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Since 1971, the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) has worked to help local organizations build affordable homes in rural communities. With its mission to “improve housing conditions for the rural poor, with an emphasis on the poorest of the poor in the most rural places,” HAC is one of the nation’s rural housing leaders. Through self-help programs, “sweat equity” construction and empowerment of people experiencing poverty, HAC has maintained a special focus on high-need groups and regions like Indian country, farm workers, Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta. The National Housing Conference is pleased to honor HAC with the Housing Visionary Award for its over 40 years of work to improve the housing conditions in rural America.
Highly regarded for its dependability and its culture of service, HAC’ s capacity building efforts following the housing market collapse in 2008 have helped many regional affiliates and local partners to improve the housing landscape in their respective communities. Through organizational trainings, funding, research activities and technical assistance, HAC has helped to advance rural housing efforts in some of the nation’s most overlooked areas.
“[HAC] has helped us to expand our efforts much farther than we could have gone without encouragement,” said Earl Pfeiffer, executive director of Florida Home Partnership. Funding administered by HAC has helped Florida Home Partnership to develop and provide affordable housing to migrant farm worker families. Pfeiffer describes working with HAC as a unique and rewarding experience because HAC “looks for the various strengths of housing organizations. It seeks to bring out the best in housing partners.”
Dedicated to ensuring the success of its partners and, therefore, the success of rural America, HAC’s biannual Rural Housing Conference brings together stakeholders in the rural affordable housing field for trainings, discussions and peer-to-peer networking. Scott McReynolds of the Housing Development Alliance in Hazard, Kentucky, consistently attends the conference and says the experience has equipped him with strategies and resources to better serve the unique needs of rural communities. “The conference provides a great experience with peers to share and learn. There is real expertise,” he says.
That expertise is precisely why Dazetta Thorne of Crowley, Louisiana’s Seventh District Pavilion joined the HAC board in 2011 after years of partnership with the organization. “HAC encourages its partner organizations to do a lot that they may not think they’re ready for, but [HAC] is with you every step of the way,” she said. This unwavering support, through both funding and technical assistance is what has helped the Seventh District Pavilion to develop housing for the lowest of low-income families in Crowley. “It wasn’t until I joined the board that I realized just how much the organization is doing. They provide first-class information and pass on their knowledge.”
This knowledge is a common theme for HAC, an organization that is regularly lauded for the quality of its information and the support of its staff. Pfeiffer, McReynolds and Thorne all agree that HAC’s passionate and well-informed employees are key to the organization’s success in improving the rural housing landscape. “HAC advances some of the most overlooked areas in the country,” Pfeiffer said. “[The staff] is focused on ensuring HAC’s partners are a huge success.” Adds Thorne, “One of HAC’s strengths is that it has the capacity to engage a lot of programs, not just one or two. It’s a conglomerate of information. But the real strength is in its staff. They genuinely want to help.” For staff and partners of the Housing Assistance Council, passion has proven to drive the organization’s achievements. That passion, knowledge and genuine desire to be of assistance to those most in need in rural America is why HAC remains at the forefront of providing safe, secure, affordable housing in rural areas.