Building on momentum established late in the 2010 legislative session, advocates with the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama (LIHCA) are working with legislative champion State Representative Patricia Todd to make Alabama the 43rd state to enact a housing trust fund. HB 349, the Alabama Housing Trust Fund Act, passed through the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 19 by a vote of 101 to 0. Representative Todd is working with supporters in the Senate to introduce HB 349.
HB 349 would establish the Alabama Housing Trust Fund to address the housing needs of working families, seniors, persons with disabilities, and other households living at or below
60% of the area median income. The fund would be used for the acquisition, construction, and rehabilitation of affordable housing, including predevelopment costs and for use in revolving loan funds, as well as for resident services, and down payment
HB 349 would also establish an appointed Advisory Committee to review and advise the housing trust fund’s administering agency, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. HB 349 does not identify a funding source for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund. With hopes for dedicated funding in the future, the legislation carefully outlines programs that align with the National Housing Trust Fund.
Two weeks prior to HB 349’s passage through the House, LIHCA held its ﬁrst Lobby Day at the State House in Montgomery. Housing trust fund supporters including clergy, community action organizations, affordable housing developers, AIDS advocates and AARP Alabama gathered at the State House in the morning. LIHCA kicked off the day with a press conference featuring Representative Todd, LIHCA Board Chair Marcie Porter, and State Director of AARP Alabama Joan Carter. After a brieﬁng on the goals for the day’s legislative visits, LIHCA supporters dispersed throughout the State House delivering postcards to House and Senate ofﬁces and conducted eleven meetings with representatives and senators.
“The Lobby Day was the ﬁrst time that this broad group of organizations was down in Montgomery together, working in concert with one purpose and one voice,” said LIHCA board member Rusty Bennett. “We were effective and came away feeling more uniﬁed and cohesive than ever before.”
In the weeks leading up to the Lobby Day, LIHCA staff prepared LIHCA members to speak effectively with one voice. Drawing from public opinion research over the last decade, LIHCA’s leadership identiﬁed three lead message frames for its members to use in advocating for the housing trust fund.
Armed with their three messages, new communication skills, a one-pager on HB 349 and postcards in promoting the Alabama Housing Trust Fund, Lobby Day participants disbursed through the State House for meetings with legislators. Reports in post-meeting debrief sessions with LIHCA staff indicate positive support for HB 349 on both sides of the aisle.
“Not only did we ﬁnd that legislators are supportive of an Alabama Housing Trust Fund, but we also really helped build the conﬁdence of LIHCA members,” said LIHCA staff Ashley Kerr. “Actually meeting with legislators helps demystify the lobbying process. Plus, having a clear communication strategy that allowed all of our supporters to be on the same was huge. There was a real feel of unity and shared purpose that empowered everyone who came to Lobby Day.”
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