San Francisco — When it came to getting good media coverage of the disparity between the housing “haves” and the housing “have-nots,” no one did it better than Cushing Niles Dolbeare.
When Cushing passed away in 2005, after more than 50 years of activism for housing, it fell to us to keep up the fight – and to fight all the harder in her absence. I’m very sorry to say, thus far, we have failed in that task. The organizations that claimed to be taking up the cause of increasing public support for affordable housing have let us down badly.
But I believe we can still advance Cushing’s work, and I am refocusing this magazine and my personal efforts to achieve better results.
Toward that end, this magazine has joined with the National Low Income Housing Coalition to encourage better press coverage of affordable housing needs through a media awards program named after Cushing. Cushing founded the Coalition in 1974.
The Cushing Niles Dolbeare Media Awards are designed to reward print journalists who do an exemplary job of illuminating the affordable housing crisis in this country. The contest offers prize money of $2,500, so we hope it will encourage more reporters to pay greater attention to this important subject.
But we depend on you, our readers, to make them aware of the competition. First, please talk to reporters about affordable housing and the properties you have successfully developed and operated. Tell them it’s the perfect time to write about affordable housing because it’s the 20th anniversary of the tax credit program. Tell them also about this awards program. Better yet, hand them the awards program guidelines and entry form.
Second, please make a donation to the National Low Income Housing Coalition and earmark it specifically to support this awards program. This magazine provided initial funding, but additional donations will enable the coalition to promote it much more aggressively. The more reporters we tell about this program the more effective it will be.
I am also starting a new venture to help our readers with information we just can’t fit into our magazine. At our conference, AHF Live: The Tax Credit Developers’ Summit, in Chicago last fall, I realized how many great things are happening in cities and towns all over America. People are fighting similar battles all over the nation, and in some cases, they are winning. I have started a new organization to serve as a clearinghouse for best practices. It’s called The Center for Housing & Community Development, and it will disseminate information on solving specific development challenges and best practices in public finance and public policy on housing and land-use management.
However, its first line of products will address the need to increase public support for affordable housing, the problem I consider most immediate and most amenable to quick progress.
I have called on the industry to support a public education effort in the past, but let me be clear. I am no longer involved with and I no longer support any other organization involved in public education on affordable housing.
If you want to support an effort that will help make some immediate change in public understanding of affordable housing nationwide, spread the word about the Dolbeare Awards.
As to The Center for Housing & Community Development, look for updates in this space and on our Web site at www.housingfinance.com.