David Brown wants to change the way people think about housing.
President and CEO of Home Matters, he’s working to shine a spotlight on the importance of home for families and communities. “At the end of the day, we want to make home a cause in this country,” he says.
Through the organization, which launched in 2013, Brown hopes to spur several changes, including increasing affordable housing opportunities and understanding.
He also serves as executive director of the National NeighborWorks Association, a trade group that represents organizations in the NeighborWorks America network, a coalition of community development organizations that advocate for housing and economic opportunities.
What’s Home Matters?
We’re a national movement that’s redefining the American dream. We’re thinking and believing that home is more than just four walls and a roof. We’re pushing to make home a quality-of-life issue and believe that every American should live in a safe, nurturing environment where they have access to quality education, quality health care, public spaces, and community services.
Why is the organization needed?
There is a housing crisis in the country when one out of two Americans is making at least one sacrifice in order to pay their rent or mortgage. You have a half million people on the streets, a quarter of them are children. We need to get Congress’ attention. We need to get the attention of the American public that where you live is important. That’s what we’re doing as a movement. We’re bringing awareness to the public as well as policymakers that where you live is important. We’re not a messaging campaign. We’re purposefully a movement. We’re going after the American populace—Joe and Jane America—to get them excited and get them educated about their home in order to effect change in those areas.
How do you get Jane or John America interested in this issue?
The first thing is to turn them away from affordable housing and move them toward home. One lesson is not to say “affordable housing.” Home Matters was built for consumer consumption, to get people excited about their home not being just four walls and a roof but that home is where it all starts. If you have a safe, stable home, your education outlook for your children is improved. Your health quality is improved. Your ability to be successful as an individual is improved.
What will be the organization’s focus in 2015?
We’ve launched a design challenge (with sponsor Wells Fargo Housing Foundation), where we’re partnering with the American Institute of Architects, Enterprise Community Partners, Autodesk Foundation, and others across the country to reimagine and redesign the affordable home of the future. The submissions will be thinking through what the home of the future should look like as we espouse it under the areas of health, education, safety, and others.
With support from the MacArthur Foundation, we’ve also released the first video in a series where we’re getting people talking about their pursuit of the American dream. In the video, we have four people talking about their visions. It’s about safety. It’s about a community center down the street. It’s about being near family.
What did you do before this?
I was a bored, uninspired accountant working for Arthur Anderson. I was a financial litigation consultant crunching numbers. When I went back to grad school in 2003 I purposely picked a public interest program. I did a master’s in public administration. I did not want to go back to the corporate world. I felt the human bottom line was more interesting and rewarding for me than the business bottom line.
Besides the usual work items, what’s in your office?
A map of the country, where I have a dot of everywhere there’s a Home Matters supporter. For me, it brings to life Home Matters visually. At the end of the day, almost everybody has a home or wants a home. They all see it differently based on where they live in the country, based on how they were raised, and how they grew up to be what they want to be. For me, I turn around from my desk and see this map.
How many dots?
Best advice you have received:
Leadership means making decisions. Nothing will happen if you never make a decision.