Having a diverse set of community organizations and representatives voicing support for public investment in affordable housing is a source of strength for any housing trust fund campaign, state or local. When elected leaders, decision makers and the media hear from a wide range of stakeholders and community perspectives, advocates have an opportunity to shift the conversation for creating or expanding a housing trust fund from a narrow single-issue to a broad community concern. Particularly powerful are the perspectives of the faith community and community based organizations, who bring moral and personal urgency to the debate.
The campaign to dedicate revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) got a boost in September when Alabama Arise selected the Trust Fund as a priority issue for the 2017 state legislative session. Alabama Arise is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of 150 congregations and community groups and hundreds of individuals united in their belief that low-income people are suffering because of state policy decisions.
#FundtheAHTF: Majadi Baruti and fellow Arise members indicate their support for legislation dedicating revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund.
Arise members voted to maintain the Alabama Housing Trust Fund as a legislative priority along with an adequate state budget, tax reform, “ban the box” policy, death penalty reform, minimum wage, payday/title lending reform and public transportation policy. The 2017 Issue Priorities guide describes Arise’s position on the need to dedicate revenue to the Alabama Housing Trust Fund:
Everyone needs a place to call home. But too many hard-working Alabamians can’t find safe, affordable housing. The state Housing Trust Fund (HTF) was created in 2012 to build, rehabilitate and maintain housing for low-income families. Permanent HTF funding would create jobs and make home a reality for thousands of families, veterans, and people with disabilities in Alabama. Arise will seek dedicated state support for the HTF to expand affordable housing options, especially in rural areas.
As a priority issue, Arise will lobby for dedicated funding for the Trust Fund in Montgomery as well as activate their membership across the state to support revenue legislation. “Having Arise by our side in the legislative hallways is critical to our success and we are thrilled that the Arise membership selected the AHTF as a legislative priority for 2017,” stated Ashley Kerr of the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama, the organization leading the dedicated revenue campaign.
That Arise is a champion for the AHTF is nothing new. Arise members made the creation of a state housing trust fund a top priority throughout the multi-year campaign that culminated in victory in 2012, and have been core supporters for the push for dedicated revenue in the 2014, 15 and 16 sessions. Arise was also a founding member of the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama in 2007.
Arise’s Carol Gundlach explains: ‘Arise believes that everyone deserves an opportunity to get ahead. Investing in the Housing Trust Fund would help ensure that thousands of Alabama families have a solid foundation on which to build a better life and a brighter future for their children and grandchildren.”
What better way to learn about something than seeing it in action. That is exactly what Evansville CAJE (Congregations Acting for Justice and Empowerment, a DART affiliate) did by traveling to Nashville Tennessee and being toured by Urban Solutions and others to study the impact of the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing, Nashville’s housing trust fund. CAJE brought some of their leaders, two Evansville city officials, two major affordable housing providers and a reporter to Nashville to learn more about Nashville’s recent commitment of substantial funding to the Barnes Fund and the impact of affordable homes on the Nashville community.
Presently Evansville has a trust fund that was funded with one time money years ago. CAJE is campaigning to get Evansville city council and mayor to dedicate permanent funding.
The Evansville delegation from CAJE, the city, and housing providers met with members of the Nashville Metro Council about the benefits of affordable housing.
The site visit to Nashville had dual purposes. They went to learn about the details of Nashville’s fund and to build excitement to fully fund the Evansville trust fund. The delegation met with Nashville Metro Council members, the Mayor of Nashville and the Barnes Fund committee, which oversees the Nashville housing trust fund. The group also visited both finished and in process housing developments that were funded by the Barnes Fund.
CAJE leader Marcia Ballard commented on the visit, “To me it was exciting to see the actual and varied “Affordable Housing” units, to hear about the streamline application form and scorecard process that the Nashville Trust Fund Board uses to award funding, and to learn about the flexibility of the fund and how the Nashville group thought we were in such a good situation because of Evansville’s land availability.”
The site visit to Nashville was a new tactic for CAJE and was successful in multiple ways: learning about revenue sources, uses of land banks, how affordable homes contribute to a city and built excitement amongst attendees which is key to the momentum of their campaign.
“Seeing the success of Nashville’s trust fund and the homes they built was inspiring. Evansville has the opportunity to make a difference in our community, to make a difference in a family’s life. We can do this! Because we are stronger together,” said CAJE member Vel Sitzman
At the writing of this article, the Evansville administration has publicly supported a dedicated revenue source from revenue the city receives from the Tropicana casino.
Keeping coalition members and supporters engaged in a multi-year housing trust fund campaign presents various challenges, especially during periods of inactivity when legislation or an ordinance is not moving or when the decision making body is not in session. CQ Roll Call, formerly Congressional Quarterly, conducted a recent survey with association and advocacy professionals which identified maintaining engagement of members as a key advocacy challenge. In response to their survey, CQ Roll Call released Increasing Engagement: How to Keep Members Active When Your Issues Are Not, a concise, easy to read report filled with ideas and strategies to increase member and supporter participation and action.
Increasing Engagement profiles strategies developed by associations and advocacy organizations that have been effective in involving members and moving them to action, such as an Advocacy Leadership Forum that the American Academy of Neurology developed for its Doctor members, and the Alzheimer’s Association “grasstops ambassadors” that matches associations members with each member of the U.S. Congress. While the profiles focus on federal advocacy, the ideas and lessons learned are transferable to state and local advocacy. The report also describes easier ideas and tips including the practice gamification, i.e. turning advocacy into a game or competition that spurs engagement, and how to use video to elevate new messengers to decision makers.
To download Increasing Engagement: How to Keep Members Active When Your Issues Are Not, click here.
CQ Roll Call monitors and reports on the legislative process, provides strategic political consultation, and is recognized as a source of timely news, objective facts and analysis, and coverage of elections and the politics of legislation. For more information of on CQ Roll Call, go to: http://cqrollcall.com/.
By Michael Anderson, Director, Center for Community Change—Housing Trust Fund Project
The Vision to Action photo gallery gives a flavor of the passion, creativity and fun of the campaign.
Key to the success of the Housing For All campaign was CNHED’s strategic shift to engage community residents impacted by the lack of affordable housing as leaders in the Campaign to complement its established role as a respected housing policy expert. The website features materials and curriculum from CNHED’s resident training program, such as Understanding the DC Government, Information of Housing in DC, and Preparing to Advocate, which includes tools to tell your own story so that it connects with the sought after policy change. There are several videos of resident leaders in action and an inspiring photo gallery cataloguing campaign highlights. The website also has information on how CNHED organized the campaign, with details on the roles and coordination of housing work groups, the campaign advisory committee, the resident leadership team, the campaign coordinators, and the CNHED Housing Committee and Board of Directors.
In addition to making campaign materials available to fellow advocates, the website features an executive summary of a case study of the campaign that the Housing Trust Fund Project and CNHED co-produced. The full case study, which will be available in December, lifts up lessons from the campaign to inform future campaigns around the country. The case study also explores the other strategies and steps used to successfully develop and lead a campaign, such as maintaining a strong coalition, building a wide base, and being poised to seize opportunities.