MDB Insight Blog

Will Your Community Aid Investment in an Affordable Housing Program?

Affordable housing can be a tricky topic to discuss in many communities. Economically, there are some solid arguments for an investment in affordable housing programs. Statistics consistently show that providing affordable housing delivers better ROI than alternative options like shelters, jails or prisons, and hospitals.

In Chicago, for example, shelters cost up to $40 per day, prisons up to $17 per day, and hospitals up to $1770 per day. By contrast, building affordable housing units creates jobs in communities. Well-maintained affordable housing has ripple effects on a community, producing further economic investments and stabilizing home values.

How to Gauge Support for an Investment in an Affordable Housing Program

Investment in an affordable housing program entrance door

Regardless of the clear statistical benefits of affordable housing, you'll probably need to approach the topic gently with citizens in your community to prevent an outbreak of NIMBYism. It's good to have baseline knowledge of how your community members feel about existing affordable housing options and available solutions for families in need in your community.

You can define your baseline support levels with a market research tool, like Citizen Satisfaction IQ™. The survey will help you understand how your community feels about supporting affordable housing. If your survey results show that the majority of your community agrees that you need more affordable housing, then you’ve got an excellent footing to start on.

What If Your Community Doesn’t Support Affordable Housing?

If your community has a clear need for affordable housing solutions, but your survey results show that the majority of your community members are against such an investment, you’ll have the opportunity to educate them, not just about the need for affordable housing but also about the economic benefits of affordable housing.

Develop a 2-Step Strategy to Gain Support for Affordable Housing

1. Identify project allies. People in your community who already support affordable housing are critical to the success of your education campaign.

People are more likely to support a development project if they believe most of their neighbors support the project. Build relationships with your allies and arm them with the information they need to talk to their neighbors about affordable housing. They don’t necessarily need to get out and pound the pavement and knock on doors. They just need to be empowered with data and information so they can have conversations with their friends, family, and neighbors when topics like affordable housing come up in conversation.

2. Analyze the opposition statements you hear, categorize them, and identify a comprehensive strategy to address each type of statement.

The four most common causes of opposition to developments are:

  1. Misinformation: misunderstanding or misinterpretation of project information.
  2. Emotional needs: community members who see themselves as community leaders need to feel heard and have their concerns for the community validated.
  3. Conflicts of values: individuals may believe the intent of a project is a direct attack on the values of community members.
  4. Conflicts of interest: people are often more afraid of losing what they believe they already have (safety, stability, peace) than they are willing to consider the potential benefits of new projects.

Your strategy to educate your community members on the positive effects of an investment in affordable housing needs to spend more time listening to the fears and concerns of community members than on creating glossy brochures and social media campaigns for education.

It is critical to correct misinformation, but it needs to be handled carefully.

Citizens need an opportunity to be heard and have their concerns validated. You can achieve this in several ways. If you have a small community, you may be able to accomplish this with a door-to-door campaign, meeting with every household individually and listening to, and making a note of, their concerns and fears. If you have a larger community, you can achieve some of this with a survey. You may also need to host a town hall meeting and Q&A sessions or meet face to face with people who will be immediately affected.

When you talk to people, focus on shared priorities for the community instead of conflicting values. While citizens may have some values that conflict with the idea of affordable housing, there’s a good chance that the project still supports mutual goals, like strong economic growth, attracting new business investments, and lowering unemployment. Focus on how affordable housing can help your community achieve those goals and illustrate the economic benefits of the project.

Through all of this, the key thing is listening to your citizens. One of the simplest ways to do that is to use a tool like Citizen Satisfaction IQ™ to survey your citizens, so you can understand what they think and how they feel about municipal services and projects.

Find Support for Investment in an Affordable Housing Program

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