Many industry staff can benefit from a brainstorming session answering and discussing what affordable housing means personally. That’s precisely what happened when we had an ad-hoc staff meeting. “What does affordable housing mean to you?” is what we contemplated and answered. It was a great brainstorming exercise to sit back and reflect on how we personally view affordable housing. Throughout my career, I have focused so much on what affordable housing means to others, until then, I had not sat back to reflect on what it means to me. I previously worked for a Maryland nonprofit, the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH), where I helped coordinate a project to photograph MCCH housing residents holding a sketch of a home with one word written inside to describe what it meant to have an affordable place to call home. Some of them wrote joy, happiness, safety, hope and stability. This memory is still vivid and inspiring as I think back.
But the roles were now reversed at this brainstorming session; it was my turn to answer and share my perspective.
The first word that came to me was opportunity. To me, affordable housing is dignified housing that provides individuals and families the opportunity to become stable; also, the opportunity to become a part of a community by choice and not by default. Without choice, often residents are funneled into communities that have been stripped of its vital resources, where scarce job opportunities and the lack of quality education is the norm, all because of one’s income level. Affordable housing offers the opportunity to become self-sufficient and begin to break cycle of generational poverty. It creates a pathway to achieve a level of financial security and not become cost-burdened. Unfortunately, the cost of housing continues to rise, and the amount of affordable homes seems like a far reach for families and individuals. While I live in the Maryland suburbs, I also continue to see how quickly it is to be priced out and be forced to live further and further away from my job in D.C.
As housers, we’re often the voice of those who are experiencing the positive benefits of affordable housing, but now I am realizing more and more we also have to be our own voice. Doing so ensures we are equipped to communicate and connect with members of the community and elected officials for impact and solutions.
The deeper levels of the brainstorming session transform and inspire the way I think about my profession and affordable housing challenges. What does affordable housing mean to you?
You and your colleagues can join other housers to reflect on this question for an important breakout session, GoodComm: Messaging for affordable housing, at Solutions for Housing Communications with Amy Thompson of HUD, Robert Goldman of the Montgomery Housing Partnership, Deborah Beck of Beck Research and Stephanie Anderson Garrett of The Community Builders, Inc. on April 16 in Washington, D.C.
Secure your spot and register today. Hope to see you there!