Today, the housing crisis is defined by different factors

For more on this topic, read the July 2014 issue of

chuck-wehrwein-webChuck Wehrwein, Acting President & CEO, NeighborWorks America

Do you believe that the housing crisis is over?

While it is true that there are a lot of signs of recovery for the nation as a whole, the housing crisis is not over in many communities around the country. Many of the communities that we work in are still dealing with a backlog of vacant and abandoned properties.

For more on this topic, read the July 2014 issue of .

In 2008 the U.S. economy fell off a cliff. Depending on your perspective it either slipped or was pushed from that precipice by the housing markets. But after six years where are we? How were rural Americans impacted, and are there lingering effects from the crisis? Rural Voices assembled four of the most knowledgeable experts in the affordable housing world to help answer these complex questions and provide insights on how to improve rural housing conditions in the wake of the housing crisis.

chuck-wehrwein-webChuck Wehrwein, Acting President & CEO, NeighborWorks America

Do you believe that the housing crisis is over?

While it is true that there are a lot of signs of recovery for the nation as a whole, the housing crisis is not over in many communities around the country. Many of the communities that we work in are still dealing with a backlog of vacant and abandoned properties.

Particularly feeling the brunt are families who are still under water on their mortgages and younger people who are unable to buy their first home because that can’t qualify for a loan or can’t find an affordable house – often due to crushing student debt.

To put it in perspective, in April there were 46,000 completed foreclosures, according to CoreLogic. That represents a significant decline year over year, and foreclosures have been falling for two and a half years. But, it is also important to note that the monthly number of completed foreclosures is still almost double what it was in the average pre-crisis month between 2000 and 2006. The Urban Institute estimates that, mostly because of tight credit, as many as 1.2 million loans that would have been made in 2001 are “missing” from today’s market.

And let’s not forget the families who can’t even afford to think about buying, yet are paying more than 50 percent of their incomes on rent or are homeless.

All of that points to a housing crisis that is not over yet.

What factors defined the “housing crisis?”

Five or six years ago, the “housing crisis” that was in the news every day was defined by foreclosures. People were losing their homes to foreclosure at a truly alarming pace.

Today, the housing crisis is defined by different factors. One is the lack of affordable rental housing, another is housing affordability, a third is tight lending standards, and a fourth is home values that is still leaving many borrowers underwater.

Of course, there other severe housing challenges that are much more long-standing, particularly in rural areas. These include a general lack of affordable housing and, historically, widespread poor housing conditions.

How, was the housing crisis different for rural areas than the nation as a whole?

Most rural areas didn’t see the wild price fluctuations that we saw in urban and suburban areas during the boom and bust years. So, while families lost value in their homes, they probably didn’t lose as much equity as urban and suburban residents.

But that is not to say that the housing crisis—and the foreclosure crisis—didn’t impact rural areas. There certainly was—and is—a housing crisis in rural areas – although it hasn’t been as well covered by the media. NeighborWorks has seen firsthand through our administration of the Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) program the impact of foreclosures in rural areas and the need for education and counseling. Through July 2013, almost 180,000 families in rural areas had received foreclosure counseling through NFMC.

Five or six years ago, the “housing crisis” that was in the news every day was defined by foreclosures. People were losing their homes to foreclosure at a truly alarming pace. Today, the housing crisis is defined by different factors.

What are some of the indirect or secondary impacts of the housing crisis?

At NeighborWorks America, we definitely see some of the impacts of the housing crisis on NeighborWorks organizations and the residents they serve, including those in rural areas. The decrease in government funding for housing—both from UDSA and HUD—has meant they are able to develop fewer new rental housing units, and that they are concerned about finding the resources to preserve existing units.
Homeownership has also been impacted. NeighborWorks organizations tell us anecdotally that it is harder for their customers to get mortgage loans due to tightened lending standards.
The Center on American Progress reported recently that nearly half of all mortgages made today go to borrowers with credit scores of more than 750, compared to 2001, when more than two-thirds of mortgages went to borrowers with scores lower than 750. That means more customers are looking to FHA and USDA loans for help. In addition, some of our organizations say the consolidation of USDA offices are leading to longer processing times for mortgage loans issued by the agency – a mainstay in rural communities. NeighborWorks organizations who have CDFIs are working hard to fill in the gaps in the mortgage market.

