Many people agree that an adequate and diverse supply of housing that people can afford benefits communities. However, conceptual support for a more diverse housing supply often does not translate into political support for specific initiatives. Local housing initiatives often face suspicion and hostility from community residents that can slow down or derail initiatives altogether. Have you ever heard a community member preface an objection to a housing initiative with “I have nothing against affordable housing, but. . .”? Often this type of statement is followed by a concern about a potential or perceived impact on the community, such as increased traffic, fiscal costs, crime rates, property values, community character, etc.
Lack of community and political support is often the most difficult hurdle to overcome, which is why actively and deliberately building local support is critical to effectively address housing needs. Nurturing community and political support for housing initiatives can, over time, lead directly to local action– for example, favorable votes of the local legislative body, allocation of local funds, and permitting approvals.
This section provides guidance for those looking to build this culture, avoid needless opposition, and address concerns regarding housing developments.
There are four parts to this guide:
1. Where to Start
2. Strategic Organizing
3. Framing Your Message
4. Community Engagement
Who does it and when?
Active efforts to build community support for housing initiatives can be led by a variety of entities and often work best with strong team work and collaboration particularly among local affordable housing partnerships/ committees, municipal affordable housing trusts, municipal planners, civic and business associations, as well as other appointed and elected municipal officials.
There are three main approaches to building support to keep in mind as you read this section:
- Ongoing public awareness about housing needs
- Long-term planning
- Support for specific initiatives