All District residents deserve decent, quality housing at a price they can afford. We call on District officials to invest in the housing programs that meet that need.
The Housing For All Campaign was launched by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) in 2010 to engage the existing coalition members as well as the public to increase investments in affordable housing in Washington, DC. The Campaign marked an intentional shift toward a large public campaign directed by CNHED. This case study explores the strategies and steps used to successfully develop and lead a campaign that turned the tide on affordable housing investments in Washington, DC. These include: maintaining a strong coalition, building a wide base, seizing opportunities, and supporting the leadership of those impacted.
Over the course of the Housing For All Campaign, CNHED organized over 4,000 supporters, increased the annual Housing For All Rally from 250 people to 700 people, and had the ability to mobilize over 100 organizations to take action. This demonstration of power and commitment turned the tide from loss of funding to unprecedented investments in affordable housing. The Housing Production Trust Fund saw the greatest changes, including the creation of a $100 million baseline annual commitment. In addition, DC’s locally-funded voucher program received over $26 million, and the Campaign helped build momentum for DC to end chronic homelessness.
Involving CNHED’s existing stakeholders was key to the early development of the Housing For All Campaign. Initial public events and trainings increased participation by members, built skills, and raised the profile of affordable housing and the Housing For All Campaign. Partnerships with fellow advocacy organizations also helped strengthen advocacy events.
Even when winning was unlikely, CNHED’s Housing For All mobilized members who were concerned about cuts, educated elected officials on the programs’ uses and impact, and positioned themselves as an ethical voice challenging the divestment from key housing programs. Campaign activities engaged decision makers while inviting them to be part of the solution. Not only were they invited to Housing For All events, Campaign supporters attended hearings, votes, and other government functions. The Campaign focused on building a strong base while advocating against cuts to housing programs in the DC budget.
Engaging residents who were impacted by DC’s housing programs and developing their leadership was a key strategy of the Campaign. Most resident advocates already had a connection with an organization that provided housing or services. Offering many training opportunities prepared residents to be active in advocacy, build relationships with peers, and feel confident to participate. Further, creation of the Resident Leadership Team deepened participation and ownership.
After deepening relationships with DC’s housing organizations and residents who were benefiting or needed affordable housing, the Campaign focused on building relationships with Millennials. This diversified the Housing For All base who could support as volunteers and participate in activities.
While the work of building leadership and engaging organizations and individuals never ended, the Campaign began to see the fruits of its work when then-Mayor Gray announced a major investment in affordable housing. This demonstrated that sustaining a strong inside strategy and an outside strategy maintained both credibility and political pressure. Political pressure created by Housing For All that reflected a wide community sentiment led elected officials to act on Campaign recommendations.
These initial wins allowed the Campaign to set more ambitious goals, pivoting to call for $100 million each year for the Housing Production Trust Fund in addition to other program increases. Along with the annual budget advocacy, the Campaign supported legislation which created additional opportunities for advocacy and intermediate wins.
As Washington, DC headed into a major election, the Campaign’s success in creating a sustained narrative of the need for action led to politicians competing to solve the problem in an election year. Offering concrete solutions made it easy for politicians to align themselves with the goals of the Campaign.
After the election, sustained activity and consistent messaging ensured that promises made by elected officials translated into government action, ultimately leading to $100 million investment with a commitment for steady annual funding.
The Housing For All Campaign significantly changed the housing landscape in DC government, winning a change in political will and significant funding investments in affordable housing programs that meet a wide variety of needs and fund a variety of program models.
The Housing For All Campaign utilized an unprecedented combination of respected practitioner voices, cultivated opinion leaders, and the activism of residents. This inside/outside collaboration created the awareness that there was an affordable housing crisis in the District and forged the political will to do something about it.”
The Housing For All Campaign was launched by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) in 2010 to engage the existing coalition members and the public to increase investments in affordable housing in Washington, DC. The Campaign marked an intentional shift towards a large public campaign directed by CNHED.
CNHED is a dynamic, member-driven 501(c)3 association that supports the nonprofit housing and economic development sector in Washington, DC. Founded in 2000, the organization includes 140 member organizations spanning nonprofit and for-profit affordable housing developers, housing counseling and service agencies, community development corporations, small businesses, lenders, intermediaries, associations and government agencies.
Advocacy has been a core of CNHED’s work throughout its history. However, CNHED’s leadership knew that in order to secure the necessary scale of funding for affordable housing programs to make a meaningful impact, they needed to change the landscape in the District to include affordable housing as a top priority. In order to achieve this, they engaged a broad base of supporters and importantly included those directly affected by the affordable housing crisis.
Over the course of the Housing For All Campaign, CNHED engaged over 4,000 supporters, increased the annual Housing For All Rally from 250 people to 700 people, and had the ability to mobilize over 100 organizations to take action. This demonstration of power and commitment turned the tide from loss of funding to unprecedented investments in affordable housing. The Housing Production Trust Fund saw the greatest changes, including the creation of a $100 million baseline annual commitment. In addition, the District’s locally-funded housing voucher program received over $26 million, and the Campaign helped build momentum for the District to end chronic homelessness.
