Policy News from Congress

HAC’s Stakeholder Comments on Rural Housing Service Programs

HAC submitted comments to Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee of the Senate Banking Committee, in response to their call for recommendations on how to improve the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Housing Service (RHS) programs. RHS programs are a critical source of housing for our nation’s small towns and rural places. HAC hopes that Senators Smith and Rounds will use these stakeholder comments to help improve the efficiency and impact of RHS programs, especially as more multifamily properties leave the USDA portfolio.

Topline Takeaways  

  • Multifamily

    HAC strongly recommends that the Senators authorize important multifamily preservation programs and simplify the process for transferring properties to non-profit owners in order to help more properties remain in RHS programs and maintain their affordability. HAC also recommends that the Senators investigate the rental assistance programs available in rural areas and extend these to more rural renters.  

  • Single family

    HAC recommends that the Senators improve the Section 504 program which provides grants for single family home repair. Simplifying and making this program’s funds more accessible would help more families stay in their homes and preserve single family homeownership. 

  • Capacity building

    Many communities have the willingness and desire to help improve their housing opportunities but lack the technical skill or capacity to accomplish their goals. HAC recommends authorizing capacity building programs that would help communities develop the tools they need to thrive. 

  • RHS staffing and operations

    HAC recommends improving the workflow within RHS and updating the technology the RHS staff uses to increase efficiency and help RHS better serve rural communities.  

Read HAC’s Comments

HAC Comments on RHS Reforms
Introduction to USDA's Mutual Self-Help Housing

Self-Help Housing Trainings from HAC’s Conference

Self-Help Housing

There are many potential homeowners who fall short financially but are able to contribute time and labor toward the construction or rehabilitation of their homes.

The self-help housing model helps bridge the gap in housing affordability by having participant families work together to build their homes. Instead of requiring a down payment, the prospective homeowners contribute their own labor to the project. When these families work together, they learn valuable construction skills and build a sense of community with their neighbors.

These five workshops, first recorded at HAC’s Virtual National Rural Housing Conference, provide an overview of the self-help housing process, how it works, and information on how local organizations can incorporate it into their efforts.

This session provides an overview of USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing program. It covers funding possibilities, regulation requirements, and the grant application process, as well as eligible grant uses, program development, staffing needs, and feasibility.

USDA-supported self-help housing rehab activities (acquisition/rehab and owner-occupied rehab) can be viable additions to affordable housing work. This session is designed for organizations currently active in the program as well, as those considering it. Workshop leaders share the latest instructions and guidance governing rehab activities and show before-and-after pictures of self-help projects. The discussion focuses on challenges, successes, and best practices in delivering the program. The audience was able to ask questions about the impacts of COVID. One of the presenters shares the key to the self-help method with a quote.

“Helping people help themselves benefits the participants and the community while making better use of scarce resources.”

In this session, experts present information on recent improvements to SHARES for group coordinators. Workshop leaders also provide an overview of how to use e-Forms for submitting Section 502 and 504 applications. A nonprofit marketing specialist provides strategies for how to use social media, email marketing, and design to share about your work with self-help programs. Self-help grantees are encouraged to share their updates on https://www.selfhelphousingspotlight.org/.

Learn what’s new in Section 502 loan packaging and how to avoid common errors and omissions that cause delays in processing 502 loan applications. This session will help packagers improve the quality and completeness of applications to get faster loan closings for families.

5 challenges in 502 Packaging

  1. Significant Delinquencies, how credit worthiness impacts application processing and what can be done to streamline this step.
  2. How to account for full-time student income and student loan debt.
  3. COVID’s impact on calculating income and how to account for variations.
  4. What forms of verification are acceptable and what can a packager use to verify application details?
  5. What has COVID’s impact been on budgets and materials and how to best incorporate them into the loan process?

