Monday, October 5, 2015

Kicking off the Inclusive Communities Working Group

What we're building 
by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference 


State and local leaders gathered in DC last week for the first meeting of our Inclusive Communities Working Group. What struck me most about this group wasn’t its commitment to the mission of affordable housing—I knew all were committed to that going in. Nor was it how smart and knowledgeable all the participants were—housing has a wealth of talent, and we were privileged to attract so much to this endeavor. 

Rather, I was struck by how the participants saw housing challenges in a broad and comprehensive way.  They saw how land use connects to affordability, how affordability connects to homelessness, how public resources and policy choices intersects racial and ethnic divisions, how public policy too often ignores the needs of people with disabilities and much more. Too often, one can predict that people’s perception of a policy issue derives directly from what they know well and see every day.  Builders want to build, lenders want to lend, service providers want to reach clients, etc. That’s not necessarily bad, but it is somewhat limited. There is a growing recognition that housing connects to transportation, education, employment, the environment and other issues in ways that demand creative solutions that break out of narrow silos. 

The initial discussions of this invitation-only working group are confidential, to promote the free exchange of ideas that we need. But a goal of the group is to produce new resources to share with everyone committed to the goal of inclusive communities. So, in coming months, look for webinars, research papers, conference sessions and more that draw on the insights from this group. Indeed, the very first one will be a roundtable discussion at the upcoming Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods convening this November in New Orleans. The meeting will bring members of the working group together with other stakeholders to further explore ideas presented in the first meeting.

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