Steve Glaude, CNHED’s Executive Director, said, “The Housing For All Campaign utilized an unprecedented combination of respected practitioner voices, cultivated opinion leaders, and the activism of residents. This inside/outside collaboration created the awareness that there was an affordable housing crisis in the District and forged the political will to do something about it.”
The Campaign, according to Jim Knight, “was arguably the single most important influence” in successfully securing $100 million in the District’s FY2016 budget. The years of growing resident leadership, consistently engaging decision makers, and capitalizing on opportunities allowed the Campaign to leverage the shifting narrative in the District and secure a critical win for affordable housing.
This case study explores the strategies and steps used to develop the Campaign. These include: maintaining a strong coalition, building a wide base, seizing opportunities, and supporting the leadership of those impacted.
One area of the Housing For All Campaign was a commitment to ending chronic homelessness through investments in Permanent Supportive Housing. Here are some of the strategies the campaign used to build government support, a sense of urgency, and public outcry.
In 2010, as CNHED was beginning the Campaign, Washington, DC was facing huge affordable housing demands. Over the previous decade, the median rents for a one-bedroom apartment doubled, the number of low-cost units was cut in half, and wages were not keeping up with rising housing prices.
Yet, after decades of losing population, the District had started to grow in 2006 and soon became one of the most attractive markets in the country, especially for young people. By 2010, the District was increasing its population by over 1,000 people a month, a rate which held steady through 2014.
The District’s local government was slow to react to the increased housing costs faced by residents. In 2009, local government began to feel the financial crunch of the recession, and began a four-year trend of reduced services to pass a balanced budget.
The DC Housing Production Trust Fund (HPFT) lost funding even earlier. Since 2002, the HPTF had been funded with a percent of the Deed Recordation and Transfer Tax, which happens at the point of sale of a property. When the credit market tightened, sales slowed down, and revenue fell steeply in 2008. The specific and general loss of funding for housing programs severely limited the tools the District had available to address the growing cost of housing.
Engaging CNHED’s member organizations was the key focus in the beginning of the Campaign. For the first two years, activity primarily focused on engaging CNHED’s existing base to become strong ambassadors of the programs that comprised the Campaign platform. At the time, however, few member organizations had the capacity or knowledge to engage their constituents in advocacy. The campaign organizer began deepening relationships and providing support to the member organizations, and worked to identify the appropriate staff at the member organizations who could provide the link between the Campaign and the residents the Campaign sought to benefit.
Early in the Campaign, CNHED established the Campaign Coordinators group of these front-line staff to enhance member participation and to support more direct resident engagement in Campaign activities. The Campaign also began to hold town hall meetings in partnership with key members to deepen engagement by the organizations and advance the goals of the Campaign. CNHED members saw that the Campaign highlighted their successes, coordinated their efforts, drew media attention to their issues, and maintained the credibility of the organization.
Throughout the whole process, CNHED members were also determining the annual Campaign platform, which gave them a direct interest in the outcome.
Washington, DC has a robust local progressive advocacy sector. Maintaining strong relationships with organizations that shared values and goals with the Campaign was a strong asset to the Campaign’s success. Maintaining open lines of communication with other advocacy around the DC budget, particularly in areas of overlapping interest was important ensure competing demands did not deter elected officials from any action.
In particular, the Campaign worked closely with the Fair Budget Coalition whose long history of advocacy included homeless services, permanent supportive housing, and Local Rent Supplement Program. Although the groups did not always agree on the specific budget goal, the shared priority of winning increased investments in housing and not undermining the needs of DC’s homeless community, allowed for a strong relationship throughout the Campaign. When possible, the campaigns would host joint events. including Face 2 Face and 70,000 and Counting (links) to focus on the need for action. When the Way Home Campaign launched in 2013 with a focus on ending chronic homelessness, CNHED began to engage with them in a similar way.
The Campaign also maintained relationships with organizations that advocate for affordable housing or ending homelessness to pursue join activities, or at least ensure that the work complemented rather than undermined each other. In addition, many other progressive organizations that do not focus on housing appreciated the Campaign’s importance to District residents, and participated occasionally, such as by signing on a letter of support or emailing their supporters about rallies and email actions. This support was critical to demonstrating wide support for the goals of the Campaign.
Affected residents became connected with the Housing For All Campaign in one of two ways. Most were first organized by a CNHED member organization, while others learned about the Campaign through direct outreach by the Campaign organizer at various events The tenant organizer or front-line staff from member organizations that made the connection often continued to be a key link to their continued participation.
