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


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.


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.


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)


“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.

Self-Help, Sweat Equity, and Success

“I’m looking forward to spending whatever days I have, God bless me, in that house.”
– Kay Panteah, Zuni Tribal Member & Homebuyer

by BC Echohawk, National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC)

Rural Voices - Fall 2014This story appears in the Fall 2014 issue of Rural VoicesThe Zuni Pueblo sits in the far western edge of New Mexico, forty miles away from Interstate 40, the major East-West corridor through the state. Kay Panteah is a tribal member and has lived in the area her whole life. The remote location has never factored into the 54-year old’s decision to remain in the community. Her parents were born and raised there, and she continued to live and care for her aging mother in the family home along with several siblings until their growing families created a need to find a place of her own. When the Pueblo of Zuni Housing Authority advised the single-mother of four that she had qualified for a rental home through their program, she never dreamed that that move would lead to owning her own home.

Kay Panteah speaks excitedly from the offices of the Pueblo of Zuni Housing Authority (ZHA) as she joins their Mortgage Coordinator Lorelei Sanchez to discuss her journey from renter to homebuyer. Given this opportunity to share the success of programs aimed specifically at Indians in rural communities, she’s eager to tell her story. Lorelei stands by, ready to fill in program information or nudge her memory as it becomes clear that these two women have created a strong bond in what has been a 14-year quest for stability and self-sufficiency.


Kay describes her family: Oldest son Kardie Panteah is 36, and with his wife, has four children of his own, two adopted. He lives and works in the Pueblo of Zuni as a firefighter and EMT. Having mentioned an older daughter, Kay clarifies, without hesitation or judgment, that 26-year old Danii Panteah is transgender and her “special child.” Danii pursued post-secondary education in psychology and is currently working as a retail salesclerk. Twenty-three year old daughter Kimberly Kallestewa received a certification in Business Administration through Job Corps after finishing high school. She is looking for a job and expecting a child this fall. Kay’s youngest son, Jordan, 17, is finishing his senior year at Ramah High School near the Zuni Pueblo. They have all been high achievers academically, and were all chosen to participate in the local Boys’ State, a national program (with a girls affiliate program) of the American Legion that teaches high school students about how local, state and national government works. “I live for my kids,” says Kay. “So, what I do is practically just for them.”

USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez visits with the Panteahs USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez visits with the Panteahs

It was this desire to provide a better home for her children that introduced her to affordable housing. A self-employed silversmith and retail salesclerk, Kay’s father died when she was only twelve. Her mother raised her and her siblings alone, and Kay never felt a need to leave the familiar community. She participates in the local traditional tribal and religious activities, and loves helping other families who also take part. However, she admits that times have changed, and safety has become a concern. Doors that once remained opened are now routinely locked. Young people with too much time on their hands and not enough to do roam the community well into the night. Security has stepped up and curfews have been enforced in the past few years. While these measures have helped, the community continues to change as outside media and values become more accessible and common.

In a situation not uncommon in Indian communities, Kay was living with her mother and some of her six siblings in the four-bedroom family home. She had been her mother’s primary caregiver, but as her older brother and sister’s families grew, she knew she would have to make a change. She applied to ZHA for a rental home, and in 2000 learned that she qualified for low-rental housing through them. “[T]he saddest thing was that I had to leave my mom.” says Kay. The rental home was eight miles away from her mother’s home, and she had never lived that far away. However, Kay’s children were all still living with her at this time, and knowing that the move would offer them more room made the change easier.


In 2000, Kay moved with her four children into a four-bedroom home provided by ZHA. In addition to houses, ZHA also has apartment communities available to qualified low and moderate income renters. Kay was in this first house until 2010 when she moved to an adjacent home to allow for renovations to the housing authority’s inventory. During her time in the rental unit, due to some delinquency issues, it was recommended that Kay attend a financial literacy program that ZHA sponsored. This is where she met Lorelei Sanchez, ZHA’s Mortgage Coordinator and the instructor for their financial literacy classes. The women’s admiration for each other is evident as Lorelei explains that program, their meeting, and how Kay made such an impression on her, that retelling Kay’s story would lead to the Zuni program receiving the first American Indian-focused Self-Help program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development agency.

In explaining the financial literacy program, Lorelei notes the diverse people who attend those sessions, including renters, first-time homebuyers and members of the Zuni community whose goal is to create sound financial habits for their families. Spending and budgeting is discussed keeping in mind the reality of commitments to the traditional calendar that tribal members follow. Their year begins with the winter solstice and related celebrations. This, merged with the western calendar of holidays, can strain budgets, and attendees are taught how to prioritize and set goals and limits for their families. It was while discussing such goals, that Kay made clear her wish to own a home. The sincerity of this wish was not lost on Lorelei.

