become Homeowners through Section 184
by Jeff Bowman and Tanya Krueger

This Native-owned bank has what it takes to successfully use HUD’s Section 184 program to meet tribal members’ housing needs.

Native Community Finance Serves Native Americans in New Mexico
by Marvin Ginn

Native CDFIs provide funds and services to improve Native American housing conditions.

Housing for Holistic Rez Living
by James “JC” Crawford

Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate has had major success in integrating housing and community needs.

INFOGRAPHIC

American and Alaska Native (AIAN) Communities at a Glance InfographicAmerican and Alaska Native (AIAN) Communities at a Glance


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.

HUD Releases Native American Housing Studies

American Indian tribes are building more housing units after enactment of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) but housing conditions are substantially worse among American Indian households than other U.S. households. These are some of the findings of three new comprehensive reports of tribal housing needs just released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Urban Institute.

Special circumstances on tribal areas — remoteness, lack of infrastructure, complex legal issues and other constraints related to land ownership — make it extremely difficult to improve housing conditions in some areas, according to the reports. Based on the assessments of doubled up households and the number of severely distressed housing units in tribal areas, it is estimated that 68,000 more units are needed to replace severely inadequate units and to eliminate overcrowding in tribal areas. While tribes have been able to use NAHASDA funds effectively, their purchasing power has been eroded by inflation.

Key findings from the Housing Needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Tribal Areas report:

  • Housing conditions vary by region but are substantially worse overall among American Indian and Alaska Native households in tribal areas than among all U.S. households, with overcrowding being especially severe.
  • Physical deficiencies in plumbing, kitchen, heating, electrical, and maintenance issues were found in 23 percent of households in tribal areas, compared to 5 percent of all U.S. households.
  • Overcrowding coupled with another physical condition problem was found in 34 percent of households in tribal areas, compared to 7 percent of all U.S. households.
  • The percentage of households with at least one “doubled-up” person staying in the household because they have nowhere else to go was 17 percent, estimated to be up to 84,700 people.

Key findings from the Mortgage Lending on Tribal Land report:

  • While Native Americans value homeownership as much as other Americans, mortgage lending is limited in Indian Country because reservation land is held in trust and cannot be used to secure a mortgage loan.
  • Since 1994, nearly half of mortgage loans originated on tribal lands were in Oklahoma (45 percent by number and 37 percent by dollar value). The entire state of Oklahoma is considered an ‘eligible area,’ the state has no tribal trust areas, there are several participating lenders in the state, and many Native Americans live in Oklahoma.

Key findings from the Housing Needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Urban Areas report:

  • Native Americans are becoming more urban but are still less likely to live in a city than other Americans. Even within urban areas, these households often live in census tracts within or near a village or reservation.
  • American Indian and Alaska Native households are more likely to occupy worse housing than the rest of the population and more likely to be overcrowded.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native individuals leave their village or reservation due to lack of opportunities and some people cycle back and forth between their tribal home and a nearby primary city.
  • For Native Americans who struggle to transition from a village or reservation to an urban area, there are a specific set of challenges, including lack of familiarity with urban life and urban housing markets, lack of employment, limited social networks, insufficient rental or credit history, and race-based discrimination.

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.

50 Years, 50,000 Homes

A Half Century of Self-Help Housing Across Rural America

This edition of Rural Voices, “50 Years, 50,000 Homes,” celebrates the construction of the 50,000th self-help home to be built with USDA support and the achievements of the nonprofit sponsors, the USDA programs, and most importantly, the families who have become successful homeowners.

A Half Century of Self-Help Housing Across Rural America

Download a pdf version of Rural Voices
50 Years, 50,000 Homes

This edition of Rural Voices, “50 Years, 50,000 Homes,” celebrates the construction of the 50,000th self-help home to be built with USDA support and the achievements of the nonprofit sponsors, the USDA programs, and most importantly, the families who have become successful homeowners.

Views from Washington

Successful Federal-Local Partnerships
by U.S. Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers

Local partners help USDA housing programs make meaningful impacts to the lives of local rural residents

Neighbors Helping Neighbors Build a Better Life
by U.S. Representative Sam Farr

A program that helped create the real American Dream for over 50 years.

With Many Dedicated Partners, USDA Helps 50,000 Families Achieve the American Dream
by Secretary Tom Vilsack

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack discusses USDA’s Self-Help Housing Program.

FEATURES

So Much Progress, So Much Left To Do!
by Peter Carey

A simple concept still holds promise in a complicated housing world

Looking Back: The Beginnings and Evolution of USDA’s Self-Help Housing Movement
by Bob Marshall

Early efforts in rural California became a Self-Help Housing model for the nation

Building Forward: Self-Help For All
by Russell Huxtable

Let’s build on fifty years of history and expand this life changing program!

