Executive Summary Continued
When CNHED launched the Housing For All Campaign, the organization had a strong external reputation on housing policy and budget issues and an internal coalition which made it a solid home for an ambitious campaign for housing investments. Building a consensus and platform before launching the Campaign created clarity on the Campaign goals and clear self-interest for members. Investing organizational resources and increasing staff capacity enabled CNHED to develop a full-fledged campaign.
Engaging 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’Housing For All engaged 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 engaging residents who were benefiting or needed affordable housing, the Campaign focused on engaging 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.