Given this opportunity to share the success of programs aimed specifically at Indians in rural communities, [Kay Panteah] is eager to tell her story

In 2011, the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority (NMMFA) was approached by USDA’s Rural Development program. They wanted a recommendation of a native community that might be in a position to utilize their Self-Help program. Eric Schmieder with NMMFA knew that Zuni was preparing to start a construction project and that they also had the capacity and resources needed to successfully qualify for the Self-Help funding. After Rural Development contacted the Zuni, and it was decided the housing authority would administer the program, ZHA director Michael Chavez tapped Lorelei to write the proposal. She still remembers her hesitation, as this was her first attempt at preparing a proposal. The Little Dixie Community Action Agency provided her technical assistance, however, and they recommended that Lorelei think of a client whose story she could tell. “[Kay] came to my mind just like that.” says Lorelei. Sharing Kay’s story became an important part of ZHA receiving their funding, and Lorelei admits she was amazed that they received the grant. In retelling the story she asks rhetorically, “And guess where I go knocking?” “My door,” Kay answers, and quietly repeats “My door. That was the happiest day of my life.”


The agreement between Rural Development and the Pueblo of Zuni Housing Authority was signed in January, 2012. Lorelei helped Kay through the pre-qualification process for her new home, and the results came back positive with just a few outstanding debts. As luck would have it, the timing was in Kay’s favor, as it was tax season. Normally, she would have used her tax return for a belated Christmas for her children. This year, though, Lorelei spoke with Kay’s children and suggested they let their mother know that having a new home would be a better Christmas present. They did, and Kay agreed. Kay used that year’s refund to clear those debts, thereby allowing her to move forward with construction.

Kay Panteah and family working on homeKay Panteah and family working on home

The groundbreaking was in May 2012, what was intended to be an eight-month process took over a year to see completion. Three houses were planned in the first round of construction, with each of them to be occupied by single mothers with families who were all former renters turned homeowners. Lorelei explains that as this was a new project for ZHA, there was a learning curve they worked through that caused some delays. Additionally, as can happen when working with construction in any federally-recognized Indian community, there were leasing issues related to building on tribal land that created obstacles. This issue caused a several-month delay in building. As soon as she was allowed, however, Kay was at the work site with her family, putting in the 600 hour sweat-equity requirement on her home. While technical work such as plumbing and electricity was contracted, the remaining tasks of framing, pouring concrete, digging trenches and putting up drywall are left to the homeowner. A construction supervisor was always at one of the three construction sites, providing training and direction to the families.

The process has empowered her, and she knows the other two participants feel the same

Kay had already gotten the commitment of her children and older grandchildren that they would help with the construction, but it was still an arduous process. They worked most days, despite the weather, and despite the fact that they lived ten miles away from their new home and sometimes didn’t have gas to make it to the site. On these days, they informed the construction supervisor so that he could go to another site and assist there. Following days that they missed, they would come to the site and work longer hours to make up for lost time. The other two families who were also working on homes helped her when they could, as she helped them when needed. Once the frame was up, however, Kay knew she would finish. It was then that she could “see” her completed home.

A low-point came when Kay was laid off from her retail job. In fact, all three of the women who were participating in the program were laid off in a short time span. Fearing this would affect her participation in the program, Kay went immediately to Lorelei to let her know. While this was discouraging news for all three women, Lorelei knew they had to move forward and encouraged Kay to begin the unemployment process immediately. She did, and in doing so was motivated to press on. Fortunately for Kay, she had the traditional skill of silversmithing to fall back on. She acknowledges that having completed the physical aspect of the project and overcoming all the obstacles that delayed construction, she has gained experience in how to properly finish a project of any kind; how planning and flexibility allow one to move forward. The process has empowered her, and she knows the other two participants feel the same way. Their work together has bonded them and created lasting friendships.


In her position with the housing authority, Lorelei is able to see the bigger picture: success with the Self-Help program at Zuni will show the USDA that tribal communities can also manage the program and it will allow for more housing resources in Indian Country. For her first three participants, however, the benefits will be immediate and personal. The project came in under budget, so Kay’s mortgage payment will be lower than anticipated. Renters will be home owners, rent payments are now mortgage payments and reliance becomes self-sufficiency. Lorelei knows that Kay’s journey to home ownership began with the Financial Literacy class. Her rent payment had never been her priority, but after completing the class, Kay knew what she needed to do to realize the wish of owning her own home. The class gave her perspective and hope. It laid the foundation that allowed her to see what she could achieve.