Trainings were a key method of resident engagement and leadership development. CNHED annually held a four-week training leading up to DC’s budget process in the spring. The training was highly interactive and aimed at encouraging participants to recognize the knowledge they already had and their past experience as advocates, such as parents with a child in school or in their tenant association. The trainings were sequential, starting with basic knowledge about DC government and the budget process, and then connecting personal stories to political action. In addition, the trainings included an opportunity to directly engage with a councilmember or staff in the training room, and once in their office.
This mirrored the Campaign strategy to both create moments of engagement, and seize opportunities to convey the message. Most participants had never been to the City Council building before the training, so it provided the opportunity to take that step in a supported environment.
Many District residents are concerned about the high cost of housing for themselves and their neighbors, however, they will likely not benefit from the demands of the Housing For All Campaign. The Campaign worked to recruit a growing cohort: progressive millennials. The Campaign developed specific activities were developed to attract this younger, highly educated population. The Housing For All Campaign sponsored multiple summer film series and learning circles about gentrification and urban renewal.
The goals were to provide newcomers with ways of becoming connected to their new community, educate them on the issues, offer the opportunity to connect with long-term residents, and work to address a widely-felt need. Millennials became the core of the Housing For All Campaign’s volunteer base, and were also able to react quickly to occasional rapid-response actions like email or call-in days which were heavily shared over social media.
CNHED was well respected for its policy and advocacy work in the nonprofit community and within District government. Policy makers routinely relied on CNHED and Bob Pohlman, former Executive Director of CNHED, for housing expertise. The trusted work of CNHED had a significant impact on raising the public sector consciousness around housing issues.
CNHED had long been active in housing advocacy, and led in a campaign to develop the Housing Production Trust Fund, helped craft a locally-funded housing voucher program, advocated for a first-time home buyer program, and pushed the District government to convene a Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force in 2003 to identify housing needs. CNHED also had a strong core of members who participated in committees and working groups to address a variety of affordable housing issues.
However, two major issues remained. Although programs were in place and the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force had identified housing goals, the District was not following through on funding and implementing those changes. At the same time, there was not a unifying platform for all CNHED members to support.
CNHED embarked on a series of intentional and strategic internal discussions with their members to strengthen the overall coalition and explore how to expand their work to be both broader and more comprehensive. The discussions were as much an organizing tool as they were a way to develop a unified policy approach. From this deliberative process the notion of a “continuum of housing” emerged. The conceptual framework was further developed into concrete recommendations for an overall policy framework, which married the diverse housing solutions needed to serve a variety of organizations and residents and the targets identified by the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force. In 2010, CNHED published Continuum of Housing: Key to a Better City, which formed the initial campaign platform of what was then known at the Continuum of Housing Campaign. This report identified four existing programs that would form the backbone of the Continuum of Housing and the platform for the public campaign: the Local Rent Supplement Program, the Permanent Supportive Housing Program, the Home Purchase Assistance Program, and the Housing Production Trust Fund.
At this point, CNHED took an important next step beyond their traditional advocacy: developing an intentional, concerted shift toward a more community-involved approach that built power from mobilizing and organizing people, particularly those directly impacted by the programs that comprised a continuum of housing.
Recognizing that organizing and resident engagement were integral elements, CNHED’s leadership began to create an infrastructure to support a campaign. They developed a Campaign Advisory Committee made of key CNHED members and by using general support funding were able to hire a full-time campaign organizer, Elizabeth Falcon, in 2011.
Now the Campaign had a platform, an Advisory Committee to provide strategic direction and garner buy-in from CNHED member organizations, and an organizer to coordinate member activities and engage new stakeholders to advocate for new housing investments.
This report was published by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development in conjunction with the Center for Community Change. See more credits and a letter from the Center below.Read More
Engaging CNHED’s member organizations was the key focus in the beginning of the Campaign. For the first two years the Campaign organizer primarily focused on engaging CNHED’s existing base – those with strong self-interest in the platform – to become effective ambassadors of the programs that comprised the Campaign platform. At the time, however, few member organizations had the capacity or knowledge to engage their constituents in advocacy.
According to Jim Knight, President of Jubilee Housing and Advisory Committee member, before the Campaign, when funding for housing programs was on the chopping block, residents of Jubilee Housing would come to budget hearings, but there was no mechanism to keep them involved and informed. Having a Campaign Organizer enabled CNHED to deepen relationships and provide support to the member organizations.
The Campaign also began to hold Town Hall meetings in partnership with key members to deepen engagement by the organizations, councilmembers, and the surrounding community.
Also in 2012, the Campaign held its first resident advocacy training, which focused on educating residents about the budget cycle and effective advocacy. Most residents trained through the program have their primary point of contact with one of CNHED’s member groups. (Read more about resident training and engagement below.)
The Campaign also set about developing an outward-facing strategy to be a leading public voice on affordable housing investments. The Campaign held neighborhood events, rallied to protest program cuts, and supporters wearing the CNHED’s bright yellow t-shirts turned out in increasing numbers to DC Council hearings.
