Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A very special session on housing and opportunity

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

We created an unusual breakout session on housing and opportunity for the upcoming Solutions for Affordable Housing national policy convening in December.  It’s something of an experiment. We hope to contribute to the conversation about how housing connects to opportunity by bridging divisions within the housing community, so that we can move past the too-simple distinction between mobility and place-based policies.

There is widespread agreement that where someone lives profoundly shapes the opportunities available to them: jobs, schools, transportation, health, and more. Too often, though, our debates on how to improve those opportunities devolve into proposals either to give people more choices about where to live or to make the places people already live better. Many in the housing community support doing both, but we still tend to group policy options into distinct buckets.

At NHC, we want to explore ways of linking place with choice. We know desirable neighborhoods because they are places that people can and do choose to move to. We make choices about where to live based on the investments a community has already made: school quality, ease of commute, neighborhood beauty, public safety, retail options, etc. So we created a Solutions session to link the conversations about mobility and investment in a constructive way..

I’ll be moderating a double session, which means there will be two panels, back-to-back. (Don’t worry, we planned a break in between.) The first panel will look at how place-based investments can create opportunity in communities, and the discussion will focus on the role of choice. How can place-making stimulate people to choose a community, either to move into or to stay? The second panel will look at mobility strategies, and the discussion will focus on the role of place-based investments in empowering choice. How can investments ease the path or create landing spots for people wishing to move? 

As with all NHC Solutions sessions, we’re aiming to make this both practical and interactive. Your questions, your stories and your ideas will be part of the session—but only if you’re there. Want to see who the speakers are and what the other sessions at the conference will be? Visit the agenda, and sign up for updates. I hope to see you in D.C. in December.

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