• Center for Community Change

Advocacy Skillshare

Welcome to our forum for highlighting innovative initiatives from state and local housing and homeless coalitions advocating to increase housing opportunities. The goal of Advocacy Skillshare is to advance cross-pollination of ideas, tactics and strategies that effectively advance housing and homeless advocacy. Have a good experience or idea to share with Advocacy Skillshare? Send it to Michael Anderson.

Raising Awareness: National Equity Atlas offers data tools for local advocacy initiatives

The National Equity Atlas is a data and policy tool for advocates and policy makers who are working to build a new economy that is equitable, resilient, and prosperous. A collaboration between PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), the equity atlas is a resource to help advocates and activists advance policies that increase equitable outcomes.

The equity atlas initiative has comprehensive information ranging from topics including housing rights, employment equity, and economic justice as it relates to reducing the racial wealth gap. One particular resource called the equity indicator allows users to chart out how median hourly wages differ among white people and people of color. This important tool highlights racial wealth gaps in wages between those with similar levels of education, which then reflects the existence of racial discrimination and bias in hiring.

To advance the discussion of the urgency to address rising rents and housing costs, the National Equity Atlas released a series of fact sheets with research analyzing how rising rents and low wages negatively affect citywide economic growth. The research found that if rent was adjusted to meet a tenant’s ability to pay, an extra $124 billion could be spent nationwide each year.

Other tools that would be useful for housing advocates included the Homeownership tool as well as the Housing Burden indicator. These break down home ownership rates at the state, region, and city levels, and distinguish which demographic groups have the highest housing costs.

To check out more of the resources available through the NEA, visit http://nationalequityatlas.org/.

By Maria Cristina Chicuen, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Community Voices: Report on Impact Community-Based Organizations on Increasing Voter Turnout

As the 2018 midterm election nears, researchers have some advice for nonprofits and for campaigns: to engage new, young voters, face-to-face communication works best. Engaging New Voters: The Impact of Nonprofit Voter Outreach on Client and Community Turnout is a report by Nonprofit VOTE that highlights the impact of nonprofit service providers and community-based organizations (CBOs) on increasing voter turnout among people of color, women, young people and people with low incomes. Given that nonprofits actively engage in direct contact with constituents, there is an opportunity to leverage this relationship and improve participation and mobilization within Get out the Vote (GOTV) efforts.

According to Brian Miller, Executive Director of Nonprofit VOTE, since “political campaigns have limited resources and time, they focus their communications on ‘likely’ voters, meaning young people get only a fraction of the communication other voters get. And without that outreach, young, potential voters don’t show up on Election Day and the whole cycle starts over again.”

Although communities served by non-profits and CBO’s are the most economically marginalized, these populations are the least likely to get contacted by a political campaign. As identified by the report, most nonprofit voters tended to be low-income, women, young, and people of color. There is an incredible opportunity at the hands of nonprofits considering that registering to vote, as well as pledging to vote at a nonprofit where one is a beneficiary of services, drastically impacts increases in voter turnout.

To achieve the intended GOTV impact, researchers recommend the following best practices that nonprofits and CBOs should follow:

  • Create staff buy-in at all levels
  • Seek strong partnerships with state agencies
  • Start advocacy and GOTV efforts early
  • Engage multiple venues and audiences

Nonprofit VOTE encourages nonprofits and CBOs to take advantage of their deep grassroots connections and connect a diverse, younger electorate to the polls.

To read the Engaging New Voters: The Impact of Nonprofit Voter Outreach on Client and Community Turnout report, follow this link.

To find more information about Nonprofit VOTE, follow this link.

By Maria Cristina Chicuen, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Community Voices: East Austin’s People’s Plan is on its way to City Council

April 6th marked a victory for community groups of East Austin as the People’s Plan was endorsed by the City of Austin’s Anti-Displacement Task Force. With a 12-1 vote, the Task Force recommended six anti-gentrification resolutions to the City Council. Irrespective of the Council’s forthcoming decision on these recommendations, the People’s Plan exemplifies the importance of an actionable agenda.

The People’s Plan calls for comprehensive resolutions that specifically address the production and preservation of low-income housing and strategies to mitigate gentrification and displacement. The creation of a Low-Income Housing Trust Fund (LIHTF) tops off the Plan by calling for the allocation of $16 million for the LIHTF. These funds will be used for the construction and subsidization of housing for households making 60% or less of area median income (AMI) which was $46,680 for a 4-person household in FY2016.

East Austin community leaders, including Dr. Fred McGhee, a housing expert and head of the Save Montoplis Negro School Coalition, gather in front of the Montopolis Negro School to propose an anti-displacement program, a six-point People’s Plan, to the city to stop gentrification and the removal of people of color from the east side of Austin. Source: RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Plan also includes right-to-stay and right-to-return programs for East Austin. This policy mirrors that of Portland, Oregon’s “right-to-remain or return” policy, which focuses on bringing back former residents to a recently gentrified area and prioritizes available affordable housing for those that had been displaced or at risk of displacement. These resolutions have the potential to ease and amend the issues caused by decades of racist policies that spurred the uprooting of long-time residents who deserve the right to remain and reclaim their community.

