As a small child I remember having a fascination with houses. Maybe it was spurred by a curiosity about other people’s homes fostered from living in a mobile home, which best accommodated frequent moves required by my father’s job. Or, perhaps it came from visiting relatives whose diverse homes ranged from farm homes door to west coast ranchers in the California hills to what seemed to me at the time like stone mansions. Regardless of the origins of my curiosity, one thing I knew was that for me home was always a safe, secure and loving place.
As a child I spent hours on playgrounds sweeping gravel with my hands to build make-believe houses that fulfilled my dreams. Whenever I came in contact with a book on architecture or design, I poured over its pages capturing them in my memory. I was fortunate, in that much of my make believe became a reality for me. Unfortunately, for many others, it is still a dream today.
My passion for housing has kept me involved with housing, working with many non-profits that seek to resolve the housing issues we face in this country. While we have seen the rise of many organizations that work to meet the need for safe, secure housing, many families still face a severe need for affordable houses to rent or buy. In addition, we have put many non-profits in competition for the limited funding and donations available to move their cause forward. In the end, we have fragmented the housing issue in order to sustain small gains in our communities.
As we enter a new year and a new opportunity in our political environment, it is time to address the issue of housing, coalesce the multiple facets of the housing issue and work toward unifying what housing means to a community. Safe, secure housing is directly tied to better health, success in education, economic opportunities and enhanced community. An investment in providing better housing will deliver high returns across all aspects of our communities.
Like many societal issues, it is hard to convince many of the need for better housing. There are multiple responses that people use to dismiss the need, from not wanting low-income housing in their neighborhood (NIMBY-ISM) to telling families to move if they can’t afford to live in their community. Those families in need don’t have any interest in living in the communities that those crying “NIMBY” oppose. These families are seeking neighborhoods with access to better transportation, parks, schools and shopping that all of us aspire to acquire. It’s time to plan communities that provide housing for mixed-income housing that is attractive and affordable so that we continue to contribute to the diversity and stability in our communities.
If we believe that we can simply tell those that can’t afford to live in our cities to relocate, we are asking to replace the workforce that supports our retail, restaurant, hotel and service industries. It’s not possible to have it both ways. You either provide housing at a level that supports this workforce or you need to increase their wages. We are at an impasse that has been created through years of believing that low-income housing projects were sufficient in addressing this issue.
This is no longer solely an issue for city, state or federal governments to resolve.
“Getting the public to understand and commit to an issue that they don’t believe impacts them will require action from policymakers, companies and residents to make the connections between housing, economic success, inclusion and safety.”TWEET THIS
It’s time to engage business, government and community leaders in the discussion. Having worked for years to establish strategic partnerships in marketing and communications, I may view the possibilities from a different view than most. If business and government combine their influence and interests for the issue, we can face the need and unify the efforts to finding answers that work. A major company talking about the need for mixed-income housing for its employees sends a different message than a single family’s story on the evening news. While we must continue to meet the needs of families on an individual need, we must engage communities, and our nation overall, in the discussion to understand why housing is vital to collective success.
One of the reasons I have chosen to support the work of Home Matters is its commitment to raising housing and community development needs to a national level, and as a true movement. We need to redefine the public thinking, the policies and the funding about housing to better position our communities for success. Getting the public to understand and commit to an issue that they don’t believe impacts them will require action from policymakers, companies and residents to make the connections between housing, economic success, inclusion and safety.
We are no longer able to segregate the problem to individual cities, communities or socioeconomic classes. Unless we all start to view our communities holistically, we will continue to put a band-aid on injuries without treating the cause of our ailments. While it is not a single solution, safe and affordable housing in communities that attract and protect families has already shown the positive impacts it can bring to all aspects of the community.
Let’s work toward turning dreams into realities for more families. It may start with a home, but it will provide returns in more ways than simply providing affordable housing. It will enhance and improve our communities for all its residents for years to come.