Collaboration was also important. Having a dedicated campaign organizer allowed Housing For All to build stronger relationships with many of the other organizations and coalitions that work on social justice, housing, or homelessness issues and turn those relationships into shared action. For example, the Campaign began to co-sponsor the Latino Economic Development Center’s annual Tenant Town Hall, attended by more than 200 residents each year focused on the needs to preserve and improve existing low-cost rental housing.
Housing For All also partnered with the Fair Budget Coalition and others to hold a rally calling on the DC Council to invest in local vouchers to move families off the DC Housing Authority waiting list. They also collaborated to produce a photo exhibit and rally to highlight the diverse community of homeless individuals, families, and youth in the District.
The Housing For All Campaign has put some of the greatest people together in the city. All can learn from each other, even if we have a different way of doing things.“
The Housing For All Campaign has worked with dozens of residents to support their advocacy. The key steps include helping residents understand the process, decisionmakers, and strategy then supporting them in telling their own story and how it connects to policy changes. Much of the advocacy trainings are interactive and change to fit the environment. Here are some are some of the materials the Campaign has used to train and support residents in advocacy.
Thanks to the Latino Economic Development Center who helped develop the Housing For All Campaign training curriculum and many materials.
In the first two years of the Housing For All Campaign, the Mayor and Council made serious cuts to the District’s budget. CNHED realized that economic and political realities made increased investment unlikely for a new campaign in a recession.
The Campaign used that time to engage members who were concerned about cuts, educate elected officials on the programs’ uses and impact, and act as an ethical voice challenging the divestment from key housing programs.
A key element of the Campaign’s strategy was balancing the need to be assertive while also ensuring that access to government officials would not be negatively impacted; in other words, an inside-outside approach.
In nearly all cases, councilmembers and administration officials were invited to attend to both hear the concerns of District residents and organizations and to voice their support for affordable housing.
Despite the Campaign’s efforts, there were few funding wins early on. However, councilmembers became more familiar with the uses and funding levels of the programs, expressed concern that housing programs continued to be underfunded, and even committed to increase funding if District revenue estimates increased.
In addition to using the first two years of the Campaign to engage and educate members of the Council of the District of Columbia, Housing For All also succeeded in establishing a strong foundation of residents who were beneficiaries of the programs. CNHED member organizations had also become more educated and engaged with the District budget process. Even the small wins demonstrated that change was possible.
Since the Campaign had a strong base within its core constituency, buy-in from members and impacted residents, and solid relationships with key allied organizations, the Campaign was able to create new partnerships and target new audiences.
This included engaging new District residents and other people not directly impacted by the housing programs through the Housing For All Campaign. As a leading city attracting Millennials, they were a large potential base for the Campaign. The Campaign developed specific activities to attract this younger, highly educated population.
For two summers, the Housing For All Campaign sponsored a Summer in the City documentary series as well as a learning circle about gentrification and urban renewal. The goal was to provide newcomers with ways of becoming connected to their new community, educate them on the issues, offer the opportunity to connect with long-term residents, and work to address a widely-felt need.
Millennials became the core of the Housing For All Campaign’s volunteer base, and were also able to react quickly to occasional rapid-response actions like email or call-in days, which were heavily shared over social media.
The Housing For All Campaign consistently educated elected officials on the role and importance of affordable housing issues. Here are some sample documents the Campaign produced to make the case for affordable housing programs:
My dreams came true last year seeing my daughter go to college. My other children have a good education.… Housing is changing my life. I love the Local Rent Supplement Program. My clinic is around the corner, my children’s school is around the corner. I invite all Councilmembers to stick with us – and don’t forget us when the budget comes. We need your help. We are vulnerable people. We need your help to get housing, especially for our children.”
Resident engagement was a key component of the Housing For All Campaign. This constituted a shift from CNHED’s traditional methods of advocacy which had previously relied on an organization–to-organization model. The Campaign made a critical link between the work of the organizations and the Campaign platform, creating ways for member organizations to engage their residents in advocacy.
Additionally, the Campaign enabled residents to engage directly. For organizations such as the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC), which previously engaged in direct organizing, the Campaign provided more opportunities to grow and connect to something larger. Similarly, the Campaign allowed Jubilee Housing and its residents to be more directly and more continuously involved throughout the year, and their staff even grew to include a half-time organizer.
In addition, the trainings included the opportunity to directly engage with a councilmember or staff in the training room, and in a councilmember’s office. This mirrored the Campaign strategy to both create moments of engagement, and seize opportunities to convey the message. Most participants had never been to the District Council building before the training, so it provided the opportunity to take that step in a supported environment.
From participants of the trainings, the Campaign formed a Resident Leadership Team, comprised of individuals who were directly impacted by programs across the continuum of housing. The Leadership Team grew to become mentors for other residents, eventually conducting the trainings with the Campaign Organizer and other partners.
Members of the Resident Leadership Team were deeply engaged in the implementation of the Campaign strategy. They took on key roles during events, developed themes for the Campaign’s annual rally, recruited new individual campaign supporters, and met with elected officials.