As for Kay, on July 24 she received the keys to her new home. She admits it was an emotional process with ups and downs, but she also acknowledges that there were always people there who were willing to help and who did help. She remains grateful for the opportunity to participate in the project, and having built a home, she now looks forward to starting a small business in her community. “Never give up,” says Kay. “There’s always hope on the other side.”

The National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC): The only national, 501(c)(3) corporation representing housing interests of Native people who reside in Indian communities, Alaska Native Villages, and on native Hawaiian Home Lands. NAIHC advocates for housing opportunities and increased funding for Native Americans; provides training and technical assistance to managers and professionals from Native housing programs; and conducts research related to Native housing issues and counseling programs, as well as loan products.

The Power of Working Together

Three families share their experiences with USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Program

Rural Voices - Fall 2014This story appears in the Fall 2014 issue of Rural Voices

Mutual Self-Help is a USDA Rural Development program administered by community-based nonprofit housing organizations that makes housing affordable through “sweat equity”. Families work together as a group to build approximately 65 percent of their homes. This labor not only acts as the down payment, but can substantially reduce the price of the home. However, it is hard work and it does require commitment. Households work together, with each family contributing a minimum of 35 hours of labor per week for approximately 8 to 12 months. The homes are built simultaneously; no one moves in until all the homes are completed.

Dillan and Lacie; Rebecca; and Anita and Robbie all participated in the Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corporation (NNHC) mutual self-help program. Below each family recounts their challenges, successes, and experiences building their own home and helping other families build theirs.

How did you first hear about self-help housing?

Dillan: When attending school, Lacie and I had no thoughts of buying, let alone, building a brand new house. Because I am a student, the idea of securing a home loan was near impossible, until we heard about Neighborhood Nonprofit’s housing program. A family member mentioned to me an advertisement they had seen in the newspaper one day and I just stopped in the office to see what it was about. Ten months later here we are in the final stages of building our beautiful new home. The process was very simple to qualify for the program and the Neighborhood Nonprofit staff was very helpful.

Dillan and Lacie are both originally from Cache Valley, UT and wanted to raise their children there. Lacie is a stay at home mom. Dillan is a returning student at Utah State University and plans to be a teacher.Dillan and Lacie are both originally from Cache Valley, UT and wanted to raise their children there. Lacie is a stay at home mom. Dillan is a returning student at Utah State University and plans to be a teacher.

Rebecca: I had previously heard about Self-Help housing a couple of years before applying, but I did not want to make such a major decision so soon after my husband’s death. I also didn’t see how I would be able to put in the time needed to build as a single mother. It wasn’t until after I tried unsuccessfully to find affordable housing for my family that I decided to throw in my application and see what happened.

Anita: We heard about the Self-Help program from one of my husband’s coworkers. They had built in the nearby town of Nibley, UT. We decided to look into the program after looking for houses to buy became discouraging. We knew that my staying at home with our children would make it difficult to afford one. We were also excited about the opportunity to learn the skills involved with building a house. We are grateful we learned these skills because we feel more prepared to maintain our home.

What was the construction process like?

Anita: During the time we built, life was so busy! I was pregnant when we started, so my husband did most of the work for the first several months. Life was hard but we were excited for the end result. It took our group ten months to finish all our homes. We worked with really great people. Everyone had the same attitude to work on each other’s home like it was their own. This created a positive working environment. I would say the hardest challenge we faced was everyone getting burned out and not working as fast as we had hoped. I was glad to be able to go out and work too. Working together on our home taught us a lot and was a great benefit to us recently when we finished our basement.

Dillan: While the qualification process was simple, the building process has not been quite as simple. Building each home together has been challenging and rewarding at the same time. The families in our group have worked so hard together and have accomplished so much. The program has not been easy, but it has been worth it. I believe that each family will leave the program with a greater sense of community and friendship because of the hard work that everyone has endured.

Rebecca: My youngest was only three when I started building! Since my oldest was just 12, I was the only one in our family that was able to work on the homes. To be honest, it was a difficult process for me to build; besides having five children and no spouse, I am a student at Utah State University. A typical day would start at 4:30 a.m. I had to get up that early to get everything ready for the day, including dropping off my children at school and getting myself to class. After school was out, I would have to rush to pick up my children and take them to a baby sitter (none of them were old enough to be on the site) and then get myself to the work site. I usually wouldn’t get home until after 10:00pm. I still had to put kids to bed, take a shower (get all the sawdust and grime off that I’m allergic to), and do regular household chores.

Rebecca is a widow with five children ages 16, 15, 12, 10, and 7, and is currently a student at Utah State University pursuing a degree in Social Work.Rebecca is a widow with five children ages 16, 15, 12, 10, and 7, and is currently a student at Utah State University pursuing a degree in Social Work.

