Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Building stronger community support for public/social housing

A few weeks ago, Jubilee Housing, the organization in Adams Morgan that runs a portfolio of seven buildings providing affordable housing to lower income tenants, in properties located exclusively within that neighborhood, had its annual community workday, which was co-sponsored by Davis Construction, the Nixon Peabody law firm (they have a big practice in affordable housing and preservation, housing, and New Markets tax credits, and a blog on housing), Ruppert Landscaping (recently written up in the Washington Post here "He learned to lead from his boss in the Chevy Chase Club's caddy yard") and Enterprise Community Partners, the social housing financier and support organization.

The day is called the "Rouse Work Day" in honor of James Rouse, the real estate developer known for creating the planned city of Columbia, Maryland and the "festival marketplace," first through the restoration of Faneuil Hall in Boston as a public market, and then through the creation of similar marketplaces across the country.  A few weeks ago, the Baltimore Sun had a nice piece on ECP, "30 years of Enterprise Community Partners."

Photos: Above, staging the start of the 20th Annual Jubilee Housing Work Day, October 13th, 2012.  Right: rebuilding a playground at a Jubilee property in 2010.

It made me realize that social housing organizations can to do a better, more focused job on outreach, to build support for affordable housing policy and programs, amongst the broader publics who may potentially support, or not support, public housing programs.  (Note that Habitat for Humanity does a pretty good job with community volunteer engagement in association with their various programs.)

Programs could include walking and "house" tours, just like the house, garden, and art studio tours that are offered in historic districts or revitalizing neighborhoods, work days, but with a more focused outreach to community organizations within the neighborhoods where housing projects are located, and other actions, along with policy development and outreach (DC has a housing task force planning process going on right now).

After all, too often, public housing developments are seen as problems.  To begin to change this real perception and (sometimes deserved) reality we must reach out and connect to the community outside of the lot lines of a building or site. 

Developing the "Home Matters" campaign

The National NeighborWorks Association, affiliated with the national capacity building organization for the community housing field has a engagement initiative going on right now, "Home Matters," which aims to build public support for housing and community development programs nationwide.  Currently, they are gathering input for developing the program through an online survey

-- Home Matters campaign brochure

The main concern of the program appears to be the maintenance of the various federal tax credit programs that support the production of public housing.  These programs are under threat (for example, the New Markets Tax Credit hasn't been authorized for the current fiscal year) because of proposals circulating to change the Federal Tax Code, amidst desires to reduce tax rates and add revenue.

(The mortgage interest deduction and the house profit tax exemptions for single property owners are also under review for change.  For example see last week's piece by syndicated columnist Kenneth Harney, "Home-sale tax break might be at risk.")

-- Cross-posted at the Rooflines blog of the National Housing Institute --

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