John McDermott, a member of the Resident Leadership team, described how the Campaign allowed real opportunities to learn from each other, in particular how to form a strong personal message that would resonate with the Council of the District of Columbia, and how to apply strategic pressure.
“I have learned from all the members of the Resident Leadership Team,” said John. “We all have a lot of experience and share what we have learned.”
Housing For All advocated to increase funding across a Continuum of Housing, calling on DC government to invest in existing affordable housing programs including the Local Rent Supplement Program, the Permanent Supportive Housing Program, the Home Purchase Assistance Program, and the Housing Production Trust Fund.
(Formerly Housing First) Provides housing and services for individuals or families with special needs or who are chronically homeless through leasing and wrap-around services. Administered by the DC Department of Human Services.
A locally-funded program modeled on the federal Section 8 program which provides tenant-based vouchers to eligible families and provides operating subsidies to organizations for the production of units for extremely low income tenants. Administered by the DC Housing Authority.
Helps low- and moderate-income District residents purchase their first home in DC through down-payment and closing cost assistance. Qualified HPAP applicants can receive up to $54,000 in financial assistance to purchase single-family houses, condominiums and cooperative units. Administered by the DC Department of Housing and Community Development.
Provides low-cost or zero-interest loans to produce and preserve affordable housing. The Housing Production Trust Fund is funded primarily by a dedicated revenue stream of 15% of the DC Deed Recordation and Transfer Tax. Administered by the DC Department of Housing and Community Development.
CNHED is organized into working groups that focus on a specific programmatic area such as supportive housing or ownership housing. The working groups are primarily comprised of practitioner members who are active in the development of housing or the delivery of services that relates to their working group. Participants do not have to be members of CNHED, though most are. The working groups make an initial recommendation for the Campaign’s budget ask in areas relevant to that area. For example, the Ownership Housing Working Group deliberates about how much to request for DC’s first-time homebuyer program.
Each working group is asked to consider both program needs and existing budget and political constraints. They also articulate the most salient points as to why those funds are needed. In addition to setting the ask, working group members engage in direct campaign advocacy by testifying at budget hearings, meeting with elected offices, engaging staff and residents to come to Campaign events, and developing materials that reflect the importance of the programs most in their purview.
CNHED’s housing-related working groups report to CNHED’s Housing Committee and each working group co-chair is expected to regularly attend the Housing Committee meeting to ensure effective transfer of information from one meeting to another. This working group and committee structure was used to develop the budget asks each year.
After the working groups meet and each determine their goals, the full Housing Committee meets to set a full slate of housing asks, which is then presented to and must be approved by the board. This happens twice annually: once to develop the budget asks for the Mayor, and second to refine as necessary and for Council to adopt. This process is truncated for the Council budget asks since the timeline for Council consideration is about two months. CNHED’s board is made up of practitioners, primarily representing nonprofits in the field.
The Advisory Committee is made up of key stakeholders from the CNHED membership, including board members. This group was created to provide big-picture strategy and general input on the direction of the Campaign. Long-term strategy and planning comes out of this group, as well as strategic considerations such as the ways the CNHED may need to partner, seek new members, etc.
This group has no decision-making authority, and primarily directs comments to staff; staff is then responsible for moving ideas through Housing Committee structure. For example: the Campaign Advisory Committee recommended to the CNHED Housing Committee (via CNHED staff) that the Campaign target the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force as a means to advocate for more funding.
The Coordinators are front-line or advocacy staff from member organizations who are also active in the CNHED Housing Committee and/or board. The Campaign Coordinators make the functional link between the CNHED and Campaign strategy and the organizations and residents who seek to benefit. This group helps build the power of the Campaign by connecting the Campaign to the ongoing work of member organizations. They also develop specific activities and elements of Campaign events.
Given that these front-line staff often have direct engagement with residents, they are important for mobilizing participation and buy-in for Campaign activities, and. They mostly do not overlap with the Advisory Committee, and they work closely with residents or staffs of member organizations.
The Resident Leadership Team is made up of residents who have actively participated in the Housing For All Campaign are personally affected by the demands of the Campaign, have completed the Housing Advocacy Training (a four-week session held annually), and have already participated in some advocacy activity with the Campaign. The Resident Leadership Team participates in the implementation of the Campaign by meeting monthly with the Campaign Coordinators. Resident Leaders act as peer mentors in trainings and often represent themselves and the Campaign in public events.
A sample of the joint activities of the Campaign Coordinators and Resident Leaders include:
CNHED used the expanding Housing For All base to effectively respond to the changing environment in the District, and built upon their reputation as housing experts to impact the shifting narrative in the District. The Campaign’s public presence, consistent pressure and growing grassroots leadership enhanced CNHED’s influence during the budget process and made the Campaign a force with which to be reckoned.
As Advisory Council and then-CNHED board member Aimee McHale stated, “[CNHED’s reputation] only continued to grow and flourish throughout the Campaign.”
