Policy News field

HAC Comments on Community Investment Focus on Capacity Building and Capital Access

Several federal government agencies recently formed an Interagency Community Investment Committee (ICIC), focused on the operations and execution of federal programs that facilitate the flow of capital and the provision of financial resources into historically underserved communities, including communities of color, rural communities, and Tribal nations. The ICIC requested public input on ways the agencies can promote economic conditions and systems that reduce racial disparities and produce stronger economic outcomes for all communities. According to the request for comment, responses may be used to inform ICIC’s future actions to improve the operations and delivery of federal community investment programs through stronger federal collaboration. The committee is composed of representatives from the Department of the Treasury, Small Business Administration, Department of Commerce, Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Agriculture.

Key Takeaways

  1. Support capacity building for local organizations embedded in their communities.
  2. Provide equitable access to capital for rural America.
  3. Address rural needs, particularly in persistent poverty areas, directly.
  4. Accelerate interagency coordination and sharing of best practices.
  5. Improve data and information accuracy and availability.

Read HAC’s comments, submitted on December 19, 2022. Other comments are posted here.

HAC Comments on Community Investment Focus on Capacity Building and Capital Access
Policy News field

HAC’s Research Director Testifies on Persistent Poverty on Capitol Hill

On Tuesday, November 15, 2022 at 10:00 am EST the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance convened a hybrid hearing entitled, “Persistent Poverty in America: Addressing Chronic Disinvestment in Colonias, the Southern Black Belt, and the U.S. Territories.” Lance George, HAC’s Director of Research and Information, provided testimony during the hearing.

Watch the Hearing

For more information on Persistent Poverty, read The Persistence of Poverty in Rural America.

AYUDA Proves Impact of Holistic Rural Housing Support

Almost every local housing nonprofit begins with a vision: meeting the housing needs of their community. Unfortunately, the path from recognizing that need to meeting it can be difficult. Labor shortages, increasing construction costs, and the complexity of financial transactions and government programs can all make it challenging for housing non-profits to succeed. 

That’s why the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) works with housing organizations across rural America to help them overcome both financial and technical challenges. HAC’s goal, as Director of Training and Technical Assistance Shonterria Charleston puts it, is to “create a pipeline for capacity building that allows our partners to get many of their needs met by one organization.”  

For thirty years, Adults and Youth United Development Association (AYUDA) has worked to improve housing conditions and increase access to public services in the colonias in and around San Elizario, Texas. According to AYUDA’s Housing and Community Services Director Miguel Chacon, the group was established to advocate for running water and septic tanks in colonias but has grown to providing home repair, rental assistance, vaccine outreach, food distribution, and more.  

As AYUDA has grown, it’s turned to HAC for support. For twelve years, HAC Housing Specialist Anselmo Telles and Housing Development Consultant Eugene Gonzales have provided technical assistance to help AYUDA navigate the hurdles of managing new and expanded housing programs. “I didn’t know anything about housing back then,” remembers Miguel. But, with HAC’s help, AYUDA has developed deeply impactful housing programs. Between 2016 and 2021, AYUDA built or rehabbed over 200 homes. Despite this track record, AYUDA ran into a problem in early 2021.  

“We were having trouble with our cash flow,” Miguel explains. AYUDA’s home repair and construction programs are financed by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). Still reeling from the COVID pandemic, the Department was taking months to reimburse AYUDA for the costs of rehab and construction. This put AYUDA in a difficult position. They could stop work while waiting for payments from TDHCA or they could keep their projects moving forward while struggling to pay their contractors on time.  

“As I do the organizational assessment, I look to see if they need money for construction, staffing, or anything like that,” Eugene explains. It was during an organizational assessment of AYUDA that he saw that cash flow was the largest bottleneck in AYUDA’s construction process. So, Eugene reached out to Kristin Blum, HAC’s Senior Loan Officer, to see if our Loan Fund could help. Kristin notes that we wanted to be creative and find a solution that worked for AYUDA. As HAC’s Director of Lending Eileen Neely points out, HAC doesn’t try to fit organizations into boxes. Instead, we focus on understanding each group’s unique needs and tailoring financing to help them achieve their goals.  

After meeting with both AYUDA and HAC’s technical assistance team, the Loan Fund came up with a creative financing option. The plan was to establish a $367,000 revolving line of credit. When AYUDA would complete a new home or rehab project, it could draw on this line of credit to bridge the funding gap until TDHCA issued grant reimbursements.  

In July 2021, the loan was approved, and AYUDA began to draw on its new line of credit just two months later. According to Miguel, this capital ensured that AYUDA was able to keep building and keep moving forward. Pointing to the 25 homes AYUDA has built or rehabbed in the last year, Miguel explains that “we were able to accomplish that because of the line of credit.” 

The upshot of HAC’s holistic approach to capacity building is, according to Eugene, “that groups get the money they need, and then TA comes in to make sure they’re on track.” Ultimately, this means groups can build more affordable homes. Miguel shared that when AYUDA was weighing whether to halt construction at the beginning of the pandemic, his clients urged AYUDA to find a way to keep going. With HAC’s help, AYUDA kept building throughout 2020 and 2021. “That gave our community hope,” says Miguel.  