Empty - Ruin RaiderPhoto: Empty – Ruin Raider – Creative Commons

What are the long term ramifications for affordable housing?

Let me start by saying that it is our experience at NeighborWorks that nonprofit community development organizations serving rural areas are some of the most creative groups out there. I am very confident they will continue to go a long way toward serving the housing needs of their rural communities.

However, there still are many people in rural areas who are in need decent, affordable housing. Additional resources are needed to expand opportunities on a broader scale, and given the current funding environment, that will be very challenging.

But there is always a silver lining. The quality and energy efficiency of new manufactured housing have improved greatly and this type of construction could help serve some of the unmet needs if ramped up. Some states and organizations are working to improve the energy efficiency by doing replacements of older manufactured homes as well. And we have seen in the NeighborWorks network and through ROC USA, the value that resident-owned manufactured housing communities bring to residents and to communities. It is my hope that the challenging funding environment will lead local policy makers to, for example, reconsider their ownership laws for manufactured housing, and lenders to find new ways to finance them.

Is the Housing Crisis Over? And how did it impact rural America?

Download a pdf version of Rural Voices
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The July 2014 issue of Rural Voices takes another look at the housing crisis and asks some important questions. Knowledgeable experts in the affordable housing field share their expertise, insights, and strategies to improve housing conditions in light of the Great Recession.

VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

Discussing Community Reinvestment in Rural America
by Thomas J. Curry, Comptroller of the Currency

How banks and federal savings associations can more effectively serve the credit needs of rural communities

SPECIAL FEATURE

Is the Housing Crisis Over? And how did it impact rural America?
An interview with:

Eric Belsky, Director, Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University
Sheila Crowley, Executive Director, National Low Income Housing Coalition
Gail Burks, President & CEO, Nevada Fair Housing, Center, Inc.
Chuck Wehrwein, Acting President & CEO, NeighborWorks America

Four national leaders discuss the housing crisis and its impact on rural America

FEATURES

Repurposing Foreclosed Properties in Rural America
by Noel Poyo, Executive Director, and Christopher W. Sanchez, Program Director, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB)

A consortium of nonprofits works at the local level to reverse the devastating effects of the foreclosure crisis

Housing Counseling Services Offer More Than Just Counseling
by Keith L. Morris, President, Elder Law of Michigan

While housing counselors are instrumental in helping people avoid foreclosure, they also provide invaluable resources to help families improve their lives

Making a Difference in Rural America
by Tony Hernandez, Administrator, USDA Rural Housing Service

Newly appointed Rural Housing Service administrator shares his thoughts and priorities for USDA’s housing initiatives

MAPS

the housing crisis and its wake in RURAL AmericaThe housing crisis and its wake 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 by sending a tweet to #RuralVoicesMag, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

Housing Counseling Services Offer More than Just Counseling

While housing counselors are instrumental in helping people avoid foreclosure, they also provide invaluable resources to help families improve their lives

When someone is facing foreclosure, there is usually a credit card collector calling constantly, a family member struggling with an illness, or a heavy stress over where the next meal might be coming from. The problem that the client comes to us about is often caused by another bigger issue that they may be dealing with. This is why a housing counselor does so much more than just housing counseling.

While we have always provided assistance with housing issues through our Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors, Elder Law of Michigan has been a HUD-approved housing counseling agency since 2011. We decided to expand our programs to become a housing counseling agency so that we could do a better job of helping clients deal with the issues that may be preventing them from owning or renting a home or apartment.