Due to the success of its base-building strategy, the year-round events that the Campaign held saw major increases in turnout, demonstrating the Campaign’s growing strength. At the same time, there was a dramatic shift in the discourse amongst policy makers from a focus on the issues of education and jobs to highlighting the critical need for affordable housing.
Therefore, the Campaign encouraged supporters to attend the Summit, which had 1,800 participants, but did not flood it. The results of the Summit helped validate and propel the Campaign’s efforts around affordable housing. In response to the question: “What is the greatest barrier to DC being One City?” the single top answer was the need for housing. (“Gray shows movement on affordable housing,” Washington Post, 2/22/12).
This bolstered the arguments that the Housing For All Campaign had voiced for the past year, and the Campaign began making the connection between government funding and the needs expressed. This combined pressure pushed Mayor Gray to show leadership on housing. He did so by establishing the 2012 Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force.
CNHED embraced the new political moment, engaging the membership and Campaign supporters to testify before the Task Force, recognizing that it was an additional opportunity to put housing needs on the map, and a way to push for decisive action. Further demonstrating the respect and reputation that CNHED continued to cultivate, several members of the Campaign Advisory Committee as well as CNHED’s Executive Director were asked to join the Task Force.
The Campaign maintained inside pressure by having Task Force members push for strong recommendations, while working on the outside to bring large numbers of residents and practioners to public hearings. The Task Force ultimately set a goal of the production and preservation of 10,000 units of affordable housing and preservation of 8,000 federally subsidized units. While this was far short of the need, it would require significant increases in investment in affordable housing.
In January, 2013, the Task Force had adjourned, and the Campaign held its annual rally, which focused on funding in the next budget. Mayor Gray spoke at the rally and to a full room of 350 people, indicated that he would make a big housing announcement at the State of the District address a few weeks later.
Two dozen Campaign supporters wearing Campaign t-shirts attended the State of the District address and heard the Mayor announce a $100 million investment in affordable housing.
The majority of this funding was a one-time investment in the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF), while the rest undid cuts to the HPTF implemented earlier in his administration and went to small increases to a variety of housing programs that the Campaign had promoted. This was a crucial moment, as Mayor Gray had previously cut housing funding and with this investment made it a major priority of his administration.
The Housing For All Campaign had finally won significant housing investments after two years of campaigning, and began to pivot to capitalize on that win.
CNHED had been incrementally working towards a goal of $100 million for The Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF). Before the launch of the Campaign and at the beginning of the recession, CNHED had won a unanimous DC Council resolution to fund the HPTF at a level of $80 million a year, plus inflation, but it was not tied to appropriation and was never funded.
From the increasing cost of land, growing levels of housing burden, and estimated amount of inflation, CNHED honed in on a target of $100 million of baseline funding. After the recession and budget cuts had left HPTF levels in the teens, Mayor Gray’s proposed overall investments in affordable housing made the $100 million proposal for HPTF appear reasonable and attainable.
Sustained advocacy throughout the District’s budget season helped ensure that the DC Council passed the $100 million in total affordable housing investments proposed by Mayor Gray. The Campaign then pivoted to publicly advocate for a $100 million baseline for the Housing Production Trust Fund.
At this point, the HPTF became a banner issue for Housing For All and the $100 million a central rallying cry. CNHED members supported this shift as HPTF was a program that affected the majority of CNHED members and needed the most funding.
The Campaign continued to connect the HPTF to the other housing programs, arguing that one program simply could not meet the diversity of housing needs. The Campaign also partnered with other advocates, including the Way Home Campaign and Fair Budget Coalition, who shared the priority of ending chronic homelessness.
In addition to advocating for funding in the District budget, the Campaign also advocated for policies that would lead to greater investments and demonstrate a commitment to affordable housing by District government. After discussions between CNHED and elected leaders, Mayor Gray and the Chair of the DC Council Phil Mendelson introduced legislation that dedicated half of the Districts’ future unreserved surplus (the money the District has left over at the end of the year) to the HPTF once reserve goals were met.
The legislation was ultimately passed as part of the Budget Support Act. Additional legislation initiated by the Campaign and introduced by Chair of the Committee on Human Services Jim Graham called on District government to follow the District’s Interagency Council on Homelessness’ (ICH) plan to end chronic homelessness by increasing funding each year to build homes and provide vouchers for all of the District’s chronically homeless individuals and families by 2020. The bill was jointly introduced by all thirteen members of the Council and passed unanimously.
The Campaign also supported legislation to create a $100 million annual commitment to the Housing Production Trust Fund which is discussed later. These interim wins strengthened the Campaign by demonstrating CNHED could win on multiple fronts and created a record where legislators stated their commitment to increase investments.
Councilmembers who had spoken in support of affordable housing during the recession then found they lagged behind Mayor Gray in their commitment to this deeply felt and highly visible issue. Additionally, an election for mayor and multiple council seats was underway, and affordable housing and the Housing Production Trust Fund took central stage as major election campaign issues.
