With the understanding that housing means more than shelter, a wide-ranging group of organizations have joined together on a national multi-sector housing campaign.

Opportunity Starts at Home launched this week at the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC’s) Housing Policy Forum in Washington, D.C.

With financial support from the Funders for Housing and Opportunity, NLIHC launched this new effort with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Children’s HealthWatch, Make Room, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and with a steering committee that includes Catholic Charities USA, Children’s Defense Fund, Community Catalyst, Food Research and Action Center, NAACP, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Education Association, and UnidosUS.

Stakeholders from multiple sectors are increasingly recognizing the importance of affordable housing to their own priorities and goals. The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign seeks to mobilize powerful new constituencies beyond housing to ensure that people with the lowest incomes have access to safe, decent, affordable housing in neighborhoods where everyone has equitable opportunities to thrive, according to NLIHC leaders.

Recent NLIHC research shows that the United States has a shortage of 7.2 million rental homes affordable and available to extremely low-income (ELI) renters, and 11 million ELI renter households are severely housing cost-burdened, spending more than half of their incomes on housing. There are only 35 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 ELI households nationwide, and no state has an adequate supply of affordable rental housing for the lowest-income renters. Just one out of four eligible low-income households receives federal housing assistance.

The consequences of America’s affordable housing crisis are spilling over into many other areas like the education, health care, civil rights, anti-hunger, homelessness, and anti-poverty sectors. By combining voices and expertise, leading organizations from these sectors seek to build a broad national movement that promotes federal policies that protect and expand affordable housing.

The long-term goals of the campaign are to promote federal policies that:

§ Bridge the growing gap between renter incomes and rising housing costs;

§ Provide aid to people experiencing job losses or other economic shocks to avert housing instability or homelessness; and

§ Expand the affordable housing stock for the lowest-income renters.

The campaign will also act to defend against funding cuts and harmful policy changes in existing low-income housing programs.

Opportunity Starts at Home is also working to strengthen the capacities of multi-sector state coalitions that share the campaign’s goals. The campaign has already issued capacity-building grants to partners in seven states: California, Idaho, Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah.

“The time to act is now,” said Diane Yentel, NLIHC president and CEO. “The housing affordability problem has reached historic heights. Federal housing assistance is chronically underfunded and faces increasing threats. It’s time for those who believe that everyone in America deserves a safe and affordable home to join in a movement that will ensure fundamental opportunities for people most in need.”

Learn more about the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign at www.opportunityhome.org.