The 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign inspired the action behind the People’s Plan. In 1968, as part of the Campaign, Dr. King emphasized the need to demand “better jobs, better homes, and better education” to “make it very clear that [Poor People] are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.” The People’s Plan does just that with an intentional focus on preserving and producing affordable housing, right-to-stay and right-to-return ordinances, and tighter enforcement of environmental quality reviews.

People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources (PODER) is one of the organizations that helped draft the People’s Plan. Susana Almanza, the Director of PODER, noted that the Plan addresses the need to tackle displacement and affordable housing with immediacy instead of depending on CodeNEXT, the City’s new initiative that is set to revise the Land Development Code for the first time in 30 years.

Fred McGhee of Preserve Rosewood, a coalition of concerned citizens and volunteers fighting for the preservation of Rosewood Courts, was also integral to the creation of the People’s Plan. The Plan, according to McGhee, “is a first step and an interim measure…to establish more permanent, equitable housing solution(s) for low-income Austinites.” McGhee goes on to say that the People’s Plan will require significant political will and monetary support because “we must realize that equity isn’t free, it costs money.”

The Plan is a critical step in combatting race-specific displacement, rapid gentrification, and insufficient supply of affordable housing affecting East Austin. From 2000-2010, the 78702 zip code’s African American and Latinx population decreased by 66% and 33%, respectively, while the White population increased by 442% percent. Within this same period, according to Those Who Stayed: The Impact of Gentrification on Longstanding Residents of East Austin, a 2018 report by University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis (IUPRA), Austin was the only major growing city in the country that experienced an absolute numerical decline in African Americans. This is an alarming fact considering this area was once deemed the Negro District, a direct outcome of Jim Crow era policies that allowed Austin’s city plan to restrict where African Americans could access housing, schools, and public services.

With respect to the gentrification of East Austin, researchers noted that the loss of children in the neighborhood was a poignant indicator of the changing demographics of Austin’s Eastern Crescent. During the 2000-2010 period, the region saw its share of young children decrease from 30% to 12%. In a survey conducted by the University of Texas at Austin, which built on the 2014 IUPRA report on Austin’s declining African American population, 56% of respondents attributed leaving Austin because of housing unaffordability, and 24% departed in search for “better schools.”

The increase in the cost of living in East Austin coupled by the need to find higher-quality public education for children reveals how gentrification initially impacts and displaces low-to-moderate income families with young children. It is clear that the loss of children and families has negatively affected the feelings of a close-knit community and the historical connection to the land that once prevailed among East Austinites.

Nevertheless, the People’s Plan is crucial to counteracting the changes spurred by unequitable development and reversing decades of divestment and residential segregation primarily affecting communities of color. The academic work done by IUPRA and the grassroots community organizations demonstrates the opportunity for cross sector collaboration between advocacy groups and research institutions to develop actionable, data-driven solutions geared towards restorative housing policies.

For more information about the People’s Plan, you may contact Susana Almanza of PODER at poder.austin@gmail.com.

By Maria Cristina Chicuen, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Raising Awareness: Virginia Advocates’ Public Opinion Poll Demonstrates Voters Want Housing Investment

In an effort to build political will among elected officials to increase funding for affordable housing and related energy efficiency programs, advocates in Virginia conducted a public opinion poll that demonstrated the overwhelming support of Virginia voters for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.  Particular support was for programs that address homelessness and allow seniors to age in place, as well as investments in energy efficiency that reduce utility expenses. The Campaign for Housing and Civic Engagement (CHACE), a statewide network of housing advocates spearheaded by the Virginia Housing Alliance and the Virginia Poverty Law Center, revealed the results of the poll as part of an education initiative for state elected officials and candidates for state office in September, 2017.

CHACE contracted with the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University to conduct a poll of 509 registered voters who were interviewed between September 3rd and September 10th, 2017. Questions revolved around the Campaign’s three policy priorities: increasing funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, expanding energy efficiency programs, and ensuring support services are available for individuals exiting homelessness. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 4.3%.

The poll’s findings demonstrate that, by a wide margin, Virginians want a full spectrum of housing opportunities for all their neighbors. 82% of voters strongly believe that people who work in their community should be able to find a home there. 56% of voters agree that housing affordability is vital to their community’s economic success. 58% of voters also believe that ending homelessness is an important government priority.

78% of those surveyed said they were supportive of the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, a program that works to preserve and create new affordable rental housing in the state and to alleviate homelessness across the Commonwealth. Respondents overwhelmingly supported the continued use of the Housing Trust Fund to address homelessness (80%) and supported the use of the fund for “aging in place” modifications that help Virginians remain in their homes as they get older (87%).

Voters were also very supportive of mechanisms to expand residential energy efficiency programs, which help families save money and reduce overall demand for new energy. 89% of Virginians favor holding energy companies accountable by requiring them to meet energy saving goals for their customers. Over half (61%) of those surveyed are also willing to pay a 50 cent surcharge on their utility bill to help fund weatherization and energy efficiency programs.

CHACE is a statewide campaign to raise awareness of housing issues, launched in 2017 in coordination with the Housing Week of Action, a nationwide effort sponsored by Our Homes, Our Voices, an initiative of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. CHACE’s mission is to inform voters, elected officials, and candidates at all levels of government on the importance of quality homes for Virginians at all income levels.

To learn more about CHACE and the poll, go to: https://chaceva.org/2017/09/27/housing-poll/

By Michael Anderson, Director, Center for Community Change—Housing Trust Fund Project