All of the candidates for mayor included affordable housing in their platforms, with most naming the Housing Production Trust Fund specifically. That year, in 2014, the Housing For All Rally mobilized 500 people, and speakers included Mayor Gray and five of the District’s thirteen councilmembers, three of whom were running against the Mayor. All were there to demonstrate their support for affordable housing, and were challenged to make an annual $100 million investment in HPTF.
The Campaign used its power and visibility to frame the affordable housing issue as a crisis – with $100 million for the HPTF a necessary part of the solution.
Councilmember Muriel Bowser ultimately defeated incumbent Vincent Gray to become the Democratic candidate, and then easily won the general election to become Mayor. In the intervening months between the primary and the announcement of her first District budget, the Housing For All Campaign kept the pressure on Mayor Bowser to deliver on her campaign promises through public events and private meetings.
Early in the election season, then-Councilmember Bowser introduced legislation that would commit the DC Council to dedicating $100 million to the HPTF each year. By the time the legislation was affirmed in a unanimous vote, the Campaign had organized 100 organizations to pledge their support and held a rally where then-Mayor-elect Bowser promised make $100 million available for the HPTF every year once she was in office.
Before releasing her budget in the spring of 2015, Mayor Bowser reiterated her commitment at the annual Housing For All Rally in front of a 700-person audience.
“When we think about the $100 million for affordable housing I know we have to think about it across the entire spectrum. From very, very, low-income housing to middle income housing. We have to think about new housing and we have to think about preserving housing…I consider this among the top things I have to do as Mayor.”
- Mayor Muriel Bowser, at the Housing For All Rally, February 2015
Mayor Bowser followed through, and the budget she proposed included the largest investment in affordable housing in the District’s history. It included $100 million for the HPTF, plus funding for permanent supportive housing, and other voucher programs.
The Housing For All Campaign continued to remain vigilant throughout the three-month budget process, attending hearings and holding events, even needing to call on its base (especially highly-connected millennials) to reverse a proposed cut to the HPTF made in the eleventh hour.
The Housing For All Campaign significantly changed the housing landscape in the District government, winning a change in political will and significant funding investments in affordable housing programs that meet a wide variety of needs and fund a variety of program models.
As a result of the Campaign, a $100 million baseline for the Housing Production Trust Fund is expected each year and annual increases for the Permanent Supportive Housing Program and Local Rent Supplement Program are expected to continue.
Unfortunately, the Housing For All Campaign struggled to win significant increases in the District’s first-time homebuyer program. Program inefficiencies and lack of political interest in homeownership prevented the Campaign from being able to grow investments to that program, but sustained advocacy is beginning to turn the tide.
Assisted by rising awareness about homelessness and high housing costs, the Housing For All Campaign led investments in the HPTF and the other programs in the Campaign platform. Success flowed from a strategy of engaging public officials in public hearings, meetings, and public events with an applying concrete public pressure by turning out people to candidate forums and holding large community rallies. Overall, resident engagement and leadership was the critical ingredient.
For now, at least, the importance of affordable housing to the District’s success and prosperity has become a core theme within District government. Yet, CNHED recognizes that it must continue to nurture, educate and advocate for ongoing investments across the platform.
CNHED’s Housing For All Campaign is not only maintaining its efforts to achieve sustained funding for the four principal program areas, but it is now incorporating an initiative to improve rent control in the District.
CNHED is also continuing to build on the heightened organizational profile that came as a result of the Campaign, and is considering new opportunities to advocate for housing affordability as well as other community needs.
For CNHED, housing affordability is a key component in creating a District where all residents are part of thriving, livable communities that are socially, racially, and economically just.
Thank you to all of the people whose interviews contributed to this report:
David Bowers, Farah Fosse, Steve Glaude, David Haiman, Jim Knight, John McDermott, Aimee McHale, and Bob Pohlman
Thank you to all of the Housing For All Campaign supporters, including the CNHED membership, for your commitment to making DC a place that is affordable to all!
Sincere thanks to the major funders of the Housing For All Campaign
And to the many more funders and supporters of the Campaign, we give our deep gratitude.
Thank you to Center for Community Change for supporting the Housing For All Campaign’s efforts and dedicating time and talents to the creation of this report. Without your support this would not have been possible.
“Vision to Action” tells the story of how the Housing for All Campaign responded to budget cuts to housing programs and a burgeoning housing crisis in Washington, DC, effecting an historic $100 million investment in the Housing Production Trust Fund in 2015. This case study offers many lessons that could inform future campaigns around the country, in particular CNHED’s strategic shift to engage community residents impacted by the lack of affordable housing as leaders in the Campaign to complement its established role as a respected housing policy expert.
