Today, U.S. Senator Herb Kohl introduced a measure to reauthorize the Housing Assistance Council (HAC), a non-profit organization devoted to developing affordable housing in rural communities across the country. This reauthorization offers a five-year extension of the program. HAC partners with rural housing non-profits, public agencies, and housing authorities, providing them with technical assistance and loan programs designed to reinforce local rural housing growth. Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) have signed on as cosponsors of this legislation.
"The lack of affordable housing is not just an urban issue, and millions of rural families are struggling to meet housing costs. The Housing Assistance Council is working with these communities to provide affordable housing and community development programs to help them grow and thrive. I am proud of the success the Housing Assistance Council has seen over the past three years and hope this reauthorization will continue to build on that success for the next five years." Kohl said.
HAC was originally given a three-year authorization through the Farm Bill in 2008. During the past three years HAC made $46.1 million in grants and loans to help build 3,878 homes throughout rural America. The program has leveraged its funding with over $360 million in other financing and has provided essential technical assistance to local non-profits throughout the country in the form of capacity building grants.
In Wisconsin, the largest borrower from HAC is the Southeastern Wisconsin Housing Corp. in Burlington. They have received over $2.9 million in grants and loan from HAC, building more than 260 housing units with these grants. Across Wisconsin, HAC has made almost $5.2 million in loans and grants to 17 local non-profit housing groups and leveraged $55 million in financing from outside sources for affordable rural housing.
Approximately one fifth of the nation's population lives in rural communities. There are more than 7 million rural Americans who live at or below the poverty line -- 2.5 million of them children. Notably, five million rural households pay more than 30 percent of their income in housing costs.
Tony Romo, the current quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, grew up in a HAC-supported self-help home in Burlington, WI. His parents built the home as part of Southeastern Wisconsin Housing Corporation's sweat equity, self-help homeownership program. There are countless examples linking a child's future success to the stability in their childhood home. Tony Romo's story provides one such example of how a child raised in safe, stable homeownership may go on to later success.