People can be involved in a housing trust fund campaign in many ways. You need to understand how strongly various people and groups support the idea for a housing trust fund so you can assess who should be involved and how much they might be willing to do. Here are a few categories that might help as you think about who the players may be and how involved they may become:
- The core group. There are a few individuals and/or organizations for whom creating a housing trust fund is their top issue. These are the people you want involved in organizing the campaign. These are usually housing advocacy groups, housing development organizations, tenant associations and other community-based/organizing groups. Begin here.
- Hardy supporters. Many organizations and individuals will solidly support a housing trust fund and may work on part of the campaign, but they will only want to be called upon to do specific tasks. They don’t want to run the show. Ask yourself who has a vested interest in increasing the community’s housing resources. This may involve banks, local corporations, government staff, development organizations, private developers and others.
- Endorsers. There are many potential supporters who will only lend their name. They will sign a list indicating that they support the housing trust fund proposal, but will do little else. This list is important because it should include many influential supporters, such as banks, corporations, the chamber of commerce, homeowner associations, schools, churches, labor groups, professional associations and others.
How to involve groups in the campaign
Bring together those who are talking the most about the housing trust fund idea. If this is primarily an existing group, look carefully at its membership. Who else ought to be at the table? Whose problem is this? Who cares about the issue enough to get involved? Make a list of who should be part of the core group. From this group, the other lists can be developed. Creating a coalition solely to develop a housing trust fund enables careful selection of members and naturally encourages consensus on the goals since the members come together for a specific purpose.
Almost everyone knows who a community’s key housing advocates are. This is where you begin. Just one person can start this process. Indeed, many trust funds have been initiated by one person, who then pulls in many others.
Every community has its turf issues and rivalries. Deal with these at the beginning so they don’t destroy the campaign as issues heat up.
- Bring people who can work together.
- Get the issues out on the table. Use facilitators.
- Think carefully about who belongs at the table and genuinely include them.
- Make sure everyone contributes and everyone is heard from. Sharing responsibilities and leadership will create equity, fairness, trust and compassion.
See our publication “Winning at the Local Level: 5 Housing Trust Fund Campaigns Tell Their Stories” for specific examples of successfully constructed coalitions.
How To Start
There are some simple but important things you can do to get your housing trust fund coalition off to a good start. Here are a few suggestions:
- A mission statement. Begin by creating a mission statement. This will clarify key issues for the steering committee or your core group. This should be a clear statement of what you hope to achieve. It is a great way to build consensus and enables each party to state their concerns and play a role in creating the campaign. The mission statement will outline why you are undertaking a housing trust fund campaign. It should include those elements that are critical to keeping your core group together and committed to the effort (such as the need to serve very low income people). Keep it short and to the point, but make it inclusive so everyone in your group can enthusiastically support it.
- A time line. To the extent you can at this point, develop a broad picture of what you hope to accomplish by when. This will undoubtedly be modified, but it will be very helpful to give group members some sense of what they are committing to. If you can, incorporate legislative or council deadlines (including committee schedules) for introducing a new proposal with fiscal implications.
- Initial tasks. Outline some initial objectives and delegate responsibility for getting these things done. It may be doing some initial research on other housing trust funds, contacting other people who need to be part of the campaign, listing what resources you have and what else you might be able to secure, or outlining more specific objectives for your campaign. You may even want to create some committees with specific assignments and membership.
- Set a meeting schedule. At a minimum, figure out when and where you need to meet next and which initial tasks should be done by then. How often you need to meet depends on many things, such as your time line and, frankly, how much work needs to be done to get the housing trust fund proposal completed. A regular meeting schedule, however, accomplishes nothing unless work is getting done and the meetings serve a purpose. Regularly reassess your strategy, how the campaign is progressing and how participants feel about the progress.
The more support you can demonstrate for your housing trust fund proposal, the more likely you will succeed in getting it passed. Think about both the number of allies you can get to support the trust fund as well as specific people or organizations that will be influential.
Building support requires that you be sensitive to people and the different ways they may be willing to get involved. Some people will actively support your campaign and be willing to help do the work. Others, though solid supporters, will never do more than lend you their names. Don’t dismiss any opportunity to gain supporters, no matter how much or how little they will help. Be open to different levels and types of involvement.
Once your proposal is complete and you are ready to launch the campaign, it is time to look to others who might help. Obviously, they must support the campaign and your proposal. You are not inviting significant changes in the consensus you have already reached. Consider but do not stop at these possibilities:
- Nonprofit development corporations. Any potential developer can benefit greatly from the creation of a housing trust fund. It can provide developers with needed funds for their projects. Either as individual corporations or as an association, developers should play a role in the effort.
- Banks and other financial institutions. These institutions can be important supporters of a trust fund proposal. Either because of their Community Reinvestment Act obligations or because they see the need for more affordable housing, banks are often ready participants.
- Community groups and organizations. There are many organizations that, though not directly involved in housing understand and have experienced the importance of decent, affordable housing to the health of communities. These groups may include community organizations, homeowner associations, church groups, health organizations, labor groups, school organizations and many others.
When do we approach the opposition?
Opposition generally comes from those who do not want the proposed revenue source to be tapped for a housing trust fund, do not support dedicating any revenue source, or oppose any government support for lower income housing. There is no guarantee that inviting your enemies into the fold early on will ease their opposition. It will only do so if you have an effective strategy for dealing with the basis for their opposition. Thus, you need to understand their point of view. Moreover, you need to be able to effectively reach and communicate with those who truly represent the opposition. All this requires considerable planning. Do not assume that by including them, your problems will be solved. It is very unlikely.
Coalition Member Lists:
Colorado: 1000 Friends of the Colorado Housing Investment Fund
New Mexico: Affordable Housing Now Endorsement Form
Virginia: Virginia Housing Coalition
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Housing Trust Fund Endorsement Form
Washington, D.C.: Housing Production Trust Fund Endorsement Form
Campaign Endorsement Lists:
Illinois: It Takes a Home to Raise a Child: Campaign Endorsers
Louisville, Kentucky: Open the Door Campaign Endorsers
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund Organizations Endorsing