Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What it means to be a movement

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference



Last week I had the opportunity to speak at a unique conference in Columbus, Ohio.  Hosted by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, the Starting at Home Conference brought together researchers, developers, service providers, philanthropy and others involved in affordable housing and community development.  The focus was on the intersections between affordable housing and community revitalization, education and health.

This intersection is exactly where NHC believes the affordable housing field needs to more fully focus its work. Emphasizing the comprehensive outcomes our developments and partnerships produce for communities is a way not just to change how we communicate about our work with the public and policymakers; it’s a best practice framework everyone in the business of affordable housing can use.  

I often refer to this as “movement” thinking vs. “industry” thinking. Affordable housing certainly is a sophisticated industry. But we aren’t just making widgets. We are changing lives and transforming whole communities by connecting affordable homes with the resources low- and moderate-income people require to access opportunity and succeed in their daily lives. Our work spans the continuum of housing, from homelessness to homeownership, and it touches all aspects of the lives of individuals and of communities. Housers work in partnership with other fields and with our neighbors to advance our shared ideas and make change in our communities. That is the definition of a movement.

The truth of our movement is in the work itself. The day before the conference I got a full tour of a multi-year development effort in the Weinland Park neighborhood of Columbus, near Ohio State University, part of the Community Properties Initiative led by Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing. This effort involved preservation and rehabilitation of existing affordable housing, construction of new market-rate housing and of a school and retail, and incorporation of supportive services and public safety measures. The Community Properties Initiative has received awards from a range of organizations, from the U.S. Conference of Mayors to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and many others, for outstanding work on many levels.

It’s about to be honored again. Join us at the 43rd Annual NHC Gala on Thursday, June 11 as we honor the Community Properties Initiative, and the Piece by Piece Underwater Neighborhood Recovery Initiative of Atlanta, with the Housing Visionary Award. You can read more about our honorees, purchase your tickets, become a sponsor or register for the free Policy Symposium on our website.

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