Self-Help Housing Changed Our Lives
by Noelle McKay and Stefanie Kompathoum

Families share their experience with the Self-Help Housing Program

An Emerging Self-Help Leader
by Mi’shell French

Discusses personal growth and sustaining the momentum through Self-Help Housing

Self-Help Housing and “SHOP” in the Rio Grande Valley
by Nancy Hanson

HUD’s Self -Help Homeownership Opportunity Program helps make self-help building sites affordable

Technical Assistance is the Essential Ingredient to Self-Help Housing
by Suzy Huard

USDA’S Section 523 Technical Assistance Grants make Mutual Self-Help housing possible

Expanding Service in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
by Mike Shimon

A local Habitat for Humanity provider reaches more families using the USDA Mutual Self-Help program

Neither Wind, Nor Rain…Can Stop a Determined Self-Help Provider
by Linda Smith

A local nonprofit is up to the challenge when disaster strikes twice.

Additional Content

Celebrating 50 Years of helping families help themselvesCelebrating 50 Years of helping families help themselves.(8.5″ X 11″ printable pdf)

Celebrating 50 Years of helping families help themselves.(25.5″ X 11″ original document)

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.

Revisiting Poverty in Rural America

Where are we 50 years after the war on poverty began?

In the 2014 special edition of Rural Voices magazine, HAC revisits the issue of rural poverty with frank questions, informed viewpoints, and honest assessments. Experts and contributors from across the nation help provide a better understanding of this complex issue and its intersection with housing in rural communities.

rv-se-2014-cover

Where are we 50 years after the war on poverty began?

In the 2014 special edition of Rural Voices magazine, HAC revisits the issue of rural poverty with frank questions, informed viewpoints, and honest assessments. Experts and contributors from across the nation help provide a better understanding of this complex issue and its intersection with housing in rural communities.

FEATURES

Rural Poverty, Before & After the War
by James P. Ziliak, Center for Poverty Research and Department of Economics, University of Kentucky

The 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty has generated scores of articles, books, and radio and television reports. Lost in much of this coverage is the acute hardship facing rural America at the dawn of the 1960s, and the role this played in shaping the nation’s response to poverty.

A Frank Discussion on Persistent Poverty in Rural America

Forgotten or hidden from mainstream America, several rural areas and populations are isolated geographically, lack resources and economic opportunities, and have suffered through decades of disinvestment and double-digit poverty rates. Persistent poverty is most evident within several rural regions and populations, including the Lower Mississippi Delta, the rural Southeast, Central Appalachia, Native American lands, the colonias along the U.S. Mexico border, and migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

Among the most economically depressed areas in the country, addressing social, economic, and housing problems has proved challenging. To help better understand this issue, Rural Voices spoke with five housing experts, each with decades of experice providing housing and working with low-income familes in persistent poverty areas. Their firsthand knowledge presents an unparalleled view into the harsh reality of families and communities grappling with long-term poverty. These experts offer their insights, passion, and commitment to help solve what is often considered an intractable problem.

  • Bill Bynum is the CEO of Hope Enterprise Corporation/Hope Credit Union (HOPE). Bill has worked with HOPE for over 20 years providing banking opportunities to low-income individuals and families in the Mid South.
  • Tom Carew is the Executive Vice President of Membership and Advocacy at the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE). Tom has more than 34 years of experience providing affordable housing in Central Appalachia.
  • Ann Cass is the Executive Director of Proyecto Azetca and has over three decades of experience working in the Texas border colonias.
  • Emma “Pinky” Clifford is the Executive Director for the Oglala Sioux Tribe Partnership for Housing (OSTPH). As a tribal member of the Oglala Sioux, Pinky has worked to improve access to safe, affordable housing with OSTPH for the past two decades.
  • Selvin McGahee is the Executive Director of Florida Non-Profit Housing, Inc. and has spent his career working to provide affordable housing in the rural Southeast and farmworker housing.

Decline in Senior Poverty: A Success Story…
by the Housing Assistance Council

One of the biggest successes in reducing poverty has been among older Americans.

…With a Cautionary Outlook
by Kim Datwyler, Executive Director, Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corporation (NNHC)

Staying Housed on a Fixed Income: The Importance of Available Affordable Housing for Seniors

From a Spare Bedroom to a Home of Her Own
by Stacey Howard, Dream$avers IDA Program Director, NeighborWorks Umpqua

A Single Mother’s Struggle Out of Poverty to Provide a Better Life for Her Son

Innovative Approaches to Reducing Poverty Locally

The problem of poverty is often viewed from a national or regional perspective. But success in moving people out of poverty can emanate from community-specific innovation and solutions.

  • Job Skills through Housing Development – Motivation, Education, Training, Inc. (Texas)
  • Combating Poverty in Puerto Rico with Job Training & Economic Development – Pathstone (Puerto Rico)
  • IDAs Help Low-Income Families Save for Increased Opportunities in Rural Oregon – NeighborWorks Umpqua (Oregon)

A VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

“The People Left Behind” Are Today the People Still Behind
by Joe Belden and Lance George

Additional Content

rv-se-infographic-piraPoverty in Rural America

Approximately 45 million Americans, or 15 percent of the population, had incomes below the official poverty rate in 2012. In rural America, the poverty rate is above 17 percent with more than 10 million people living in poverty.

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.