The coronavirus pandemic’s cost overages, material delays, and numerous other challenges have intensified the need for leveraged funds in self-help housing programs. Learn how leveraged funds can not only increase affordability and resources for applicants, but also build an organization’s capacity and control. Leveraging can also better position an organization for program diversification to address community needs.

HAC in the News

Congressional Hearing Focuses on the Potential of Manufactured Housing

HAC’s Director of Research, Lance George, was one of several witnesses to provide testimony at a hearing of the House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee on  Manufactured Housing: Supporting America’s Largest Unsubsidized Affordable Housing Stock. North Carolina news station WRAL covered the hearing and provided local perspective on the potential for manufactured housing to increase housing affordability in the region.

Policy News from Congress

HAC’s Research Director to Speak at Congressional Manufactured Housing Hearing

The House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee is holding a hearing May 26 on Manufactured Housing: Supporting America’s Largest Unsubsidized Affordable Housing Stock, with HAC’s Director of Research and Information, Lance George, among the witnesses. His testimony explains the importance of manufactured homes as affordable housing in rural America and the challenges facing manufactured housing residents, owners, and communities. It suggests that new research is needed to inform evidence-based solutions and that Congress could help address pressing challenges by providing grants for land acquisition by resident owned cooperatives, other mission-focused nonprofits, and public sector housing agencies, as well as financing for individual homeowners.

 

Lance George Statement to House THUD Committee - May 26, 2022
Policy News from the Administration

HAC CEO Statement on Biden-Harris Housing Supply Action Plan

by David Lipsetz

The Biden-Harris Administration released a Housing Supply Action Plan on May 16 that can bring the cost of housing back in line with families’ incomes. This is particularly important in small towns where incomes remain stubbornly low, while the cost of buying or renting a place to live is soaring. The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) applauds the Administration for designing and including several provisions specifically with rural markets in mind.

The Plan includes administrative and legislative proposals to improve existing housing finance mechanisms. It establishes new housing production programs. It calls for changes to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit that will attract private investment in affordable rental housing. It provides grants—such as the HOME Investment Partnerships Program—to states, cities and towns to do what locals know will be best for their local housing market.  It calls on Congress to establish a Housing Supply Fund and incentivize zoning reform to accelerate the building of more housing across the Nation.

Critically, the Administration proposes reforms that prioritize homeowners living in the homes that they own. This is a welcome change for rural Americans who need high-quality affordable homes in which to live far more than they need high-priced vacation homes. For rental housing, the Administration focuses investment on small-scale 2–4-unit buildings instead of high-rise apartment complexes. It calls for new rentals where few are being built and recognizes the urgency of preserving affordable rentals that already exist. And for the first time in decades, an Administration released a housing plan that calls for improved financing for manufactured housing, an important resource in rural places.

The shortage of affordable housing in rural America is a serious issue. Rental units are being lost at an alarming rate. Single-family homes are significantly older than elsewhere in the Nation. The Administration’s framework recognizes the unique need for affordable housing and proposes solutions built to work in small town and rural America.

Many of the Administration’s actions just announced reflect HAC’s policy priorities. But it remains critical that these actions be complemented by initiatives to address another essential factor in improving housing for rural Americans—building the capacity of local organizations to improve their own communities. Because rural places often have small and part-time local governments, they often find it particularly difficult to navigate the complexities of federal programs and modern housing finance, and to compete for government resources. Philanthropy has not stepped in to address this inequity built into our systems, instead concentrating its resources in already-prosperous high-cost regions. Targeted capacity building through federal investments in training and technical assistance is how most local organizations build skills, tap information, and gain the wherewithal to do what they know needs to be done.

Rural communities hold vast potential to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life for all Americans. Access to quality, affordable housing is key to jumpstarting that potential. Building and preserving homes creates jobs, improves education and health outcomes, and provides much-needed financial and physical stability to families in need. We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress to ensure that these initiatives move us closer to the day when every American has access to a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.

