Lack of Inventory

The United States is largely a nation of homeowners. But, in 2017, an Urban Institute report found that no county in the entire country had enough housing to meet the need. With few alternatives for affordable housing in rural America, a national crisis is at hand.

There is a lack of good, well-designed, dignified, high-performing single-family homes that can be titled as real property.

In the United States, it is commonly understood that homeownership is the cornerstone of financial security and wellbeing. However, the obstacles to home ownership are broadly systemic and rooted across the complex ecosystem of single-family home procurement. This ecosystem includes the ‘first cost’ areas of income, credit, primary and secondary mortgage markets, zoning, permitting, and project controls as well as the ‘second cost’ areas of home insurance, energy consumption and maintenance requirements.

Opportunities for affordable housing remain scarce, especially among the minority populations of the Lower Mississippi Delta, rural Southeast, Appalachia, the Rio Grande Colonias, Native American lands, and in migrant/seasonal farmworker communities. Hidden from mainstream America, these communities are isolated geographically, lack resources and economic opportunities, and have suffered through decades of disinvestment and double-digit poverty rates. These factors have contributed to an outmigration of young adults, fewer births, increased mortality among working-age adults, an aging population, and have exacerbated the inability for rural homeowners to tap into the economies of scale available in urban centers. Together, these factors conspire to make access to capital, materials, and labor virtually unobtainable. 

The USDA defines counties as “persistently poor” if 20 percent or more of the population has lived in poverty for the previous 30 years. Although rural America accounts for less than 20 percent of the country’s overall population, 85 percent of persistent-poverty counties are rural in nature. Rural Studio directly serves the persistently impoverished counties of Hale, Perry, Greene, Dallas, and Marengo Counties. 

Trapped in economic systems of predation and production systems of resource extraction, our rural residents struggle to gain a “leg up” and a path out of persistent poverty. Issues faced by our clients rural populations include:

  • Population loss, lack of density and challenges of scale
  • Absence of affordable, high-performance housing inventory
  • Food, energy, education, and health insecurity
  • Lack of accessible transportation and other vital infrastructure
  • Absence of social services
  • Scarce and constrained federal and philanthropic funding
  • Noncompetitive economies
  • Ingrained structural bias (source: executive summary)

This type of systemic economic distress has a major impact on housing conditions for both communities and households alike. Poverty is more regionally concentrated in rural areas, and consequently impoverished rural households experience some of the worst housing conditions in our nation. Integrating housing procurement solutions that, by design, contribute directly to the support a more sustainable, resilient community — one that includes access to quality employment, health, wellness, and educational opportunities – can provide a better life for its residents.