What were your living conditions before and after your participation in the self-help program?

Rebecca: Before [the Self-Help program] we had been living in a three-bedroom apartment for about two years. It was definitely cramped; my two daughters shared one bedroom, and my three sons shared another bedroom. We all needed some personal space. In addition, the apartment would flood occasionally, so it had mold and mildew issues and smelled terrible. It was also where we were living when I lost my husband and the children lost their dad. That apartment created some difficult memories for us. It was really healthy, both physically and emotionally, for us to get out of that environment. Every day, I count my blessings – I have a house, a yard, and good neighbors. I love the neighborhood! One especially nice benefit to having our home is having a back-yard big enough to grow a garden. I could never afford to buy fresh produce for my family. Now, we eat fresh food that we’ve grown ourselves!

Anita: Before we built our house, we lived in a townhouse. The community was nice but the main thing that was missing was a private backyard. One of my favorite features of the program was being able to move in having our landscape and fences included in the building process. I love being able to send my own kids out to have fun in our large fenced-in area. One other major unexpected benefit to having a fenced-in backyard was that it helped my preschool business. My city requires all new preschools to have a fenced-in backyard. This could have been an expensive hurdle but thanks to the Self-Help specifications, this was included.

Gerber-family-cropped-webAnita and her husband Robbie have three children all under the age of six. Anita is a stay at home mom who started her own preschool business. Robbie is a conference coordinator for Utah State University.

Dillan: Before the Self-Help program and as students with a large family, our housing conditions have been, at times, hard to deal with. Now that we are able to have a home to call our own it has given our family and especially our children a place to feel comfortable and more importantly a place to stay for a long time. We now have a “Room with a View,” a place to grow together and create lasting memories.

What specific successes or challenges did you experience?

Dillan: A challenge we faced in our group was learning to work together on a home that wasn’t your own. The workmanship as well as the attitude of all the families involved improved once everyone truly figured out that no one could move in to their own homes before the other houses were completed. No work was completed without the thought of “If it was my home, would I do it like that?” When this concept was grasped, the work excelled in speed and accuracy. Although this and other things were challenges, the successes far exceeded them. A friendship has been made between the families as we worked hard together.

Rebecca: It took a lot of determination to get my weekly hours in and keep up with my other responsibilities. Because it is easier to meet the time requirements if the family is a two parent household (it’s estimated that both husband and wife can come in together one day a week), I had to go in outside of the group’s regular work hours in order to work my full 35 hours per week. During the building process, I had to have two surgeries on my broken leg. While on crutches, and not allowed on site, I had good people that helped donate hours so I could keep up.

I love the neighborhood. I got to know my neighbors really well while we built – both the good and the bad! We learned to work with everyone’s personalities, and I think we learned the importance of not saying things we would regret later. Now, we have a real sense of taking care of each other. It is like having a built-in Neighborhood Watch Program! I have developed some very good friendships from the time we spent building together.

Anita: We are very grateful to have been able to build our home through the Mutual Self Help process. We learned a lot from our construction supervisor and have a lot of respect for him. He made sure things were done the right way. The process was hard; but worth it because we not only got a beautiful home but gained knowledge and friendships.

My father passed away a couple months into the building process. It was very unexpected and very difficult. Because we had to travel to the funeral, the people in our group told us they would donate any hours we needed to cover our weekly hours. Our group was very generous and kind. We truly appreciated them. We know these families care about us. On the anniversary of our open house, we always have a get-together to celebrate. We love the families we built with!

Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corporation (NNHC): A Utah-based nonprofit committed to creating quality affordable housing opportunities in their communities and giving households skills necessary to become self-sufficient. NNHC offers programs such as mutual self-help housing, and housing and foreclosure counseling, and as well as loan products.

Second round of Promise Zone Competition announced

The Obama Administration invites a new round of eligible applicants to apply for a Promise Zone designation. HUD will designate six urban communities and USDA at least one rural and one tribal community as Promise Zones. This initiative targets high-poverty communities for job creation, economic development, and additional special assistance in an effort to drastically improve conditions for communities suffering persistent poverty. Applications are due November 21, 2014 by 5:00 PM EST.

Audience Focused Webcasts

To assist communities with the application process, HUD and USDA are hosting three Promise Zone Initiative Webcasts:

Tribal Webcast
September 29, 2014, Monday
1:00-2:00p.m. EST (please adjust for your local time)

Rural Webcast
September 29, 2014, Monday
3:00-4:00 p.m. EST (please adjust for your local time)

Urban Webcast
October 1, 2014, Wednesday
3:00-4:00 p.m. EST (please adjust for your local time)

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