The goal of the housing counseling program is to help clients achieve their goals. In regards to helping with homeownership, these goals could be to downsize to a smaller, more accessible home; own a home for the first time; or become a home owner again after going through challenges that resulted in a foreclosure of a previous home.

A housing counselor works with the client to figure out the alternatives and then allows the client to make an educated decision on how to proceed. This process is customized to each client but includes budget discussions, information on what resources are available, credit repair counseling, education on fair housing rights, and assistance with finding other housing if that is necessary. Housing counselors provide these services in an understanding, non-judgmental way.

We recognize that there are additional challenges faced by our rural clients: limited access to services and fewer housing alternatives.

These services are invaluable to someone struggling with the constant phone calls from the creditor, the overwhelming amount of incorrect information on the internet, and the fear of what to do if the family loses their home.

As a nonprofit that serves clients in suburban cities and rural counties, we recognize that there are additional challenges faced by our rural clients: limited access to services and fewer housing alternatives.

Many rural residents are perfectly fine with the fact that there aren’t many businesses nearby. In fact, that may be one of the reasons why they choose to live in the rural area. With the tight economy, nonprofits have to strategically locate where they can serve the most clients in a cost-effective manner. A large, mostly rural county in our service area has only one housing counseling agency actually located in the county. For residents on the other side of the county, that means almost an hour of travel each way to get assistance with their housing problems.

Another barrier is access to high-speed internet. Out of efficiency, many of the programs that help with foreclosure issues use a website or an online portal. While this works for those who are computer savvy and have a reliable computer with a good internet connection, several of our clients could only access these services with our help.

Making our services available by telephone means that we can try to provide as much assistance as possible without having the client drive a long distance to meet with us. There are still some issues using this method because there is not a nearby place to make copies or fax documents.

For those clients who commute into the larger cities for work, these issues can be addressed with the services available there. However, for our older, retired clients, that is not always so easy. We also discovered that some clients were not able to contact us because our office hours were the same hours that they worked. We had to make evening appointments available.
There are fewer housing options for some rural clients. In an ideal situation, our housing counselors would be able to work with the client and resolve the mortgage issue, allowing the client and their family to remain in the home. However, that is not always the case. In some cases, we have to work with the client to find alternate, affordable housing. Purchasing another home to live in is not an option at that moment due to credit issues. For many clients in this situation, we help them find an apartment that they can afford. For rural clients, rentals are not very plentiful, so relocating to another community is a reality that they must face on top of dealing with the foreclosure.

Because it is hard enough dealing with the housing issue, rural clients should definitely seek out a housing counseling agency to help. Recently, we had a client from a rural county who lost his job and was faced with foreclosure. Our housing counselor worked with him to go over his budget and determined that if he could get caught up, he would be able to afford to make future payments. They worked together by phone and through the mail to get all of his paperwork together. The client came to our office and worked with the counselor to complete an application for assistance through the Hardest Hit Fund program. After waiting several weeks, the client received notice that he was going to receive assistance and could save his home. Now, several months later, he just emailed us to say how thankful he is for the help.

Unfortunately, this is not always the outcome for our clients. Another client, a widow from a very small town in another rural county, contacted one of our other programs because she needed help buying food. After speaking with her, our benefits counselor realized that the client was also facing foreclosure. She gladly agreed to be helped by our housing counseling program. She was the victim of a fraudulent refinance scheme that took her money but never worked with her mortgage lender. Because she was not going to be able to afford the home any longer, our housing counselor worked with the client to find another place to live. After five months, the client was able to move into a subsidized housing complex in a nearby city and even recovered some of her money thanks to the legal help she received from the legal hotline.

After five months, the client was able to move into a subsidized housing complex in a nearby city and even recovered some of her money thanks to the legal help she received from the legal hotline.

Even for clients who are not able to stay in their home, the dream of homeownership is still possible. Housing counseling programs will work with the client who wants to own a home again in the future. Participating in a structured program to help with saving money and possibly rebuild credit is a good way to return to homeownership faster.