The collaboration between HAC’s lending and technical assistance made both more effective. Our Loan Fund would have never known about AYUDA’s challenges without Eugene. As Kristin notes, collaboration is what made this loan possible in the first place. Plus, as Eugene explains, the on-going technical assistance relationship gave the Loan Fund a sense of confidence that this financing solution would work.  

By pairing technical assistance and lending, HAC also helped AYUDA expand its capacity as an affordable housing non-profit. Miguel says that AYUDA never had a line of credit before. Now, his staff have experience as borrowers, with more knowledge about how to navigate the financing process and manage tasks like fulfilling reporting requirements. The financial stability afforded by this line of credit and the support of technical assistance make it easier for the organization to expand the programs it offers. In fact, the State of Texas has tapped AYUDA to manage American Rescue Plan rental assistance across a four-county service area. His organization’s growing capacity gives Miguel the confidence to say that there’s nothing they can’t learn. 

The story of HAC’s work with AYUDA isn’t an isolated example—it’s how HAC operates. HAC regularly includes borrowers in our technical assistance rounds and makes loans to current TA recipients. As Shonterria notes, “the Loan Fund is our first stop when we work with a group that needs capital.” The years-long relationships built by HAC housing specialists make it easier to craft lending products to fit each group’s needs. “The more we know about a potential borrower and their mission, the better we are at what we do,” explains Eileen.  

HAC is committed to building the capacity of our local partners, expanding their ability to meet their neighbors’ housing needs. No organization faces only technical challenges or financial hurdles—every organization grapples with both, at one point or another. By working with groups holistically, we help them overcome whatever challenges come their way.  

Click here to learn more about HAC’s lending products, and click here to learn more about HAC’s training and technical assistance.  

HAC in the News

How HAC Fills the Data Gap in Rural America

Filling The Data Gap In Rural America on forbes.com highlights how HAC works to increase access to data about rural America to better address rural housing challenges and persistent poverty.

Over the years, there has been an increase in accurate data collection regarding rural America, and HAC has been at the forefront.

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.

The Persistence of Poverty in Rural America

Persistently poor counties are classified as having poverty rates of 20 percent or more for three consecutive decades. Using this metric, the Housing Assistance Council estimates there were 377 persistently poor counties in 2020 using data from the Census Bureau’s recently released 2016-2020 American Community Survey, the 2006-2010 American Community Survey and the 2000 Decennial Census of Population and Housing.

Download Research Brief (PDF)

Rural America is More Diverse Than You Think

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.

Kids Count Research Note

Children’s Economic Well-Being Continues to Suffer Since the Recession

Each year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation releases the KIDS COUNT Data Book,a report that assesses child well-being using an index of 16 indicators. The report ranks each of the 50 states on these indicators organized into 4 domains: (1) Economic Well-Being, (2) Education, (3) Health and (4) Family and Community. In particular, the Data Book focuses on children within the context of the United States’ post-recession economic recovery. The report presents a comparison of data from 2008 and data from 2013 (the most recently available) to assess how children have fared since the economic crisis.

Kids Count Research Note Page 1

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) recently released its annual Out of Reach report. The report is known for defining the Housing Wage; the wage one must earn in order to afford a rental unit at Fair Market Rent (FMR) 1.

According to the most recent Out of Reach report, the 2015 Housing Wage is $19.35 for a two-bedroom unit, and $13.50 for a one-bedroom unit at FMR 2. This means that in order to afford a two-bedroom rental unit, a worker would have to make over 2.5 times the federal minium wage. In fact, in 13 states and Washington, DC the Housing Wage is more than $20 an hour. There is no state in the U.S. where a minimum wage earner can afford a one-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent, even if they work full time. NLIHC suggests that the nation needs to add 7.1 million units affordable to Extremely Low Income households in order to meet the demand.

How are Rural Renters Faring?

The Out of Reach report also highlights some of the special challenges faced by residents in rural communities. According to the report, hourly wages in rural areas are insufficient to meet the cost of living, despite lower housing costs compared to nonrural areas. For example, the estimated renter wage in West Virgina is $10.26 and $11.38 in Kentucky, and in both states about 70% of Extremely Low Income renters pay more than half of their incomes toward rent. Paying so much for rent means that there is less money left over for other necessities like food and healthcare.

Two-Bedroom Housing Wage Map 3

RN-Out of Reach 2015-Map

1 Affordable rent is defined as not costing more than 30% of a person’s income. FMR determined by HUD

2 Estimates of Fair Market Rent are produced annually by HUD, and measure the 40th percentile of gross rents for typical, non-substandard rental units occupied by recent movers in a local housing market.

3 National Low Income Housing Coalition. (2015). Out of Reach 2015. Washington, DC. https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/OOR_2015_FULL.pdf

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Download the Out of Reach report published by National Low Income Housing Coalition

Additional HAC Resources on Housing
HAC’s Decennial Report: Taking Stock: Rural People, Poverty, and Housing in 21st Century.
Access data on housing affordability for your community at HAC’s

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.