By Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate

At LDC, much of our work involves helping clients research and develop policy proposals, programs, and practices to increase housing affordability and prevent and end homelessness. Recently, as broader segments of the community have felt the impact of these crises, we’ve been asked to help clients build consensus for equitable solutions that support affordable housing at all income levels, including for households experiencing homelessness. Inevitably, people approach these complex issues with what often appear to be competing perspectives and priorities.

Through our work, we’ve learned that developing equitable and sustainable solutions requires diverse stakeholders to put aside long-held assumptions, escape the trap of “zero-sum thinking,” and pivot toward a more nuanced understanding of issues that focus on using targeted strategies to achieve shared goals. Check out these five tips for getting smart about finding equitable solutions to the housing and homelessness crises.

  1. Explore your assumptions about your community. Think about the different geographic areas and neighborhoods in your community. How are they similar or different? Where do you see signs of resource inequity and what do you know about its causes? Find out about your community’s history from your local library, newspaper archives, or area historians who have conducted research in the area.
  2. Learn how federal, state, and local housing policy has shaped your community. Consider how different political, economic, religious, and social influences have shaped your community’s evolution. In the last few years, favorites on our office reading list have included Housing Policy in the United States, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.
  3. Actively seek other perspectives and points of view. Attend community meetings and presentations that explore issues from different perspectives. Focus on asking questions to better understand the concerns and priorities of individuals and groups that may not share your point of view. Identify where your priorities intersect and invite them to brainstorm possible solutions to shared challenges.
  4. Learn from promising approaches being implemented in other communities. Set up Google alerts on topics of interest and subscribe to newsletters that cover issues around the country. City Lab Daily, Urban Institute: How Housing Matters, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness Update are some of our favorite resources. As a firm, we also support clients by monitoring and analyzing the impact of emerging issues, trends, and funding opportunities in their specific areas of interest.
  5. Consider new approaches to community engagement and decision-making. Explore opportunities to create a forum that brings together diverse stakeholders into conversations about innovative ways to address the need for housing. For example, we recently hosted a Housing Policy Leadership Academy (HPLA) that engaged 100 representatives from government, business, nonprofits, philanthropy, and community-led advocacy groups in shared learning and discussion about emerging issues and trends in the effort to increase housing affordability.  (To bring HPLA to your community, email Jennifer.) We’re also working with hospitals, health plans, philanthropy, and city and county leaders on different opportunities to invest in housing as a way to improve public health. Other ideas include working with local coalitions and community groups to integrate education on specific topics and opportunities for ongoing feedback into existing forums.

 

What tips, techniques, and resources do you use to advance equitable solutions to the housing crisis in your work? We’re always interested in ways to build our collective knowledge on key issues to strengthen our communities and advance public health and economic prosperity.