The Housing Trust Fund Project is an initiative of the Center for Community Change that for the last three decades has operated as a clearinghouse of information on housing trust funds throughout the country, and provides technical assistance to organizations and agencies working to create or implement these funds. The Center for Community Change’s builds the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to change their communities and public policies for the better. The Center’s current focus areas include jobs and wages, immigration, retirement security, affordable housing, racial justice and barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals.
We sincerely appreciate CNHED for the opportunity to collaborate on this project, and for vision, time and energy of CNHED staff with whom we partnered. The Housing Trust Fund Project would like to acknowledge the contributions of the Center’s Miriam Savad, whose initiative and leadership made this case study possible. For additional Housing Trust Fund Project publications, click here.
For Mayoral and At Large Council races.
Including education on the DC Council, learning about ANCs, reaching out to new organizations, and Housing For All holiday party
Sign on letter for $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund published in the Washington City Paper
Rally and vote on Council resolution to support $100 million each year for the Housing Production Trust Fund.
Joint training on advocacy with the Latino Economic Development Center.
CNHED staff and board meet with Mayor Bowser to discuss budget priorities.
She includes Housing For All rally in her social media around the address and continues to commit to address housing and homelessness.
With $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund and increases in Local Rent Supplement Program and Permanent Supportive Housing. (CNHED Press Release.)
Councilmembers express strong support for housing investments.
Committee Budget Oversight Hearings for the Department of Housing and Community Development and Department on Human Services.
Including a focus on the Housing Production Trust Fund.
100 organizations signed a letter to the DC Council supporting the Housing Production Trust Fund.
Facilitated discussions on what causes gentrification and urban change, identified volunteers and advocates
100+ people attended and over a dozen organizations participated in the housing fair to help address housing issues. Sponsored by CPDC, Manna, Anacostia River Realty, and Bread for the City. Councilmembers Bonds and Bowser attended, plus DHCD Director Michael Kelly. Flier. Blog.
75 people attended, cosponsored by Good Faith Communities. Councilmember Cheh attended. Speakers included Nancy Hooff, Somerset Development and Sonya Hochevar, CPDC.
To support the Housing For All Campaign
Cosponsored with DC Senior Advisory Coalition and DC AARP. 100 people attended as well as Councilmember Bonds, staff from Cheh, Graham and McDuffie, plus Michael Kelly. Held at NCBA Estates.
Mayor Gray, Chairman Mendelson, and Councilmember McDuffie commit end-of-year surplus funds to Housing Production Trust Fund
After collecting 1,000 postcards in support of a Continuum of housing, 30 Housing For All supporters delivered actual and enlarged postcards to Mayoral candidates Evans, Wells, Bowser and Shallal. We also brought an enlarged postcard to Mayor Gray at his campaign kick-off event.
Over 50 people attended the 4-week training, in Petworth and Congress Heights. Participants also met with Bonds staff member Brittney Madison and Councilmember Grosso.
One-on-one meeting with Mendelson to raise concerns for upcoming budget.
Delivered a letter to Mayor Gray signed by 60 organizations including tenant associations, labor, nonprofits, churches, and community groups that support committing $100 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund this year, and every year.
Call-in day to Mayor Gray for $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund.
Mayor released a budget with increases in Housing Production Trust Fund, Local Rent Supplement Program and Permanent Supportive Housing
Unanimous passage of legislation to end chronic homelessness by 2020. Blog.
Emails sent to encourage Councilmember Bowser to lead in achieving $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund.
Over 30 people testified in support of the Housing For All Campaign, across the Continuum of Housing, including two panels focused on LRSP for production, a panel from the for-profit sector, and first-time testifiers from the Housing Advocacy Training.
Resident Leadership Team/Campaign Coordinators meetings with Council offices of Grosso, Catania, and McDuffie.
Two panels of residents and practitioners in support of dedicating 50% of end of year surplus to the Housing Production Trust Fund.
Over 100 people attended and met with all Council offices. Opening remarks provided by Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Grosso. Resident leaders presented Housing For All asks. Pics.
Emergency action to encourage Council to discuss plans to restore HPAP and increase Housing Production Trust Fund in the all-Council meeting. About 10 people attended from campaign and Manna.
Increases committed to Housing Production Trust Fund, Local Rent Supplement, Permanent Supportive Housing, and HPAP.
No changes to housing programs.
Cosponsored by Manna Inc, and University Legal Services.
Call-in day to Mayor Gray to use budget surplus to restore funding to the Housing Production Trust Fund. (No action was taken)
Consecutive series to prepare residents to advocate for affordable housing in the budget. Announcement.
Includes $100 million for affordable housing.
Email action to the DC Council regarding the FY14 Budget
State of the District: DC Needs Good Jobs and Affordable Housing
Mayor Gray announces Task Force to assess DC’s housing needs.
Urging DC Council to restore proposed budget cuts.
Campaign successfully won inclusion of Housing For All programs in proposed program restorations in the event of increased revenue. (None were implemented).
To the DC Council for making statements of support and voting to fund continuum of housing programs if possible.