Housing counseling programs also can provide information on fair housing laws and discrimination. Whether you are looking to buy a home, take out a mortgage, or rent an apartment, you should know your rights.

Our housing counseling program, along with our other programs, does so much more than just answer questions and give referrals. Like many other housing counseling agencies, we seek to address the problems that led to the housing issue. It is this assistance that our clients find the most helpful. To find a housing counseling agency in your area, visit www.hud.gov or call 800-569-4287.

Keith L. Morris, J.D., M.P.A. is the President of Elder Law of Michigan, a private nonprofit that assists clients with legal counseling, pension counseling, benefits counseling, and housing counseling. Its new Housing Rights Center of Michigan assists clients of all ages and incomes in counties surrounding Lansing, Michigan.

Hunger and Housing in Rural America: Intersecting Challenges and Solutions

The Summer 2013 special edition issue of Rural Voices focuses on Hunger and Housing in Rural America. With housing affordability an increasing challenge, and hunger a more pronounced issue, how are rural communities combatting these issues?

View from Washington

Supporting Rural America’s Housing and Nutrition Needs
by Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
The USDA offers programs that support rural communities to address their housing and food security needs.

FEATURES

Rural Hunger and Housing: Challenges and Opportunities
by Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
Rural America faces challenges and opportunities in housing and food security.

Building Homes and Feeding the Hungry in Rural Pennsylvania
by Kate Thompson, Fayette County Community Action Agency
Community action programs can play an important role in addressing both housing and food security needs in rural America.

Farmworker Housing: Implications for Food Security and Food Safety
by Sara A. Quandt and Thomas A. Arcury, Wake Forest School of Medicine
Although they help feed America, farmworkers often face substandard conditions and food insecurity at their own tables.

Growing Food and Housing Security in South Dakota’s Native American Reservations
by Lauren Haas Finkelstein, Running Strong for American Indian Youth
South Dakota’s Native American community is fighting hunger and substandard housing to protect their children and future leaders.

Food Justice in the Rural Southeast
by John Zippert, Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
Southern farmers are forming cooperatives and coalitions to secure food and housing justice while overcoming a history of discriminatory land and farm policies.

Developing Leadership to Address Health & Hunger
Interview with Starry Krueger, Rural Development Leadership Network
Rural Voices recently interviewed Starry Krueger of the Rural Development Leadership Network, about a new leadership development program in Mississippi.

MAPS & VIGNETTES

Hunger & Poverty in Rural America (jpg)
MAP – Many rural communities struggle to access enough nutritious food for their families.

Addressing Child Hunger in Rural New Mexico
Share Our Strength

What are Rural Food Deserts?
Map

Infographics

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.

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.

Poverty in Rural America Research Brief

Poverty in Rural America

 

HAC has conducted extensive research on poverty in rural America, including:

Annual Report 2018

About HAC

What is HAC?

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has been helping local organizations build affordable homes in rural America since 1971. HAC assists in the development of both single- and multi-family homes and promotes homeownership for working low-income rural families through a self-help, “sweat equity” construction method by emphasizing local solutions, empowerment of people in poverty, reduced dependence, and self-help strategies. HAC offers services to public, nonprofit, and private organizations throughout the rural United States and maintains a special focus on high-need groups and regions, such as: Indian country, the Mississippi Delta, farmworkers, the Southwest border colonias, and Appalachia.

HAC is a nonprofit corporation located in Washington, DC with regional offices in the southeast, midwest, and southwest.

HAC’s Mission

The mission of the Housing Assistance Council is to improve housing conditions for the rural poor, with an emphasis on the poorest of the poor in the most rural places.

2018 Annual Report

Annual Report 2018HAC is pleased to present the 2018 Annual Report, which looks back at our accomplishments and those of our partner organizations over the last year.


Download HAC’s brochure

Read about HAC’s History