Building support among elected decision-makers in Washington, D.C., and around the country has been the primary focus of the affordable housing industry for many years now. The successes affordable housing has racked up, from the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 to our most recent victory in securing the fixed 9 percent credit for allocations made through 2013, are directly tied to the advocacy efforts of the industry across the country.
With tax reform and deficit reduction at the top of the Congress’ agenda, the future of affordable housing programs, specifically the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC), are very much in question. Unlike legislative challenges in the past, the preservation of the LIHTC and key affordable housing programs in the face of tax reform and deficit reduction will depend on the industry’s ability to build support in each congressional district and state, not in the halls of Congress in Washington.
So how do we tackle the task of educating so many members of Congress? Here are five steps to get you started:
1.Introduce yourself to your senators and Congressmen: This should include every state and congressional district in which you do business. Call their district office and make an appointment to meet with them and their local staff. Show them what you have done within their/your community and highlight the benefits of the housing.
2. Keep them in the loop: Let them know when you are building another community or having an event of interest at an existing property.
3.Invite them to visit: Host a grand opening or, if an existing development, offer to host a town hall meeting or meet and greet. Get them familiar with what affordable housing is versus what they think it might be. Give them an opportunity to shine.
4.Whenever possible, engage other elected local officials to promote your community, including in the local media.
5.Engage their Washington, D.C., staff: Come to Washington and schedule a visit with them and their legislative staff. This is where the relationship building should pay off and support for the programs should be solidified.
Resources exist to help with these efforts, including the A.C.T.I.O.N. Campaign website at www.rentalhousingaction.org. We invite and encourage all interested parties to join us in advocating for these affordable housing production and preservation programs.
David Gasson is the executive director of the Housing Advisory Group and a vice president at Boston Capital.