David Lipsetz Offers Perspective on Inflation and its Impact on Nonprofits

HAC President and CEO David Lipsetz was quoted in Inflation Hits Ability of Nonprofits to Provide Services, Keep Workers — and Raise Money, an article by Dan Parks at the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The piece examines how inflationary pressures are affecting nonprofits and their ability to operate.

“It’s stalled countless projects for us, right in the middle of a period of time when housing and shelter are the most important things needed to weather the storm of a pandemic,” says Lipsetz. “For us, a modest increase in costs can shut down a project in an area of the country where it’s needed the most.”

Read the full story.

 

The story also appeared in:

Solar panels covering parking spaces at Calistoga Family Apartmentshttps://flic.kr/p/CpXy7x The U.S. Department of Agriculture

Housing Assistance Council Receives Gift from Mackenzie Scott

Contact: Jennifer McAllister
(202) 842-8600
jennifer@ruralhome.org

Washington, DC, March 23, 2022 – The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is pleased to announce a $7,000,000 gift from MacKenzie Scott, the largest private gift in HAC’s 50-year history. HAC will leverage this funding to establish and grow local organizations that build affordable housing in the nation’s poorest and most rural places. This gift ensures that more people and more communities will enjoy the benefits of American prosperity.

“HAC and our local partners work in small towns and rural communities to develop good quality housing that folks can afford,” said HAC CEO David Lipsetz. “Ms. Scott’s trust in our organization and encouragement to do more will help plenty of communities in need.”

“This gift helps HAC remain true to its mission,” said Maria Luisa Mercado, HAC’s Board Chair. “We will continue to be the voice for the poorest of the poor in the most rural places.”

About the Housing Assistance Council

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is a national nonprofit that supports affordable housing efforts throughout rural America. Since 1971, HAC has provided: below-market financing for affordable housing and community development; technical assistance and training for community-based organizations; research on life in rural places; and information for federal policy-makers on the impact of their work on rural places. To learn more, visit www.ruralhome.org.

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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.”

Housing Assistance Council Logo

Calling for Housing Equity on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Our homes affect every facet of our lives, including our wealth, health, and education. That’s why freedom from housing discrimination is a central pillar of the Civil Rights Movement’s vision for a more just, equitable, and free America. All people deserve a safe, healthy, and affordable home. Yet, for hundreds of years, the United States has not included all its communities in the full promise of a place to call home.

Many of those communities are rural. Across the country, the deepest, most persistent poverty is largely in rural areas. And among those places, Rural Black communities are vastly overrepresented. It is why small towns like Grenada, Mississippi; Selma, Alabama; and Midway, Georgia played such big roles in the Civil Rights Movement.

Today, as we honor the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let us be even more dedicated to combatting inequity in all its forms. Achieving the dream of a nation in which everyone has a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home will take significant, sustained investments in combatting racial and geographic inequity.

The Castro Family's Self-Help Housing Story

Self-Help Homeownership: What it means to Families

We are proud of the families we’ve helped achieve the dream of homeownership. This series highlights the incredible impact we’ve made thanks to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program. Homeownership changes lives—it can be a gateway to financial stability and better quality of life. The four families featured here all know the difference a home can make. Congratulations to all of them for the extraordinary achievement of building a home!

The Castro Family

With the help of People’s Self-Help Housing, the Castro family built their own home in King City, California. This is their new home:

Ben Phelps

Ben Phelps built his new home in Heber, Utah, thanks to support from Self-Help Homes of Utah. Here’s how his new home has made a difference in his life:

The Root Family

Self-Help Homes of Utah also helped the Root family build their own home in Heber, Utah. Here’s what their home means to them:

The Smith Family

With the help of People’s Self-Help Housing, the Smith family built their own home in Boone County, Arkansas. This is their new home:

 

Over the last 25 years, the Housing Assistance Council has financed the construction of over 10,000 new self-help homes. Under the self-help model, homeowners help build their homes, contributing “sweat equity” instead of a traditional down payment.