Poverty and housing needs persist in rural America as population changes

December 12, 2012 | General RCAP News

WASHINGTON (HAC) – For decades before the current recession, rural Americans struggled with poverty and housing problems. In fact, a new Housing Assistance Council study reports, rural America encompasses 86 percent of the U.S. counties where poverty rates have remained at 20 percent or higher since at least 1990.

"As Congress and the administration determine the future of federal spending, ensuring adequate housing for all Americans must be a priority," said Moises Loza, executive director of the Housing Assistance Council. "HAC’s analysis of Census Bureau data shows how far we have come toward that goal, but also how much remains to be done. The U.S. must find the political will and dedication to ensure every American has a decent, affordable place to live."

The report – Taking Stock: Rural People, Poverty, and Housing in the 21st Century – describes demographic changes such as growth in the elderly and Hispanic populations, economic challenges like the foreclosure crisis, and ongoing housing problems including high housing costs, homelessness, and housing quality issues. HAC also looked in depth at five high needs regions and populations including the colonias near the U.S.-Mexico border, Central Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, Native American lands, and farmworkers.

HAC also published a map titled "Poverty in the United States," dramatically illustrating the concentrations of poverty and persistent poverty in the high needs areas.

HAC released Taking Stock in the 21st Century Dec. 6 during its National Rural Housing Conference, aptly themed "Promises to Keep in Challenging Times." It is the fourth in HAC’s Taking Stock series of decennial census analyses; the first was published in the early 1980s after data from the 1980 Census was released.

Taking Stock and the poverty map can be downloaded free from HAC’s website. Printed copies of the report are available from HACfor $30, and poster-sized copies of the poverty map are $5. Both prices include postage and handling.

A national nonprofit corporation headquartered in Washington, D.C., and founded in 1971, the Housing Assistance Council publishes numerous reports, program manuals, and other materials on rural housing topics. HAC helps local organizations build affordable homes in rural America by providing below-market financing, technical assistance, research, training, and information services. HAC’s programs focus on local solutions, empowerment of the poor, reduced dependency, and self-help strategies. HAC is an equal opportunity lender.