Photo: George Ballis
There is More Work to Be Done celebrates the struggle for affordable homes and stronger communities in rural America, both past and present, inspired by photographer and activist George "Elfie" Ballis (1925-2010). With National Endowment for the Arts support and the Housing Assistance Council's partnerships with local photographers and community development organizations in California, Kentucky, and Mississippi, the exhibition situates Ballis' work alongside new images that celebrate progress in rural development while exposing the work that still needs to be done.
Throughout his career, Ballis's advocacy for rural communities addressed land use, standing up for small farmers in California's Central Valley, and housing. Ballis urged fellow housing advocates to also fight for better rural policies, noting the intertwinement of affordable housing with civil rights and environmental issues.
Ballis's rural advocacy, including his support of self-help housing, intersected with HAC's launch 50 years ago. HAC's recent conversations with Ballis's contemporaries, including long-time HAC employees and friends, buttress this exhibition.
These homes were the answer community activists had to the chronic crisis afflicting farmworker families - terrible housing, or even no housing at all. Today it's still not unusual to see people living in cars when the grape harvest begins in Tulare County. Even families that live in the county year-round have to put up with homes in bad condition, paying a big part of low farmworker wages to live in them. According to the Census, half the workers in the county earn less than $24,000 a year. Nearly a quarter of the families get food stamps and live below the poverty line - more than a third of families are headed by single women...
After decades of decay and neglect, Eastmoor finally took a turn for the better. In 2001 Congressman Bennie Thompson visited the neighborhood and was so alarmed by the deteriorating conditions that he alerted federal officials who discontinued the developer’s tax credits and Section 8 subsidies. Though this stemmed the tide of graft, the residents were left with the decision to relocate or continue to rent homes that were neglected by the owner in a neighborhood neglected by the local governments...
With dilapidated labor camps now in the rearview mirror, building upon the success of Rosaleda Village and Central Ave. Senior Apartments is the primary focus for Antonio Hernandez and Patrick Newman of Wasco Affordable Housing, Inc., the only non-profit developer in Wasco. “There is still a big need,” says Hernandez. “Every day, people come to us asking for housing. It’s hard when we don’t have a lot of vacancies because we want to house everyone who asks for it... What we care about is our impact on the community, and everything we do is community-centered..."
NAJIB JOE HAKIM
Through Self-Help Enterprises' program, families are grouped together and help each other build their houses with onsite supervision and guidance. This “sweat equity” replaces the need for a down payment. Each family is required to contribute a minimum of 40 hours per week working on all the houses for nine to 12 months. They do everything together from pouring concrete for foundations, to erecting structural frames, installing electrical wiring, hanging doors and windows, etc. So, in fact, they are building more than structures but are establishing relationships with their future neighbors...
A good, high quality home is a sign of permanence and is a deep investment in a place. The homes they Hazard Development Alliance builds are affordable and will stand the test of time, meaning that they can be passed down from generation to generation. By giving very low, low, and middle income families – the workforce of eastern Kentucky – a chance to become homeowners, they are laying a new foundation for the future of Appalachia. Their newest program, HOPE Building, helps folks in substance use recovery successfully re-enter the workforce through construction training, with trainees helping construct 15 houses over three years for middle income families...